Demeaning Women? It’s Tradition 

Fighting fraternity rape culture.

Fighting fraternity rape culture.

Why are frat boys — the ones who belong to dangerous fraternities, anyway — so intent on degrading and intimidating women?

I suspect the behavior comes partly from inheriting a culture that benefits the “haves” over the “have-nots.” And partly, insecurity at the cusp of manhood. 

Today, let’s look at culture.

Years ago, plenty of college men were none too pleased when women were finally admitted to “their” universities. For instance, Dartmouth is a hotbed of sexist frats, and that Ivy League school refused to accept women until 1972. And only after intense alumni resistance.

Campus frat life seems to reflect that anger. Since the Greek system is all about tradition, even that hostile tradition keeps getting passed down.

And it helps when you benefit from it.

It’s not just women who are targeted. All of the more disempowered groups are.

Michael Bronski is a Dartmouth professor of women’s and gender studies who says, “The fraternities here have a tremendous sense of entitlement.”

A preoccupation with maintaining the status and privilege of elites can be seen in a history of hostility toward women, people of color and the poor.


Male > Female

  • The Yale frat, Delta Kappa Epsilon, parades around the women’s dorms shouting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!”
  • A Dartmouth fraternity, Zeta Psi, published a newsletter naming and disparaging women who’d had sex with its members. “Patented date rape techniques” were promised for a future edition.
  • Wesleyan fraternity, Psi Upsilon, was banned from hosting social events after rape accusations
  • University of Wisconsin women blacked out and were hospitalized after a frat party, awakening to find red or black X’s on their hands
Some fraternities are fighting rate culture!

Some frats are fighting rape culture!

White > Ethnic (and female)

  • Black frat members must constantly deal with racial slurs
  • A San Diego State fraternity shouted racial epithets at strippers

Rich Whites > Poor (and ethnic)

  • Students heckled “Occupy Dartmouth” activists by shouting, “Faggots! Occupy my asshole!”
  • Dartmouth students with sledgehammers hacked symbolic shanties built to protest South African apartheid.

It’s all about the social construction of “I’m superior.” And the benefits that derive when you can convince others that it’s true.

But do jerks really deserve to be at the top? Uh, no.

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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 May 25, 2016, in feminism, men, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 51 Comments.

  1. Tradition and fear uphold patriarchy, which consequently perpetuates the domination, stereotypically ‘fratty’ mindset. I don’t want to sound like an ‘All Lives Matter’ advocate, but not all frats are terribly misogynistic. I’ve met members of enlightened frats at Tufts who care about environmental and social justice as much as I do, actively working to dismantle oppression. DKE at Yale sounds terrifying and I’m sure many of the men involved are insecure for some reason. There are a plethora of equally elite schools, and it is VERY possible to be rejected at Amherst but admitted by Yale. The upper middle class emphasize undergraduate prestige to a T, which makes me wonder if DKE Yalies are insecure about their merits somehow? The vast majority of Ivy students come from the upper middle to upper class, so I’m sure status orientation is second nature to most.

    Status orientation breeds a toxic domination mindset, which leads to the targeting of the vulnerable and oppressed. What is so great about the ‘top?’ Invisible hierarchies are fluid, so there’s a chance ‘top’ anything will not stay ‘top’ for long. Yale is not necessarily the premier destination for higher education- UCLA, Vassar, Williams and UVA are solid contenders, and the list keeps expanding.

  2. Fraternities are supposedly about brotherhood. Brotherhood which includes heavy drinking, throwing massive parties, and demeaning women.
    You hear about all of these ivy leagues and colleges on the East Coast that constantly cover up the actions of their Greek life members from assault charges, to cheating scandals to rape.
    Fraternities are becoming more of a cult filled with scary traditions and filled to the brim with peer pressure.
    “No means yes!” is not the type of chant you would expect to hear from Greek life at a prestigious school but that’s exactly what’s happening. We are constantly told and being subjected to racism as well as this Males are greater than Females dynamic.
    At what point will this end? You can say Boys will be Boys and this will be there until the end of time but I refuse to accept that. There needs to be a change in our society if people still believe that putting people down for “fun” is cool. It’s not cool and never has been cool. Superiority is empowering yes but to what end.

