November 3, 2009

College kids these days throw such boring parties

You may know that young people have been committing violent crime at lower and lower rates since the early 1990s, and that the same is true for property crimes. Illegal drug use is down since the late '90s, and hardly any young people smoke anymore. And of course promiscuity and pregnancy rates for teenagers and young adults are way down over the same time. Plus, with fewer and fewer young people getting their driver's license, you see less rowdy behavior on the roads. Indeed, the only holdout is binge drinking among college students -- for young people who aren't at college, the rates have been plummeting ever since the drinking age was raised.

Still, those are just numbers. To really believe them for yourself, you'd have to do some fieldwork and see the changes with your own eyes. Going to clubs that are 18+ gives you a decent idea -- for instance, I see fewer people dancing together than I did at my middle school dances -- but they could just be presenting a responsible image when they're in public among strangers. Something like a private house party would be more revealing. As it happens, an undergrad chick friend invited me to a housewarming / costume party last Friday, and I was shocked by how tame it was.

First, the house was located a safe 15 minutes off-campus, and only undergrads lived there -- no landlord, parents, etc. Plus it wasn't any old weekend: it was the Friday before Halloween, and most people were dressed up, which should have heightened the potential for bad behavior. And these people are in the IQ range of about 105 to 115 -- above-average, but not the brainiac type. They weren't nerds, losers, or goody two-shoes at all. Based on their counterparts who I knew as a teenager, I would've expected rampant pot-smoking, sex or make-outs in the closet, and drunken quarrels escalating into a fight.

True to the recent statistics, though, there was some drinking, but no one was falling-over drunk. Zero cigarette smoke. Also, no drugs of any kind -- only a couple of people hinting that they might want to get high. That's it? Just a joking side-comment about maybe doing it? Though I've never done drugs myself, they were common enough when I was a teenager that I recall hanging out with my best friend while he scored some weed on a lazy Friday afternoon, or my suitemates in college pouring into one of their rooms and filling it with pot smoke, again for no special occasion.

No violence or even an escalation toward a fight -- pretty remarkable given how much alcohol lowers your inhibitions. I thought I was going to see a catfight when some slut who'd cheated on one of the homeowner's friends walked in. The girls started talking a lot of shit about her, but all behind her back, never confronting her. That would be typical if it were the locker room, but at a private party where she's the unwelcome outcast and the shit-talkers are buzzed on booze? Quite a bit of restraint.

But the biggest shock was that there wasn't anyone running off to an unoccupied bed to start fucking -- not even to make out! (The complete lack of darkly lit rooms didn't help.) Maybe they were just averse to hooking up with strangers, though, right? Well, there were more than a few couples there, and they weren't getting physical at all either. I mean, not even grind-dancing, kissing, or holding hands. For god's sake, a bunch of 6th-graders playing Seven Minutes in Heaven in 1988 were venturing farther sexually than this group!

One of the earliest memories I have of seeing something somewhat sexual is being at my high school babysitter's house when I was probably 7 or 8. I was glued to the TV playing Legend of Zelda with her brother, when we got distracted by something. Turning over, I saw my babysitter standing with her back to me and her boyfriend holding her, facing us. He pulled up her skirt to show us her ass and said, "See this is how you do it -- you get the left one, then the right one. The left one, the right one," while squeezing each cheek in turn. Her head was turned to one side, and I remember her looking embarrassed, almost like she was ready to cry. Years away from puberty, I could still tell that whatever I was seeing was a big deal. *

And yet I doubt any of the Millennial party-goers I hung out with ever saw anything close to that growing up. Internet porn, American Pie, or Superbad don't count -- it's completely different when it's happening right before your eyes. And with the age of losing your virginity steadily rising, I doubt they even heard about it -- let alone experience it themselves -- while developing.

So don't let all those Facebook albums full of beer pong pictures fool you -- aside from some mild drinking, young people have never been so well behaved and so shielded from the slimy and awkward parts of real life.

* The disappearance of irresponsible young people means that little kids growing up in the 1990s or later didn't have reckless, cute older babysitters to give them their first glimpse of adult world. I recall another high school babysitter bringing over three of her friends, getting buzzed on beer, and acting goofy. (I didn't know what alcohol was at the time, but later I realized that their behavior was due to drinking.) My favorite experience of all, though, was when a college girl babysitter had to -- or maybe just felt like -- returning to campus, and dragged us along with her... at night. Boy was it worth it: she took us to a student dorm, or maybe a sorority house, full of barely legal Buckeyes.

omigooood, who's thiiiiissss???!?!?!

