As the NFL draft drew to a close last week, we received news of this heartwarming tale out of Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach, CA, of “prom-date drafting.” Yes, it turns out that some boys in Newport Beach are not content simply to participate in one of the many fantasy leagues to fulfill their apparently deep desire to experience the excitement, tension, and feeling of something akin to ownership of another human being. Apparently, these boys set up a draft system for asking girls to the prom. They put a bunch of numbers on folded papers into a bowl, and the number that they picked told them where they would “draft” in the lottery. While according to media reports, the boys generally viewed this as a way to avoid any conflicts among them over girls whom more than one wanted to ask the prom. While some girls from the school reported that they had the option to say no, most of the girls reportedly accept the system and go with whoever asks them. Although the articles say that the boys claim that it is against the rules to exchange money to “move up” in the draft, some boys do so—with one paying $140 to ensure that he could ask the girl he wanted to the junior prom.
I would guess that most of the boys–and many of the girls who go as their prom dates–see no harm in this system. After all, there is a culture at some schools–probably usually among those that are smaller–that the individual who is asked is “supposed to” go with the person who asks him or her. But at those schools, often if there is some doubt, friends of the asker will make sure that the “askee” will want to be that person’s prom date. That conjures a very different image from a group of boys sitting around and laughing in one of their basements with chips and soda (and, as we are not naïve, likely some “harder” refreshments) as they pick numbers out of a bowl and conduct a draft of what they have deemed to be the most desirable girls.
Do we have any doubt that everyone in the school finds out what happens at the draft? Not only will they know which girls were chosen, but they will learn exactly what order they were drafted in. In other words, they might as well have a large piece of poster paper up near the main office with the girls ranked according to desirability.
Corona Del Mar does not have an auspicious past. There was recently a cheating scandal, and according to Adolfo Flores of the LA Times, “In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school, alleging that the campus fostered a sexist and homophobic atmosphere.” Newport Beach is wealthy area, and an ex-official of Corona del Mar implies in the LA Times article that the culture of money at the school has led to an unhealthy atmosphere. That may well be true, though that isn’t all that’s at play here. Whatever the cause, perhaps the whole school (along with many schools around the country) could use a lesson in the continuum between those who believe it better to sell young girls into slavery than allow them to become educated and those who are so immersed in the popular culture’s view of women that they can’t see the deeply problematic level of objectification inherent in conducting a prom draft.