  3. It is sad that frat boys think that the traditions that they are doing are okay and I am sure that some of them might not even believe what they are saying but are doing it anyway because their other frat brothers are doing it too. However, I do feel like there is a group of people on campus that are treated and protected like the frats: the athletes. I attend a small university called Notre Dame de Name University. It is a very quiet campus and everyone is very friendly, but we did have an incident last year that brought to light how protected the athletes were on campus. The lacrosse team went out and wrote racial slurs on all of the dorm doors of the African American people on campus. This was brought to the attention of the Dean and she decided that the team had to host an apology event that educated students on racism. They decided to do a screening of Guardians of the Galaxy. The lacrosse team did not attend the event and instead threw a party in their dorms and snap chatted the whole party. The school newspaper later wrote about the event and the assistant coach grabbed all the newspapers, dumped water on them and threw them in the trash, this too was on video. Nothing was done about the incident. A big issue not just with frats and athletes is not jus the degrading messages they send to women but also to other minority groups.

    • High status men in sports teams and fraternities are especially prone to Hate crimes. They are also especially protected. That’s probably one of the reasons they commit them. Another might have to do with their obsession with high status, and wanting to maintain privilege for the privileged. Plus competing with each other within those organizations.

  4. I agree with this article and am going to comment on the action that I believe should be taken. Before I comment on this matter however, I want to point out I have noticed there are two different types of “frats” that are associated with college campuses. I have created my own definitions of the two’s ideological goals as follows (note this list is not complete):

    1) Serve the community through philanthropy, grow healthy relationships with other students, maintain accountability to one another, and provide emotional support to its members.

    2) Demean non fraternity members of the student population (what they call “geed’s”), convince others around them that they are superior because of the frat they are associated with, and throw parties and events with the purpose of “hooking up” with women.

    I will focus on the type 2 fraternities. From my experience, the type 2 fraternity is what “rules” the college campus. These frats thrive on attention and will continue to behave the way they do as long as women attend their events despite the demeaning party themes. As long as the student population condones this behavior by attendance, the type 2 frats will continue to behave the way they do. I believe that the best action against these fraternities must occur at the student body level and not the university’s administration level.

    If the student body were to effectively boycott these fraternity events, the problem would resolve itself and the type 2 fraternities would cease to exist. Ultimately, the universities incoming freshmen would have better examples of how women should be treated if these actions were taken due to the non-existence of the type 2 fraternities. The type 1 fraternities would be the ones setting the example and the campus environment would improve.

  5. 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 it carries on to the schools they go to.

  6. Yeah, I’ll have to write about this. I’ll try to get something out by Friday.”

    Now the piece of shit judge is sentencing the rapist, Brock Turner to 3 months now! wtf!? 6 months was obviously too lenient, but then the judge makes the sentence even shorter. Such shit. The family probably has $ and turner was a star athlete, it wouldn’t surprise me if the family is friends or knows that judge or has attorneys and paid this judge off. Or the fact of the judge being a former stanford athlete and of privilege. Petitions have been made to remove this judge. He seriously needs to do prison time for this crap along with Turner. Turner needs to be in prison for many years and NOT for a few months.

  7. I am disappointed in the fact that such harassment exists even in modern periods. The purpose of university is to embrace knowledge, diversity, and learning. These fraternaties that instead judge and treat others on racist and sexist principles are ignorant and seem to take things for granted. They view themselves as elitist and above those who they harass. Frats are also very peer pressure related, as members become pressure to obey to the faulty principles that their leaders follow. Frats rely on tradition and breaking tradition can be seen as an act against the fraternity. Therefore, members tend to behave to the norm, however depraved it may be. This kind of ignorance is where organizations full of crime and hate, such as the KKK, are formed. Members of such organizations fail to recognize the all-inclusive and respectful environment that our American culture embraces. I think that a measure to counter this constant racism would be to enact more policement of frat parties and celebrations. People, especially women, must also be warned thoroughly before they think of attending of such a party in order to prevent harassment.

