From a long line of Dekes: on Yale, Cal, privilege, fear and misogyny

One of my favorite family photographs — taken nearly eighty-five years ago — hangs in our living room. In it, some three dozen well-dressed young men smile at the camera from the front steps of a sprawling, Craftsman-inspired house. Some sit, others stand; some have hands in pockets, others have arms draped affectionately over the lads next to them. My maternal grandfather, Arthur Moore, sits next to his best friend Jerry Bishop. The two would eventually marry sisters, my grandmother and my great aunt. Next to Jerry sits Arthur’s cousin, Allan Starr. Behind them, standing on the porch, stands Allen Chickering, the man who — at the time this photo was taken — was engaged to the woman whom my grandfather Arthur would eventually marry. (The happy family story is that Allen broke off the engagement with my grandmother around 1929, and she married his friend Arthur instead. In 1991, both long since widowed, my grandmother and Allen Chickering married, 62 years after ending their original engagement.) Other family friends, including many who lived into my childhood and whom I knew well, are recognizable in the picture. To the best of my knowledge, every man in the photo is dead now; the youngest would be at least 102 were any still alive.

These were the brothers of Delta Kappa Epsilon, Theta Zeta chapter, at the the University of California, Berkeley. In 1926.

“Deke”, as it was called, was the “family fraternity”. Many of the older men who most deeply influenced my life were Dekes, including my uncle Stanley, Arthur’s younger brother, who became a renowned philosopher and communist. And it was thus with chagrin, but no great surprise, that I read of the vile behavior of DKE pledges at Yale University this month. As part of an ongoing initiation, the pledges marched around campus chanting “No Means Yes and Yes Means Anal” and other appalling misogynistic slogans. A video on Youtube brought the ugliness to national attention.

Michael Kimmel, the nation’s foremost historian of masculinity, has a great piece about the DKE pledge incident at Ms: The Men, And Women, Of Yale. He deftly explains the sexual anxiety that undergirds the chant the pledges repeated. The goal of the first part, “No Means Yes” (which was recited repeatedly in front of Yale’s Women’s Center, the safest place for women on campus) is clear enough. As Kimmel writes:It’s a reminder that men still rule, that bro’s will always come before “ho’s”. Even the Women’s Center can’t protect you. That is, it’s a way to make even the safe unsafe. In a world where more women go to college than men, in a world where women and minorities have made tremendous strides, the chant is an ugly attempt to reassert traditional dominance: “We are Dekes, and we are older and more powerful than the rules that protect the vulnerable.”

But Kimmel notes the second part of the chant is more telling, the bit about “yes means anal.”

This chant assumes that anal sex is not pleasurable for women; that if she says yes to intercourse, you have to go further to an activity that you experience as degrading to her, dominating to her, not pleasurable to her. This second chant is a necessary corollary to the first….

Sex has become unsafe for men–women are agentic and evaluate our performances. So if “No Means Yes” attempts to make what is safe for women unsafe, then “Yes Means Anal” makes what is experienced as unsafe for men again safe–back in that comfort zone of conquest and victory. Back to something that is assumed could not possibly be pleasurable for her. It makes the unsafe safe–for men.

In this way, we can see the men of DKE at Yale not as a bunch of angry predators, asserting their dominance, but as a more pathetic bunch of guys who see themselves as powerless losers, trying to re-establish a sexual landscape which they feel has been thrown terribly off its axis. This is especially ironic, of course, because these straight, white, upper-class Yalie DKEs are among the most privileged 20-year-olds on the planet. And yet now they feel one-down, defensive, reduced to impotent screaming–and all because of women’s equality.


When I came to Cal as a frosh in 1985, many of my relatives urged me to “rush Deke”. I was a “legacy” who would have been the fourth generation on my mother’s side to belong to that storied, but often troubled, house. (It’s widely known that Dan Quayle and Bushes père et fils were Dekes; many assume that shared bond had a lot to do with the elder Bush’s selection of Quayle as VP in 1988). My Uncle Stanley, the Marxist philosopher, even made a phone call on my behalf. But I was ambivalent about rushing a fraternity for both political and personal reasons. By the 1980s, Berkeley’s fraternities had a reputation for reactionary politics (a way of rebelling against the more dominant progressive ethos of the campus and the wider community), and I was already quite far to the left. And as I discovered on a visit there, DKE in particular was filled with handsome and athletic young men who looked as if they’d stepped out of the pages of a magazine. (In that era, as I recall, DKE had a high percentage of water polo players — and Cal had the national championship team.) I felt unattractive and ungainly by comparison. The brothers of DKE were polite to me, and during the pledge process, asked me lots of questions about my family background. I got the feeling that they were weighing the costs of accepting or rejecting me. I clearly didn’t fit — and yet they were getting outside pressure to offer me a place in their pledge class (I learned later that my Uncle Stanley was not the only one calling on my behalf.) I made a decision that relieved both the Dekes and me, but disappointed my family: I dropped out of the process and saved everyone (save a handful of mildly miffed relatives) from embarrassment. I became the first American-born male member of my family in the 20th century not to pledge a fraternity, and went through the rest of my college experience as a proud “GDI”: God-damned Independent.

