The Sex Spotters
Facebook as morality police? A St. Mike's scandal highlights the current state of sex on campus
It’s hard to attend a college house party on the weekend and not see plenty of students getting sloppy drunk on jungle juice, dancing on beer-pong tables and groping their peers. But what about fellow students who look on with disgust at all this saliva swapping, ass grabbing and awkward hump dancing? At St. Michael’s College, one group of them has come up with a pointed retaliation: an anonymous Facebook page called “Spotted Getting-Some.” On it the contributors post unflattering pictures of the gropers doing their thang.
The “about me” section of SGS’ profile says: “So you thought the shame of that drunken hookup would be gone after your walk of shame? Don’t be so sure … You’re only as embarrassing as the people you hook up with.”
The members of SGS seem to fancy themselves the sexual-propriety police. And they’re using a powerful weapon: Internet infamy. After an article about the Facebook page appeared in the school’s newspaper, the Defender, someone representing SGS wrote a letter to the editor. “If you are lacking in class, perhaps the promise of humiliation will prevent you from slumming it with that freshman,” it read.
Has the Facebook page served its ostensible purpose of shaming St. Mike’s students for behavior some members of the campus community find reprehensible? (Because of the school’s Catholic orientation, SMC doesn’t distribute contraception to students, in a stark contrast to campus policy at the University of Vermont [see sidebar].) Or has SGS merely offered outsiders a salacious window into the student hookup scene? Or is it just a joke?
“I think a lot of people now are cautious of what they do at parties,” says junior Catie Watt, a Defender staffer. “I don’t think it’s going to deter people from getting drunk at parties, but they would look out for cameras because they know it could be [in] Spotted Getting-Some.”
Since the Defender article appeared on February 3, SGS has reeled in more than 100 new “friends.” Currently, nearly 600 people have access to the 50-odd photos of St. Mike’s kids “getting some.”
In one photo, a girl is receiving a full-on boob grab from a male student standing behind her. A comment from another male student under the photo reads, “Yeaaaaaaaa [name of girl]! … reach around!” Lo and behold, she’s going for the crotch.
In another photo, a girl is dancing with a guy who appears to be pulling up her dress, revealing her thong under her tights. Most of the pictures are slightly less explicit images of couples making out at parties.
Students who are “Spotted” could risk more than just a slap on the virtual wrist or becoming the butt of a joke among friends. Most college students know that incriminating photos floating around the Internet have the potential to hurt their careers and future relationships.
“I think in general everyone tells you, once you graduate college, you should delete your Facebook [account],” says Watt. “Even if your name isn’t on a picture, there are definitely ways for people to see it.”
St. Michael’s students who wake up Sunday morning to a hangover and a tagged photo of their Saturday-night indiscretions have no such recourse. Junior Eda LaPlaca, who wrote the Defender article about SGS, confirms that those who have requested their photos be removed have been denied. “I interviewed girls who said to me, ‘At first it was funny, but then I asked them to take it down and they wouldn’t, and now it’s cruel,’” LaPlaca says.
Many students see the site as hilarious and harmless. One wrote on SGS’ wall, “You hoover the boredom right out of my day, like that boy on [name of girl]’s neck!” Another student commented, “You make my Sunday mornings brighter. :)”
On a recent Saturday night, we attended an SMC party to see what students thought face to face. Students stood around drinking beer and blasting rap music in a cramped, sweaty living room, so jam-packed it took 15 minutes to get from one end of the party to the other. Most of those we spoke with said they were Facebook friends with “Spotted Getting-Some” and found it entertaining. None seemed worried about the possibility of being “spotted.”
But some should be. Within half an hour, three couples had begun making out.
It’s not like SMC is unusual in this regard. Most students these days will tell you that on weekends (plus Thursday night, if you don’t have class Friday morning) getting drunk and hooking up is the norm. That’s not to say everyone is getting laid, but it’s usually the goal. “It’s kind of expected in college to make your ‘stupid decisions,’” suggests Jocelyn Young-Hyman, a junior at UVM. “I think the majority of people are more accepting of random hookups because it’s college. It’s ‘the time to go crazy.’”
But at St. Mike’s, SGS and a small student body conspire to make it difficult for weekend partiers to put those “stupid decisions” behind them. With only 2000 undergraduates, the social scene is extremely close knit, as those who have been “spotted” soon realize.
“As a senior, I’ve seen or heard of everyone in my class,” says Matthew DiVenere. “I think [SGS] is about owning up to what you do. You could walk by someone you hooked up with awkwardly and pretend nothing ever happened. But now, if it’s on Facebook, you can’t do that.”
Despite the tight community, the identity (or identities) of “Spotted Getting-Some” remains in shadow. Most people at the SMC party claimed they didn’t have a clue who was behind the page. One girl said she heard it was a freshman. Another, who claimed to be friends with an SGS member, said the page was created by previous seniors and passed down to current ones.
Whoever they are, the members of SGS take their mission seriously. “We’ll be there to catch those of you who fail to consider your proximity to a camera,” they wrote in the Defender letter, “and to serve as a gentle reminder that your decisions one night actually do carry over to the next morning.”
Lea McLellan is an intern at Seven Days, a UVM senior, and editor of the university’s weekly newspaper, the Watertower.