Sun, sex and insobriety: Spring Break on Panama City Beach

 

Every March, over 1.5 million high school and college students flock to America’s leading Spring Break destinations, for a week of unabated and intoxicated excess. Located along Florida’s pristine coastline, in the state’s northwestern region, Panama City Beach is the archetypal playground for the young and carefree, in which their insatiable thirst for revelry is temporarily fulfilled.

The theory runs that these youthful partygoers enjoy this sudden liberated existence in direct response to the constraints of their sheltered and overprotected upbringings. However, it can mean that this outpouring of celebration leads to a more ominous sense of sexual tension and hyper-masculine competitiveness. The fun in the sun isn’t quite as it seems; vice and debauchery are ubiquitous and there’s an undercurrent of danger that keeps threatening to ruin the carpe diem attitude.

Florida’s architects and tourism industry experts are thoroughly deserving of recognition for the way they’ve understood the appeal of all-inclusive resorts, which combine hotel, pool and beach in one contained area. As a result, the hotel’s single-minded patrons never need to leave! Student revelers can concentrate all their time and effort on daytime and nighttime partying.

Guests are awoken every morning at 11 to the Lion King’s “Circle of Life”; the time for hungover self-pity is superseded by a musical call to arms. A strong odor of marijuana indicates others’ alternative remedy. The DJ, who plays until 4 am, then solidifies the respect of his groggy crowd by blasting out the American national anthem. Nothing like a strong dose of patriotism to cure one’s sore head...

 

Throughout the day’s hottest hours, springbreakers head to the beach, with their decorated plastic liquor drink containers and Bud Light-filled cold boxes in tow, in a race to the finish line of “blackout” drunk. Meanwhile on stage, an irritatingly enthusiastic army sergeant-like host coordinates a push up competition for comically egotistic young men. After that, their potential female suitors lock horns in a sexually charged twerking contest, in which commitment to the cause is unquestionable. For those with a preference for the pool, the area is a hive of activity all day and night, until post-club swimmers are eventually ushered to bed.

PCB’s March-time beach demonstrates an intriguing microcosm of American Deep South society in which the interracial and inter-gender mingling isn’t entirely harmonious. The tragic presence of a usually unspoken yet pernicious racism mars the extent to which African American students can consider themselves wholly integrated from a social perspective. This tension spills over on one day as black and white students square off against one another, shattering the day’s beauty with an uncomfortable hostility in the aftermath.

Moreover, it is impossible to ignore the atmosphere of unsafe sex. The fine line between harmless, jovial flirting and aggressive, misogynistic objectification is often blurred. Sex is everywhere, and the young men who’ve yet to “score” feel the pressure from their peers, a formula with the potential to endanger female beachgoers. Girls themselves are not entirely blameless as their pursuit of “vacation romance” blurs their concern for their friends. We encountered one such unfortunate straggler who was dealt the severest of punishments for her night of passion, as the group’s bus to Missouri departed without her.

 

With an estimated $1 billion spent per year, Spring Break is indispensable to the American economy. Yet in 2014, police arrested 421 overzealous individuals in Panama City Beach alone. For those who can contain their excitement at their newfound liberty, the weeklong “break” provides unlimited opportunities for definitive, youthful fun. For those too irresponsible to maintain a degree of control and restraint, the potential for physical, emotional and financial disaster is all too real. And for anyone planning a Spring Break vacation in Florida, be prepared to forfeit some dignity on those golden sands.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn