Ritual Degradation & Male “Superiority”

Taking the walk of shame.

Taking the walk of shame.

“No means yes! Yes means anal!” 

That’s how the boys of Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) serenaded the women’s dorms and the campus Women’s Center a couple years back.

Another frat had pledges shout epithets at young women returning to their dorms each Sunday morning.

Not so long ago Dartmouth’s Zeta Psi was shuttered for publishing a newsletter that named and derided women who had sex with fraternity brothers. It also promised “patented date-rape techniques” in a future issue. 

I personally know of brothers at San Diego State who shouted racial and sexist slurs at strippers they had hired to perform. And at UCLA a fraternity songbook was anonymously delivered to a campus feminist organization. It included chants about raping and killing women, burying them and periodically digging them up to rape their corpses over and over again.

Too often, women are raped or even gang raped at parties.

I could go on with examples…

Not all guys are the same. The young UCLA man had exposed the songbook because he found it revolting. And one of my professors had left his own college fraternity out of disgust.

And some fraternities are safer and others are more dangerous. As a grad student, Ayres Boswell talked with fraternity brothers to learn why some houses were prone to gang rape while others were not. She learned that the dangerous ones encouraged guys to disrespect women and wrote about it in a paper entitled, “Fraternities and Collegiate Rape Culture.”

whyhate11Disrespect women behind their backs, disrespect them at parties, disrespect them after sex.

Why the hate?

When you feel good about yourself you don’t feel a need to put others down to raise yourself up. So it’s a pretty sure bet that harassers are announcing a sense of inferiority.

These young college guys are on the cusp of manhood, and unsure of whether they measure up. They feel the pressure to prove manhood.

I’ve never heard of a woman feeling a need to prove her womanhood.

That’s not because women are better than men. It’s because men are ranked above women. No need to prove inferiority. For instance, so-called masculine traits like leader, active and independent are more valued than so-called feminine traits like follower, passive and dependent. Men are also more likely to be hired, promoted and paid more. And they are more likely considered head of home.

As some young men put women down they feel bigger by comparison, and deserving of superior status. Other guys are just conforming to group expectations, and not secure enough to protest.

Too bad that all they really do is degrade themselves, along with everyone else, as they create a world of pain.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
Raping, Shaming Girls to Impress Guys
Yale Fraternity Chants “No Means Yes.” Men? Or Scaredy Cats?
Frats Invite Sluts, Bitches; Women Accept Degradation. Why?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on April 23, 2014, in feminism, men, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 52 Comments.

  1. For goodness sake !! Does this really go on ? If so, Karma will get them.

  2. I really had been hoping this was a problem in more adult generations- and that the younger generations had started to weed this out. I think one of the blessings of the Internet is that so many women and there also men that are calling this type of behavior out and access to these “call outs” is widespread. Btw- did you read about this guy?

    http://www.blogher.com/did-korean-american-graffiti-artist-david-choe-confess-rape-podcast

    • Interestingly, rape is actually decreasing at a much faster rate among older men, compared with older men of generations-past. A decrease is just beginning among younger men. I suspect the stubbornness due to insecurity as they reach the cusp of manhood.

      And thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

  3. Ain’t it great that these Ivy League “bright lights” are going to be “captains of industry” after they graduate? Taught to disrespect poor people and women–how wonderful.

  4. It seems that instead of indulging in inter-male aggression, they are compensating by projecting their aggression towards women.

  5. It’s really disgusting. And it’s really time that so-called feminine traits be elevated to a higher status in society. It seems to me that feminine traits such as non-aggression and consensus are actually superior to masculine traits of violence and intimidation.

    In the meantime, women should copy a tactic currently being employed by Ukrainian women that are boycotting sex with Russians. All university women should boycott sex with frat boys until they mature enough to treat women with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

  6. Many colleges have become a horrifying atmosphere. I refused to live on campus and I refused to hang out at parties or associate with “Greek” students for reasons like this. It’s downright barbaric. But barbarism is honestly the expected result after kids go through the torturous experience of public high schools: http://tiffany267.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/war-on-kids-documentary.

