Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood and Privilege on Campus

Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood, and Privilege on Campus. 1990. New York. New York University Press.

Revised EditionRevised Edition 2007
New York: New York University Press.

Praise For The First Edition

“A powerful and important book.”–Contemporary Psychology

“Sanday draws a chilling picture of fraternity society, its debasement of women and the way it creates a looking-glass world in which gang rape can be considered normal behavior and the pressure of group-think is powerful.”–The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Very accessible…Sanday’s book explores the vulnerability of college women, and of young men seeking to prove their manhood.”–The Washington Post

“In her well-regarded text, Sanday points out how frequently athletes are involved in group sexual misconduct against women.”–The New York Times

“An important book [that] should be read by everyone in higher education–faculty, administrators, and students.” –Contemporary Sociology

From the Book Jacket

In Fraternity Gang Rape, Peggy Reeves Sanday tells us explicitly about sexual practices on our university campuses. Her meticulously documented and dispassionately presented evidence shows how gang rape occurs with regularity in some fraternities and athletic dorms. Beginning with an incident at a fraternity when, after a party, a female student reportedly had sex with five or six fraternity brothers, the book explores various perspectives as to what happened through interviews with the victim, the participants, onlookers, and university administrators. Professor Sanday reconstructs the daily life in the fraternity, showing the role played by pornography, male bonding, degrading jokes, and ritual dances, in shaping the fraternity’s attitude toward women and toward sexuality. Two fraternity brothers were willing to share details of the humiliating initiation rituals they were compelled to undergo, and they are presented here. Professor Sanday also discusses incidents on other campuses, at other fraternities.According to the research of Professor Sanday and others–the documentation is compelling–gang rape occurs widely on our college campuses. The evidence suggests a common pattern, in which the brothers seek out a “party girl,” a vulnerable young woman, one who is seeking acceptance, or is high on alcohol–sometimes her drinks have been deliberately spiked–and then take her to a room. She may or may not agree to have sex with one man. She then generally passes out and a “train” of men have sex with her. Party invitations may even suggest the possibility of a “train.” Incidents of this sort are rarely prosecuted or even labeled rape, part of an institutional attitude that, according to Professor Sanday and others, privileges men and sanctions sexual power.Peggy Reeves Sanday’s sobering view of sexual life among America’s youth is one that some may, despite all evidence, choose to disbelieve. Yet what cannot be denied or ignored is the struggle by college-aged men and women to define their sexuality in the terms society offers them. Taught to deny the feminine and embrace sexual power, as this view suggests, men can see it as their natural right to degrade and to assault women. And women–the unwilling victims–through their own lack of self esteem or sense of power, may seek social status by attaching themselves to men in power, in this case, the fraternity brothers. It is a complex issue and one that Professor Sanday explores with insight, sensitivity, and clarity.