In the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs conference room hangs a poster depicting a classical Greek sketch of a man and a woman. The man is impaling himself on the woman, who is pushing his face and looks angry. "Today's Greeks Call It Date Rape," the caption underneath the print reads. "Against her will is against the law." The poster is part of a nationwide campaign by fraternities to educate their members about acquaintance rape -- an effort several fraternity members say has been successful. Yet many who work with victims of acquaintance rape say fraternities need to move more quickly to police their members and change their attitudes. And while everyone agrees that fraternity members are a captive audience to discuss social issues, many dispute whether this audience really agrees with the message on the poster. · Many observers say women are raped or sexually assaulted in fraternities because they do not see fraternity parties as a potential danger -- particularly in their first few months on campus. "The myth is the black guy from West Philly," Women's Center Director Elena DiLapi said. "They don't fear the upstanding white fraternity." But several incidents over the past few years have contributed to an attitude of mistrust of fraternities on campus. In the spring of 1988, Zeta Beta Tau was suspended from the University for a year for hiring strippers for a rush event. Rushes attending the event performed sexual acts on the strippers with cucumbers and ketchup. And in February 1983, a woman was allegedly gang raped at Alpha Tau Omega by five or six men. While no one was convicted in connection with the incident, the fraternity was suspended for a semester. And many at the University believe fraternities have encouraged the objectification of women. Members of the Women's Alliance said yesterday that women going to fraternity parties should be aware of the attitudes houses have toward women. They have kept a collection of fraternity party fliers from the past few years which they say are particularly offensive and show an unstated goal of sexual conquest. One flier, posted by Phi Sigma Kappa, shows a whale on the awning of the Phi Sig house. The party, called the "Beached Whale" party, offers guests the chance to "meet Jonah." Women's Alliance member Wai-Sum Lee says the poster refers to a practice known as "beaching," where a brother convinces a woman to have consentual sex with him. Unbeknownst to her, however, other brothers are outside watching. Another poster, advertising a Beta Theta Pi party last fall, shows a woman and offers "Live Animals" for "Crab Night." On several of the posters, the fraternity promises beer free and "women free." "It's almost like a promise," College senior Lee said yesterday, adding it is unclear whether the hosts are promising women free entry to parties or men free access to women. The Beta poster drew criticism from the Panhellenic Council last year and, in part, spurred a new Interfraternity Council poster policy. The policy requires the chapter's executive board to approve all promotional literature and offers confidential review of promotional materials by several University organizations. Interfraternity Council President Jim Rettew said he is concerned about perceptions that the mood of fraternity parties is demeaning. "I would hope that we're not promoting . . . an atmosphere which encourages sex," Rettew said. "[T]hey don't help the situation . . . They foster a lot of bad attitudes," one junior woman said. And many of the respondents matched one senior woman's adamant criticism of fraternities: "The system and attitudes are to blame." But more than half of the respondents said fraternities are unfairly criticized on this front, saying fraternities may be a center for acquaintance rapes only because they are the center of undergraduate social life. The parties are a traditional haven for people to meet and drink underage. Over 62 percent of the respondents to the poll said alcohol was partially responsible for at least half of all acquaintance rapes. Others said they felt the parties, not fraternities themselves, were responsible for acquaintance rape and the houses should not be blamed. "What the hell for! Now that's definitely a stigma," one male respondent said. "It starts at parties and the majority of parties at Penn are at fraternities." And a freshman woman said although fraternities might be responsible for some acquaintance rapes, they would happen in other places if there were no fraternity parties. Still, some fraternity members admit they would have suggestions for women attending their first few fraternity parties about what they might encounter there. "Sure I'd have some advice," IFC President Jim Rettew said. "It'd be like going to West Philadelphia and not worrying about the crime . . . It's not a fraternal problem -- it's part of the social environment of coming to a new place." · Peggy Sanday, author of Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood and Priviledge on Campus, has a very personal interest in the research she conducts. "My book was about a student of mine," the Anthropology professor said, adding she has a "strong sense of responsibility" to educate both men and women at the University about attitudes and actions that will affect them all. Yet her chronicle of the alleged gang rape at Alpha Tau Omega is harshly criticized by fraternity members and observers who have an equally personal interest in her work. In the book, Sanday maintains that gang rape and fraternity disrespect for women is rooted in initiation rituals which promote an agressive "macho" attitude toward sexual discourse and identity. Brothers humiliate and dominate pledges during initiation and characterize the pledges' weakness as feminine, Sanday contends. When pledges finally become brothers, their brotherhood is based on a shared sense of power that others do not have. She said brothers feel entitled to exercise power over others -- particularly women. Sanday's work has given complaints about fraternities the weight of academic scholarship, but others maintain it is, at best, a snapshot of the past and, at worst, a description of events that never happened at the University. "For Peggy Sanday to point and to blame the whole problem on fraternities is not only an exaggeration, it's inflammatory," Rettew said this week. "People make out the Greek system and intitation and pledging as if we teach sexim and racism in our curriculum. [It's] so far-fetched, so far from the truth . . . it doesn't even warrant a response." And journalist Hank Nuwer, who has written about hazing in society, said Sanday's book is overly general, taking a few isolated incidents and characterizing an entire system. Derek Goodman, a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and the Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape executive board, says although he agrees with Sanday's message, he questions her research. "I don't know about any of the initiation incidents -- they didn't come from my house," Goodman said. Yet Sanday said she has never heard that her book was inaccurate and said several fraternity brothers told her gang rape happens all the time. "My book is not an overreaction," Sanday said. "It's one of the only reactions to the problem." Sanday's research is not the only written condemnation of University Greeks in the past few years. In 1987, an internal University report said "most acts of violence, discrimination and harassment occur in or around fraternities." The report, commonly known as the Berg Report, also said the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs held little sway over fraternities. "Fraternity leaders claim that they would be at best ignored and more likely mocked if they were to attempt to lead discussion on ethics and morality in their houses," the report read. "This suggests that it is unrealistic to expect reform to arise from within the fraternities."Comments powered by Disqus
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