    Thanks for bringing up this issue – colleges sweep it under the rug, and when other people talk about it the woman is always blamed for the abuse that happens to her.

    One small question as a feminist reading this though – you’ve never heard of women trying to prove their womanhood? Maybe I’m misunderstanding your statement but I feel like that’s all we’re told to do since puberty! Magazines telling us how to be appropriate lovers (always assuming we are pleasing a man), people shaming us if we decide not to be babymakers or homemakers, people shunning us for not growing large enough breasts (or for growing breasts that are too large), etc. ad nauseum. And so we put on our makeup and shave our legs and try to be the perfect whatever, or maybe I’m just speaking for myself…

    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-London/2014/04/20/British-glam-model-to-abort-baby-to-appear-on-big-brother – Tell me that this lady isn’t in a tragic Catch-22 of trying to prove her womanhood – she’s expected to be a slut for men, expected to be a mother to her children, and between becoming an escort and seeking breast jobs so men would find her more fuckable, she’s pretty much as far as I can see the definition of someone trying to prove her womanhood. It’s horrible that our culture leaves women thinking this is the type of life they can live successfully.

    • Certainly you have heard men talk about needing to prove their manhood, and you have probably heard it many times. I have never heard the phrase used for women. There is a reason for that:

      Women are expected to conform to a gender expectation that places them as secondary, such as sex objects that exist to please men. But they don’t have to PROVE that they are secondary/lesser-than. They are expected to submit to a lower status. You don’t have to prove that you deserve a lower status. (And by acquiescing to that low status they help to establish or “prove” men’s higher status.)

      At most, women’s self-esteem is too often based on their looks (which is about pleasing men). So they may want to prove to themselves that they are beautiful to increase self-esteem. Assuring yourself that you are beautiful, and thus worthy, is different from proving that you are a woman.

      Maybe I’ll write a blog post on this sometime. Thanks for the idea.

  7. Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    Thanks to BroadBlogs for bringing up the important issue of rape culture on U.S. college campuses.

  8. Stuff like this is so sad because it promotes male stereotypes. For example “they only want one thing.” Not all guys are this nasty, but when you have it drilled into you to beware in case of rape, and then learn there are guys like this out there, how can you not think of every guy as the enemy?

  9. Thank you for this. It’s good to see people talking about the uncomfortable, and holding up a magnifying glass to the dangerous thinking, and practices happening in places people might least expect.

  10. This is entirely socially constructed.
    In my country there are no frats or whatever they called that, and the female and male college students attend together with ho hate against each other.

  11. To be honest, this starts long before college. I went to HS with a kid named Jason. He was the proverbial “dweeb.” He was scrawny, kept to himself, and was an avid video gamer. The female students would routinely comment on his penis size as if any of them had ever seen it. Of coarse he was a favorite picking for the “alpha boys” too. The girls would cheer the “alpha boys” on when they would pick on him too. Then low and behold, over the years Jason became bitter and would probably make most feminists blood boil with how he spoke of girls. Today he design’s video games for a living and we all know what happens in that industry.

    Yes, we should teach our young boys better but our young girls need a lesson in decency too. While I don’t condone Jason’s awful tone towards women, I don’t think he can be held fully responsible. I too was ridiculed by my female peers and totally got burned by a FRIEND when I offered to escort her to a dance after another guy revealed he actually had a girlfriend he wanted to go with. She turned around and dug up an ex-boyfriend to escort her and still expected me to still shell out $100’s of dollars for the after party. Umm…no! I walked away from that friendship and didn’t get bitter over it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of those guys got burned in the past and were using it as revenge. This behavior is completely unacceptable, but I think only chocking it up to a “manhood” test is short sighted. Such a deeply wicked act comes from wounds much deeper.

    • Of course there are both women and men who do horrible things.

      What’s interesting is that the women you refer to are probably teasing this guy to get approval from the men who are abusing him. You say that they are teasing him about his penis size even though they haven’t seen it — they have probably heard about it from the men who are abusing him. There is also research on women who harm younger sorority sisters because fraternity brothers want them to. So they are all — women and men — upholding alpha-male superiority.

