Teaching Rape: Bro Culture 101

TW discussions of rape.

An email has been circulating from a fraternity at Georgia Tech about how to “lure your rapebait” at parties. The author is giving advice to the fraternity pledges to ensure they “succeed” at parties because “some bros need a little help.” Before we even get into the really disgusting part, the idea of success for men (especially those in fraternities) is to have sex with as many women as possible, and this goal includes raping them.

The author tells the subjects that if anything goes wrong, get more alcohol. If the woman does not want to have sex, give her more to drink. She says no, changes her mind, never says yes, doesn’t comply with all of your wished, get more alcohol. It’s sickening the language used and accepted within bro culture these days. This expected behavior is a major part of what masculinity means, though it is especially obvious within the bro and frat culture.

Read more of my writings on why bro culture is problematic!

Pledges are always supposed to dance with the women; dancing is step one to bedding them, but only if they’re drinking. If one woman rejects you, move on to the next, because women are interchangeable and who they are is irrelevant to your fraternity brothers. The woman (object) of your story is not important.alcoholic frat boy

The author then tells his pledges that when a woman moves her hair behind her hair, she wants a kiss. ALWAYS. This idea is incredibly problematic because it is incredibly widespread. Teenage girls are taught to move their hair behind their ears to signal attraction. It’s subtle and does not involve any direct action, like a good woman. So now when a man see a woman doing this, he interprets it as an invitation, no matter the other circumstances or what she verbalizes.

Since women are taught to play hard-to-get, when they say “no” it’s also irrelevant. Boys learn from an early age to not take no for an answer, but instead they should interpret benign signals as meaning they should keep trying.

After the pledge decides the woman wants a kiss, he is to kiss her but not rape her (yet), because the kissing will inevitably lead to sex anyway.  “ALWAYS START WITH THE MAKING OUT!!!! NO RAPING.” Because an unwanted kiss is fine, and kissing will always lead to sex because once someone agrees to a kiss, they agree to sex.

The email talks more about alcohol and using it to lure the women, so they are incapacitated enough to agree to have sex. The email also assumes the single standard of masculinity where a man has to always want sex, be ready, and take what is owed to him. It forces men into a box where they have to act a certain way and if they don’t “succeed,” they might as well be women.

Dude is so Wasted: Drinking to Reinforce Masculinity and Bro Culture

Bros Get Wasted; Girls Get Tipsy: Why Boozy Talk Matters, posted on NPR on July 10, 2013,  discusses a recent publication in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, picks apart the ways in which men and women in college are described while intoxicated. I was unable to access the full text of the article, so I am relying on NPR’s analysis and Alcoholism’s abstract for my insights.

A-little-TipsyNPR’s article begins by discussing the problem of students’ perceptions of other students’ drinking habits.  People tend to assume that everyone else is drinking more than they are – people tend to also assume the same about sex.  The article opens up for a discussion of the way people perceive levels of intoxication for men and women separately. The study in Alcoholism, “Gender Differences in Natural Language Factors of Subjective Intoxication in College Students: An Experimental Vignette Study” had 145 participants and examined the terms they used to describe the drunkenness of students.

Participants in the study read scenarios in which the characters were described in varying levels of intoxication. The student participants were asked to describe the character. Students overwhelmingly underestimated moderate drinking, quite possibly because students assume their peers are drinking much more than they are. Students also were far more likely to use words such as  “tipsy, buzzed, light-headed,” when describing even the most intoxicated woman. When describing men, on the other hand, students used, unsurprisingly, more harsh and strong words, such as “plastered” and “obliterated.”

Bro Party

The leader of the study, Ash Levitt, says that the “trashed and wasted” view of drinking men have leads to sometimes deadly consequences. When students assume everyone drinks more than them, and that men must drink significantly more than women, it creates a competition that inevitably ends badly.

The study concludes that college students are putting themselves at great risk, and highlights the threats to men. Studies such as these illustrate just one of many downsides to the singular view of masculinity we have. Men become much more likely to over-indulge if they feel their manhood, their sense of self, depends on them acting out and becoming belligerent. One commenter on NPR’s website mentioned the effect this has on consent for women – the commenter noted that if women are always described as “tipsy” than they can always be faulted for assault and rape.

I believe this is just another way that society perpetuates the dichotomy where men should not be held accountable for their actions but women are always in control. This viewpoint is an easy way to explain victim blaming and the “boys will be boys” attitude that gives men the freedom to avoid responsibility.

Bros Drinking

The type of behavior perpetuated by college drinking culture is a dangerous one for everyone. Students police each other to ensure their peers are in near-constant drinking contests, whether outright or implicitly. Creating this competition forces people to go far beyond their personal limits, and as the pressure is more intense for men to prove their masculinity, it makes them even more vulnerable to harm.  I took a screenshot of the google image search, “bros drinking,” and the first row of pictures shows men hypermasculinizing themselves and each other while drinking copious amounts of alcohol.