Zeta Beta Tau house (Image via Cornell Daily Sun)
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Zeta Beta Tau house (Image via Cornell Daily Sun)

The recent ‘pig roast’ scandal at Cornell’s Zeta Beta Tau fraternity might be shocking, but it isn’t as unusual as you’d think.

Last week, Cornell’s Zeta Beta Tau fraternity was placed on a two-year probation. An investigation by the university’s Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life found that members of the chapter had started a contest called a pig roast — a secret game in which new members would compete to earn points for having sex with overweight women, and in the event of a tie, the member who had sex with the heaviest woman won.

According to Cornell’s student newspaper, the Ivy League university’s vice president, Ryan Lombardi denounced the fraternity’s game, stating “Behavior that degrades and dehumanizes women contributes to a climate and culture of tolerance for sexual violence.”

The “pig roast” may have stopped, but the fraternity’s game is just one page in the long history of rape culture in white fraternities. The incidents of sexual assault or the objectification of women by fraternities are too numerous to list. Zeta Beta Tau’s secret screwing contest isn’t even particularly original; it seems to resemble another such game that made national headlines just a few years ago.

In 2011, the University of Southern California chapter of Kappa Sigma came under fire after an email to its members went public. In the email, a member of the fraternity detailed a new weekly system within the chapter called the “Gullet Report.”

“Please send me all of your hook-ups…These renditions should be elaborate and interesting. I want raw data on who fucks and who doesn’t. In conclusion the gullet report will strengthen brotherhood and help pin-point sorostitutes more inclined to put-out.”

The writer then praises those who adhere to these guidelines as “Cocksmen,” and explains exactly what that means: “A Cocksman is taught to live by the two most applicable principles I know: The Pie [the vagina] and the Gullet [the mouth or throat of a female]…By the end of this memo, you will not only gain a greater understanding of what it means to live, but you will have embraced a lifestyle.”

He continues with the most crucial and degrading line of the email, “Note: I will refer to females as “targets.” They aren’t actual people like us men. Consequently, giving them a certain name or distinction is pointless.”

Cornell University Fraternity On Probation For 'Pig Roast' Sex Competition| TIME

Repulsive as that idea may be, it’s more common than you’d probably think in fraternity culture.  The “Gullet Report” and the pig roast are only two of many examples of the frat boy mentality that glorifies misogyny.

Even the infamous frat parties play a part in perpetuating rape culture. Sorority girls and other women are invited in essentially as bait for new recruits. Often, they’ll end up as sexual prey to aid in the competition amongst the brothers as they try to rack up the highest body count — just like Zeta Beta Tau tried to do in the “pig roast.”

According to Kristen Jozkowski and Jacquelyn Wiersma-Mosley in their article “The Greek System: How Gender Inequality and Class Privilege Perpetuate Rape Culture,” this competition acts to perpetuate gender inequality through male-dominated spaces.

The author states that “Homogeneous groups, such as fraternities, learn to degrade and objectify women by viewing them as sexual conquests and by attempting to coerce women into sex in order to bolster their own reputation…The Guy Code insists that men get as much sex as they can.” As a result, fraternity men are more likely to possess outdated, objectifying images of women and use degrading sexual language to refer to women’s bodies than men outside of fraternities.

But the effects of fraternity rape culture run deeper than images and language. According to the article, fraternity men were also more likely to view women as unlikable, unintelligent and legitimate targets of sexual assault.

In addition, fraternities promote an us-them mentality in their members, encouraging them to think of women as outsiders and condemning the equal treatment of men and women. Hypermasculinity, acts of violence and the degradation and objectification of women are used to bond brothers.

And, although the pig roast and the “Gullet Report” were products of fraternities, this behavior won’t necessarily stop in college. Jokowski and Wiersma-Mosely add that “Because men in fraternities endorse rape-supportive attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and certain men strongly associate and identify with fraternities, such attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are seen as socially appropriate and further reinforced when they are rewarded…if a fraternity member engages in behavior that degrades women, and is praised for it by his fellow members, especially by those in positions of authority or leadership in the fraternity, the peer group has reinforced such behavior as good, and it is likely the case that men in the fraternity will continue to engage in it.”

In order to change the pervasion of rape culture in white fraternities, the university administrations need to intervene. Simply placing fraternities like Zeta Beta Tau and Kappa Sigma on probation is not enough. This only teaches the perpetrators that their actions won’t have serious repercussions, encouraging them to continue preying on women. If universities don’t work to prevent this behavior, they’re only helping to keep rape culture alive and well in America.

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Sarah Marchan

University of Texas at San Antonio

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