10.26.12

‘Fantasy Slut League’: Earning Points for Sexual Encounters in High School

A California school revealed a fantasy-football-style league where boys drafted girls and earned points for lewd encounters with them. A look at the newest callous form of misogyny.

It started five or six years ago as a male-bonding ritual. In the vein of fantasy football, the “Fantasy Slut League” at Piedmont High School in California reportedly involved “drafting” female students and earning points for sexual encounters with them. Boys on some varsity-sports teams at the school were allegedly still contemplating their top seeds up until earlier this month, when school administrators said they discovered their “game” following a date-rape-awareness assembly.

Few details about the league have emerged since the school informed parents and the media about it last Friday. After an investigation, school officials said they concluded both male and female participants felt pressured by their peers and older students, but found no indication of sexual abuse. No students have been accused of criminal conduct, and the school isn't taking disciplinary action because they don’t have details on individuals involved and the league’s activities occurred off-campus. The school district’s superintendent could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Still, a week later, this misogynistic exercise continues to make national headlines. But the media is largely ignoring the broader story about how this sexual braggadocio is far more common than not.

Two years ago, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about a similar “fantasy league” at Landon, an all-boys private school in Maryland. A group of rising freshman boys were reportedly stopped before their “opening-day party,” where they planned to invite their picks and strike. One angry parent of a draftee said the boys “evidently got points for [the sexual equivalent of] first, second, and third base,” and “money was going to be exchanged at the end of the season.” Landon defended its “extensive ethics and character-education program,” which was dismissed by Dowd. “Time for a curriculum overhaul,” she wrote. “Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey.”

But young men have been “preying” on young women since the dawn of time. Rankings, tallying hookups, and being rewarded by male peers with high-fives or fist-bumps for sexual conquests is nothing new.

“We definitely ranked girls in high school and college. It wasn’t quite as salacious as the FSL, but if given the proper inspiration we probably would have thought of something similar,” said “Tom,” 45, who graduated from Trinity College in Connecticut in 1989. “Ultimately, boys are naughty. It’s in their DNA.”

What is new is the fantasy-football format and the callous nature of a scoring system where the game is sex, not football, and the “fantasy” league is—at least reportedly at Piedmont High School—ostensibly real.

“People tend to get more upset when this type of judgment is codified, and outrage seems to be exacerbated further when points are awarded, creating the illusion of an objective system where there are winners and losers,” said Stew Royer, who graduated from Landon in 2003.

But Abigail Jones, co-author of Restless Virgins, which examined a widely publicized sex scandal at a New England prep school in 2005, says the problem lies in the broader context of teenage sexuality today. “Girls and boys have always been sexually active, but the culture in which teenagers are coming of age today is dramatically different in that everything is put on display.” The bottom line: kids these days are growing up in a sex-saturated culture. They see it on highway billboards, the Internet, in magazines, movies, and TV. A 2005 study by the Kaiser Family Institute found that the number of sex scenes on primetime television had nearly doubled since 1998.

That’s not to say teens are screwing around more than they were before Internet porn burst onto the screen. In fact, the number of sexually active teens between the age of 15 and 17 declined significantly between 1998 and 2010, to 27 from from 37 percent to among females and to 28 percent from 50 percent among males, according to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute.

The sexual braggadocio inherent in the league is more common than the media are reporting.

The difference is that teenage gossip now has a wider reach. Teens have always discussed sex casually and openly, but now they’re doing it on not-so-private social-media networks like Facebook. Piedmont’s Fantasy Slut League participants were reported to have devoted an entire page on the site to their extracurricular pursuits, which allegedly was taken down promptly once the news broke.

Much like the Landon debacle, media coverage of Piedmont has primarily focused on the “unknowing” girls who were targeted. (Principal Rich Kitchens wrote in his letter to parents that female students were drafted “unbeknownst to most of them.”) One female blogger at The Philly Post excoriated male participants for exemplifying “every disgusting sex/power dynamic our society has to offer.”

But girls can play these games too. Karen Owen, a Duke University student, compiled the infamous “F--k List,” a 42-page PowerPoint presentation that went viral two years ago. In her fake thesis, “An Education Beyond the Classroom: Excelling in the Realm of Horizontal Academics,” Owen ranked 13 men she was sexually involved with during college by physical attractiveness, athletic ability, and skills in the sack. Jezebel’s interview with Owen is one of the satirical-feminist website’s most-read stories ever.

Piedmont students polled Thursday by local reporters said some girls didn’t mind “being on the list” of draftees. A former Piedmont student wrote in AOL’s Piedmont Patch that, from the principal’s description in his letter to parents, the FSL “seemed like an organized gossip pool of who’s doing who and why.” In a separate post, an anonymous senior girl wrote that the so-called documented sexual encounters investigated by school officials amounted to little more than a "gossip log," and that the principal's letter was "rife with factual errors." Lastly, she condemned the principal's labeling of females as “victims,” saying the FSL "is not a rape group, as the [letter], perhaps inadvertantly, implies."

Meanwhile, an anonymous person responded to the scandal on Facebook: “We used to play that game but never got caught. Back in my day we never tweeted.”

In so few words, this is precisely why the media won’t shut up about it.