An Endangered Species – Quentin Cohan and Alex Foucault

The male non-athlete who goes out regularly on the weekends is a rare breed at Williams.

For lack of better options, I decided to hit up a party at an off-campus apartment last weekend. Upon reaching our destination, a friend of mine and I were asked by a Pituitary Case manning the door what teams we played for. My friend, speaking honestly, said lacrosse. I, however, do not play a sport, so I merely nodded my head and walked into the party. The Pituitary Case, confused by my gesture, said to no one in particular, “That kid’s not on the lacrosse team.” I continued on into the party disregarding this friendly gatekeeper figure, but I did begin to wonder: Why did this guy care? More importantly, why did I care? Why did I not just say honestly that I’m not an athlete? Why did I feel intimidated?

I would have been less troubled had the Pituitary Case just asked me who I was friends with there. That is a reasonable, if perhaps overly stringent, question upon entrance. But instead he asked me to produce my athletic qualifications, like border control asking for a passport. Why should my eligibility to enter be reduced to my participation in varsity athletics?

In any social situation, there will naturally be pressure to conform. In athlete-dominated groups, I therefore feel the need to hide my “nonner” status in order to fit in. This is tricky, however, because being a non-athlete is, of course, literally the exact opposite of being an athlete. I don’t care about the fact that I’m not on a sports team at Williams, but I do care about the subtle exclusion that occurs because of this status.

Full disclosure: though this may seem like a slightly irritated rant by people who are excluded, both authors have friends who are on teams–it’s impossible not to at Williams–and feel welcome in athlete-dominated settings. Recounting this anecdote isn’t intended to pressure athletes suddenly to go out and befriend all non-athletes, but rather to question why it seems like male non-athletes do not go out as much as male athletes, female athletes, and female non-athletes.

Sometimes it’s not only that the male non-athlete is excluded because he is not on a team and thus dead weight in a social setting; sometimes, he’s excluded because he’s viewed as an obstacle that the athlete alpha males need to evade at a party. Certainly, this isn’t always the case, but this troubling element is sometimes present. Teams throw most of the parties on campus, so everybody on the team is invited, as well as close friends of the people hosting the party–who also tend to be athletes. A cursory glance at Williams’ social landscape indicates that girls are almost always welcome at parties (and the party planners in question typically don’t care whether or not they play a sport), but other guys are seen as “ruining the ratio” or making the party a “sausage-fest.” Therefore, the male non-athlete, while never intentionally excluded, is never fully included either. As such, the species is now dying a slow death from the Williams College social scene.

The social exclusion of the nonner is not even really the problem. If they are indeed obstacles, then the fairly questionable goal of the party is pretty clear: simply to maximize the opportunities for guys to hook up with girls. This isn’t to say that hooking up is a terrible thing or one to be avoided! But if the goal of a party is solely that, then it starts to resemble something much more like a troop of chimpanzees. Parties should represent an opportunity for friendship, relaxation, and buffoonery. Instead, too often do they serve only as arenas for sexual competition and objectification.

3 thoughts on “An Endangered Species – Quentin Cohan and Alex Foucault

Leave a Comment