With the increase of sexual assault reporting, stories of grisly fraternity rapes now permeate the media. The recent reports of rapes — often in fraternity basements — are often attributed to “overly aggressive men” and negative peer pressure from fellow fraternity members to be “more manly.”
In the controversial article “Drunk Female Guest Are the Gravest Threat to Fraternities,” MIT alumni and past Chi Phi Beta (CPB) president Bill Frezza rejects this conventional explanation, instead claiming that “drunk females” are the single largest threat to the existence of fraternities. Forbes later redacted the article. Organizations like CPB can be closed if rapes are reported to and proven by the police. He also claims that society often overlooks inappropriate female behavior while reprimanding male drunkenness. On the other hand, his opponents attribute the rapes to misogyny and fraternities’ drinking culture. Nevertheless, both sides fail to identify the true propagator of fraternity-based rapes: our country’s widespread rape culture.
The cause of rape culture, much like the origin of World War II in the classic book “Catch-22,” is paradoxically both no one’s and everyone’s fault. Both World War II and rape culture cannot be directly attributed to one person, but society often plays a role in perpetuating both phenomena. During World War II, Americans supported the Allies by planting victory gardens and working in the expanding defense sector. Now we purchase video games and R-rated movies propagating sexual violence by the bucketful.
Both have encountered backlash from many sides. American isolationists like Charles Lindbergh voiced their opposition of WWII in its early stages. Feminists and conservative groups oppose pornography and films advocating sexual violence. Despite their efforts, however, rape culture has created a niche in our society and in many fraternities as well.
From the fraternity to the workplace, rape culture is manifested through negative stereotypes of both men and women. Men are often portrayed by the media as aggressive, uncouth and otherwise macho. Women are shown as dependent accessories of their male counterparts. Rape culture encourages the perception of women as docile objects and relegates men to the position of abuser. These stereotypes are the culprits of both fraternity rape and domestic abuse. Beyond that fundamental level, inaccurate stereotypes can result in misunderstanding between genders. To complicate the situation, while stereotypes contribute to the thriving of rape culture, so too does rape culture support stereotypes of men and women.
Problems of the outside world like rape culture enter even the cloistered walls of colleges like Wellesley. Wellesley women frequent fraternity parties where stereotypes and an infinite combination of alcohol mixtures are sometimes found. While attending fraternity parties isn’t a problem, Wellesley women should always maintain a Plan B for various problems that may arise. Some ways to increase safety prospects at fraternity parties are to bring emergency cash, attend with a trusted friend if possible and keep an eye on blood alcohol levels.
However, if a Wellesley woman does not take these steps and is raped, she is not to blame. Rape is not the result of a woman’s negligence — it is the byproduct of violence and a terrible act on the rapist’s part. Her refusal to give consent, in whatever state of mind, should be taken seriously. Any actions she took after overdrinking cannot be held against her due to the vulnerability and impairment of judgment that comes with intoxication. If she is raped, it is the job of the Wellesley community to take care of her and let her know that she bears no blame.
While Frezza was grossly inaccurate on many points, he did make one correct assumption: Women are just as accountable while sober as men. Wellesley women and fraternity members have a duty to make sure they do not hinder themselves and others through irresponsible actions like overdrinking to the point of unconsciousness. There are few greater tragedies in life than seeing a young person get raped, fall into a coma or die because they drank a few glasses too many. By acting responsibly, Wellesley women and others at parties can in one stroke prevent suffering and prolong the festivities.