Why banning fraternities won’t change rape culture

Today, one of my favorite bloggers tweeted a link to a Guardian column that, though the author articulated her point well, gave me pause.

The column was titled: Frat brothers rape 300% more. One in 5 women is sexually assaulted on campus. Should we ban frats?

After I finished cringing at the use of the word “frat” for a solid minute (they’re called fraternities), I realized I was deeply troubled by the premise of the column. As a member of a Panhellenic sorority, I had to honestly ask myself: Would banning fraternities really help our efforts at ending sexual assault?

Should we, as author Jessica Valenti suggests, “take an honest look at the statistics and stories coming out of colleges and act accordingly”?

I have no statistics to share with you, and there are people far more educated than I who have much more eloquent and intelligent thoughts on this issue.

I can only share what I know, and what I have experienced as a sorority woman.

I know fraternity men who won’t let me leave their house at night after working on our homecoming deck without someone to walk me home, even though my house is a 5-minute walk from theirs. One guy I know spent 40 minutes walking girls back and forth one night to make sure no one, not even a group of girls, was walking home alone.

I know fraternity men who will drop everything, no matter how big the test is tomorrow, to pick up a female friend who is even slightly intoxicated–whether at a house party, restaurant or a bar just off campus–to make sure she gets home safely.

I know fraternity men who hold their brothers accountable for the way they treat women. Not just in their friendships, but through disciplinary actions within their own organizations. I’ve heard stories (admittedly secondhand) of guys getting de-pledged from or kicked out of a fraternity because they slept with girls who were very intoxicated. I know guys who would never even consider sexually assaulting or raping a girl because they would have to answer to their brothers if they did so.

And here we have the actual problem: Men are not concerned with answering to or respecting women.

Fraternity men, athletes, residential advisors, professors…any man who would sexually assault a woman, on a college campus or elsewhere, doesn’t have a frat bro problem. He has a control problem, and he needs to correct his thoughts and actions concerning women and sex.

Should a fraternity be a part of that correction? Absolutely. I think our campus administration should challenge fraternities to take a stronger stance on the issue of sexual assault and get to the forefront of eliminating the college rape culture.

But banning fraternities won’t solve the rape problem on college campuses. It would probably do the opposite by removing entire systems of accountability designed to build better men.

Do those systems always work perfectly? No. But they’re not the problem, either.

Young men come to college ready for parties, alcohol and numerous sexual encounters long before they pledge a fraternity.

It’s ingrained in them by movies, TV, music and TFM (a PARODY website, people) their entire lives. By the time they’re entering college, they’re salivating at the thought of partying their way through school. Banning fraternities would only disperse these young men onto college campuses and remove their chance to be held accountable for their actions by the men with whom they live, eat and study.

So, fraternity men, I challenge you: Don’t perpetuate the stereotype. Treat women with respect. Hold your brothers accountable, both in your relationships and in your chapters’ disciplinary systems. Create strong, tangible consequences for brothers who would take advantage of a woman sexually. Take a stance against sexual assault on campus and let your fellow Greek women know you stand with them, and you’ll protect them from the threat of rape.

College administrators, I challenge you: Don’t get distracted by statistics. Sexual assault is still a human problem, not just a fraternity one. Work with Greek chapters on campus to create consequences to eradicate sexual assault. A man is less likely to take advantage of a woman if he has to answer to his brothers in addition to student conduct.

Sorority women, I challenge you: Don’t put yourself in compromising situations. If you know you’ve had too much to drink, go home, not behind closed doors with a guy. Most women are raped by someone they know, and if you’re not able to defend yourself or make good decisions, remove yourself from the situation. If you’re not 100% sure you want to have sex with a guy, don’t do it. A man never has an excuse to take advantage of you, but you can take steps to protect yourself as well.

And to everyone else, I challenge you: Keep fighting rape culture, in your circle of influence, in your own lives. Analyzing statistics will only take us so far as a society. Sexual assault is never OK, but the root of the behavior is so much deeper than an institution or a system.

It’s a human problem, so we’re going to have to be the ones to fix it.

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