Opinion: Sorority rules contribute to sexual assault

Posted on Apr 4 2018 - 5:55am by Jacqueline Knirnschild

Structural sexism exists on our campus: IFC fraternities are allowed to host parties with alcohol and invite women to sleepover, but Panhellenic sororities ban alcohol and do not even allow boys to walk upstairs.

“Most houses implement a strict rule stating boys are only allowed in first floor common areas, thus banning any suitors from sleeping over. The punishment that comes with getting caught hosting a shacker is way too steep to risk… ” Total Sorority Move writer “Lucky Jo” posted in 2014.

After drunkenly sneaking in a boy through a window or a rarely used door, your slam basically has to James Bond on his way out in the morning in order to help you avoid an awkward Standards meeting and severe judgment from exec,” Lucky Jo writes.

These sexist rules are remnants of the past.

In an interview with Huffington Post in 2014, National Panhellenic Conference Committee Chairwoman Julie Johnson said the alcohol ban was born in a more Victorian era but became policy over the years.

The underlying assumption of the Victorian-era ban on alcohol and boys is that sorority women are pure and chaste and, therefore, clearly not interested in having sex or partying. In fact, the NPC Code of Ethics highlights the “dignity and good manners of sorority women.”

But it’s 2018, not 1890. It’s time to realize that women are having sex and drinking alcohol just as much as men. A survey of 2,000 college-aged students found that females have an average of fewer than 12 sexual partners in their lives, compared to males’ 14. And data collected from 2002 to 2012 shows that the gender gap in American alcohol consumption is closing as women drink more.

The archaic sorority rules on alcohol and boys do not reflect reality and instead aim to preserve female modesty, which shames a woman’s sex choices and contributes to sexual assault.

Because a sorority woman is prohibited from having boys in her Greek house bedroom, if she wants to have sex with a boy, she has to go to his home or fraternity house, which puts her at a higher risk of being assaulted since she is in an unfamiliar place and not in control.

If a boy becomes aggressive at her own home, she would easily be able to call on her sisters or house mother, but at an apartment or fraternity house, she can most likely only call out to strangers for help.

In addition, since sororities and dormitories on our campus ban alcohol, if an underage woman – who is, according to RAINN, at the highest risk of sexual assault – wants to drink and party on campus, she has no option but to go to a fraternity party, which increases her chances of being sexually assaulted.

A 2006 study found that “party rape occurs at high rates in places that cluster young, single, party-oriented people concerned about social status.”

By creating gendered social lives and spaces, Greek organizations demonstrate that female-male relationships are mainly romantic and/or sexual, not platonic, which thus places a shroud of mystery over the opposite sex and contributes to stereotypes.

Research at Arizona State University found that children who play with friends of the opposite sex learn better social, problem-solving and communication skills, whereas single-sex classes can be detrimental, reinforcing gender biases.

This research extends to Greek life. Males and females are separated and encouraged to forge “sisterhoods” and “brotherhoods” exclusively with those of the same sex instead of forming friendships with everyone.

When these “sisters” and “brothers” do socialize, it is more often than not in a party setting, and as the 2006 research shows, those with “traditional beliefs about sexuality” – such as members of Greek organizations – are more likely to increase danger within the party scene.

But as activist, author and TED speaker Tony Porter points out, boys who have friendships with girls at a young age are less likely to think of women as sexual conquests.

By eliminating sexist rules and fostering healthy friendships between the sexes, women and men will see each other as complete human beings instead of sex objects to flirt with at a party, which will, in turn, decrease rates of sexual assault.

Jacqueline Knirnschild is a sophomore anthropology and Chinese double major from Brunswick, Ohio.