I have always wanted to believe that the wise, gentle and kind old men I knew as a child could never have been like the “brothers” I knew in the 1980s or the pledges who behaved so repulsively on the Yale campus last week. I’ve often studied that family photo, looking for reassurance of the absence of cruelty or calculation, looking for confirmation that even in their late adolescence, these towering figures of my life were “true gentlemen” with kindness towards all and malice towards none. But I can’t know what they were like. While I’m confident that the pledge classes of the 1920s did not chant about anal rape, I fear that reticence was more about propriety than about a genuinely egalitarian view of sexuality.

I have no loyalty to the Dekes. For the sake of those men in that photo, so many of whom I knew and loved and who are now all gone, part of me is just a little bit sorry that it wasn’t another fraternity instead of DKE that behaved so indefensibly at Yale. But my head tells me that DKE is no better than any other “Greek house” when it comes to its views on gender, justice, and inclusion. And both my head and my heart tell me that Michael Kimmel is all too right: what we saw in New Haven happens on many campuses, and the meaning of the chant reflects more than the desire of some young men to be publicly offensive. This is about power, and the mixture of indignation and anxiety that flows through privileged young men when they encounter threats to what they were wrongly raised to believe was their birthright.

Kimmel writes that the Yale pledges railed impotently (his word, and the right one) against a sexual world “thrown off its axis.” I love and honor my ancestors, including the many Dekes among them — and am so grateful that the privileged world in which they moved has indeed been turned upside down.

0 thoughts on “From a long line of Dekes: on Yale, Cal, privilege, fear and misogyny

  1. Thank you. Well said. As a Cal alumna myself, I have often not understood the role of fraternities and sororities on an otherwise progressive campus. Now I see you’re right– they are there to preserve privilege.

  2. The word isn’t mentioned in the article, but this is another form of “homosocial” activity. Young men showing their solidarity with the tribe, by going out to harass women. Not to prove that they’re attractive to women, but to prove that they’re more powerful than women, that they can do something women hate and get away with it. If it came to anything physical (and occasionally it does–see “date rape”) they’re showing that they have the attitude. There have been some crackdowns on getting drunk and good old-fashioned hazing, so now it’s this.

    Is this young warriors insulting and intimidating the enemy before a battle? I think it might be. New recruits for the war between the sexes.

    Back in the good old days it was “panty raids”. What was that, anyway? It sounds like fun (oops).

  3. Fabulous post, Hugo, and very touching in your feeling for the kinder, gentler Dekes of the ’20s…

  4. I was lucky enough to attend a college with little to no Greek life at all, and it was just terrific. I wouldn’t object if the whole structure was just ripped the hell out.

  5. Interesting footnote:

    In a world where more women go to college than men, in a world when minorities have made tremendous progress…

    Notice how Hugo seems to take it for granted that the first statement is a positive phenomenon, made clear by the fact that it immediately precedes the second statement. Hugo thinks that the gender ratio, which is becoming more and more skewed, is something to applaud, something on the level of the gains of civil rights movements. Just a small insight into Schwyzer’s psychological profile.

  6. Just the way the administration dealt with those boys demonstrates what kind of privileged upper class males we’re discussing.

    Check out what happened at my school the last time somebody behaved in a manner that threatened the other students.

    Note: there is some debate about whether or not this boy was really threatening. I say he was. The cops that took him down are under investigation for excessive use of force. I say yes, a little. He and his friends are screaming “Rodney King”. I say not even close. The kid was born in Banja Luka for pity’s sake. He knows damn well that what those cops did was NOTHING like what happened to RK.

    A mob like Yale’s DKEs at my school would have been expelled at the very least. It’s likely that full riot protocol would have been used against this kind of hateful demonstration. Burning crosses? (referring to another DKE ritual discussed in connection with this one on other blogs) Those boys would be in prison for a very long time if they did that where I am.

  7. I want to see the picture, Hugo! Can you post a copy of it? Or would that be too much a violation of privacy? I can totally see you as a fraternity chapter president, with your glasses and preppy clothes and charisma.

    I was a Theta in college, and loved being in a sorority. Some of our hazing was degrading and humiliating, but never as hate-charged as what Deke did at Yale. But what happened at Yale is not an isolated incident. I’ve heard similar chants and worse, and I was in college less than a decade ago.

