Frat-Boy Rapists Are Okay?

University of Virginia protesters

University of Virginia protesters

Note: Rolling Stone issued a statement saying there are some discrepancies in Jackie’s story. (See note below).

Why do we blame victims of brutal violence and shield — or even reward — their attackers?

Maybe you’ve heard about 18-year-old Jackie who met “Drew” when they worked as lifeguards at a University of Virginia swimming pool. Drew invited Jackie to dinner and a “date function” at his upper tier fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi.

Jackie was excited, and spent hours getting ready for the date. At the frat party she sipped some spiked punch and discreetly poured the rest onto the sticky floor. And then Drew suggested they go upstairs, “Where it’s quieter.” 

Jackie’s nightmare. Trigger Warning: May be triggering for rape victims

When they reached the top of the stairs Drew ushered Jackie into a dark room, where someone bumped into her. Jackie screamed, and a man ordered, “Shut up.” Rolling Stone (who first reported this story) described what happened next:

A body barreled into her, tripping her backward and sending them both crashing through a low glass table. There was a heavy person on top of her, spreading open her thighs, and another person kneeling on her hair, hands pinning down her arms, sharp shards digging into her back, and excited male voices rising all around her. When yet another hand clamped over her mouth, Jackie bit it, and the hand became a fist that punched her in the face… ‘Grab its motherfucking leg,’ she heard a voice say.

The University of Virginia

The University of Virginia

Throughout the horror, Jackie heard her date and another guy instructing seven men to rape her.

Rolling Stone continues:

As the last man sank onto her, Jackie was startled to recognize him: He attended her tiny anthropology discussion group. He looked like he was going to cry or puke as he told the crowd he couldn’t get it up. “Pussy!” the other men jeered. “What, she’s not hot enough for you?” Then they egged him on: “Don’t you want to be a brother?” “We all had to do it, so you do, too.” Someone handed her classmate a beer bottle. Jackie stared at the young man, silently begging him not to go through with it. And as he shoved the bottle into her, Jackie fell into a stupor, mentally untethering from the brutal tableau, her mind leaving behind the bleeding body under assault on the floor.

The victim risks a bad reputation — the perps are good ol’ boys

Jackie awoke, all alone, at 3 AM. Partiers still reveled as she snuck away from the house, bruised and bloodied. No one seemed to notice.

Jackie called friends for help. They were upset — at first. But could they join fraternities, or be invited to their parties, if they took her to a hospital?

And her reputation would be shot if anyone found out.

Months later, Jackie told her story, anyway. But a UVA dean discouraged her. So did some of her closest friends, warning:

Remember where your loyalty lies.


Rape culture

Besides murder, women fear rape more than anything else.

UVA rapeSexual assault leaves mental and physical wounds that turn to scars: anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress. Victims feel enraged and fearful. And they lose trust.

Jackie has recurring nightmares of walking up those stairs while hearing a voice warning her to turn back. But she can’t. She has thought about suicide. When she looks in the mirror now she sees only an empty shell.

  • Yet her reputation would be shot?
  • The rapists are great guys who win admittance to prestigious organizations by brutally attacking young women?
  • A victim’s loyalty should lie with a school that supports her rape?
  • And “friends” think that joining fraternities and going to their parties trumps this wickedness?

That’s rape culture.

That’s a world that sees things from the perspective of the powerful: the big man on campus… the university reputation.

That’s a world that blinds itself to the perspective of the powerless: a young college student who had awoken one morning feeling excited about a date.

Losing humanity to gain superiority

Why would young men behave like that?

They’re not sexually turned on.

  • One guy looked like he would puke, or cry. He couldn’t get it up.
  • Some complained that they “had to do it,” so he did, too.
  • Another asked, ”Don’t you want to be a brother?”

It’s not about sex.

UVA stop hiding rape!

UVA stop hiding rape!

Rape and harassment often increase as women’s power and status rise. Some guys resent the chipping away of male privilege — and conspire to put “her” back in “her place.”

Jackie is reduced to an “It”: “Grab its motherfucking leg.”

Men are superior to an “it.” They’re superior to a “thing” they disempower, dominate and humiliate.

That’s where these degradation rituals are rooted.

