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I do not accept that “Cougar Formal”—the annual senior girl-freshman boy drunken invitational—is the result of genuine person-to-person connections. But I suspect in both cases less noble intentions are in play, and that worries me, and it should worry you.Others may argue, not without merit, that senior-freshman relationships can be beneficial for both parties.Life is, in the end, about living and having experiences and making mistakes, and dating someone older than you can be a wild ride and a lot of fun.Being intimate with someone more experienced than you can be invigorating. Consider the imbalance of power, the uninformed freshman, the wizened senior. The first-year just hasn’t had the time to get to know herself as well.

Imagine the feeling you get when you think of Cougar Formal, then imagine it reverse: the “Silver Fox” formal, where senior boys get drunk with freshman girls. We are skeptical that healthy sexual interactions can be built on crooked foundations. In the rest of cases, the imbalances lurk under the surface, invisible but nonetheless menacing. We'll look back at the things we did and worried over in our high school years and laugh or cry. I'm working on the Freaky sophomore story, sorry it's taking so long! He didn’t know who his real friends would be—he hung out with whomever he was nearest to.A senior exploits the imbalance of power to his own benefit.Of course most senior men and women do not assault first-year men and women. It shares with senior-freshman relationships a common root: a sexual interaction in which one party has more power than the other.Of course most senior-freshman hook-ups are consensual. rare freshmen are preternaturally experienced or mature, and perhaps they can carry out a perfectly mutual relationship with a senior. Far rarer than the hook-up scene at Amherst would suggest.

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