Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus

Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus

by Peggy Reeves Sanday

This widely acclaimed and meticulously documented volume illustrates, in painstaking and disturbing detail, the nature of fraternity gang rape.

More broadly, Sanday examines the nature of campus life today and the possibility of creating a rape-free campus culture.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.73
  • Pages: 254
  • Publish Date: March 1st 2007 by New York University Press
  • Isbn10: 0814740383
  • Isbn13: 9780814740385

What People Think about "Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus"

SPOILER ALERT: There may be some in here, as I discuss the most enlightening things this book taught me as well as some of the personal theories I developed from Sanday's work and my other reading (most notably: The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz). I thought Sanday's Fraternity Gang Rape was a very thought-provoking book about male attitudes and entitlement in American culture, and a wonderful explanation about how the traditional conception of American masculinity alienates men from their emotional selves and other human beings... The book also goes one step further than proving the rape culture that many women are already aware of, by speaking to fraternity brothers about their own experiences in their male peer groups. The fraternity conversation also speaks to some of the men's huge insecurity in their sexual prowess due to the pornification of the culture, which makes them more likely to join organizations such as Greek Life in order to feel more secure in their normative idea of masculinity. I also found Sanday's cultural "reading" of gang-rape majorly enlightening. She points out that gang-rape, or "trains" as some fraternity men put it, allows them to "perform their heterosexuality" on an unconscious female that really is the tool for subconsciously acting out the brothers' homoerotic desire for each other. Although I do not think Sanday makes this link expressly clear, I believe after reading The Macho Paradox that the reason why gang rape holds such an allure for young men, besides the identified need to preserve and perform their "masculinity" is because of the "emotional distance" component of traditional masculinity. When reading the sorority sisters' or the female fraternity fans' points of view, I empathized with them and better understood why some women try to fit into misogynistic and narrow definitions of "womenhood". Greek Life is also important to study, because people could make the argument that those with social power are simply the one's who are best at conforming to society's dominant cultural values; (ie, the head of the pack of the rat race)...

Some gems in particular include: -Society devalues and negates the feminine as weaker and undesirable, and so do men in constructing their gender identity -The status of women is assigned according to the nature of their sexual interactions with men. -Following this discourse, women must protect themselves from the explosive, "wild" nature of male sexuality. The fear is that a woman who doesn't guard her behavior runs the risk of becoming the target of uncontrollable male sexual aggression. Thus, although women are ostensibly the controlling agent, it is fear of the imagined, explosive nature of male sexuality that ultimately reigns for both sexes. This fear instills an aggressive attitude in men and a passive, fearful attitude in women.

And while individual accounts of individual cases, both high- and low-profile, populate much of the book, Sanday's dutiful analysis of these events and of the casualization of behavior that led to such events is what gives FRATERNITY GANG RAPE it's true value. The first-person accounts included in FRATERNITY GANG RAPE lend veracity to debates concerning ongoing societal issues that are ever present but become magnified in the context of college life. The author articulates what mythologies produce the cultural placement and identity of these cultic figures; articulates the process of normalizing exploitation and its superficial importance; articulates the role of initiation, ritual, and meaning-making to ratify unresolved, emotional privilege; and so forth. New means of media engagement and revised public outlooks may have shifted the public face of accountability in cases of fraternity gang rape, or of rape on college campuses in general; however, many of the institutional problems that claimed these victims rest under cloak of secrecy, and therefore remain woefully unresolved.

Sanday not only offers detailed descriptions of fraternity life and the conditions that contribute to gang rape and other forms of sexual assault, but she also illuminates, from an anthropological perspective, many of the mechanisms by which sexual violence continues to be "normal" in US society. The lurid details of fraternity life she shares (and not all fraternities, she is careful to note--some choose to be distinctly respectful and egalitarian places) are not shared simply to disparage fraternities, but rather to show how male & racial privilege and social dominance, if encouraged by larger social, cultural and economic norms and tacitly condoned by those in power (in this case, by college administrators), will seek abusive pathways to reassure and continue this dominance. There are some areas in which it could be improved, and I do hope that in her future works, Professor Sanday is more clear about illuminating the differences between WHITE male exclusive and privileged environments and those of men of color (through my experience, I have heard that Black and Latino fraternities are different, but I'd appreciate research that reveals if that is true or not and if so, to what degree and why). I also recommend it for anyone wanting to understand the intersections of gender, racial and class privilege and the social construction of a rape-prone society and sexuality--or for anyone who wants to stop sexual violence, period.

As a young woman going into her freshman year of college, Gang Rape, the disturbing and incredibly graphic documentation really opened up my eyes to the not so glamorous life of being involved in the college greek scene. Sanday offers several other books pertaining to sexual harassment of women such as A woman scorned, which is a study of women's sexual-stereotypes, and acquaintance rape and i do plan to look into some more of her work, shes truly an incredible author with great things to teach and say.

This is definitely one of those books where it is necessary to read the introduction (both), forward, and afterword. The second part of the book deals with what can make a fraternity and sorority rape prone.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.