Some sadists enthusiastically embrace them. Other guys just feel pressured to conform.

What we need are more good men who will take a stand against a vicious crowd.

Real men, who know you don’t gain self-respect by losing your humanity.

Rolling Stone has issued a statement saying that there are some discrepancies in Jackie’s story. That said, women are more likely to be humiliated and raped at fraternities than most other places, and for the reason I describe: attempts to create a sense of male superiority. And rape culture remains alive and well in our country, unfortunately. So the analysis still makes sense even though the details appear to be off in this case.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social 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. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 5, 2014, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. I want to say that charity begins at home and so should moral guidance. Children aren’t born with these racial, social and gender biases, they are learned behaviors. That Stanford swimmer’s father said his son should not be punished for “20 minutes of action”. This is a window into the type of environment he was raised in and his father and probably his father’s father. I agree that it is a tradition, passed on by fathers and rules maintained by those fraternities. Change in such groups is very difficult because members are afraid they would be ostracized because they have a difference in opinion even if it’s a good one. We should nonetheless strive to teach from an early start good morals and values and encourage kids to be able to stand up for what is right despite of negative groupthink. The task of teaching morals and values often falls on the woman but I believe it’s important for both parents to have equal participation in molding a child’s moral/ethical compass.

  2. Before we went over rape in Women’s Studies, I was not aware of how bad it was, especially in colleges. I had been told about date rape from my mom (and Law & Order: SVU), but once I learned about the practice of rape in fraternities I became all the more sickened. I won’t ask how or why this could happen because now I understand but what I don’t understand is how school officials could be so okay with letting it slide. Doesn’t it come back on them in a totally and purely negative light? Doesn’t that create a bad reputation for the school? I guess it only does if that information becomes public. Good on Jackie for coming forward and being courageous enough to do what so many others fear of doing because of oppression from their rapists. I understand more why rape happens, and it makes me a little sad for the rapist, that they are pushed down so low that they elevate themselves in such a disgusting way, but it makes me really feel for the victims and makes me angry to think that humankind has evolved so much but in “practices” such as rape it has devolved.

    • The main reason that officials let it slide is they are worried about publicity that it’ll make their school look bad. Of course, when they let it slide it makes the school look even worse. I guess I didn’t think about that.

  3. Stephanie Arevalo

    It is sad to know that things like this still happen. Rape is a big deal. Not only for women men too. In most cases men don’t even report being raped because they are embarrassed of the fact. Or they just think “how is it possible that I got raped by a girl?” It does happen and I think it should also be talked about more often. In this case It is sad to know that the girls friends even thought of the fact that if they took her to the hospital they might not be able to go to frat parties anymore. Also that her own school… a place she pays thousands of dollars to attend and should feel safe living there discouraged her to go through with telling her story. I think she is one brave person because she still spoke out about what happened to her that one night even though the school and friends were against it. It is definitely not right that the boys had rape as a ritual to become a brother in the fraternity.

  4. “Rape Culture” is an awful thing that has been created within the fraternity community, however, not all fraternities are doing this. I would like to believe that most of the college aged people, boys, men, women and other, would know better than to treat another human being this way. This is not necessarily just an issue of men raping women at fraternities but also everywhere. Somewhere there is a break in the system if these people are growing up and thinking that this is an okay way to treat other people in order to gain their “acceptance”. If this is what it takes to get the acceptance from a group of people maybe they should have the common sense to stay away from them. The fact that this poor woman’s “friends” told her to remember where her loyalties lie. Again, this must be a breakdown in the culture and upbringing of todays youth. Women need to learn that they have a voice and should by all means use it when these types of occurrences happen. Nothing is ever going to change without the constant pressure of women that have unfortunately had to live through traumatic events such as this. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Without raising awareness to things like the “Rape Culture” they are able to go about their horrible business with no consequences from school, police, concerned citizens, or the victims themselves. Events such as this one are a reminder to not only surround yourself with people that respect you but to also remember that not everyone out there is a good person and even if the are or were does not mean that they always will be. Be smart and help yourself by not getting into situations like this. It is in no way this woman’s fault or responsibility that this happened to her but women definitely need to watch out for themselves.

