Maybe Fraternities Aren’t So Bad (But they Probably Still Are)

Fraternities have a pretty bad reputation in the media. This surely has lot to do with a few high-profile sexual assault stories involving frats.

It turns out fraternity brothers might not be so bad, however. According to a new piece at Salon:

A new study on hypermasculine attitudes among college-age men suggests that while fraternity guys are widely considered to be more sexually aggressive and hostile toward women than other men, the opposite may be true.

The study, co-authored by researchers at George Washington University and Loyola University, found that while “fraternity members demonstrate higher levels of disinhibition and hypermasculine attitudes,” it was actually non-fraternity members who showed “a positive correlation between hypermasculine attitudes and hostility toward women” — a predictor for sexual aggression.

So does this mean guys in fraternities are less likely to engage in sexual assault? Should college women feel safer at frat parties? Not really.

With all due respect to the research, this really represents a pretty tortured project in logic. All that the study seemed to show is that, while hyper-masculinity (“an exaggerated adherence to traditional male gender role beliefs”) seemed to be more common among guys in fraternities, the presence of hyper-masculinity was only related to sexual aggression for men not in fraternities.

Well great, except that actual sexual aggression is still very common in fraternities.

As Nicholas Syrett showed in “Bros Before Hos: Fraternities and Sexual Exploitation,” the reality is that men in fraternities are “more likely than their non affiliated classmates to rape women, and some studies have estimated that as many as 70 to 90 percent of reported campus gang rapes are committed by members of fraternities.”

What the hyper-masculinity study (which was limited to three Southern universities) really seems to show is that the hyper-masculinity just doesn’t have much to do with sexual assault among fraternity members. But that’s weak consolation to women who’ve been sexually assaulted by people in fraternities. Who cares about the hyper-masculinity? Actual sexual assault still seems to be pretty damn prevalent in fraternities.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer