NYT Says There Might Be Less Rape If Sororities Served Booze

Prohibition always fails


Sorority Row
Sorority Row / Youtube

The New York Times picks up on a notion I've been peddling for some time now—namely, that the campus rape and binge-drinking crises are exacerbated by the need for young women to attend fraternity parties when they want to drink. Most sororities are "dry," and while it's not clear to me how rigorously the no-booze rule is followed, it's certainly true that frat brothers' comparatively easier access to alcohol has made the fraternity the central hub for social life and drinking on many campuses.

But wouldn't women be safer drinking "on their own turf," as The Times puts it?

"I've always thought, 'Why aren't there sorority house parties? There are only frat parties,' " she said to a friend, Dania Roach, a fellow senior. Ms. Roach replied: "I would definitely feel safer at a sorority party. It's the home-court advantage."

For decades, national sorority organizations have banned alcohol in their houses. But as debate intensifies over how to address sexual assaults on college campuses, many of them occurring at fraternity house parties, some female students are questioning that rule, asserting that allowing alcohol would give women — not just sorority members — the option to attend Greek house parties that women control, from setting off-limits areas to deciding the content of the punch. The move would by no means eliminate sexual violence on campus, they said, but perhaps provide a benefit.

I'm heartened to see national news outlets paying increased attention to alcohol realism on campus. Pundits often treat college sexual assault like it's an all-consuming epidemic that can only be fought via progressive social change or government-enacted neo-Victorianism. But we know that alcohol abuse is a significant contributing factor in sexual assault—and we know that one of the side effects of restricting alcohol to certain groups is that those groups end up getting drunk in riskier environments, estranged from friends and authority figures, in the company of strangers who might not have their best interest at heart.

Jezebel's Anna Merlan touts the advantages of such a course-correction while correctly noting it's cross-ideological appeal—even those libertarian folks support it:

The advantages are pretty clear: the sorority would have a far greater ability to control the alcohol, including keeping an eye on what's in the mixed drinks. And they'd be able to control who enters the house, as at Sigma Delta, who also appoint sober monitors to keep an eye on the scene. And many, many other people have made that argument from every side of the political spectrum: Robby Soave at the Libertarian magazine Reason, sociology professor Michael Kimmel writing for TIME , Charlottesville's alt-weekly C-Ville. Also — just spitballing here — a sorority party might be slightly less gross: there would probably be snacks, and the toilets and floors might not look like they were crusted with ancient stalactites of grime. Plus, the greatest benefit of all to having a party in your own house: at any point, you can lock your door, put on your pajamas, fire up Netflix and cease all social interaction, the best part of any night out.

All that said, there are issues. Sororities are often ill-designed for large events, and their national organizations have a long history of opposing alcohol in the houses. Changing course would increase insurance liability for sororities, making it more expensive to rush. And there's always the risk that moving the party into the sorority will have a corrupting effect on the girls, rather than a civilizing effect on the scene.

Related: "To Reduce Campus Rape, Legalize Pot and Alcohol."