    • Not all men rape — the vast majority do not. And not all fraternities are equally likely to rape. But rape is more likely to occur at fraternities than by other groups of men. I’ll be writing more on fraternities and rape culture later.

  5. I am shocked when I heard Jackie was not encouraged by anyone to tell her story. Her friends were afraid they could never join fraternities or be invited to their parties and faculty members had concerns regarding school reputation. Are these the reasons for covering crime and justice? These people only pay attention to their own benefits and are way too selfish that they cannot care for others. To me, righteousness is what really matters. People all know the effect of sexual assault to the victims and they might very likely lose trust, yet they do not provide any support. They have lost their morality, in a place that supposes to present the pillars of society. Covering these stories absolutely does not help the victims or make things better and it leads them to have no faith in anyone and live in darkness for a long time.

    So if people know that most sexual assaults happen in fraternities and it has become their culture, I am sure something can be done to end this nightmare. Something must be done. For instance, set up a task force for this particular matter and an organization that helps the victims to speak up. It is never too late. Protecting women is the first step to take to support feminism and it is really important people take this seriously.

  6. I’m not sure why someone would even want to belong or even associated with a group/organization that treat someone in that manner. What was disturbing is that…

    “he was going to cry or puke as he told the crowd he couldn’t get it up. “Pussy!” the other men jeered. “What, she’s not hot enough for you?” Then they egged him on: “Don’t you want to be a brother?” “We all had to do it, so you do, too.” Someone handed her classmate a beer bottle. Jackie stared at the young man, silently begging him not to go through with it. And as he shoved the bottle into her”

    He didn’t look like he wanted to but decide to violate her in another way?! and these are supposed to be our future?!? If he didn’t want to do it or thought it was wrong he could of easily called the police or gathered a bunch of people to stop it. Even worst is the dean asked where her loyalties lies. Hearing stories like these really angers me that these shit bags are allowed to walk around.

  7. This frat-culture is still not so much popular in our country but that doesn’t prevent the rape-culture being flourished 😦 Gang rapes are daily things now, and that too with extreme brutality. And the same thing happens here, that the victims are often blamed ( she must have dressed like a whore, too small dress, why was she outside alone, what made her catch a cab during night) and the perpetrators are said to have done “things in the heat of the moment” ! Victims often are murdered or commit suicide because rape is still regarded as a social stigma on the part of the victims and even if they are alive..they must have gone through the same nightmare as Jackie.

    Have you heard of the Delhi gang rape case? better known as “Nirbhaya” case….have a look here..

  8. It seems like this has to be attacked in two directions. More awareness to women and men and closer prosecution of these boys and more importantly colleges and high officials who cover this stuff up because of $. Accountability from the bottom to the top. This is slid under the rug, because the owners of universities or in connection to sponsors don’t want to lose or don’t want the media to know of this and hurt their college. So they care more about their universities ability to pull in more revenue and appearance than any concern for other human beings and female victims. Greed and selfishness.

    And work with boys and men, even though I believe most guys would not do something like that to a girl. But workshops or therapy or something, because it’s obvious there is something burning inside some young men. Guys hold things in, while girls talk it out and things just manifest more and more for young men. I don’t understand, but a lot of this seems like deep to the core insecurity for boys feeling threatened by female advancement and not matching up to other men and masculinity. Why are guys so hurt, that they have to resort to this behavior? Something is wrong, self worth of men should not be threatened by women, and something has to go on to help these young men who are troubled so this inner self hate and anger doesn’t get put upon girls.

    • And the number one thing that can help is gender equality. The more gender equality you have, the less violence against women.

      I’ll be writing more on that topic later.

      • Gender equality isn’t happening though if there are still many men who are deeply insecure and drag their feet and resistant to equality. For equality to continue on or progress, these men, need to discover and work on these feelings, which can then help them evolve and accept that they aren’t worthless if women are equal to them. Therefore, violent backlash not ok and to accept and respect women as well as minorities, etc. The self hate these men have, will only cause these men to be even more resistant as things move forward or get angrier as more equality pushed and agreater backlash until the inner turmoil in them is resolved,which can allow them to evolve, be enlightened and open their mind.

