Within the boundaries of your college campus, there is a menace lurking in the shadows. More likely a menace lurking in a large two-story house with Greek letters emblazoned on it and red Solo cups strewed across the lawn: fraternities. When many college-bound young men think about college, many will consider joining a fraternity. I completely understand the appeal of fraternities; they provide a sense of brotherhood, a guarantee of parties, and a big house much better than living in a shoe-box dorm.
However, this brotherhood is often built on racist jokes and competitions of who can have sex with the most girls.
Fraternities have been a driving factor not only in sexual assault and misogyny on campus but leaders in blatant racism. Fraternities are usually overwhelmingly white, with a study finding only 3.8% of members identifying as minorities. This helps to create a hotbed for white supremacy and racism. An example is the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) who chanted a racist song on a bus they rented. The bus full of both men and women sang “You can hang them from a tree but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a n*gger in SAE!”. This disgusting display should come as no surprise, however, as SAE was established during the Civil War by Confederate soldiers.
Furthermore, SAE is known by many women as Sexual Assault Expected, meaning that young college women are warned against going to these parties alone because a rape incident is not only feared but as the nickname suggests expected. However, sexual assault is a danger at many other fraternity parties as well.
Studies have shown that fraternity men are three times as likely as any other male to commit rape. This is in large part due to the culture that encourages or at least accepts sexual assault and harassment as normal.
Just in my own backyard, this culture is spreading, a Fraternity at Florida International University in Miami was suspended after screenshots from the Fraternity group chat revealed jokes about rape and pedophilia. The fraternity members called women from sororities sluts and said: “it’s not rape if she enjoys it”. One twenty-year-old fraternity member even screenshot a conversation with a fifteen-year-old girl he was trying to have sex with saying “if she’s 15 then I’m 15??”.
Fraternity culture does not only stop at racism, misogyny, or pedophilia but add homophobia to the list of things brothers share. In such a hyper-masculine environment, homophobia can become rampant with brothers calling each other f*gs when one of the other members is emotional or acting too “feminine’.
A gay student at Swarthmore exposed the homophobia in fraternities. He recounts how he was invited to a fraternity party because he was friends with one of the members but then he was forcefully shoved out of the house and one of the members said: “No f*gs allowed”.
Now, fraternity culture is undeniably toxic and I do believe the majority of fraternities perpetuate a culture that is undeniably misogynistic, racist, and homophobic. However, there are fraternities that do not encourage these attitudes and try to make a change. At Florida State University fraternity Pi Kappa Phi organized a fundraising event to raise money for a national charity that helps children with disabilities called Push America and advocates for people to no longer use the r-word (r*tarted). At Emerson college members of Phi Alpha Tau fraternity raised over $21,000 to cover the cost of their transgender brother’s female to male transition surgeries. The problem is not with a single-sex environment but with the attitudes the men within them are perpetuating.