Cale Byers

Growing Up, Sociological Reflection, Bias, and Sexual Assault

Earlier today, during one of my potential classes, and later when I got back to the HPs, I was thinking about how we are all really similar, and imagining how our lives will be as we age. My idea of my parents and family is at a certain point in time. And it's only now that I can see my parents as getting older. For a while, they seemed the same, and I was home all the time, and I never noticed what it our family was like. You don't see things the same when you're inside them as you do when you're outside. There's an older professor at Linfield, whose class I sat in on today, as I look for a course to take. He shared a story of his older sister and her friend having a crush on James Dean, reading gossip magazines, and later being sad when their crush died. It struck me how much time and memory is in a single person, a person of that age. What was he like when he was younger? Probably not a whole lot different. I don't expect to change much as I get older. Maybe the changes happen so slowly that we don't notice, just like with our family growing older.

My current age, at 23 years, 2 months, and 17 days, is within two or three months of the time my mom became pregnant with me. So much has changed in her life since then, and I wonder where I'll be 23 years, 2 months, and 17 days from now. Or I wonder where I'll be when I'm 24 years and 23 days, the age of my mom when I was born.

Most of my great grandparents have died, and one of my grandparents has. I have some great aunts and uncles, some I've seen more than others. In 23 years, my parents will be grandparents no doubt, and they'll be in their early 70s. In 15 years, they'll be in their mid-60s, which is about the timeframe I imagine my grandparents to be. It's hard to believe that my memory of what my grandparents look like and what they did will become the current life of my parents in only 15-25 years from now, as I become their current age, possibly having my own children.

Earlier this fall, I stood around a group of adults of different ages, realizing how they have their own relationships and memories and stories. I think it was with my girlfriend and her family, and one of their friends maybe. Perhaps it was when we were putting up Christmas ornaments on their tree, and the neighbors came over to talk about their pickle ornament. I don't know when it happened. We grow up like trees, all in different stages of development, but fundamentally interacting and living the same ways. Our character traits and goals just grow up with us, and we look out at the world in the same limited perspective our whole life. Eventually we become the same age and adopt the same behaviors that we remember about the older generation. I'm not saying that we are restricted to what we remember about being a certain age; rather, there are a range of things that become possible, and culture, along with language, changes over time. The memes of today, and the music, and everything that the younger generation understands, seems radically different than that of older people. What things will change as they, too, grow up? What new discourse will emerge, what memes will be created, making them feel left out and eroded by new youth?

But I also realize that everyone has been doing the same things for years. There's not a single person alive today who's older than the age of people that experienced the 60s. So when the older people act like today's drug problems are new, I remember that acid, mushrooms, and other drugs have been around forever, at least in terms of who is still alive today. And when older people act like anything we do is different, I know for a fact that older people did drugs, committed crimes, failed classes, ate ass, and did everything else that we're doing today. It seems that what changes is the language, the opinions, and the values of these generations. People conceive of themselves differently in relation to their world. I'm sure more people smoke weed today than during the 60s, 70s, etc. And I don't think doing drugs is the same as tying your shoes or doing any other activity. More people do things today that were considered taboo or wrong, but it's funny to imagine all of us (my generation, people in their 20s) growing up and finding things to complain about in the younger generations.

What will we be like when we're 65 or 80? I can't see it happening, but suddenly you realize how old you are, and then you also realize how young you are, too. When I'm 50, I'll look back at this time in life, and I'll probably wish I could go back and do so many things differently. I don't know what I'll regret, or what I'll do right in the future. It seems like in the moment, we're trapped by our own perspective, and we cannot know anything. We just keep making choices and reflecting, but never learning. Kind of like the mirror in Harry Potter. I'll get better at making choices, but after thinking about that statement, I really can't believe it. The last year, in particular the last semester, has been a time where I've started to focus on my language, my thoughts, other people, society, and how we all interact. I've started to realize how I write my own narrative, and change my opinions depending on the situation. I'll like something one day, then hate it the next, so that it fits into a story or a moment in the way that I want. I contradict myself often. The other day at a wrestling tournament, I realized how I have a connection to someone wrestling, and I'm there for that person. I'm also there with my group, and that's how I see the world and experience the tournament. And the funny thing is that every other person in the audience is having the same general, abstract experience. We all come together to watch people wrestle, and we have some investment in a particular person there. It's this communal, tribal gathering in a high school gym, and we cheer for our family or friends. Looking back at the bigger picture, and seeing all these families experiencing the moment together was really cool. I've never had a moment like that, being able to think of the world differently and step outside of my narrow focus on my experiences.

