Though this isn’t a new question to ask ourselves, the issue of fraternity culture has been increasingly called to the forefront more than ever with news stories popping up from college campuses all over the country about young girls being sexually assaulted by male members of Greek life. While it is no secret that a certain element of frat culture includes partying, especially those at state schools or in certain regions of the United States where regular weekly partying is the norm, one can’t help but wonder if the negatives are beginning to outweigh the positives of PanHellenic involvement.
Is frat culture actually perpetuating rape culture in our society? Does the foundation of frat culture truly stem from a sense of brotherhood and philanthropic intentions or does it actually stem from a potentially dangerous bond that forms under the influence of alcohol and all night partying?
Pledging with Alcohol
Out of all the fraternity related rape stories occurring in the news, almost all of them include the use of alcohol. If we examine frat culture from the beginning, it all begins with rushing. Rushing is the season where young hopeful freshman explore all the campus fraternity events and parties in the hopes of finding the group that they will mix the best with. If you are chosen as a promising prospect, freshman undergo hazing, which, to be put bluntly, is generally a series of either physically taxing or emotionally humiliating tasks set by the fraternity brothers to see which freshmen makes the cut.
Many of these activities are ethically questionable and are often reported as bullying or abuse. Most of the time, excessive drinking is involved in these tasks to see who can best hold their liquor before passing out or getting physically ill. Those with livers of steel are viewed as top candidates. Once accepted, the men are taught to protect the brotherhood at all costs.
A Dangerous Bond
This notion of protecting the fraternity above all else is a dangerous ingredient in the recipe of frat life, especially when you add in alcohol-centric parties and the goal of hooking up with the hottest freshman girls in order to be deemed top dog frat. Freshman year is a time driven by the social survival instinct to fit in and make friends so naturally, both young freshman girls as well as boys will do whatever it takes. For the ladies, that means attending the coolest parties and drinking whatever is offered to them with no questions asked. For the men, that means living with the mentality that “whatever happens at the party, stays at the party.” Evidence of this pack mindset is apparent in many of the stories surfacing in the news which span from fraternity men harassing women who choose to step forward to university administration about their stories of sexual assault to fraternity men guarding the door of the frat house while their brothers take turns on a passed out victim.
It is important to note that despite all the horrific stories, there is another side to fraternity life as well. Not all male members of Greek Life are rapists and there are many fraternities out there that dedicate their existence to worthy causes. Some examples include those members of multicultural or LGBT fraternities that are truly dedicated to bringing about positive change in the world and spreading knowledge and awareness. Therefore, we cannot make blanket statements about all members of Greek life when there are groups out there preserving the notions of philanthropy and brotherhood on which this culture was initially founded.
So while the answers to our original questions are far more convoluted than what meets the eye, it is without a doubt time to start shedding light on the problems with a culture that contains vocabulary such as ‘beer pong’, ‘boot and rally’ and ‘jungle juice’ and bring awareness to the element of fraternity life that condones victim blaming when it comes to sexual assault in order to find a solution to this rapidly expanding problem.