  8. It’s hard enough for women to be heard if a rape victim or men who rape to be prosecuted and put away for the time they should be in prison for. But it’s only worse with how hierarchal our system is where naturally the star athletes of a university or pro athletes, celebrities, politicians, rich families, you name it. If a man or boy has $, power and status or comes from a family that is wealthy or a star to some organization, most often the rape is either swept under the rug or if convicted, such a ridiculous lenient sentence. And like you said how our culture and people internalize it and how some men don’t teach boys how to respect women and to express themselves other than in macho ways, unfortunately causes this cycle to continue.
    here’s the link

    There’s more, but this ‘boys will be boys” crap is troubling. The boy is probably the boy he is, from the shit head father he has and internalized it. It’s sad, you have fathers like that, they have sons and then the sons have tainted views and then so it continues when that son has a kid and son and the generations of ignorance. It makes me think of how racism continues down the line because of this too.

    • I’ll try to write something up on this. Probably for Friday. This happened very close to where I work. Next exit up at Stanford. Thanks for sending this particular link. I hadn’t seen that one.

  9. I completely agree with this article. Frat boys have so much pride in their Greek life that they forget about anything else that gets in the way. Each individual is always trying to impress their fellow bros even if that means to take advantage of someone passed out. Joining a frat is not just signing a paper and you’re in. They break you and remake you in their image and if you don’t comply then you don’t make it in.
    If you look back to the beginning of Greek life, the majority of the people in frats were privileged white men. Patriarchy paved the way for this lifestyle and the male dominance culture has grown strongly from it.

  10. haven’t. I’m working on a book proposal right now (wish me luck!) So I haven’t been keeping up on the news as closely as I could. So thanks for pointing these things out for me. I’ll check it out.”

    good luck, hope that goes well for ya.

    • Thanks.

      I’m busy trying to catch up on things. By the way, I didn’t approve one of your comments because I’m very protective of my students and I wasn’t sure how she would experience it. Your comment wasn’t that bad, and if it was about a celebrity or something like that, I would have approved it, but like I said I’m protective of my students.

      • I can’t blame you to be so either. That did bring up something and I was curious. Because you’re a professor I know, do your students know of your blogpost and do some comment on here and read it? A bunch of just a few? I see the comments and many seem to be various people who are older or not college aged, so many seem to be people online who have discovered your blogpost like me. But I’d think some must have commented before, which I think would be pretty cool to have your students liking your posts and interested.

      • Yes, they do. I actually use my blog in my classes as a learning tool.

  11. Baylor has joined Penn State in my eyes of a deplorable university.

    • I agree. Rape culture comes from valuing those who make you look good over victims. Valuing powerful over powerless. Instead of concern for ending harm. Incredibly sad.

      • Have you followed the Baylor case? It’s upsetting how many big businesses and corporations can be corrupts from greed and power and therefore, do anything to protect their brand so they can keep rake in the $. As a result, sweep things under the rug and put $ ahead of human beings rights. Extremely selfish, self serving, and corrupts. I hate greed so much and what it does.

      • I haven’t. I’m working on a book proposal right now (wish me luck!) So I haven’t been keeping up on the news as closely as I could. So thanks for pointing these things out for me. I’ll check it out.

  12. It seems like a power structure like you said and trying to maintain that. But speaking of colleges, it’s upsetting about Baylor and their handling of the sexual assaults, I don’t know if you’ve caught it, but it’s been big news. As usual, a powerful entity like a university and people involved sweeping the allegations by the president, I think coach of the football team. Chances have been made, but after investigations and forced to fire these guys, but some things are not changed completely. Unfortunately for big businesses like I see universities is protecting the shield, revenue, and a result protecting star players or coaches, because of the pride of the team and $ it rakes in, is as usual more important than multiple silly women who were just sexually violated. Because people, especially minorities or women, just mean less than everything else.