      • Yes, it helps if people feel basically good about themselves so that they don’t have to put someone else down to raise themselves up.

      • Yes. We know this. But, how do we get there? Specifically. I know we men must change attitudes and behaviors.

      • Men (and women) need to do certain things to get over their sexism, Just like whites (and blacks) need to do certain things to get over their racism. (I add the parentheses because when you live in a culture that bombard you with sexism and racism everyone internalizes it)

        So there are two different things that need to happen:

        1) society needs to change, because individuals internalize societal messages. So it would be helpful if things like television shows and advertising changed. For instance, Women are commonly portrayed as empty headed sex objects. And black men are often portrayed as criminals.

        2) we all need to individually change. That’s difficult to do in a sexist and racist culture. The first thing people can do is become aware that they are sexist and racist. That helps them to get out of taken for granted ways of seeing. That allows people to move out of autopilot and move toward conscious thought, Where we can be aware of our internalized sexist and racist attitudes and critique them and purposely replace them with other thoughts. Studies have also found that it helps to Think about Real life people who don’t fit the stereotypes. Spending time thinking about them actually helps us to change our stereotypes.

        I’m someone who has grown up in the same sexist and races culture as everyone else, But I’ve spent more time working on these things than most people. As a result, tests show that I have very low levels of sexism and racism compared to most Americans. But I still have a little ways to go because I still register some small levels of both sexism and racism. So I’ll just keep working at it.

  9. Carol Lynn Langdon

    I saw an interesting statistic the other day: the chance of being hit by some sort of explosive in the middle east is 1:6, and the chances of being raped (a woman by a man) in the US is 1:5. It is safer to be in the Middle East than it is to be a woman in the US. And that disgusts me. These situations disgust me, and I wish more women and men would come out and speak up against the Greek System.

  10. Wow!

    How disappointing. What on earth would possess a young woman to do this?

  11. I find that we still live in a rape culture so appalling. The positive is that we are now making sure that this reality is not just a number in terms of a statistic- women are beginning to speak out more and say what happened – so that society can no longer keep a distance from this awful reality. And the victim blaming makes my stomach turn. I think it’s fascinating that some of the men in that fraternity felt pressured into raping, they say. It seems to me that there is a need to restore not just the feminine as sacred but the masculine too- in the sense of taking both back from the patriarchy. The inherent nature of both have nothing to do with committing violence when removed from that paradigm.

    • Yes, patriarchy harms both women and men. In this example you see how it dehumanizes both.

      And that’s why many women and men are working to dismantle patriarchy. As you know, patriarchy is not men. Rather, it’s a system of privileging men so that they can do things like rape women and blame women for their crime.

  12. When I first read that headline I presumped the post was going to discuss “subtle” date-rape situations where both get extremely drunk and fail to remember what really happened the day after, after which one of them come forward claiming that a a rape did happen. This on the other hand is pure malice with clear intent and it’s hard to believe an entire university were trying to conceal what happened by refering to loyality and honour, activites that would easily be classified as aggravated assult, rape, criminal conspiracy and a lot of other judicial labels. Hopefully this isn’t the norm in american universities!

    But this is also an issue rooted deeply in human psychology and extends feminism and the topic of gender roles as it seems as a case of mass suggestion. Not that a feministic framework is totally irrelevant but still – there seems to be more mechanisms at play here, such as the aforementioned mass suggestion.

    • Okay, but I did mention the pressure to conform, which is not feminist. But a general degradation of women lies behind an ability to treat women this way at all. And that is feminist.

      And mass suggestion wouldn’t work without some motivation. And again, the motivation behind these sorts of gang rapes comes out of patriarchy meeting the threat of empowered women who are chipping away at male status and privilege. I’m going to write another post which looks at how rape and harassment increase as women’s status and power increase. It’s a type of backlash that is motivated by fear of losing power.

      I will also be writing about how violence against women is correlated with non-egalitarian ways of seeing. The more women are seen as equal and treated respectfully, the less rape you find. For example, rape and sexual harassment were nonexistent among American Indians of the east coast like the Cherokee when Europeans first came to American shores. When women are working for equality, you often find an increase in violence against women.

