Owen Labrie Trial Draws Attention to Boys Preying on Girls
December 7, 2015
Recently the trial of Owen Labrie, a former student at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, came to a close when he was found not guilty on counts of felony sexual assault but guilty of having sex with someone under the age of consent and using a computer to solicit a minor. The situation started after the accuser accepted Labrie’s invitation to the “senior salute,” a tradition at the school in which graduating senior males compete to hook up with as many younger female students as possible. In the girl’s account, she says that she did consent to some sexual behavior but claims that Labrie forced her into further sexual acts after she said no.
The entire idea of the senior salute, with older boys “scoring” (in their words) with younger girls and using them as pawns in a game, seems to promote and normalize the idea of sexual assault. Instead of an environment emphasizing respect, this practice implies that preying on girls and seeing them as sexual objects is somehow cool.
Gender and power dynamics also come into play. The senior salute has apparently been a popular tradition among the school’s male students, and the girl in question may have been pressured into participating. She has said that she turned down Labrie’s first offer to meet up, but after he offered again, a friend encouraged her to consider it. She ultimately said yes because he was “one of the most popular boys” and “It would be cool.” In high school, there is often pressure to conform; she said she “didn’t want to come off as an inexperienced little girl” and “didn’t want him [Labrie] to laugh at” her. Consider how the social hierarchy at the school, the seniority and popularity of Labrie and the girl’s desire to fit in may have shaped how these events unfolded.
Hopefully, this girl’s experience will make schools and society at large continue (or start, in some cases) to confront the issues of sexual assault, rape culture and gender politics, and educate students on consent and respect.
Posted In: Abuse & Violence