  13. Women as a unique social group, in the process of seek for opportunity to receive higher education, from the individual, not only affected by their physiological and psychological factors, and influenced by political status of women in society, the country’s economic development level, culture level of scientific development, higher education’s own development law, and other factors.
    Admissions policy was drawn up at all levels of government and school guidance document on admission and conditions, including elementary school, junior high school, high school, university, etc.Our country “education law” although there is a gender equality entrance regulation, but there are specific admissions policy gender bias.As the end of the 20th century, a girl of college graduation rates increase rapidly, girls are among the best test scores is increased greatly.Rise the girls went to the university not to be seen as progress, it aroused people’s concern, worry about gender imbalance due to the increased number of girls in the school, influence the school management and education quality, and then took a _ some of the girls’ restrictions.In another example, girls more school and major, the same condition, usually preferred boy has become the unwritten rules, even low admission to boys.In some androcentric schools and professional, but not for girls.It related to the compulsory education phase of the gender gap on one hand, on the other hand also and when each college admissions policies and practices.

  14. The Greek system and fraternities have a culture stemming from the past domination in academia by white, privileged men. They are the bastion of past college culture, of how everyone else was excluded besides men from these institutions meant only for the privileged. I believe that in addition to the culture that raised these fraternities, there is also a reactionary element. Academic institutions are going in the direction that teaches people to respect and include people, because people should be going to college and in some part learning of ideas that challenge their world view, and these fraternity boys who feel privileged to have an elite college education feel threatened by any sort of ideas they may hear. Tradition is not always good, especially in the case of “Greek college tradition” which is literally encouraging these people in a group think to keep being sexist and racist. I am inclined to believe that Greek life is a cult, or practices cult like behavior with hazing, and the people you talk to when that are part of Greek life seem to never have anything negative to say about it.
    Greek life only seems to recruit people that already fit in within the stereotypes: for women, that means white, skinny, or pretty or any combination of those. I remember a personal experience I had where I was walking in an area where sororities were recruiting, and they handed and started a conversation with my white, blonde roommate about recruiting, completely ignoring me and my roommate, (we were East Asian and Hispanic). I am inclined to view that experience as someone else telling the sororities to only recruit white girls, either way that is my most memorable experience with interacting with members of Greek life. Furthermore, at the same school, the Greek life was put on hold last year due to sexual assaults, alcohol given to minors and other incidents all occurring within Greek-life events, and it isn’t even known for being a “party school.” I really respect this course of action by the administration, they realize that there is something inherently wrong with what is happening internally in Greek life. I think that having college organizations can be a good thing, but definitely fraternities need to be abolished or regulated a lot more, the public only hears about the really terrible things happening so I can only imagine the type of negativity going on everyday.

  15. Sorry to pile on sad stuff. But it shows how flawed society can be with powerful people getting away with crimes at times. And not just females being victims, but males sex victims to other men. Do you remember the 80s movies with Corey Feldman and Corey Heim? The childhoold actors. It makes me think. You hear of how the pressure and lifestyle often takes down child stars and they end up a mess after. That’s probably true, but makes me wonder about the hidden truth of being traumatized, which leads to drugs and alcohol from child stars from abuses.

    Corey Haim who died back in 2010,, who was a mess for so many years, was molested and raped at just 11.

  16. I just found a story, well on my news link for facebook. It really pissed me off, and what pissed me off, is what the fuck is up with these boys? It was “sex” in the bathroom, but something didn’t seem right with the number of boys and one girl. It still hasn’t been considered rape, but it seems rapey to me for the fact of taking advantage of a situation and girl who they didn’t care to know about her past or did, and knew she was very vulnerable and could be coerced to sex acts because of her past. Who are these boys parents and instead of judging girls, parents need too cut the “boys will be boys shit” and teach boys to respect women and themselves and not be such dipshits. And the scary thing, like I said mob mentality and relates so much to this blog post is while some of the boys like some were probably jerks, predators and wanted to do it and bad intentions. Whereas, some of the 16, being part of that crew, maybe not really wanting to, but probably peer pressure or thinking it’s cool and this pack mentality.

