The Real Problem with Campus Rape

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Fraternities do not have a monopoly on rapists: not at UVA, not at any frat, not even the deep Southern ones where upwards of 100 guys live in the house. (The plumbing; one shudders.) But: what the fraternity system does collect together is a group of male teenagers who enter their organization through rites of interpersonal physical violence, and who, military-style, reproduce this violence onto each other’s bodies. “Thus nursed, educated, and daily exercised in tyranny, [they] cannot but be stamped by it with odious peculiarities,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1785, about the male children of Virginian slave-owners. The sentiment there is still viable. Fraternities are worth examining as groups of rich, young, mostly white boys who were either born or bred into a tradition of getting away with things they should not.

Jia Tolentino, features editor at Jezebel, went to UVA to look at the culture of sexual assault on campus in the wake of the infamous Rolling Stone article.


Lyz's writing has been published in the New York Times Motherlode, Jezebel, Aeon, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book on midwestern churches is forthcoming from Indiana University Press. She has her MFA from Lesley and skulks about on Twitter @lyzl. Lyz is a member of The Rumpus Advisory Board and a full-time staff writer for the Columbia Journalism Review. More from this author →