Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Boys will Be Boys?” Frat Culture and Sexual Violence

In the fascinating article, “Bros Before Hos: Fraternities and Sexual Exploitation”, Nicholas L. Syrett explores the link between Greek life on college and university campuses and sexual violence.

From the earliest fraternities in the 1820s to the development of the current frat scene of parties, girls, and booze, Syrett describes how this progression reflects the evolution of cultural attitudes towards sexuality over time. By the 1920’s heterosexuality was the accepted norm for men. After the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, college-aged women became more sexually permissive. As historical sexual attitudes changed, frats did too, eventually developing an atmosphere in which men proved their masculinity and gained social status by sleeping with women. The more women a frat boy slept with, the more respect he gained from his brothers.

This emphasis on sexual conquest creates a predatory attitude towards women and sex in frat houses. Syrett comments that research in the past “has shown that fraternity men are more likely than their non affiliated classmates to rape women, and some studies have estimated that as many as 70 to 90 percent of reported campus gang rapes are committed by members of fraternities.”

To maintain their social status, frats encourage their members to have frequent casual sex and to report on their experiences. This “places pressure on men who are not otherwise having sex to do so in order to save face, and this can lead to sexual assault.” Frat parties, with their steady supply of booze and college women, are “designed to supply intoxicated women who will either consent—or succumb—to sex.”

As a part of frat culture, frat boys encourage each other to dominate women and intentionally create circumstances in which these men can perpetrate sexual violence against their female classmates. In this hyper-masculine frat culture, where the sexual conquests of men are linked to status, rape as a display of power is not far removed.

Find more on fraternity culture and sexual violence, here and here.


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