I’ve been to my fair share of frat parties so far in my college career.
They commonly include a gaggle of men standing at the door deciding who can come in, sticky floors, loud music, and some sort of jungle juice whose content everyone at the party is unsure of, yet we all still drink.
I like going to these parties. I like dancing like a fool to this loud music and asking strangers weird questions like, “Would you rather sweat Ketchup or have permanent Cheeto dust on your hands?” (*Hot party tip* Try it sometime).
At the end of the night, I like going home to my quiet, peaceful sorority house where no one is partying and I can easily go to sleep.
As I’m sure many of you readers know, across the country, sororities are not allowed to have alcohol on the premises.
For whatever reason, the head honchos making rules for Greek houses deemed it inappropriate for sororities to host parties where there’s alcohol.
I’ve been asked before how I feel about not being able to have parties at my sorority house, and on a personal level, I don’t particularly mind. In fact, I’m glad that I don’t ever have to worry about a bunch of loud, drunken strangers stumbling through the hallways at all hours of the night when I want to do homework or sleep.
On the flip side, however, I do think it’s systematically problematic that only fraternities can host parties where alcohol is served, and I do think it perpetuates rape culture.
Rape culture, as defined on Wikipedia, is “a construct in which rape is characterized as pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.”
Societal examples of rape culture include victim blaming, dismissing the severity of a rape, or sexual objectification. Rape culture is everywhere, from the objectification of women in music videos and the media to teaching girls from a young age to carry pepper spray with them in case they get attacked, to asking the survivor of a rape what she was wearing or how much alcohol she had to drink. This teaches girls to carry pepper spray with them is an example of victim blaming, same with the question of what she was wearing.
This makes it the woman’s responsibility to defend herself when she’s attacked, or to dress a certain way so she doesn’t tempt rapists, rather than teaching rapists not to rape.
Men are also raped, but for the purpose of this conversation addressing sororities and fraternities, I’ll focus on sexual assault against women.
Now that we know what rape culture is, how is this perpetuated by only fraternities hosting parties?
Just think about when you go to a frat party: members of the fraternity stand outside and decide who can come in, they are the ones providing guests with alcohol, they know the ins and outs of the house, they know the majority of the people there, and they set the tone of the party. They have the power.
Similarly, if you hosted a house party, you would know most of the people there and know the environment more, therefore, you would also have power in this situation. The mere act of the host of a party having power is not the problem, but it’s how this power is interpreted and exercised.
Additionally, there’s a skewed expectation of someone providing another person with a drink and expecting some sexual favor in return.
For example, I was at a bar with some of my friends from home over Christmas break and a guy asked to buy me a shot. I’m always up for making new friends, and free alcohol is nice, so, of course, I said yes. He went on to compliment me, and I told him I was flattered, but had a boyfriend, so we could take a friendship shot.
Immediately after telling him this, he didn’t want to buy me a shot anymore and stopped talking to me. In this dude’s brain and many other people’s brains, buying a girl alcohol equals having a chance at some sort of sexual interaction.
This same mindset no doubt translates to fraternity parties. If the hosts of the party have the power, and we live in a society that wrongly reinforces the idea that giving a female alcohol equals sleeping with her, then we can obviously see how rape culture is being perpetuated at fraternity parties where men are providing women with alcohol.
Rape is about power; it’s about one person exercising control over another. If you’re in an environment where one person obviously feels more powerful, then that further cultivates an environment where that person might want to assert their dominance and express this power.
By having only fraternity men host parties, they are asserting dominance, making female guests submissive, and reinforcing gender stereotypes.
If sororities could host parties and serve alcohol, this perpetuation of rape culture would be lessened because the playing field would be equal. Both men and women could host parties that serve alcohol, thus giving both fraternities and sororities equal social power.
In an article written by the New York Times addressing this very issue, several sorority women interviewed said they felt that women would likely feel safer going to a party at a sorority because they felt that the other women there would look out for one another, rather than focus on getting people drunk or making sexual advances.
I’m not trying to say that all fraternities are bad and every frat boy out there is perpetuating rape culture and focused on making sexual advances at female party guests because that is untrue.
However, in order to understand this issue, you can’t look at only individuals, you have to look at the whole system. Yes, individuals make up systems, but when you hear story after story of sexual assault cases at fraternity houses or on college campuses, you’ve got to take a second and look at the big picture and examine why rapes keep happening in this environment.
In fact, the second most common insurance claim filed against fraternities is for sexual assault. Even if individuals you know are not perpetuating this, the structure and dynamics of fraternities and sororities do.
While I don’t want people partying in my sorority house until all hours of the night potentially any night of the week, I am curious to see how allowing sorority members to drink in their houses would change the party dynamic on college campuses.
Perhaps it would make party guests feel safer, and perhaps it would even decrease the number of rapes and sexual assaults on campuses. I don’t foresee this change happening anytime soon, but it’s interesting to think about.
What do you think? Should sorority women be allowed to drink in their houses, and would this possibly help with college campuses sexual assault problems? Let us know in the comments or tweet to @FollowtheLala.
Featured Image via Carly Hutchcraft