Rush season is upon us at universities across the country, and with it, the looming specter of widespread sexual violence on campus. The disturbing issue has taken center stage lately, highlighted and made personal by people like Columbia University student and rape survivor Emma Sulkowicz.
Though sexual violence on campus is by no means limited to fraternities, stories like the discredited Rolling Stone report on the University of Virginia have raised concern about the prevalence of rape culture in the Greek system, fueled by the raucous party atmosphere of frat houses.
But what if there was a radical, simple way to help curtail on-campus rape? What if it’s as easy as just holding parties at sorority houses rather than fraternity houses? A New York Times reporter puts forth the question that many sorority members are mulling: Would doing away with the long held tradition help women feel more comfortable and protect against assault, simply by allowing them to drink on their own turf?
National sorority organizations have long banned alcohol in houses. But increasingly female students are wondering if that makes sense. “It’s this hard-and-fast rule that you take at face value, but it’s finally sort of surfacing,” Martha McKinnon, a University of Michigan member of Delta Gamma told the Times. “It pushes us into the fraternities. The whole social scene is embedded in the fraternity house, and makes us dependent on them. I find this a dangerous scenario.”
One sorority at Dartmouth has already tried the idea out. Sigma Delta, which doesn’t have a national affiliation, holds parties that feature female bartenders and female bouncers.
“Especially younger girls feel much more comfortable coming to our sisters for help if they need it, rather than men having almost all the power,” Molly Reckford, a member of Sigma Delta told the Times. “That dynamic is one of the key reasons fraternity members feel so entitled to women’s bodies, because women have no ownership of the social scene. You can’t kick a guy out of his own house.”
While, of course, women shouldn’t be changing their lifestyles to help stop rape, it does make a ton of sense to take total social power out of the frat houses. Honestly, it sounds kind of genius.