The Dartmouth X: Fact or Fiction?

by Marian Lurio | 8/8/13 10:00pm

How legitimate is the Dartmouth X?
by Nusy Golriz / The Dartmouth

Whether we are proud of it or not, the concepts behind the Dartmouth X guide our behavior. I've listened to countless girls complain about their alleged fall toward sexual and social irrelevance, and seen freshmen boys eagerly anticipate the arrival of their machismo come junior year. But I have my doubts. I think the hierarchy is less of an X and more of a system where older students disproportionately hold power. Upperclassmen have acquired social capital they're older, arguably wiser and many are affiliated, so maybe our social system is just one where older equates to better.

Entertain me as my mind harkens back to the socially ignorant outings of freshman fall. Many nights are dominated by incessant quests for older students who can buy you alcohol, invite you to pregames and maybe even get you on table. Relying on older people is a natural way for us to find our footing in the social scene, while they also tangibly supply what we "need" to create the going-out experience. Usually, freshman girls rely on older guys for this.

"I have a strong feeling it's mostly freshmen that dwell on the X at all," Sahil Seekond '15 said, adding that the extent to which older guys hook up with first-year women is also dependent upon their affiliation, for freshmen tend to flock to certain Greek houses.

In contrast, we have senior girls. By their final year, women are in much more control of their own social experiences, no longer dependent on older students to provide the necessary ingredients. They can often get alcohol from their sororities, buy it themselves or have a glass of wine at dinner in town. Besides the use of fraternity basements, junior and senior women no longer believe they need the help of men to go out and have fun. Maybe the concept of a washed-out senior female at the bottom of the X was created by bitter men, frustrated that their days as hot commodities were coming to a close.

At such a small, insular school, many of us will have probably hooked up with most of the more realistic crushes on our bucket lists by the time we are upperclassmen. For all its charm, downtown Hanover fails to provide the same nightlife and abundance of 20-somethings offered in cities. The novelty of "fresh meat" provides both upperclassmen guys and girls with the opportunity for casual hookups that might not be available otherwise. By the time us sophomores are seniors, any other '15 we may be interested in will probably be marked. It is highly likely that this hypothetical someone will have hooked up, grinded, flitzed with or even dated one of our friends a breeding ground for awkward situations. We then must consider that at the root of this peculiar social construction is an issue of supply-and-demand, based on the fact that we are simply running out of eligible lovers.

"By the time many girls are juniors or seniors they've already hooked up with people they're interested in in their class, and the guys are probably a little offended and want to protect their ego and call the girls washed up' to make themselves feel better," Taylor Magnuson '15 explained.

No one really understands the origins or complete implications for the Dartmouth X, regarding it as a confusing aspect of the social scene at the College.

"I don't understand the whole hookup culture here anyway," Florence Gonsalves '15 said. "I do think, though, that it's much easier now to befriend guys, and maybe that means the X is true."

The qualities that older guys at the top possess are the same qualities older girls possess. But, when older girls hook up with freshman boys, known as "cougaring," it's somehow different. Is this a symptom of the Dartmouth X, or a basic quality of Dartmouth culture?

"I don't think it's so much an X," Gonsalves said. "While girls can be seen as attractive and in-demand throughout their time at Dartmouth, guys become so much more respected and grow up during those four years."

In glorifying men as they get older, the X simultaneously harms the image of women. Having experienced the midpoint of our Dartmouth careers, we should endeavor to cast aside this infamous concept and enjoy each other regardless of our years or ages.

"I think if you buy into it, it's self-fulfilling," Wills Russell '15 said. "But I feel like there's enough people that don't really care or don't recognize the social constructs that the X entails." It's the novelty of freshmen more than anything that drives this system, Russell said. New students have very different ideas about the social scene than those who have been here for a while.

So maybe the Dartmouth X is really just a state of mind, and it's only true for those who subscribe to it. Perhaps it's because we're still in that crossover stage, but many of us remain optimistic that this hierarchy won't define the rest of our social experience at Dartmouth.

But if we are going to let the legend of the Dartmouth X become reality, then at least the new GLC policies will temporarily halt our movement through the crossover. Since freshmen will not be allowed in Greek houses until after Homecoming, it seems like we'll have to put up with each other for that much longer.