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CAMPUS CORRESPONDENCE : The Dirty Secret in Fraternity Drinking Songs--Sexual Harassment

March 15, 1992|Katrina Foley and Sheila Moreland | Katrina Foley and Sheila Moreland, seniors majoring in English and women's studies, are co-editors of Together, a feminist newsmagazine at UCLA

A fraternity book of drinking songs that glorifies necrophilia, rape and torture of women is no laughing matter. Consider the statistics. One in six college women will be raped before they earn their degrees. One in 12 college men admit to having committed, or having attempted to commit, rape, according to a National Institute of Mental Health study. Ninety percent of all rapes involve the use of alcohol.

Phi Kappa Psi President Chris Lee claims that his fraternity's "lyrics are a joke (and) are so exaggerated that it is fairly ridiculous to say these songs promote violence against women." But this defies research showing that such materials desensitize men to sexual violence.

To be sure, male bonding and its associated sexual pranks involve gender discrimination. The punch lines of their "dirty jokes" change from generation to generation but their underlying misogynistic message remains constant.

Lee and his supporters refuse to recognize that sexual aggression against women is perpetuated by such institutions as the Greek system. Indeed, victims' descriptions of sexual assault involving fraternity men resemble portrayals of female degradation found in such fraternity songs as "Push Her in a Corner."

Compare the lyrics of this Phi Psi song to a letter written to the Daily Bruin by a woman who said she was raped by two UCLA fraternity men. (Lyrics italicized.)

The woman wrote that one brother told her that she needed to relax as he kept filling her cup with "tasty pink punch." She soon became "too sick to walk home alone," so he led her to the "safety" of his room, where she could rest.

Just push her in a corner, and hold her tight like this.

Mr. Considerate suddenly disappeared.

Just put your arms around her waist and on her lips a kiss.

He used words to "stun and shock her" into silence, and told her it "was her fault, because she was pretty and he couldn't help himself." After he finished with her, he brought in his friend. Despite her protests, the second round of rape began.

And if she starts to murmur, or if she starts to cry

Just tell her it's the sacred seal, of old Phi Kappa Psi.

The university, since it had nothing do with the fraternity party, refused to take a stand on the woman's case. She could either press charges against the entire house or "represent her side of the story to a group of fraternity brothers who would judge the case as they saw fit." Either way, it would be one woman's story against a system of brotherhood. No wonder only 1% of male students accused of rape are prosecuted.

A fundamental mistake in the current approach to rape prevention on campus is its emphasis on the potential victim. Sororities "offer compulsory program nights that explore issues such as rape and sexual harassment," according to Abbey Nelson, 13-sorority Panhellenic Council president. Fraternity members, on the other hand, are required to attend only one hour of rape "awareness" workshop during their entire college careers. This is absurd. According to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly three in 10 college men would sexually assault a female if they were guaranteed of getting away with it.

Women students must learn effective self-defense measures, but it is more important to educate men on the differences between heterosexual sex and violence against women.

Winston Doby, UCLA's vice chancellor, claims that Ph Psi's misogynistic songbook is protected speech. He is wrong. These "songs" constitute "sexual harassment," prohibited under the state education code, because singing them creates "an intimidating, hostile or offensive . . . educational environment."

Rape, date rape and sexual harassment, feared or real, permeates the experience of female college students not because men are evil and not because women ask for it. Oral traditions created by men and carried out in male-bonding rituals that deliberately exclude women do not glorify "sex." They glorify sexism.

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