Campus rape: Sororities want to fight sexual assault by throwing their own parties.

Sororities Want to Fight Sexual Assault By Throwing Their Own Booze-Fueled Ragers

Sororities Want to Fight Sexual Assault By Throwing Their Own Booze-Fueled Ragers

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Jan. 20 2015 12:15 PM

Sorority Girls Fight for Their Right to Party

If sororities started serving alcohol and hosting parties, would women be safer on campus?

Photo by Corepix VOX/Shutterstock

Today, the New York Times’ Alan Schwarz investigates a persistent inequality in the culture of campus drinking: America’s frat boys are allowed to throw booze-fueled parties in their houses, but sorority girls are not. All 26 sororities in the National Panhellenic Conference voluntarily agree to keep their houses dry; only a couple of fraternities make the same call. The result: The parties only happen in the frat houses, where the men control the substances being served; choose the themes of their parties, which determines what women wear; man the entrances and exits to decide who gets in, who gets out, who gets kicked out, and for what; and lord over parties’ private spaces, like bedrooms and bathrooms. So far, three studies have demonstrated that fraternity members are three times more likely to commit sexual assaults than other guys on campus. “I would definitely feel safer at a sorority party,” one female student at the George Washington University told the Times as she passed a row of frat houses on Saturday night. “It’s the home-court advantage.”

So now, some young women on campus are fighting for their right to party. It seems obvious that sorority members (and the other women on campus) would be safer in their own homes than at frat parties. The problem is that the scenario is risky for the sororities themselves. For the national organizations and local chapters, banning alcohol is a financial calculation, not a moral one—staying dry helps them to avoid the legal liabilities shouldered by raucous fraternities. Drinking contributes not just to campus rape but also to physical fights, accidents, poisoning, and other destructive behaviors. James R. Favor & Company, an insurance company that covers more than a dozen fraternities, told the Times in 2012 that one national fraternity was paying an average of $812,951 in annual settlements until it went dry, at which point its annual payout dropped to $15,388. An officer with the National Panhellenic Conference told the Times that “she preferred to preserve the relative calm of sorority houses, and continue to let fraternities assume the cost, risk and cleanup of house parties.”


But by protecting themselves from legal risk, sororities are putting their college-aged members in greater danger of sexual assault. Consuming alcohol with members of the opposite sex is such a cornerstone of American social interaction that it’s unreasonable to expect college students not to indulge. So if they want to participate fully in campus life, sorority women are shuffled into fraternity house “Hunt or Be Hunted” theme parties, where they are cast in the role of prey.

At least one sorority, Dartmouth’s Sigma Delta, has no national affiliations, so it’s free to throw its own parties—and its members are now evangelizing the simple pleasures of the sorority rager. On a typical campus, “Fraternity members feel so entitled to women’s bodies, because women have no ownership of the social scene,” Sigma Delta social chair Molly Reckford told the Times. “You can’t kick a guy out of his own house.”