      By the way, I wouldn’t worry about penis size. I talk about this with my classes and women have been known to say that large often isn’t desired because it can’t hurt. And here’s another study that says so: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/penis-size-infidelity_n_5200248.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

      I’ll have to write about this sometime.

      • I doubt anyone saw his member because guys generally don’t strip naked in front of each other. Jason was a loner for as long as I knew him and we had the same gym classes together. There was no opportunity for anyone to see anything.

        I don’t think these women solely see it as holding out for male superiority. I think they see it as “stroking the male ego” to get what they want and have a sense of control. There is a plethora of online research and magazine articles about how women use sex to manipulate men. I read an article about married women who prostitute themselves. It basically boiled down to “feeling powerful to extract what they want from a man.” It was rather disturbing, but the underlying denominate was the husbands were more into their work than their wives. Apparently women can say no to sex and men should understand. If men say no to sex women feel a loss of control and seek it elsewhere. The problem is deeper than just male superiority.

      • Actual size is really irrelevant. So let’s address the point about what is being created through the harassment. Some men are trying to create a sense of dominance over other men — or a man, here. Some women are supporting the dominant men — trying to gain their favor.

        It all has to do with status. When you put someone else down you feel like you lift yourself up by comparison.

        I have no problem with women wanting to feel powerful. I actually wish that they did more often.

        But I don’t see what any of this has to do with power. How is power created by any of this?

        The discussion about prostitutes doing what they do to gain power over men is a reaction to the pity people feel toward prostitutes. They often strike back by saying that THEY are that powerful ones, not the Johns. How are they powerful?

  12. I don’t want to believe this situation, but I know this situation actually happens. Even though the men have thoughts that men and women are equal (feminism), men usually have ranked themselves above women unconsciously. I think that the stereotyped society, which more men work and more women do the housework, makes people, especially males, compare or look down on the female authorities or even personalities. As this article mentions, the males who disrespect women have not notices that they have been devaluing themselves. Therefore, males should learn they let their ranks down by their disrespect to women first. Then, I consider that people need to make the society with no stereotype and no comparison.

  13. I see this kind of behavior across the board regardless of the man’s age and culture. But truly, both genders are to blame. All the rap songs and videos that kids listen to and watch are extremely degrading to women. The most popular video games like “Grand Theft Auto” are also very degrading to women. And lets not forget the most popular use of the internet: pornography… The majority of pornography is also very degrading to women. A virginal, virtuous woman is no longer seen as desirable by men of any age except for maybe the most elderly of men which were raised to respect women. Sluttyness is now the quality that both men and women most admire in women. Our teenage entertainers give their careers a tremendous boost as soon as they amp up the sluttyness factor. It is a proven formula. Sluttyness sells. There is no longer any stigma associated with a woman that sleeps around or prances around half naked. And women have also bought into this and continue to promote it. In Miami, where I live, half the female population has boob jobs and they are very proud to accentuate and show off their assets. Teenage girls have been taught that they must kiss other girls for the entertainment of guys or be labeled a prude. It is now very normal to go to a club in South beach and see straight girls making out and suggestively grinding on each other on the dance with a crowd of guys cheering them on. There has been a paradigm shift in society. Yes men are consciously or sub-consciously training women to be slutty (as men will do) and women are taking the bait. But the change that I do find incredible is that men are actually equating slutty behavior as virtuous behavior and falling in love with women that exhibit this trait. Sluttyness is now at the top of men’s list when they are seeking marriage material. It’s crazy.

    • The interesting thing to me is that women and men can behave the same way and yet men are called something more positive like “Player.” Or historically, they’ve been labeled positive words like stud, Don Juan, Casanova.

      There is no word to describe women who behave the same promiscuous way that is actually considered positive. More often than not women are still seen as losing value when they behave the same way men do — hence the words slut and ho. Which most women don’t actually like. I’ve surveyed them on this and they don’t like it.

      That said, women and men are both socialized into their cultures and internalize the idea that “things as they are” are natural and normal, and they both re-create the culture.

