On news related internet sites, I keep reading about the subject of sexual assault and colleges. One subject keeps popping up, fraternities and how they foster certain attitudes about sex and women. “Stepford Sororities,” by Maya Richard Craven, talked about how the writer’s acquaintances changed after they joined sororities. More recently, UVA suspended fraternities after a gang rape was reported in Rolling Stone magazine. There seems to be a new story everyday. This situation is not new, however.
I’ve gotten to an age and I can now look back and I can say which decisions I made were right and which ones were wrong. One of the right decisions was that I chose to only look at schools where fraternities and sororities were not a major part of the social life. Most of the schools I considered had none. I wasn’t thinking about rape and sexual assault. I simply found the entire atmosphere associated with fraternities to be not to my taste. I had been bullied a little bit in middle school, before I was able to turn the situation around and managed to actually become popular. One thing this incident had taught me about myself is that I am an iconoclast. Conforming to larger social groups is not the route to a happy life for me. I do best when I go my own way and do what I want to do, when I function from the assumption that my friendship has value. This was my route out of a bad school situation. You dress however you want. You do whatever past times you like. Listen to the music you prefer. Maintain your own opinions on books and movies. Most importantly, associate with the friends you like most and date the boys you want without worrying whether or not other people approve.
It is inherent in the nature of fraternities that the individual is subsumed by the group. You become part of a mob, and the mentality that goes with it. I know some people will argue that their own fraternity was not like the ones that are raping women, and I’m sure that’s true. Still, the repression of individuality is an inevitable part of fraternities. Gang rapes are a symptom of a larger sickness, a sickness that asks its victims to abandon their conscience to that of the mob, to curry favor with the group, to behave in ways that will get group approval. Colleges should be nurturing the individual conscience and intellect, not encouraging mob behavior.
This doesn’t mean that going to a school that has no fraternities will mean that you will never be assaulted. As a small person who has been physically assaulted on multiple occasions, both sexual and not, there exist people in the world who will watch for a vulnerability and attack when they see one. However, it is far less likely to be done by a mob, and, even more importantly, if it does occur, you will not be subject to the social pressures of that very same mob.
If you’re getting accepted to the University of Virginia, in all likelihood you have choices. It’s a fine school and one I might have considered myself if they didn’t have fraternities and sororities. In the end, I went to a small liberal arts school. A lack of frats didn’t mean we had no wild parties. What we didn’t have was social exclusion. Twice a year we had weekend long parties. The cool kids, the poets, the theatre freaks, the coke sluts, the dykes, the queers, the science nerds, those people who hung out in the basement and played D and D, we all got drunk as hell, stripped off our clothes and danced in the moonlight. If we consumed more beer than we had the year before, we thought we’d done an admirable job. So, do know that when I’m railing against fraternities I’m not arguing against fun or partying.
Despite what you see in the movies, all schools don’t have frats. Mine didn’t. My sister’s school didn’t. Many of them are very good schools. Gang rapes are a symptom of a larger problem. Go to a school without fraternities.
Addition: After rereading what I wrote, it occurred to me that it is also good advice for young men. Further more, when I wrote, “a sickness that asks its victims to abandon their conscience,” I actually was seeing the men as victims as well.