    Scary when people don’t think for themselves. The reason why I said she was vulneralbe and well I know something didn’t sound right with one girl with 16 boys or more having sex. And come find out like in the link I will show, the mother said the girl was a vitcim of sex trafficiking for 2 years and trapped. So yeah, she’s probably been traumatized and probably still in that mindset. She probably felt she had to please and service many men from her past, probably fear even if never threated. A man probalby just wanting sex with her or showing interest was enough for the girl to feel she probably should sub due and have sex with a boy. So it pisses me off, that the girl has gone through more than enough and these fucktards did this and recorded it. They said the boys have been suspended and cops are investigating for more charges, And just like you have brought up about frats and jocks and how such guys from there are the most likely to put on a macho act or demean women. Well guess where these boys were from? Yep, they were players on the highschool’s football team. It all clicks with what you’ve said. here’s the link. Actually 25 boys it says, but 16 have been suspended.

  17. You’ve said it all in the end. And i support it!

  18. One of the best examples I believe of frats demonize women is the frat SAE. For one they are known for the made up acronym of “Sexual Assault Expected” but also on most college campus, they are one of the most coveted frats to join. On my boyfriend college, SAE is in fact the it frat to join. You can always tell which frat is an SAE frat too. Each SAE frat will have two lions at the front of their building. Why is that? Simply because they are not prey, they are predators. The most dominant of them all. In a documentary I was watching Frats even have insurance claims for their sexual assault. Frats in congress are the most recognized college organization. I have been to many college parties over my time from ending high school to now in college. I have seen nothing but horror at all these parties. As a women, frats to me are the scariest places to be on campuses. Anything can happen in at frat, and the sad part is, most of everything they get away with. Frats teach young men its okay to treat women like crap. That women are objects. Its so sad our country allows so many college campuses to still be ruled by them.

  19. It’s tribal–and they define the tribe. I’ve always felt that three or more guys, without supervision, had the capacity to do very evil things. The group think seems to erase all earlier moral training. (Worse if alcohol is involved)

    But wait, we’ve had two incidents this year where girls were beaten by other girls (one killed) because of “boy issues.” Could it be that the emergence of new behaviors by girls reflects, not the uplifting of all by their inclusion, but the debasing of their behavior–reducing it to the lowest common denominator?

    • As a culture revalue man and masculinity above women and femininity (masculinity and femininity being As a culture revalue man and masculinity above women and femininity (masculinity and femininity being The traits that we assign to men and women). And people often try to take on the traits of the value groups. And these attempts to prove superiority by putting others down really dehumanizes instead of uplifts.

  20. There’s apparently some sort of group psychology involved in the frat house that releases these assholes from any normal restraints they may otherwise have.

    • Yeah, You have tradition + personal benefit + Desire to belong which creates a group psychology that aligns with sexism, racism, classism, homophobia. And yet a lot of these guys would rather not behave that way if they were just on their own.

      • sounds like a mob mentality which can be dangerous. It shows how scary it is when people don’t think for themselves. You see otherwise, law abiding citizens do heinous things during riots, because others are doing something and they go along with it.

      • And a lot of the guys don’t really want to behave this way but they worry that they will be rejected by the other guys if they don’t. I’ll have to write more about that later and how guys can overcome that problem. But I’m happy to hear other peoples ideas on the topic.

  21. happyfreeconfusedlonelyatthesametime

    I think most of the time the reason for stupid behaviour is fear. That’s the case here too. Fear makes people do stupid things, say stupid things. Fear can be so powerful that you are not able to rationalise your thoughts. Sadly.

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