      Here are some more examples of ways that women too often re-create a culture that harms them:

      Frats Invite Sluts, Bitches; Women Accept Degradation. Why?

      http://broadblogs.com/2010/11/08/frats-invite-sluts-bitches-women-accept-degradation-why/

      Why Do Women Fight Against Their Own Interests?

      http://broadblogs.com/2011/10/21/why-do-women-fight-against-their-own-interests/

  14. I think men feel this pressure to constantly prove their manhood, because society creates this social stigma about how men should act and look like. As said in the article, young college men are unsure of themselves so they feel the need to fit in. It’s a shame these men give into this kind of peer pressure. By giving into this socially constructed idea of men they are hurting more women then need be. I also never liked the idea of fraternities (or sororities for that matter) and this just adds to it. These young men need to stand up for themselves (and the women).This definitely needs to change!

  15. Disgusting! The first word that came in my mind! Thanks for sharing this post.

  16. Khaoula Mouman

    This is appalling, no one should have to go through something like this. They make it seem like the women were the only ones who participated in the sex when in fact they both played their parts in it. So if the women get shamed for it, it would only make sense for the men to too. It doesn’t seem like this is the first time the BOYS, huge emphasis on the word boys because that is how they are acting, at this fraternity have done this. Why haven’t the girls who have been victim to these boys’ actions, spoken up earlier?

  17. Sione Molitika

    This really doesn’t apply for all men? Coming from a different perspective and culture I’m not going to lie, I do see the fact that men are “ranked above women,” or seem to be more “Superior.” I see this in everyday life where I come from, males were dominant in the church, in the government, in mostly all aspects of life. It is shocking to me that in my county women are often and almost are always educators. However, we respect our women in the sense that I don’t see his level of degradation.

    • Males are thought superior in almost all cultures these days (it wasn’t always so). But not all men feel they’re superior. And not all of them ritually degrade women to create a sense of superiority.

  18. A few years back I remember watching a movie (I cannot for the life of me remember the name) that was about a college frats and sororities. Part of the movie was about the pledging process and the absurd things that they had to do in order to be initiated. I always thought that the rituals were fake a no one in the right mind would actually allow that to happen. But I guess even if you go to some of the most prestigious schools in the world there are still no boundaries on what pledges do. My only question is why? Why do these boys feel like it is okay to say such inappropriate things to women? I think that they don’t realize what saying these things does to not only the women, but how the men are viewed. Sure the women will be hurt and feel upset but these guys will never be respected again. For years to come the fraternities that are involved will never be respect by the school, incoming student, faculty, nor society in general. They are not doing as much damage to the women as they are to themselves. I am in no way saying “oh yeah it’s okay for them to say these things because the women will get over it.” I am not condoning this in anyway. All I am saying is that they did not consider the damage that would be done to their reputation in the process. I think that if you asked the guys why they were doing this, they would saying along the lines of “It’s funny” or “Because it’s true.” Things like this just prove how our society is constructed. A women can sleep with one man and get called some horrible names. That same guy could have just bagged his 17th girl and instead of being called similar names, he will get high fives and be applauded. I have always wanted to know why there is the difference in the way men and women are viewed when it comes to sex but I guess there is no explaining it. It is simply the way that society is and it may never change.

    • Well, they’re doing it for the reason I described. By putting down women they can build themselves up, as men. At least that’s what they think they are doing. They do it to create a sense of male superiority.

  19. Tiffani Bartlett

    It’s really ridiculous that these fraternity boys feel the need to shame girls in such a manner to feel like they are accepted by their so-called brothers. Does this make them feel good about themselves? I know any person in their right mind would definitely feel regret of their actions. All frats should be equal, whether it is shaming women or even hazing, it should all be banned. My thought of fraternities and sororities is helping out their communities with the occasional partying. Not gang raping others. Since guys have a ranking in the scale higher than women, shouldn’t they want to try and keep their status high and not lower it by doing these sorts of actions.

