Netherlands

‘The most beautiful students are sold for the highest amounts’

If it depends on UAntwerp rector Herman Van Goethem, shaft sales are a thing of the past. Certainly for women, it is sometimes not only a bidding in euros or barrels, but also in sexism. ‘We had to go on stage in bikinis.’

“With about thirty shafts, we were first led to the basement of a party hall, where we had to sit on our knees, be silent, and dance on the assembly line. (ad fundums, MIM) drinks. A stage had been set up upstairs, where we were introduced to the audience in groups – boys and girls separately. In retrospect, that was quite a derogatory experience. Amounts are called and you are sold to the highest bidder. A meat inspection actually.”

Deborah*, who was baptized in 2012 at the Antwerp student club Hermes, had to undergo that inspection in a bikini in front of a screaming crowd. “We were completely wet on stage. Some girls were given a banana to show what they could do with it. Horrible.” In the end she was sold for four barrels, the currency that is regularly used in shaft sales. Converted about 200 euros. “Luckily I knew that person. You’d be bought by some fat bastard.”

The shaft sale, like any student ritual, is a multicolored palette. Some associations simply do an innocent dance or play a ukulele, while others ask about the cup size as ‘talent’. In any case, the so-called feuten are auctioned, in a café or in a cantus hall, and come under the authority of the buyer as a shaft for one or more days. The prices vary: from ‘two euros and a lighter’ to 350 euros.

In any case, a survey shows that it is quite common as a prelude to student baptism, or sometimes also as an afterthought. In The newspapaer In his plea for a new baptism charter, UAntwerp rector Herman Van Goethem leaves no doubt about it: “All baptismal activities must be open to the public, and the sale of shafts must therefore be explicitly prohibited. There can be no serious discussion about that anymore.” A few years ago, Van Goethem already stated that the sold person is “at the mercy of the buyer”, which leaves room for abuse.

baptismal secret

After a hiatus – the pandemic – student baptisms are picking up again this year, and it’s clear that the Sanda Dia case has sparked the debate. Rector Luc Sels (KU Leuven) indicates that a baptism charter can work for the collective assignments at baptism, but still involves risks with a shaft sale. “We are much less positive about that.”

Sels wants to “continue to discuss this with students”. UGent rector Rik Van de Walle also agrees. “When I hear that there are students who pay to ‘own’ fellow students, I have a very hard time with that.”

Many non-faculty-related clubs, such as Hermes, refuse to sign a baptism charter anyway. But even in a context with consultation and all kinds of scenarios, the sale of shafts does not always produce a pretty picture. For recent stories we come across the ‘baptism secret’ at most associations, but some keep newspapers where their experiences are written down.

A baptism activity in Kortrijk. Photo Henk DeleuImage Henk Deleu

We quote from mediseintje, the magazine of the Antwerp medical association Aesculapia, about the sale of shafts: “The pokes (female shafts, MIM) were attracted to each other and this newfangled love was sealed with some tasty drip tray.” Shaft 20 let herself “willingly touch her on stage” boobies by a volunteer from the public”. We are writing 2018. No one at Aesculapia could be reached for comment.

It is telling that several testimonials state that “the most beautiful women are always sold for the highest prices”. Several large student associations respond that they are doing everything they can to organize both baptisms and shaft sales as safely as possible, without discriminating. The fact that it is a ‘relatively important source of income’, as the Antwerp baptism charter states, is also strongly disproved by them.

Ranking

No one wishes to comment on any fundamental objections. However, they are obvious. In Antwerp there is a model contract in which the shaft or poke indicates to ‘obey’ the presidency and the baptistery(s). Although there is ‘the right to refuse an assignment at any time’, how strong are you in your shoes if 200 euros have just been paid for you? Also important: “Shafts or pokes are not refundable.”

Not everyone earns ‘himself’ back by selling waffles on the street, cooking or cleaning for the baptistery masters, or simply being a nice shaft. A female testimony, about ten years ago: “For an assignment I had to visit his room. He opened the door naked and had an erection.” She refused sex and left the association.

Many clubs have already proven that it can still be done without a sale. There is then only baptized in a group or shafts are simply assigned to a godmother or godfather. “We don’t actually do any sales because every shaft must be able to start immediately,” says Benoit Vandekerckhove, president of the Ghent student club LILA. “If one is sold for 100 euros and the other for 5 euros, you immediately make a sort of ranking. That does not reinforce the group feeling. That’s what it’s all about in the end.”

* The witnesses in this piece wished to remain anonymous.

‘The most beautiful students are sold for the highest amounts’
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