It’s that time of the year! For the next few weeks it’s all Pumpkin Spice Lattes and stories in the news about fraternity and sorority hazing gone awry. The spin is always the same. Some poor kid has permanent brain damage or has died or was raped because he or she just wanted to join a frat! They just wanted an Elle Woods moment and now they’re paralyzed. How terrible.
Guess what? Participating in hazing rituals is not any more terrible than sky diving or getting shitfaced at Mardi Gras or taking pills from a stranger at a music festival or attempting a Walter White doing donuts in a Challenger moment. It’s not even different than picking up a crack pipe or having unprotected sex with a one-night stand. People choose to do stupid things every single day that unfortunately end in broken bones, alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and even death.
I went to a school that didn’t have Greek Life so I can’t speak from personal experience (although I doubt I’d attempt to join a sorority anyway — hazing aside, pack mentality is not my thing unless I’m the Alpha) but I’ve asked friends and acquaintances who did pledge and every single one of them made it a point to say that if they didn’t like something they were asked to do during rush week, they were allowed to leave.
By the time you are old enough to go to college (usually 18), you are considered a legal adult. You are responsible for your own taxes. If you were to murder someone, you’d be tried the same way a 38-year-old would. Of course, age doesn’t always imply maturity (say “balls” and I’ll ROTFLMAO for like, 20 minutes), but I think everyone knows being 18 means you can buy cigarettes, porn, go to strip clubs and not have to do what your parents say anymore. That’s why it’s exciting. That’s why college is exciting. For the first time, you are truly accountable for your own behavior.
Hazing was a constant discussion when I was a teenager. Most high schools covered it before freshman year as far as I knew. You probably had to sign the same contract that I did promising that I wouldn’t take part in hazing whatsoever. I can only imagine that in the current social climate where “bully” is a buzzword that the discussion has gotten even bigger.
The concept of hazing within the Greek system is nearly impossible to avoid. You probably saw Animal House or Old School, or got your hand on that illegal Todd Phillips documentary. You’ve Googled “elephant walk.” You’ve probably read the stories online about senior sorority sisters “forcing” their pledges to sit on a running dryer and circle any area of their body that jiggles with a Sharpie. Or the “test” where pledges are told to sit on a piece of paper sans pants while watching girl-on-girl porn. If the paper is wet when they stand up — they’re gay and they’re out. It’s no secret that if this is the type of house you are trying to join, you may be asked to do some dignity-snatching shit.
If you don’t drink or smoke pot regularly, you may have already tried it. You are, at the very least, aware of the effects of drinking and drug use. My 16-year-old sister has a better grasp on the club drug scene than I do. Between the Internet, television, word of mouth and your alcoholic relatives, every 18-year-old knows that drinking too much leads to regrettable behavior. And puke. So much blue raspberry puke.
I was told by a guy friend that the frat he rushed in college supported kinky sexual activity between the the pledges. Dildos, butt plugs and the like were brought out after days of heavy drinking and when that would happen, my friend would simply leave. He was not penalized for this and gained admission to the frat anyway.
The worst stories that I heard from friends were of pledges that cooperated when asked to guzzle undeniably risky amounts of booze. A source passed along a story about a young man that got blackout drunk and, because it was known that he was struggling with his sexuality, was instructed to give lap dances to two of the brothers. They later paid him 60 dollars to lick dried blood off the floor. These dares are inhumane, humiliating — sexually and otherwise — but this young man willingly imbibed the grain alcohol for the approval of people he hoped would accept him. He knew that he was drinking so that the older brothers could boss him around once he was incapable of controlling himself. He was not attacked in a park by a stranger or just drinking at a party and passed out on a bed to be taken advantage of. He consciously put himself in this position.
Licking dried blood off a floor is a cakewalk compared to the pledge that was “forced” to stay awake drinking for three days and then attempted to drive himself home. He crashed his vehicle and died.
The actions of a drunk driver are on the drunk driver. Unless served in a facility that operates with a liquor license, over a third of the states in our nation won’t do more than casually question the hosts or other partygoers that were present when the liquor was consumed.
All this considered, I find it really difficult to feel badly for the victims when I hear these appalling stories. I am sad for their family and friends. Losing someone who you love unnecessarily is one of the hardest things to deal with in life. It’s not like they passed after 10 years of battling cancer. They so badly wanted to be involved with a group of toxic, irresponsible people that they acted like a fucking moron. People think the suicide of a depressed person who is facing an actual internal battle is tragic? What about the accidental suicide of a person who wants to learn the lyrics to a secret song and bypass the process of making actual friends?
It’s not as though you even have to be a part of a sorority or fraternity that hazes like this. Most of the people I talked to who pledged as far back as ’95 (LOL @ at 1995 being “back in the day”) said that “paying their dues” quite literally meant paying a sizable chunk of money every year to keep the chapter alive. My sources made a point of saying that few of the houses hazed and that you’d basically have to go out of your way to wind up with a group that’d suggest you do keg stands until you pass out.
Until the media starts regularly covering teenage meth heads who OD or get murdered during drug deals, can we stop pretending that someone who got good SAT scores and have parents who can afford to foot the bill for their education are victims of our fucked up world?