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Rape Culture III: Fratboy Edition

[ 71 ] December 14, 2011 |

Christ:

Today’s episode takes place at the University of Vermont, where a puzzling and revolting survey was recently distributed to the brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon. We were sent a copy of the questionnaire, which mostly consists of benign questions like name, birthday, major, amount of time with SigEp and favorite SigEp memories, hobbies, future goals, etc. It’s actually kind of nerdy and cute, until you get to the final three “personal questions.”

1. Where in public would I want to have sex?

2. Who’s my favorite artist?

3. If I could rape someone, who would it be?

The frat has, at least, been suspended by the university. I wonder what the reaction of the members was?

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  1. c u n d gulag says:

    Jeez, fraternities sure have changed since I was in college over 30 years ago.
    Our three questions would have been:
    1. Who, on campus, would you want to smoke a joint and have sex with?
    2. Who’s my favorite dead R&Rer, and what drug caused the OD?
    3. If I could smoke a joint with a Professor, who would that be and why?

    Of course, my frat was “I Delta Ounce,” so we were kind of a single-issue group.
    ________________________________________

    On a serious note – WTF?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!
    What made anyone, at least anyone who’s not totally cranked, think that last question was one that needed to be asked? Was the next question, “What drink do you prefer to pop your date-rape drug in, when the object of your lust isn’t looking?”

    Suspended?
    They might need to be disbanded!
    Free speech needs to be protected, I’m much less sure about blatantly stupid speech.
    And here, we see that though your speech may be free, it should not be free from the ramifications of your heartless stupidity.

    Maybe some time for the leaders helping out in a women’s (or men’s) rape crisis center is in order if this frat’s not to be disbanded, or to end the suspension.
    WTF?!?!?!

  2. Glenn says:

    I obviously get why the last question is horrible. Am I missing something as to the other 2, though? Why are the “final 3 questions” singled out for condemnation?

  3. salacious says:

    Although I agree with the ick response, I want to press on that a little bit. If the question is “If I could murder someone, who would it be?”, I don’t think it would provoke the same reaction. Is there a justifiable distinction between the two? Maybe that fraternities do in fact have a rape problem in a way they don’t have a murder problem? Thoughts?

    • mark f says:

      That, and presumably the answer to “who would you murder?” would be “someone bad,” or maybe even “someone that will make me sound totally edgy, bro, like you never know what I’ll say next!” Meanwhile the answer to “who would you rape?” is more likely to be “some girl from Civ who is totally a bitch because she didn’t fuck me at last week’s party.” But even it’s “a wicked hot and unattainable celebrity” it denies her personhood (make no mistake that the answers will be 100% “her,” whereas the murder question will almost certainly get mostly male victims). Hopefully even this frat would have the good sense to expel anyone who used the “girl from class” answer for both questions.

    • Mike says:

      There are at least plausibly good reasons to murder someone. Beyond even self-defense, there are circumstances that would legally be considered murder, yet justifiable on some grounds. A whole bunch of literature is about righteous homicide, or at least, about the debatable point of whether or not a homicide was righteous (Hamlet vs. Claudius, say.)

      Nobody has ever made even a minimal argument in defense of rapes.

    • R. Porrofatto says:

      If the question is “If I could murder someone, who would it be?”, I don’t think it would provoke the same reaction.

      It probably wouldn’t. But that may be because there is no murder culture on campus (although a party conversation “what if” like that has no business in this kind of survey either). No one would expect that frat boys would start wantonly killing folks. However, they are sometimes known for an entitled sense of bonerarchy in which, say, getting girls drugged or drunk enough to go beyond “no” isn’t uncommon. Hence, a rape culture.

      That said, this bit of Burlington Free Press journalism…

      The rape-survey allegations mark the second time in 18 years that Sigma Phi Epsilon, at 371 Main St., has been criticized over questions of a sexist or otherwise offensive nature.

      …seems kind of bush league. Twice in 18 years does not a trend make.

    • (the other) Davis says:

      This reminds me of a quote I can’t find: Why did they hang all cattle rustlers, but not all murderers? Some men deserved killing, but no cattle needed rustling. (I can’t for the life of me figure out where that came from; Google skills are failing me.)

