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Do Sorority Parties have positive externalities?

By Justin K.

Freakonomics the movie premiered last week and this week news broke about the college lacrosse player accused of killing his girlfriend. This particular incident may not have been avoided, but the college born incident got my Freako-mind thinking.

According to numerous studies, between 20 and 25 % of all female college students will be the victim of sexual assault over their college careers (the numbers rise dramatically when non-sexual violent crimes are added).

Fixing this problem is difficult.  Many assaults are carried about by people familiar to the victim, often late at night, when alcohol is involved, and sometimes off campus and away from help.

Recent years have seen colleges and universities hiring additional security guards and campus police to walk the grounds late at night, provide rides on and around campus, and installation of numerous flood lights and phones around campus, etc.  Despite these efforts, the problem persists on a large scale.

One idea that I have yet to hear is to permit events and parties to be held in Sorority houses.  Many colleges/towns prevent sororities from hosting parties because of antiquated state laws prohibiting them (likely vestigial remnants of brothel laws).  The result  is many females are forced to head out to fraternities, upperclassmen housing (usually male-hosted) and local town bars in order to socialize, over beverages, with friends.

Holding parties at sororities would accomplish a number of things.  It would make males much more wary of any kind of aggressive behavior, it would reduce the incidence of spiked drinks, it would put females in familiar and safer surroundings among more women and would make males feel more out of place.  Put simply, it would put women in control of parties and alcohol.  Frankly, if that doesn’t result in fewer assaults, I don’t know what will.  Besides, the parties would almost surely be a bit classier, safer and less disgusting.  I don’t think anyone would mind that, except the kind of guy that would assault a girl.

Perhaps its not an ideal solution, but ask a parent of a college-aged girl whether they would rather have their daughter getting drunk in the basement of a frat house/dive bar or in a sorority house among their female peers…

If Levitt and Dubner care to investigate, I’m sure their assistant would fine this preferable field research to hanging out with the crack dealers in Freakonomics.

Edited by TUE


7 Responses

  1. I didn’t choose to be in a sorority but given the option I’d probably feel safer attending a party at one than a frat. Would encouraging this have negative unintended consequences like further segregating those like myself who chose not to join up? Also, wouldthe academic performances of those who belong/live in the houses decline?

  2. I think as a general rule your premise is true but you have to take into account you can’t force a sorority to have a party, and not all schools have Greek life.

    You also don’t mention whether/how you would ban or sway kids from attending parties at frats and bars. The male undergrad can be equal parts lazy and resourceful, which can be scary.

    I like your premise, it wouldn’t hurt, but there are probably other equally creative ideas. Say paying kids to stay sober?

  3. thanks for the comments Becca and Dan,

    First off, I definitely would say that this isn’t a solution to a major problem. I feel strongly that it would help but don’t presume it would be a cure. I am sure there are other good ideas and unforseen risks with this idea. I just happen to believe the risks are rather small, especially when the issue is so prevalent.

    To address your points

    1) I am not sure it would result in more segregation. i wasn’t in a fraternity but still went to fraternity and sorority events. I think allowing sororities to have parties in house would just give everyone more options. Perhaps there would be some bitchy girls who would exclude others from their houses but fraternities can already do that now.
    2) its possible that it could affect sorority GPA’s but i don’t think the location of the party matters. Girls are going to party, whether in a frat or in a bar. Yes, they may party more since it is so easy to get to (walk out of their room) but I happen to think they would just choose to party at home more, rather than at fraternities or bars.
    3) while true not all schools have Greek life, i don’t think it wold take much prodding to get sorority girls to throw a party. and i don’t advocate banning parties at frats or bars. Just give sororities the right to host and the proportion of parties/events at bars and frats would fall, i think significantly. maybe now half of all parties that would otherwise occur at bars or frats would go to sororities.
    4) true – males undergrads are definitely lazy and resourceful.
    5) i am sure there are other great ideas out there. I suppose we could just pay people to not rape girls but that seems well, i don’t know how to put it 🙂

  4. maybe i’m being a little harsh here, but i think the solution to problem isn’t having more parties, it’s educating men and women about the problem and changing the environment. we raise our men in this country to treat women as objects, and we raise our women in this country to accept being objectified. the expectations to “fit in” to some bullshit stereotype are so great that college kids (and many high school kids too) are putting themselves in terrible situations. virginity and sobriety aren’t really respected. there’s an overwhelming pressure to get drunk, have sex, etc. maybe if we spend time teaching our youths to respect themselves and to respect others, rather than fear the repercussions of being different, we’ll build a society of people who don’t want to sexually assault one another.

    that, or we should make the drinking age 18. either one works.

    • Hey Dave,

      Inherent in my initial post was the implication that many ideas have been tossed around to reduce the terrible problem in question. Education would surely be a prime one so I was thinking of more subtle alternatives.

      I don’t know who the “we” is that you refer to but nowhere was I ever taught that it was ok for men to treat women as objects or that women were to be ok with being treated as being objects. In fact, I would say the overwhelming message is quite the opposite. I think men and women may infer those ideas as a result of their own perceived inadequacies, insecurities, loneliness or desperation and act accordingly but I don’t think it is something “society” – teachers, parents, media or friends – teaches on any large scale (unfortunately there is a small minority that does and i grant that).

      But to address your point, I am not sure education is a tenable, practical or effective solution. There have been countless educational campaigns that have proven to be wildly ineffective, no matter how much time, money or effort was put into them. D.A.R.E failed miserably. Sex Ed has shown to be somewhat beneficial in some circumstances and completely ineffective in others. people are surely aware of the dangers of under-age drinking and they do it. Almost everyone who chooses to smoke is aware of the health problems associated with cigarettes and they still smoke. People know that the combination of eating fatty foods with high levels of cholesteral and not exercising will lead to heart disease and yet obesity numbers in this country are staggering. Clearly, education can only do so much. It simply does not seem to matter beyond a point. I doubt it would be very effective here unfortunately. People are already well aware that sexual assault is illegal and wrong.

      While it would be great to teach our young people to respect themselves and each other, I suspect if it were that simple it would have been done by now.

      finally, I am not advocating more parties. That suggestion misses my point entirely. I suggest that if people are going to have parties, it would be best if they are held at safer and less dangerous locations. By putting females in charge of the party and the alchohol, i think this is accomplished for the reasons cited in my initial post

  5. @NineDaves, I see what Justin said but I also think you’re both missing something. It is not that we are or are not teaching the youth what is or isn’t acceptable.

    There isn’t a way to influence what society as a whole condones or doesn’t, but creating atmospheres that send better signals to what is and isn’t acceptable–the Sorority idea, would be one idea to help foster this.

    A larger question that I think this leads to–why would Sororities be safer? The same reason that 100% male dominated cultures without any female input often leads to bad decisions (terrorist cells, golf club’s, the catholic church).

    Shit am I a femminist?

  6. Ninedaves I wasn’t raised to be objectified by my parents and if you are referring to the media or society as a whole that’s debatable. The unemploment rate for men is higher than for women, and for the first time there are more women in college and entering the work force than there are men.

    I don’t think Justin was advocating more parties at all. He’s proposing a workable alternative. Think sex education and condoms vs preaching of straight abstinence.

    What he was proposing is CLEARLY not a silver bullet but an interestig idea. Imagine if young men were “trained” how to behave in social situations at sorority parties vs fraternities? The world would be a nicer place…I think.

    That said, I still think Justin is missing the fact that the type of guy who is most likely going to engage in this behavior isn’t just going to stop hosting parties or going to “dive” bars because a few sororities on campus are having more parties…

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