It’s Time to End the Imbalance: Lifting the Ban on Sorority Parties

September 27, 2017
beat-up sofa outside frat house

We’ve all heard the stories about the dangerous frat parties. We know that one in five college women will experience sexual assault by the time she graduates. We’ve seen the stories about party rape and the use of alcohol in sexual assault. We’ve tried to make bystander intervention a part of the college culture, tried giving courses on sexual assault to fraternities, and tried teaching women how to avoid situations that make sexual assault more likely. Maybe we’re looking at this from the wrong direction.

Imagine a young woman in her first year at UVA, on a Friday night. She and her hall mates decide they want to participate in the college night-life, as many other first years do. None of them have fake IDs, so the only place to get alcohol is a frat party. These first-year women don’t know any of the brothers, but they do know if they wear the “right” clothing and makeup, they’ll be allowed in. The frats are located far from first-year dorms, so they take a bus. They try to coordinate a time they want to leave the party so they can catch the late bus back to dorms together, but the bus system can be difficult, and when you’re drunk, it’s even worse. The women try to make sure to stick together, but that’s also hard in a crowded, chaotic party. All of these things in combination make them much more vulnerable to sexual assault.

So many first years go through this same situation. There’s no easy way to get alcohol when you’re under 21. Dorms have very strict alcohol policies, and not many first years are in organizations that host their own, smaller and safer parties. First years also worry that if they come home drunk, their RAs will reprimand them, so they stay away from the safest place for them to sober up: their dorm.

If frat parties are where people typically get hurt, what if we gave students a safer alternative?

What if—bear with me, this might be shocking to some of you—sororities hosted their own parties?

Now that I’ve mentioned it, you’re probably thinking, “Well, why don’t they? Why do fraternities have all the power?” And I want to be very clear on that point: fraternities do have all the power. When frats are the only places that have large amounts of alcohol available to younger students, and the only party space available to sorority women, this means that they are the ones that have the upper hand. They control the party space, they control who gets into the parties, and they control what people wear to their parties.

The reason that sororities don’t allow parties lies within the rules of their national organization, the National Panhellenic Conference. This organization doesn’t allow sororities to host events with alcohol, in an attempt to limit underage drinking.

Yes, you’re allowed to laugh at that one. Because drinking at a rowdy frat party is so much safer than drinking with your friends in your sorority house.

Their other reason for banning alcoholic events has to do with insurance rates. It’s cheaper to insure a house where large parties aren’t happening. Why is it, then, that the North-American Interfraternity Conference will pay these higher rates and the NPC won’t?

The NPC should see that the higher rates are worth it, if it means a drop in the number of the sexual assaults that happen at fraternity parties.

Now, I’m not saying that sororities don’t have issues of their own, but that is an entirely different can of worms. What I am saying is that sororities are likely to be more sensitive to issues of gendered violence and control their parties accordingly: refusing to admit guys that they know are creepy, helping younger girls get home, and increasing the amount of bystander intervention.

Imagine a woman in her first-year. She wants to participate in the UVA social scene, and there are a few options. She and her friends end up deciding that a sorority party is much less sleazy than a frat party and is much cleaner, anyway. They wear their favorite party outfits, feeling comfortable and excited about the party. They take a bus to the sorority house, knowing that if they can’t figure out how to get back home, one of the sorority sisters will likely help out. The entire night, they never feel nervous or uncomfortable and end up getting home just fine.

Why can’t this be our normal? Why, in the year of 2017, do frats still have all the party power? It’s pretty outrageous, if you ask me.


Photo Credit:

Kirsten Hemrich

 

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