      • Srynerson says:

        Sounds like a variation of a quote usually attributed to Judge Roy Bean (who most likely never said it): “I seen plenty of men that needed killin’, but I never seen any money that needed stealin’.”

    • wengler says:

      Yeah, there really isn’t a need to rape Hitler before you murder him.

    • dr says:

      I think this actually tracks with our attitude toward sexual violence in videogames and movies; we tend to think that imaginary participation in mere violence is less bad than imaginary participation in sexualized violence. I think the explanation for the distinction has to do with the fact that when mere violence is merely imagned, the fantasy that remains is completely different than the psychological states of a person committing real violence. This contrasts with the imagination of sexualized violence, which has as its remainder a fantasy bearing significant resemblance to the psychological states of the rapist.

      Applied to the questionaire, the point is that in naming someone as a potential rape victim, the responder is enacting part of the hypothetical rape. The equivalent for murder wouldn’t be a question on a form — it would be to hand the guy a loaded sniper rifle and invite him to scope out some people he doesn’t like.

      • wiley says:

        Rape is a crime that men get away with, not only every day, but for years of serial raping with literally hundreds of victims.

        And no one ever says that murder is just a “he said, she said” situation. The first response to a murder is not likely to be, “What was the victim wearing.” Seldom will the murder victim be put on trial to have their history of having their life threatened or having invited violence…etc.

        Who would you kill? Or could you pull off the perfect murder is not an uncommon game. It’s an industry for authors and screenwriters. It can be done in good fun. In my radar unit, we had regular elections for the officer most likely to be killed by his own men in wartime. The same Lieutenant always won, and was informally informed of it. He did not fear for his life. He just backed off on the assholery for a while.

        Had the men held an election to vote for the woman they would most like to rape, heads would have fucking rolled, somebody would lose some stripes, and it would be made clear that now that the warning had been given; if there is a next time, the consequences would be much worse. Those guys would never hear the end of it, and would not be likely to be getting any dates from their fellow servicewomen in that unit, ever. And they’d be lucky if that story didn’t catch up with them wherever they went. And that’s how it probably would have gone in an organization that is sexist and has a problem with rape worse than the general population.

        The first rule of rape club is that you don’t talk about rape club.

        • Halloween Jack says:

          The same Lieutenant always won, and was informally informed of it. He did not fear for his life. He just backed off on the assholery for a while.

          Frag Club?

      • b.g. says:

        I really hope you’re not a physician of any kind, because you’re clueless about sexual violence.

  4. rea says:

    What on earth possessed these people that they didn’t think this would cause a shitstorm of trouble, even if they didn’t have the moral sense to realize that they were doing something evil?

  5. david mizner says:

    No colleges should have frats. Ban them all. This, of course, wouldn’t eliminate misogyny and sexual assault, but it’d be a step in the right direction.

    • Lee says:

      Do fraternities even serve any useful purpose? Students are pretty good at planning parties on their own; colleges usually provide dorms and food of varying quality and students could always live off campus if necessarey; and if a vehicle for out of class socialization is necessary most colleges usually have several clubs for this reason. These clubs tend to be co-ed and less prone to things like hazing, misogyny, and the other ills that fraternities and soroities are prone to.

      • ScS says:

        You might argue that fraternities can act as ambassadors for the university outside of campus.

        Obviously, this particular fraternity does not reflect that idea.

        Also, frats are used for the valuable connections it creates for later down the line.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          You might argue that fraternities can act as ambassadors for the university outside of campus.

          This is laughable on its face, but let’s assume it’s true. Do they do so in a way that NO CONCEIVABLE ALTERNATIVE ORGANIZATIONS COULD DO?

          Also, frats are used for the valuable connections it creates for later down the line.

          So are all-white country clubs. They’re still reprehensible. And are you seriously arguing for the perpetuation of privilege and personal profit for the members as a reason for these organizations existing?

          • Tybalt says:

            How liberalism ended up down the road of “whatever is not compulsory must be forbidden” is really puzzling to me.

