Greek life has long been a controversial subject. While some argue that it creates a sense of community and brotherhood/sisterhood between university students, the public cannot deny many instances of underlying racism and inherent misogyny that have occurred within some chapters.
Sean Hernandez, a former “frat boy” at the University of Southern California and current Ph.D. student at University of California, Santa Barbara, conducted a study about the Price of Sex at USC based on his experiences there.
Over 800 campuses across America host Greek letter organizations. Their institutional status and funding from national organizations create so-called “sexual economies” with a lower price of sex than at other social scenes or campuses without a Greek system. Hernandez found that the price of sex includes the cost of booze, DJs and security; the women who come to fraternity parties are expected to “return on the investment.”
A study at the University of Oregon in September 2014 found that 48.1 percent of Greek women experience nonconsensual sexual contact, compared to 33.1 percent of non-Greek women. These findings get even more disturbing, as the study also found that Greek women (38 percent) were two times as likely as non-Greek women (15.3 percent) to experience rape or attempted rape.
An anonymous USC sorority member said, “The findings in this hit close to home.” She explained, “There have been a number of times when I have had sexual relations in a time when I would by choice elect not to, but in a time where I felt like I had no choice.”
Women may be at a disadvantage here for a number of reasons, one being that most parties happen at frat houses, giving men a sort of “home field advantage.” Sorority house rules, meanwhile, include strict rules like no drinking and no boys allowed. “It’s worse than living at my parents’ house,” one sorority member said. So, if these girls want to go out, drink, or have sex, the frat house is often the only place to do it.
Another university, the University of Georgia, is all about Greek life, with 26 percent of undergraduates involved. Students live and breathe football, which is why when recruits come to visit campus, current students will do just about anything to impress them. Some schools call it “Greek Grind,” a charming name, though not one that UGA itself uses. Basically, the nickname describes when fraternities host new football/basketball recruits (whoever is making state news), and proceed to gather a bunch of girls to offer to have sex with him, usually one from every sorority, as a sort of “congratulations” or “initiation” ritual.
It was leaked that approximately 30-40 girls lined up in wait for one specific high school recruit. While the girls were not forced to have sex with the student, there is undoubtedly a strong sense of obligation in such a scenario. This report, along with various instances of hazing at other Georgia universities, indicates that oftentimes institutions are entirely failing to protect their students.
While Greek life is a huge part of college life, and definitely not exclusively negative, there remain obvious systematic problems that need to be addressed. These problems also include ignorance and a lack of accountability. When the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter was caught proudly singing racist, anti-gay, and anti-Semitic chants, the problematic message sent to the boys was, “Be careful what you record.” In the same vein, when a Stanford University student was found unconscious and sexually assaulted behind a dumpster, people were still quick to ask “what was she wearing?” and “how much did she have to drink?” These issues will not solve themselves, and changing the way we talk about them is up to everyone, students and faculty alike.
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