  20. I guess I take some hope in that boys do seem to grow out of this behaviour a little bit. I hear a lot less hate, slut-shaming and rape ‘jokes’ in men around my age (31) than I did 10 years ago.
    I wonder what it is going to take to teach young men that becoming a man has nothing to do with disrespecting women?

  21. I think its interesting to point out what you said about men having to prove their manhood. As a woman I have never felt the pressure or need to showcase my womanhood. I believe this is in large part due to the fact that our society is patriarchal and as you mentioned, men are the higher ranked gender. Its unfortunate that our society ranks man above woman and because of this ranking we see young men being forced to prove their manhood. If they don’t prove their manhood then their ranking drops and if their ranking drops then their ranking becomes closer to a woman. With that being said I don’t think young men in these college campuses you describe go around thinking that they need to prove their manhood otherwise they will be ranked as a woman in society. Instead I think our culture and society have made these young men internalize this gender ranking system.

    I am not condoning their actions at all because I have been on a campus where I witnessed a fraternity devaluing women. Rather I want to point out that as disgusting as their actions are, they have unfortunately internalized social patterns of our society in which they are displaying in an effort to hide their insecurities.

  22. The fact that these men feel the need to put down women just to make themselves feel better or to fit in with a particular group is ridiculous. I think that if I were told to do something as said in the article about the “sexist slurs at [the] strippers,” I would feel absolutely horrible. I don’t even know if I would be able to do such a thing, my conscious would be constantly tearing me apart. Whether they do such things to prove themselves or just because they can is despicable. They obviously need to figure out a way to prove themselves and make themselves feel better some other way without causing harm to others; it only ends up making them look bad.

  23. I’d like to add collegiate sports teams to the list as well, a lot of athletes display this type of behavior or attitude towards women. I always wondered if you take these frat members or athletes individually, if that’s how they truly feel about women. It seems like a mob mentality, like they feed off of each other or gain reassurance of their behavior from each other when they say these slurs and debase women, and most of the pledges would be participating because they want to be accepted into the frat. Not that that’s any excuse for their behavior, and definitely the people responsible for writing the UCLA songbook about raping and killing women seem to have a deep-rooted hate for women and I agree with you that it boils down to insecurity. It’s really disgusting that they feel it’s acceptable to joke about these issues such as date rape. I’ve had guys try to joke with me about getting girls drunk so that they’ll sleep with them. The fact that alcohol does not equal consent is really lost on these people.

  24. Far too often we read headlines where individual on a college campus has been accused of rape or a fraternity or sports team has been accused of gang rape. Anyone who has lived on or near a college town has without a doubt encountered such a headline in the news. Unfortunately, what we hear on the news is only the very, very few victims who have had the courage to speak up to seek justice or those who were caught in the act and exposed. In either case, the cases of rape continue and at astonishing rates.
    While an undergraduate in college, my friends and I decided the first week of our freshman year to possibly joining a fraternity. After the first meeting with the future “brothers” I stormed out as soon as soon as one of them yelled at me to go get him a cup of water, to which I repeatedly replied “hell no.” Soon after, two of my other friends came out, both unwilling to fetch things for people they hardly knew. However, our other friend lasted the first day, then a week, and was finally initiated. Surprised at how this specific friend had been able to last, considering that he could not hold a job for more than a week due to his problems with authority and being told what to do, I asked him, to which he replied, “the amount of girls that these guys get is surreal.” For a good 5 minutes, my friend began to describe the amount of girls that came to their parties and the various “techniques” they had amongst themselves in order to “hook” up with these girls. Not a single mention was given to the advertised “brotherly love” or “service to the community.”
    It is through my friend that I was told that guys, for the most part, joined fraternities for the “beer and girls.” I was wise enough to realize that not all who joined the brotherhood were like this, but a good share of those that I knew, were in it for these two specific purposes. As I came to understand, the rivalry among the various fraternities was quite fierce along with the rivalry of the “brothers” versus the “sisters.” However, this rivalry seemed to cross the lines and went from friendly “Greek” rivalries between various houses to that of between the sexes, where similar incidents occurred similar to Yale and Dartmouth.
    Across the various college campuses across the nation, the stereotypical view of fraternity brothers is that they are individuals who were not so popular in high school and join a frat in order to have friends and be in the company of girls from sororities, who are often times stereotyped as those who like to party and “hook-up.” As such, and as stated in the article, some individuals try to break their negative stereotype and act manly by disrespecting women in order to feel a sense of superiority. Even further, as they are in front of their peers, behaving in such a way and conforming to the idea of being a man leads them fit in, whereas doing the opposite may make them seem as “weak” and unmanly.
    Unfortunately, even in present day society, such behavior takes place, where the idea of men being superior to women exists. As a result, incidents such as rape occur, where some men believe that even though a woman is saying no, that she really means yes, because if she were to say yes right away, she would seem “easy.” Through these stereotypes which are attributed to some groups, horrific incidents result, where individuals are act in ways to fulfill their stereotyped roles or reject the negative stereotypes attributed to them. In turn, those women who have been victimized do not report such incidents for the fear of being ostracized and labeled as “sluts” or “easy.” Until such stereotypes are diminished, which may seem like an impossible task, incidents such as a man trying to prove he is a “man” by disrespecting women, and a woman being raped because it was the “manly” thing to do and not being able to report it due to the negative images, will continue to ensue.