            I don’t think universities should be formally recognizing fraternities. I also think they should be allowed to exist.

            • Holden Pattern says:

              How liberalism ended up down the road of “whatever is not compulsory must be forbidden” is really puzzling to me.

              Yeah, that’s TOTALLY what I meant. You get me, you really get me. You and Manju.

    • paleotectonics says:

      Actually, it would be more than a start. There is no use for the greek system. The frats perpetuate a system where success is not predicated by talent but by connections, and since frats control their membership, their rolls tend to consist of legacies and inheritance snots. (Usually with enough economic, social, and racial tokens to defend their policies without allowing any real opportunity for an outsider to break in.) They then use this system of connections in business practice. Women, obviously, are out of the He-mens Womyn Hataz. Which brings up the second sector of the greek system, and an equally dangerous section, the sororities.

      Non-traditional sororities are making much more progress towards reality than the frats. Academic sororities, service oriented, and those that focus on providing the sort of future business networking that the frat-rats take for granted. The traditional sororities, however, are all about the MRS degree, and a typical weekend sees them serving as ‘hostesses’ for a topless reggae-n-Red Stripe party thrown by the whitest jackasses on earth. The frat pukes are born misogynist jackasses, but the Mitzi’s and Kitzi’s of the world make it very easy.

      The elimination of the greek system would be a thorough positive, and should take place now.

      And no, I was not a greek, so take my statement with as large a grain of salt as you wish. However, I am making it though life perfectly well without ever having to learn a secret handshake or having to carry an apricot under my sack for 50 feet while drinking a Phillips Vodka martini and singing Red Red Wine.

      • mpowell says:

        I think on the whole and on balance you are probably correct, but my experience in a fraternity at a prestigious technical school does not match this description. There was some bad behavior, but nothing that you wouldn’t see in a dorm and none of it directed towards women (at least that was common knowledge or known to me). Since the schools that permit fraternities to be associated with them are all separate entities with their own decision-making processes, I think it makes more sense to tackle this on a school-by-school basis.

        • paleotectonics says:

          Fair enough – I was less than overjoyed as I posted and I generally try to avoid broad brushes.

          There is another issue that occurred to me – how much of this stupidity occurs because of Animal House and the future masters believing that this was how frat life is, and that it should be emulated?

          • mpowell says:

            God only knows. Whenever I have heard about what fraternity members at other schools/chapter do to their own members, I can’t understand why anyone would want to participate (or would want that to be part of the experience). But I’m just not sadistic enough I guess.

        • JL says:

          I wonder if you and I went to the same prestigious technical school.

          There were a few fraternities that were notorious (one, which was particularly known as a place that women should avoid, got kicked out not too long ago) but most of them were basically harmless. There was the “nice Jewish boys with very high GPAs” fraternity, and the “literature geeks” fraternity, and the “gay and bi guys who like to wear purple and do a lot of acid” fraternity – I swear I didn’t make any of those up – as well as plenty that were more generic but still basically harmless. People joined them for the same reason that people chose certain dorms – they liked the people who lived there and thought it would be fun to live with them.

          I never did the sorority thing (though the “nice Jewish girls” sorority that was the counterpart of the “nice Jewish boys” fraternity tried to recruit me) but I had a lot of interactions with the Greek folks and most of them were positive.

          I realize that this isn’t the same from school to school, though, and that my alma mater did not reflect typical-university reality in most ways.

  6. emrventures says:

    It would have been so easy to say “If I could have sex with someone…” and be merely tasteless.

    What possessed them to go the extra mile?

  7. mark f says:

    I assume it’s this post that’s generating the ad for “mutually beneficial arrangements” with “college girls” and “single moms,” at least one of whom, if the picture is to be believed, enjoys shoving her boobs in cameras.

  8. ScS says:

    I’m not all that supportive of frats but the amount of condemnation towards ALL fraternities is a bit ridiculous. Let’s not forget there are douche-bags on every campus and many of them ARE NOT in fraternities.

    Let’s keep the condemnation where it belongs. On the fools in Sigma Phi Epsilon at the University of Vermont. There behavior doesn’t mean every fraternity in the world condones this type of behavior or would be a willing participant.

