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Inside Greek U.

Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power, and Prestige

Alan DeSantis

Publication Year: 2007

Popular culture portrays college Greek organizations as a training ground for malevolent young aristocrats. Films such as Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Old School, and Legally Blonde reinforce this stereotype, but they fail to depict the enduring influence of these organizations on their members. Inside Greek U. provides an in-depth investigation of how fraternities and sororities bolster traditional, and potentially damaging, definitions of gender and sexuality. Using evidence gathered in hundreds of focus group sessions and personal interviews, as well as his years of experience as a faculty advisor to Greek organizations, Alan D. DeSantis offers unprecedented access to the world of fraternities and sororities. DeSantis, himself once a member of a fraternity, shows the profoundly limited gender roles available to Greeks: “real men” are taught to be unemotional, sexually promiscuous, and violent; “nice girls,” to be nurturing, domestic, and pure. These rigid formulations often lead to destructive attitudes and behaviors, such as eating disorders, date rape, sexual misconduct, and homophobia. Inside Greek U. shows that the Greek experience does not end on graduation day, but that these narrow definitions of gender and sexuality impede students’ intellectual and emotional development and limit their range of choices long after graduation. Ten percent of all college students join a Greek organization, and many of the nation’s business and political leaders are former members. DeSantis acknowledges that thousands of students join Greek organizations each year in search of meaning, acceptance, friendship, and engagement, and he illuminates the pressures and challenges that contemporary college students face. Inside Greek U. demonstrates how deeply Greek organizations influence their members and suggests how, with reform the worst excesses of the system, fraternities and sororities could serve as a positive influence on individuals and campus life.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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To my brothers

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pp. vii

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Introduction: Life at Greek University

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pp. 1-18

In Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (1994), Mary Pipher detailed the struggles of America's adolescent girls with depression, eating disorders, self-esteem, suicide, sexuality, and a culture that narrowly defines womanhood. In Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (2000), ...

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1. Understanding Gender

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pp. 19-42

It is no exaggeration to say that this book has taken me over two decades to conceptualize. From the first day that I began pledging my fraternity in 1982, I remember being both intrigued by the Greek system's secrecy, friendships, and social life and disturbed by its elitism, sexism, and hazing. My ambivalence, however, ...

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2. Studs and Virgins

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pp. 43-76

At the Monday-night Alpha meeting, brothers engage in the old fraternal tradition of "kissing and telling," or more aptly put, "fucking and bragging." Robert, a twenty-year-old accounting major, begins the always-raucous session by narking on his roommate, Matthew. Matthew, I came to find out, "picked up a pig" ...

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3. The Tough Guy and His Date (Rape)

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pp. 77-114

At 3:00 A.M., Scott awoke to the sound of frantic pounding on his door. Without waiting for a response, his big brother, Bruce, stormed into the room. "It's going down, now! Get your shit on! Let's go!" Scott, only half conscious, and still drunk from last night's party, immediately knew the meaning of this encrypted ...

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4. Her Laxatives, His Steroids

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pp. 115-152

At alarming rates, members of elite sororities at GU have been injuriously starving themselves to get smaller, and members of elite fraternities have been obsessively exercising to get larger. These are the women and men who have defined ideal masculinity and femininity in terms of physical characteristics: the perfect ...

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5. Bros before Hos

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pp. 153-190

Michael and Jenny met at an Omega fraternity/Theta sorority Super Bowl party when they were both sophomores. While both had been involved in previous relationships, neither had been in love before. As Jenny recalls, "We weren't looking for it, but, when it happens, you can't do anything about it." ...

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6. Soccer Moms and Corporate Dads

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pp. 191-216

The dirty little college secret rarely discussed by professors in mixed company is that women generally outperform men in the classroom. They work harder, think more critically, are less dogmatic, approach school more seriously, score higher on exams, write better, and are more pleasant and collegial in class. ...

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7. Cleaning Up after the Party

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pp. 217-234

The brothers and sisters at GU are not radically different from the thousands of other young adults I have come to know over the last twenty-one years as a teacher and an adviser. But this conclusion should come as no surprise to anyone. The young men and women examined in this study were not raised in isolation; ...

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pp. 235-236

First and foremost I am indebted to the hundreds of Greek students who invited me into their lives and shared their stories with me. They trusted me to write a fair and accurate book about their lives that would help move the Greek system toward the idealized goals of its creeds. I hope that I did not disappoint them. ...


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pp. 237-246


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pp. 247-258


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pp. 259-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780813172774
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813124681

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2007