Another crazy thing I thought about while high a week or two ago is that we see things after they've been processed by our brains. The first time I considered this was with regards to my horrible eyesight. I experience the world differently, because I see it differently. My perception of objects, people (still objects), and light is based on how my eyes focus the light and display it to my mind. But what's even crazier is that the bias, and the individuality doesn't stop there. We have ideas about what things are, and what they look like, before we actually understand what we're perceiving. For example, when we look at an object, we don't really look at the whole thing—we just fill in the space with some basic data from our memories. This allows us to be tricked and overlook things. It's how we zone out and drive home without realizing what we did each step of the way. And when I looked at a black and white photo of a pillowcase belonging to my girlfriend, I couldn't help but see the green and yellow and red dots, even though it was only a grayscale photograph. Our mind is ridiculously powerful and amazing.

So after we uniquely filter the light with our eyeballs, our minds fill in the information with models of the world, based on our past experiences. And when we interact with people, part of the feedback cycle is based on what we want to see, feel, believe, etc, or what we think is happening. Two people can be angry or have a conflict then sit in silence, and their thoughts will go down different pathways. It's impossible to know what the other person is thinking, so you can imagine their thoughts, and respond, and you keep going further down this path, increasing the tension, when really if you stopped and asked them, it could end the fighting. I've learned that I can't really trust myself to be authentic or honest, because I experience things so differently. When sober or high for example, things are totally different. I wonder to what degree drugs allow us to imagine a different reality, projecting what we want to see onto other people. Then our behavior shapes that, and potentially forces them to go along with the performance. We then reinforce our behavior towards some goal, and all the while, it's specifically calculated and driven by body language, order of some operations, and language.

I've been wanting to cycle back to some idea, and that is the topic of sexual assault. I wanted to mention it when I was talking about all the things that people have done before us. People have been raping others since the beginning of time. How is it that only now we are seeming to have conversations about rape and consent? I feel as though it's more probable that we are just in some phase, and that potentially we could lose progress on this matter, along with other matters, too. How is it possible that in no other culture or point in time, people decided sexual assault was wrong? Is it really only today that we're having that conversation and reshaping what we expect and tolerate? In the media, there's a frenzied attack on anyone who says anything racist, but it feels like an insincere effort. We make monsters out of a few people to assuage our own conscience, rather than taking a holistic approach to racism. And the same thing happens with sexual assault. How is it that doctors for major colleges, for the olympics, etc are assaulting their athletes? How do we have so many problems all throughout our society? And then we focus on a few in particular, and sometimes they deserve the criticism, the punishment, and the loss of economic opportunities, but sometimes it's total bullshit how the court of public opinion can destroy people without cause, in a seemingly-misguided attempt to 'fix things.'

Linfield's policies about sexual assault do nothing to protect students, because the majority of sexual assault cases happen when students are not actually "incapacitated," as required by the policy. Students get drunk, and they agree to have sex when their mind is in an altered state. They have less ability to reason, and they are vulnerable. Consent cannot be given while intoxicated, and the college doesn't adequately protect students from sexual assault, because it requires them to be blackout-drunk. Incapacitation means not knowing where you are, what you're doing, how you got there, etc, and not being able to function. The case at Stanford with an incapacitated girl outside on the ground on some pine needles is a rare case. It's not often that girls are unconscious and being raped. More often than not, people are too high, or too drunk, and they lack the ability to reason about what they want. They make decisions, and they appear to consent, but they fundamentally cannot do so. Until Linfield and other colleges modify their policies to communicate actually caring about student safety, people will continue to be raped and assaulted, and they'll have no legal recourse.

Sexual assault happens in friend groups, and we can't think of it as rape, because it happens among our friend groups. It's very easy to call it rape if some random person has sex with a drunk girl. But when it's someone you know, it's hard to see it the same way, and this is how sexual assault continues to exist. It feeds off of confusion, intoxication, jealousy, anger, isolation, manipulation, and familiarity. It exploits our trust, and it destroys people.

Change must be effected, and I am going to make something happen at Linfield. It has been too long. Humans have been alive for too long, and the college has been pretending to care for too long. It is time.