    I’m curious, but, how many of you condemning all fraternities were members of a frat?

    • Malaclypse says:

      Longer ScS: Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests – we did. But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

    • Sophia says:

      I’m curious, did anyone go to a school where the Sig Eps did not have a reputation for being assholes? I agree that not every frat is full of raging assholes, but SAE seems to select for that trait and has done so for a long time.

      • ScS says:

        That’s much different than condemning all fraternities. If Sig Eps have a reputation nation-wide for being raging assholes, then let them have it. Like you said, that doesn’t mean every frat is full of them.

      • Bill Murray says:

        Technically, I did, but it is also true we did not have any Sig Eps. We had 4 total fraternities and our active GDI (gol darned independents)community was larger than any of the fraternities.

      • Furious Jorge says:

        At Florida State in the early ’90s, they were known as “Somebody Anybody Everybody,” as they were on the lower rungs of the frat hierarchy and reputedly had trouble attracting members.

        But oddly enough, there always seemed to be a lot of them on campus, and they didn’t seem to be as douchey as members of upper-tier frats. I eventually hypothesized that this was the result of self-selection: the biggest douchebags on campus sought out people just like them, who were in the top fraternities (because being a douchebag was seen as a desirable trait in those organizations), while the less douchey kids who still thought that being in a frat was a key part of the college experience drifted toward the houses with more lax admittance standards.

        And thus began my long journey toward becoming an underemployed social scientist.

      • JL says:

        Our Sig Eps tended to be heavy partiers, but they had no reputation for being sexual predators.

    • L2P says:

      The benefits the world gets from traditional fraternities and sororities can just BARELY be measured by the most sensitive electronic microscopes created by man. They’re great fun and very useful for the peeps that join them, but the world as a whole would go on JUST FINE if they left today.

      On the other hand, the number of people raped, hazed, tormented, belitted, disadvantaged, and otherwise harmed by the fraternity and sorority system? Well, that’s not an insignificant number of people there.

      But yeah, a lot of hte critics come from outside the greek system, so what the hell. Ignore it.

      • Malaclypse says:

        I think you have forgotten the critical role they play in crony capitalism teaching people valuable networking skills.

      • mpowell says:

        Yeah, but there’s no plausible mechanism for a country-wide ban on fraternities. It’s going to be campus by campus or even campus-chapter by campus-chapter. If you want to petition schools to shut down their Greek system or SAE in particular, fine. But there’s no reason to perform this universal cost versus universal benefits calculation.

    • b.g. says:

      Yeah, the most important thing in this discussion is defending the “honor” of fratholes.

      Here’s frathole culture for you.

  9. Uncle Kvetch says:

    I’m curious, but, how many of you condemning all fraternities were members of a frat?

    I’m curious about how that could possibly be relevant.

    • ScS says:

      Because it’s easy to lay blanket condemnation when you have not participated in the thing you are condemning.

      • Bill Murray says:

        you don’t think asking who someone would rape is worthy of condemnation?

        • ScS says:

          Never said that, nor did I even imply that. Did you fail to read my other post above where I clearly state Sig Ep deserves to be condemned? Go ahead and criticize this fraternity for its foolishness. That doesn’t mean the condemnation has to transfer to all fraternities.

          • Uncle Kvetch says:

            I attended a 4-year college in the 1980s and, like many other commenters on this thread, saw absolutely nothing positive that fraternities brought to campus life that couldn’t be provided through other means, and a hell of a lot of ugliness…including allegations of a gang-rape that was the buzz of campus for much of my senior year. (There wouldn’t be a bigger field day for “just a few bad apples” arguments until Abu Ghraib.)

            Look, if a bunch of like-minded dudes want to rent a big house with shitty beer on tap 24/7 and roll around in their own filth for four years, nobody’s going to stop them. But if they want to be an officially recognized part of campus life, with all the benefits that that entails, that’s another story. Then it becomes everybody’s business.

            • witless chum says:

              I’m not clear on the ‘officially recognized part of campus life’ bit. I went to Michigan State in the 1990s and it was never clear to me what relationship the frats had with the university.

