What’s Sex Got To Do With… UVA?

The University of Virginia recently suspended all fraternity activity on their campuses following an article that ran in Rolling Stone profiling the experience of a girl who had been gang raped at a frat party her freshman year. Nothing fraternity-related can happen until January 9. You can read the original Rolling Stone article as well as a news release here.





This case serves well to tie together the work we did on sexual assault statistics and the time we spent with Bogle’s study of hookup culture. While we studied sexual assault, we didn’t look directly at how assaults are situated in the fabric of routine campus culture. While we studied hooking up, we didn’t spend much time with how hookup culture relates directly to rape culture. The Rolling Stone piece unites the two in a real world example.

By participating in the hookup script at UVA, Jackie was exposed to the ugliest piece of the rape culture that seems cancerously entwined with the social landscape there. In her account, the fraternity men seemed to feel that their social legitimacy was conditioned on sexually violating her. Similarly, Jackie felt that her social legitimacy was conditioned on complacency, not doing anything to disturb the smooth functioning of the hookup scene for anyone else. People told her not to cause a scene, not to be a baby, etc.

Rape culture and hookup culture are easy enough to define, just embedded ideologies that facilitate either rape or hookups. It’s tricky though when officials have to acknowledge the connection between the two, because that usually involves holding some agent of hookup culture responsible for rape. The connection between fraternities and rape obviously is political nightmare, there being strong pressures both to unconditionally exonerate and condemn Greek Life for the campus rape epidemic. Did UVA make the right decision here? Too harsh, too lenient? Why?


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