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Night of Decadence: Empowering or Objectifying?

Attracting an average of over 1,500 attendees, Night of Decadence (NOD) is by far Rice’s largest party, held around Halloween each year at Wiess College. However, despite the large turnout, many students criticize the overtly sexual premise of NOD. Though most college parties are certainly far from chaste, NOD is singularly hypersexual; men typically wear boxers, and women wear lingerie. Of course, this “dress code” is not enforced in any official capacity, but nonetheless, certain expectations remain. Each year, the party’s theme consists of some (admittedly very witty) sexual pun, the 2017 theme being “EcoNODmics: Stockings and Bondage.” Does such an atmosphere objectify or empower women? Is the environment fostered one that embraces women of all shapes and sizes, or does it only serve to perpetuate a very narrow definition of beauty? The debate that continues to surround NOD stems not so much from the party’s implicit prioritization of sex, but rather from the potential pressure felt by partygoers to be more outwardly sexual than they are in fact comfortable with.

Thinking back to the NOD of my freshman year, I distinctly remember a girl from my dorm who, donning only a bra and thong, frequently mentioned throughout the course of the night just how ill at ease she felt. While I 100% believe in a woman’s right to bare as much skin as she sees fit, I think it’s equally important that no woman is made to feel obligated to present herself in a manner accommodating to the male gaze. So, does Night of Decadence provide a unique opportunity for Rice women to proudly embrace body positivity, or does the event merely amount to objectification on a mass scale?

Ultimately, this is a determination every woman at Rice must make for herself, since what may be empowering for one individual might feel demeaning to another. If you’d rather not attend NOD, consider taking advantage of the night’s other available options. Evening of Elegance and Night of Innocence are both deliberately scheduled to coincide with NOD, providing students with fun alternatives to a potentially overwhelming party. But if you do plan on making an appearance at Wiess on October 21, wear whatever you’re most comfortable in, be that lingerie or a Snuggie.

Remember, all bods are NOD bods <3 <3 <3

Ellie is a Political Science and Policy Studies double major at Rice University, with a minor in Politics, Law and Social Thought. She spent the spring of 2017 studying/interning in London, and hopes to return to England for grad school. Academically, Ellie's passion lies in evaluating policies that further the causes of gender equality, LGBT rights, and access to satisfactory healthcare, specifically as it pertains to women's health and mental health. She also loves feminist memoirs, eighteenth-century history, old bookstores, and new places. She's continuously inspired by the many strong females in her life, and is an unequivocal proponent of women supporting women.
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