              And I did meet some unstereotypical frat boys (from the music frat and the ag majors frat) but the majority I knew confirmed to stereotypes.

              • Uncle Kvetch says:

                I went to the University of Pennsylvania, where there were a number of fraternity houses right on College Row, in the heart of the campus. There were no equivalent co-ed or non-greek houses in similar locations.

                Needless to say, the boys would show their appreciation of their privileged status by sitting on lawn chairs in front of their houses on warm days and issuing catcalls to passing female students. As we used to say in the 80s, it was awesome.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  How many of them had bitchin’ Camaros?

                • Uncle Kvetch says:

                  How many of them had bitchin’ Camaros?

                  Donuts on your lawn!

                  But seriously, Mal, I would imagine very few of them. These were more the privileged preppy type of frat-boy asshole, rather than the Jersey Shore type.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Ah. I attended West Chester State College during the same time period. Our frat boys were definitely the type to drive their bitchin’ Camaro with t-tops to Wildwood for the weekend.

                • jackd says:

                  Uncle Kvetch, in case you’re dropping by the thread two days later – I visited Penn one weekend in the early ’80s and remember walking by College Row and being briefly puzzled by a large sign proclaiming THE TAXI in front of one house. My friends gently pointed out that the space went between A and X.

            • Holden Pattern says:

              I know of at least one campus where that’s the status of fraternities — the school doesn’t recognize them or give them any privileges, So basically, they’re just a bunch of guys who rent an off-campus house together, throw parties and wear matching t-shirts.

              I thought that was a pretty satisfactory arrangement.

          • Michael H Schneider says:

            Right, exactly.

            This is what John Rawls meant when he said that the proper way to decide whether slavery is good is to experience being a good slaveowner. Without experiencing the personal benefits of a system, one is in no position to criticize the system.

            • djw says:

              Similarly, I’ve noticed that many critics of cults have, in fact, never joined one!

              Seriously: I don’t get why the ‘degree of difficulty’ of the critique matters. It’s pretty easy for me to condemn rape, in no small part because I’m not a rapist. But the relevant criteria here isn’t the degree of difficulty with which the critique is made, but the accuracy of the critique.

            • rea says:

              I am not a serial killer/cannibal, so who am I to criticze Mr. Dahmer?

              I haven’t killed 6 million Jews, so I’d better shut up about Hitler.

  10. LKS says:

    When I was at Michigan State (1970-75), the only value I saw in the greek system was that it sucked most of the cheerleader/debutante/young Republican/fratboy types out of the dorms, thereby massively improving the social and intellectual quality of dorm life.

    • Saurs says:

      Cheerleaders and debutantes may be insufferable, but don’t let’s equate them with the rape-happy frat set and their particular moral universe. You don’t hear about cheerleaders engaging in noxious gang-bangs of nonconsenting innocent young male co-eds ‘cos raping folk is not part and parcel of the cheerleader and sorority culture, whereas isolating young women and trying one’s very best to violate their boundaries is, in fact, yer typical fratboy’s understanding of wooing. Plus, it impresses the bros, and that’s the whole point of associating with women, to score points off of them in front of your friends.

  11. Jude says:

    I think it’s kinda sad that anyone could be trying to argue it any which way. You shouldn’t talk hypothetically about rape like it’s not a big deal? People do it all the time and get away with it and it’s very scary to women who are physically weaker than men and really can be in harm’s way any time they are with a man even semi alone.

  12. cpinva says:

    the “greek” fraternity system, originated at william & mary in 1776, has pretty much always been infused with the general social attitudes, with respect to race & gender, prevalent then. even as it evolved into the social fraternities (rather than honor societies or groups dedicated to a specific area of study), those attitudes haven’t dramatically changed. my personal experience, back in the mid-70’s, in the south, convinced me they were mostly comprised of the douchebags on campus. i wanted nothing to do with them. not that i wasn’t necessarily a douchebag too, i just didn’t want to hang out with 30 or 40 of me, one was sufficient.

    things don’t appear to have radically improved in the interim, as the inclusion of question #3 attests. they may have actually devolved.

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