      Since rape culture tends to hide these crimes we may have to wait and see how common they are at American Universities. Because to uncover that, young women will need to be brave enough to speak up — which can be difficult since they are often the ones who will be punished for trying to stand up for themselves: patriarchy and play again.

      And by the way, “patriarchy” is not the same thing as “men.” Patriarchy is a system of male privilege (which allows rapists to blame their victims, for example) — something that many good men want to dismantle.

      • I can see your point of underlying motivation, but are you sure that the motivation is necessarily associated with “patriarchical pressure”? I reckon that in this particular case, it might be associated with the need to fit in and be accepted by the fraternity. Indeed, conducting rape is what the fraternity chose as a test of “proving your worth” about joining the brotherhood, but on a broader basis this can also be generalised into conduct of any other serious crime. If we replace “rape” by another serious type of crime, say “armed robbery”, I’m not sure that a similar potential member of a fraternity would deny it, given that the desire to join is strong enough.

        This may be a position as a devils advocate, but my point is merely rendering other explanations. While power is in the equation, not all of it stems from the male privilege usually discussed within the boundaries of feminism. Fraternities and sororities in general usually impose various ideas of honour, correct “conduct” and a range of other expectations upon their members – and especially their recruits, to say the least. And they are able to do so because of cultural notions about the importance of joining a good fraternity, which in the end empower these fraternities and sororities regardless of their members race, gender or socioeconomic status.

        So, in the end, this might also be a general problem with american fraternities and how they exert power over their members and potential members. In countries without fraternities in institutsions of higher education you’ll typically see far fewer problems with members being tempted by their brothers to carry out dangerous and/or criminal acts.

      • See my last sentence below, which I copied from the post (I added a few others for context here):

        Men are superior to an “it.” They’re superior to a “thing” they disempower, dominate and humiliate.

        That’s where these degradation rituals are rooted.

        Some sadists enthusiastically embrace them. Other guys just feel pressured to conform.

  13. “Why would young men behave like that?”

    As I stated in another piece recently, too much of male self worth… tied to women, sex, and female validation etc. These young men are behaving like this because of an underlying culture of masculinity which sends a clear message to men that without a woman or sex, etc, you are a loser. Most men do not resort to rape or violence. Yet, this whole power and control thing with men is deeply rooted in the need to exert authority. This need for authority is for the purpose of not being that dreaded “loser.”

    These men are criminals. Whether they are at prestigious UVA or not. This must be treated as a crime. Period. Just because of the culture, as a young man (and they are men), you should not allow yourself to sink to this level. Calling her an “it” clearly demonstrate how they saw her: she was a mere object. Sad.

    The young woman is a victim of this archaic male culture. Whether it is the result of patriarchy, I do not know. I just know it exist. She is scared for life. What I cannot understand is just why these men were willing to part with their humanity? I am sure they have sisters. I am sure they would not be happy to hear if such a thing happened to their sister.

    I wish to share this piece about UVA from Medium,

    View at

    With Ferguson and the case in Staten Island……I am really beginning to wonder if there just isn’t something rotten and sick with our society, especially with White males. I know our country is fractured. I know there are more White men who are NOT like these guys or the officers so eager to shoot Black men or disregard women.

    But, just what is that drives so many White men to feel the need to lash out with violence on a young woman who has done absolutely nothing to them? Nothing. Yes, men of other races commit violence against women too. But, the issue with White men is more pronounced it seems to me.

    When you have grown up in a minority culture and experienced the excesses of power, you tend to be more guarded and fearful of power and control. Why? Because you have seen it work against you. The mindset of women and minorities tend to be more egalitarian. I think this is why Black men and Hispanic men are far less interested in power and control than White men. Perhaps it also explain why fewer of these men are rapists, serial killers, etc.

    • These are crimes of power and privilege. Power that comes from being white and male.

      In fact, fraternities put down both women and people of color. It’s a backlash to increases of status and privilege by both women and minorities.

      When the backlash is about male privilege it’s called sexism. When the backlash is about white privilege is called racism.

      And it’s not about sex:

      -One guy looked like he would puke, or cry. He couldn’t get it up.
      -Some complained that they “had to do it,” so he did, too.
      -Another asked, ”Don’t you want to be a brother?”

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