Oh them? They're the kids I'm babysitting.

omigod, they're soooo cuuute!!!

Honey, I hear that all the time -- you'd better come up with a more original pick-up line than that. On a serious note, I think that night triggered my puberty development years earlier than it would have on its own. Once your body senses that female pheromones are above some threshold, it figures that your peers are now going through puberty, so you should be too. But I started liking girls several years before the average boy, and enjoyed my first long French kiss when I was 12 -- maybe all it took was a single night's tour through a college dorm, with nubile babe pheromones flooding my nostrils the whole time. Hey, if you dropped a 9 year-old boy into a gang-infested urban slum, he'd probably grow tougher a lot earlier than if you hadn't. Why shouldn't that work for other aspects of adolescent development?


  1. Sounds like you just went to a lame party, I wouldn't draw any grand sociological conclusions from it.

    The last time I went to an undergraduate party, there was a guy so blitzed out of his mind that he was throwing full beers cans across the room and hitting people in the chest (they hurt). He then picked about three different fights before swinging and missing so hard he messed up his hand hitting the wall. Another kid we talked to was giddy because he was about to get his first three-some, and then he left with two girls to go into his room.

  2. According to Randall Collins, drunk people really aren't that violent. But they may make a big blustering show like they're going to fight, and you didn't see that either.

  3. I came of age in the early 80's and lived in Asia during the 90's. I have very little contact with American young people these days. However, the few I have known seem to be very passive compared to my generation. The guys, more than the girls, seem very passive.

    You will also note that this is the first decade since the 1920's that has not produced a new genre of music at all. Since young people produce the new music, this should be considered further evidence of the passivity of modern-day young people.

  4. I wish someone would tell the Aus government the same thing. Everytime I am unfortunate enough to hear the news the headline is some bullshit about how young people's drinking is out of control. There is even idiot talk of raising the drinking age.

  5. Yeah it sounds like you just went to a lame party. I'm a college student, and there are definitely parties every weekend on my campus (an elite campus too, full of people that could be considered 'nerds' due to their IQ) where people get shitfaced or high as balls (cocaine and meth also gets sold on my campus, and I know people who also do shrooms and lsd). There is much grinding on the dance floor, many dance floor make-outs, and quite a few hook-ups leaving the party together.

  6. Of course it was a lame party. The point of the post is how representative was it? The data amassed on young people's behavior over the past couple of decades shows decidedly that this party was no fluke.

  7. "You will also note that this is the first decade since the 1920's that has not produced a new genre of music at all. Since young people produce the new music, this should be considered further evidence of the passivity of modern-day young people.

    How dare you slander glitch hop!

    Seriously, though, I don't buy the above arguement. Inventing a genre isn't like inventing a more efficient battery or new drug. It is a much more fluid process. Music makers are constantly moving, never staying in the same place. Don't think that has changed.

    I've been really pleased with bands like Baroness and Mastadon pulling together prog and metal.

  8. Levi Johnston11/10/09, 6:38 AM

    Perhaps video game consoles and internet pr0n have allowed a sizeable chunk of ‘betas’ et. al. to completely drop out of the dating market. With the fewer young males at parties, clubs, and bars the remaining males are completely inundated with pussy that they can’t possibly find time to get in trouble. Being a part of this generation myself, I can’t say I have a control to go off of, but it always feels to me that dance clubs and trendy bars are disproportionately female even relative to the college enrollment ratios.

    The imbalanced sex-ratios of parties was extremely evident to me a couple of years ago I delivered pizzas near a third-tier ‘party school’ on weekend nights till 3am. It would always be interesting to go from a dark apartment filled with male FOBs on an all-night HALO binge to a sorority house where 20 or 30 hot chicks crowded around 8 or so hulky athletes. At least if GSS says those dudes aren’t pulling wild MFFF orgies, I feel a little less jealous.

  9. It might have been the party, but can't even count the number of college parties I've been to that turned out like this. State schools, private schools - any party above 30 people has a majority of jocks (who don't want to do anything but drink) and frat girls (who don't want to do anything but drink and dance). There's the ubiquitous beer pong table (what are we, 12?), and god forbid we should get crazy and bust out the beer funnel.

    Back home it's a pretty rural area, so there's always a those kids with the no-parents-no-neighbors house. Those tend to be the fun ones - coke, girl fights, all the good stuff. Sure it's a little more risky, but I'd take that over polo shirts and ice luges any day.


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