  25. It’s truly revolting the great emphasis society has placed on guys being “manly.” However being manly and measuring up to their superiors, specifically in the the world of fraternities is often synonymous with being a degrading horrible person. A big part of me feels sorry for these men- who act like sadistic children- because I feel that they are just projections of what a combination of efforts from the media and their peers believe they should be. However, another part of me thinks that these men know that their actions are wrong and have either been raised by animals or have zero sense of respect for their fellow humans. These fraternity boys harass the women they actually desire, to a point where those same women are disgusted, leaving them in the dust. Hopefully, this circle of horrific acts can end with these boys growing up and understanding that being a frat boy does not mean you have to be a sex-crazed jerk.

  26. Jennie Asuncion

    Yes, it is unbelievable and disgusting that a person could treat another human being in such a repulsive manner. (In this case, males treating females in such a way.) However, we can’t ONLY point fingers at the men and blame them completely for these ritual degradations against women. Believe it or not, some women share some of the blame. As a college student, I have friends who are a part of Greek life and have first hand experienced situations very similar to those mentioned in this article. I have heard countless stories of hazing, parties, and the crazy antics that come along with joining a fraternity or sorority. A story that particularly stood out to me involves something called a “train.” In this “train,” a female willingly volunteers to have sexual intercourse with multiple fraternity brothers, one right after the other. This female has sexual relations with as little as three and as many as the whole fraternity in one night. By VOLUNTEERING on their own free will to participate in such disgraceful and shameful behavior, and giving something so precious to someone who doesn’t even value them, these females give the male population a big thumbs up and the “ok” to treat women in such a way.

    • Sure. And I can give you plenty more examples of women using ritual degradation to create male supremacy. There are also examples of sorority sisters humiliating female pledges for the benefit of fraternity brothers. But one topic per blog post.

      Both women and men unconsciously internalize the notion that men are superior and do things to recreate that notion.

      That’s why I’m trying to educate people with this blog. As people stop being so unconscious of what’s happening they are better able to choose to behave differently.

  27. I feel that part of the reason besides the need to “prove manhood” has to do with fraternity life itself. When it comes to these kind of “high risk” fraternities they often have their own set of rituals in place when it comes to initiation and hazing. This is all done between current and potential fraternity brothers, so everyone who goes through these rituals knows that every other fraternity brother went through the same ordeal. Anyone who does not conform to these rituals is rejected or kicked out of the fraternity. So I feel that has to do with the general attitude, everyone is simply conforming to what everyone else is doing. With things like these rituals or attitude towards women never changing, these fraternities are stuck in a state of limbo when it comes to things that need to be changed. Thus, the only solution and way to change is to simply expose a certain fraternity and get the entire chapter shut down.

    • Sure, that’s why I said

      As some young men put women down they feel bigger by comparison, and deserving of superior status. Other guys are just conforming to group expectations, and not secure enough to protest.

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