Crashing the Party: South students reflect on party culture’s reputation, debate truths and inaccuracies of the stigma

Graphic by Ashley Clark

Graphic by Ashley Clark

Lauren Frias, Hannah Mason & Dani Tuchman, co-editors-in-chief

Headphones in ear and snack bowl in hand, a student lies down in his bed to enjoy a night of solitude. His music stops momentarily, interrupted by a soft “ding”, signaling a new text message. The message reads, “Party tonight at my place! Hope you can make it.” Accepting the invitation, the student quickly sits up and goes to his closet to find an outfit and fill his bag with necessities.

Unsure of the cause for celebration, the student anxiously mulls over the setting and expectations of the gathering. Is it a spontaneous commemoration of his friend’s accomplishments? Is it a huge gathering of friends to simply spend the night together? Or is it a stereotypical high school party, complete with drugs, alcohol and hook-ups? Upon contemplating the latter, the student decides not to attend to avoid any potential consequences of this social engagement.

This unfavorable reputation of sex, drugs and alcohol holds fast to the idea of party culture, with 56 percent of South students saying there is a stigma against those who attend high school parties, taken from an unscientific Oracle-conducted survey of 282 students.

For senior Hailey Moore*, this situation was similar to her first experience with a party that she decided to attend. She anticipated that illegal behaviors would be present at the party, but it didn’t hold that much importance to her. Assuming the party would be a typical drinking social, she didn’t expect the gathering would be on a more severe scale.

“I was having a conversation with a girl, and she just invited me on a whim and said, ‘You should go out with us,’ and I said, ‘Okay! Sounds good!’,” Moore said. “I knew that she was a partier, and I knew there would be alcohol, but it kind of almost seemed surreal. As soon as I walked through the door, it was apparently one of the [biggest] ragers of the year, and I had no idea the amount of people that were there and the amount of alcohol that was in the kitchen. It was kind of [a] nerve-wracking [experience], and I was in awe, because I didn’t think this [party culture] existed on that large of a scale.”

Though Moore’s initial exposure to party culture was shocking to her, she still does enjoy partaking in them. However, now three years later, Moore doesn’t encourage the reputation that parties get in high school, nor the sometimes consequences that are associated with parties with drugs and alcohol.

“I don’t really like what [stigma] comes from the party culture, and I don’t really like the stories and reputations that it gets,” Moore said. “But I do think it’s fun to be a part of, which is paradoxical unto itself.”

Stigmatized, parties are held at a higher regard, giving people a status of being “cool” or feelings of acceptance, according to sophomore Mallory Reed*. She said that this need to fit in comes with entering a new school and creating a new image.

“As a freshman, I think you just want to be cool,” Reed said. “You’re in a new school, and you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, basically. So, you want to do anything that would make it seem like you’re older than you are.”

Senior Ella Stafford* sides with Moore on the subject that parties aren’t necessarily bad, as well as with Reed about how parties can define the social status of an individual. She believes that, even though there are illicit behaviors at parties, this doesn’t render the individual partygoer as a bad person.

“I don’t think [parties] should necessarily have a bad connotation,” Stafford said. “If you were saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to a party,’ it doesn’t mean you have to go and do those bad things because you can easily have a party and not do that. […] You can go to a regular party and not be under the influence [of drugs and alcohol]; it’s not a necessity.”

Like Moore and Stafford, senior Stephen Greenberg* attends parties for a night of fun with friends, but Greenberg doesn’t support the illegal behaviors that come with it. He is able to restrain himself by thinking of his friend who is in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse.

“I mainly go for the social aspect [of parties], but there’s still largely drugs and alcohol [present] at these parties, which is disappointing,” Greenberg said. “I just [don’t have] the highest amount of respect for people that do drink, even though a bunch of my friends do it. There’s a lot of pressure for me to drink, and I don’t because it’s just not my style. […] I have a friend who is actually in rehab for extreme and excessive abuse of drugs and alcohol. It caused him a lot of pain and depression. It’s just rough to watch him throw his life away, basically. That’s why I want to wait on drinking until I’m 21, the legal drinking age.”

According to the same Oracle-conducted survey, 75 percent of students indicated that they believe 50 percent or more of the student body engages in party culture. As a person who also isn’t inclined to attend these kinds of parties, junior Lori Steffel stated that it is a choice to participate in party culture. She said consistency is key to remain firm in your decision on whether or not to party.

“I’m not involved in party culture, and it’s not because I think poorly of the people that are; it’s just because I’ve never really thrived in that sort of environment,” Steffel said. “I’ve chosen […] not to drink or engage in anything like that throughout high school, not that you’d have to participate in that sort of activity to be involved in party culture. […] It’s definitely a choice, more than anything else.”

While the administration does its part to promote a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle, freshman David Patterson* believes they still do not completely recognize the full meaning behind a party, making their lectures largely overlooked. South’s Rights and Responsibility assemblies hold effect over some, but because of the way it is presented, the message of the assemblies don’t reach all students, according to Patterson.

Contrasting Patterson’s opinion, Greenberg believes that it is actually the students at fault for not taking the information to heart. Believing in the merit of such assemblies for drugs and alcohol, Greenberg said that students need to initially think that the consequences of their actions are real and tangible.

“To an extent, [the school administration] does a pretty decent job at teaching our students to know their responsibilities and consequences of them partying,” Greenberg said. “But I do think a lot of students know that there are consequences, but they don’t want to believe in it. They have this ego that nothing can hurt them. […] I think a lot of students largely ignore [the part of the handbook listing the consequences of drug and alcohol use]. I personally haven’t even read it. People do listen to the seminars, but not many take it to heart.”

Junior Brooke Robinson* thinks party culture consequences come into play once social media is involved. According to Robinson, the circulation of information is too quick to stop, and once the content of an individual partaking in illegal behaviors surfaces, it could severely impact their future.

“Refraining from doing [drugs and alcohol is important] because [of] how much social media plays a large role in our lives,” Robinson said. “You post one photo of you at a party, or someone else takes a picture […] and you’re in the background [of the photo], [then] it will really really [hurt] your chance of getting into some colleges, and it will hurt your future.”

Stafford believes that the impact of social media affects the present as well, either by encouraging the younger generation to participate in a culture that they are not necessarily mature enough to engage in themselves, placing the partying individual, who may be a role model to young people, in a negative light or allowing access to content associated with party culture to children that would not have access other wise.

“I’m a kid who’s really involved in school; I’m involved in sports and clubs, so I definitely wouldn’t put up [photos of drugs and alcohol] on my Instagram, Snapchat or any social media platform that younger kids could see that I wouldn’t want them to see,” Stafford said. “If I was doing something bad, that just looks like a bad influence for us to be showing that off. […] Kids show off that they’re at a party, [but] that shouldn’t make you look cool or popular. Partying shouldn’t be your whole life; it’s fun, but it shouldn’t be broadcasted to the whole world.”

As Moore sees that party culture is quite pervasive in society, she believes it is inevitable that students will continue to participate in party culture. However, she feels it is up to the individual to find their own personal limits in order to engage in the activity in a relatively safe fashion.

“I’m not saying going out and partying is a good thing; I’m saying it’s fun, and it’s really hard, if not impossible, to stop,” Moore said. “People really need to know themselves, who they’re with and who’s able to convince [them] to do things that they don’t want to do. Each person needs to decide if they want to be a part of it, and just because [drugs and alcohol] are available doesn’t mean you do it.”

*names have been changed