Panty Raids (1960-1984)

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Dublin Core

Title

Panty Raids (1960-1984)

Description

Starting in the 1960s and serving as a tradition for more than 30 years, students at Saint John’s participated in what was referred to as “the panty raids.” Through various accounts of this “tradition” in The Record and an interview with Bennie alumnae Nancy Bellmont and Patricia Kehler, our community can gain insight into this practice as it existed in the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

1960s and 1970s: Bellmont, a Bennie graduate of the 1974 class, was a student at the height of the panty raids. According to Bellmont, hundreds of Johnnies, usually intoxicated, would gather outside the first-year dorms at Saint Ben’s in the middle of the night and yell for the Bennies to throw their panties, bras, and other undergarments out the window as a sign of “school spirit” before football games the following day. She notes that this tradition seemed to hold the most importance the night before Homecoming. Bellmont also reports that some of the male students would climb into the windows of the dorm rooms and steal the panties if they were not handed out freely. Administration and staff seemingly had the biggest issue with the fact that males were entering female dorm rooms, which was against the rules at this time, rather than the fact that women’s panties were being stolen. According to Bellmont, the school would send out notices to the Bennies about the day and time the panty raids were to happen, instructing the girls to keep their windows closed, rather than attempting to prevent the Johnnies from participating in the raid or hosting it in the first place. In fact, Bellmont even recalls staff running up and down the halls during the raids and accusing Bennies of not following the instructions given. This tradition serves as a clear example of institutionalized sexism, as the college was focusing on the "rules" and behavior of women rather than addressing the harmful behavior of male students. Despite efforts from the institutions to discourage this behavior, the tradition continued well into the 70s, evolving into Johnnies breaking and entering into Bennie dorms while the girls were sleeping, digging through their closets and taking their “trophies.” An article from The Record from the fall of 1969 relays the events of that year’s panty raid, stating that screens were ripped open, and windows were broken in the process of stealing undergarments, dresses, and shoes. The same article paints the picture that staff and faculty were not concerned with stopping this type of harassment and utter invasion of privacy, stating, “although Bennyville may be incensed by the recent panty raid, don’t look for some of the Faculty Residents on campus to press the search for culprits too hard.” According to Bellmont, many Bennies understandably felt extremely uncomfortable with drunk Johnnies breaking into their dorms at night and stealing their panties. In fact, both Bellmont and Kehler recall instances of unwanted groping and grabbing during the raids as well, making the lack of initiative to hold the male students responsible even more concerning.

1980s and 1990s: In the late 80s and early 90s, panty raids became a job that was handed off to the pledges being initiated into the AKS fraternity on Saint John’s campus. An article from The Record published in November of 1984 stated that “no one is safe during AKS initiation. The mademoiselles of St. Ben’s were terrorized by cries for silk during an initiatory panty raid last weekend.”28 This event is depicted as “a mandatory affair” in the article as well, as these raids were perceived as being directly associated with school spirit. This is demonstrated in various articles of The Record, where panty raids are referred to as “athletic provoking activities”29 and as something to “start the great ‘Johnnie Spirit’” in the fall season30. After 30 years of tradition, the panty raids finally phased out in the 1990s as there were no mentions of the raids after 1984 in either the CSB or SJU newspapers.

Date

1960-1984

Citation

“Panty Raids (1960-1984),” College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Libraries, accessed June 15, 2024, https://csbsjulib.omeka.net/items/show/1597.