Navigating the Risks of Party Rape in Historically White Greek Life at an Elite College: Women’s Accounts

Simone Ispa-Landa*, Sara E. Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Landmark research from before the 2010s shows that college women rarely held institutions responsible for allowing rape-prone party contexts to persist and failing to support survivors. Yet the college landscape has changed profoundly since these studies were published, with prominent anti-rape campaigns and new guidelines to Title IX policy. To update a research stream that has provided the basis for theorizing about sexual violence in college peer cultures, we examine 121 intensive interviews with 68 women who are at heightened risk of party rape because of their involvement in historically White sororities. Several key findings emerged. First, women were highly invested in the Greek party circuit. Second, participants blamed institutions for failing to do more to keep them safe. Reflecting their focus on institutions, women also proposed that institutional authorities change their policies so sororities could move parties out of fraternity houses and into sorority houses. Third, women took on the labor of trying to protect themselves and other women at parties by designating monitors. However, they reported that with this system, other women could be deemed responsible, not for being assaulted but for failing to prevent rape. Finally, women found ways to identify and exclude men they deemed “rapey” from Greek gatherings. However, boycotting an entire fraternity was more controversial and harder to sustain. Overall, women’s preferred prevention strategies reflect a strong desire to avoid disturbing the Greek party scene. Implications for research and policy on gender and sexual violence prevention in higher education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-189
Number of pages21
JournalSociology of Education
Volume96
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Keywords

  • college life
  • extracurriculars in college
  • gender
  • historically White Greek life
  • interview study
  • sexual assault prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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