  8. I’ll see what I can do, Emily! And yes, I think there’s a lot of good that the Greek system can do on some campuses. But not sure if it outweighs all the problems.

    Xena, you have to use your own HTML tags if you want a link embedded, but it works if folks cut and paste it.

  9. Greek does a lot of good and a lot of bad, but as you so often like to say in regards to men “proving themselves”, we’re not going to change anything. Greek life is intimately connected with higher education (for the most part), and we better just learn to deal with it.

  10. There are smarter things to do in the age of YouTube.

    I hope their names are posted pretty soon. I’d hate to inadvertently hire one of them.

  11. Shouldn’t this be getting as much attention in the media as gay bashing is right now? Both are important issues, and they have a lot to do with each other.

  12. Hugo,

    I’m not so familiar with this element of US univesity culture. Isn’t the point of such initiation rituals to (at least) embarrass (or involve in petty crime) those pledging to the fraternity?

    I think, hey!, that Kimmel is not wrong on the insecurity part when it comes to why such a chant was chosen, but I doubt it’s about reasserting dominance. If my understanding of the structures of such a fraternity is right, then the weakest members were forced to express the emotional insecurity felt by the others (those who came up with it) and there was certainly a rational understanding that this is not accceptable. Otherwise it wouldn’t have made much sense as an initiation ritual.

    So, like you say, this seems to be a sign of things having changed. So, seeing this, and apparently agreeing with Kimmel, what does that mean to you and your tendency to analytically downplay male insecurities/problems and the social difficulties/problems stemming from them?

  13. Sam, I think I write quite frequently about male insecurity! But as with the DKE pledges, the source of the problem is not women’s empowerment but men’s anxiety about losing status as a consequence. As I’ve blogged time and again, men are the primary architects of their own adversity.

  14. Perhaps men’s ingrained focus on action (whether taking it or observing it) is contributing to the blindness to their own perceptions of who is affecting who?

  15. Hugo,

    yeah, right. Sure. You even gave it a trademark – “the myth of male weakness”… you write about male insecurity not as a real (emotional) phenomenon, but as a social delusion infecting young male minds like a virus (causing them to indulge in pot, porn, and playstation) that can be cured by exercising (feminist) tough love (because that worked for you). You probably shouldn’t work in gender trauma therapy 😉

    “the source of the problem is not women’s empowerment but men’s anxiety about losing status as a consequence.”

    The source of the problem is not women’s empowerment, but men’s anxiety about not knowing what masculinity – the practice of being a man means – anymore in a world in which there is nothing a man can do that a woman can’t, in which women still largely love men according to status and expressions of “classic masculinity”, yet in which they also express loathing for the sexism that previously accompanied it, in which they demand a world in which morally legitimate performance of masculinity have become a walk on a tightrope, and in which the gender discourse hegemony is held by a feminism still holding on to the second wave axiomatic framework in which their insecurities don’t count because they’re ‘privileged’.

    I wouldn’t even say that the world has been turned upside down. It hasn’t. But what Kimmel and you don’t seem to see is that if *these* guys, allegedly among the most privileged of the privileged, are scared about their status induced (sexual) identity, wouldn’t that sort of imply that it’s even worse for the rest of us…?

    “As I’ve blogged time and again, men are the primary architects of their own adversity.”

    I just imagine you saying that as a counselour at the court of Louis XVI, ca. 1788 😉

  16. “As I’ve blogged time and again, men are the primary architects of their own adversity.”

    Yes, and the sooner we stop white knighting for women, the sooner most of it will stop.

  17. Sam and Jim, blaming women for men’s insecurity is a bit like blaming Indian workers for the loss of American manufacturing jobs. The workers in India can’t take jobs unless corporations make decisions to outsource — it’s the corporations fault, not the workers in Hyderabad.

    By the same token, the admittedly cruel, arbitrary, and mystifying rules of masculinity are created by and reinforced primarily by other men. That men suffer is not in dispute; the diagnosis of pain and confusion is accurate. The etiology, however, of those who blame women is all wrong.

  18. Hugo,

    so who’s the corporation in that metaphor? Not quite sure the image fits the argument… but I totally agree that blaming women is pointless and wrong. I certainly don’t blame women for making individually rational decisions in mating and life. I’m not sure where you thought I’m blaming women?

    I’m (marginally) blaming feminism (as intellectual conglomerate) for not being able to transcend it’s philophically questionable roots and be more interested in gender justice of all sorts. Because there’s nowhere else a debate about masculinity can be held. And I’m marginally annoyed that even whenever you mention male confusion you can’t seem to deal with it without having to make an ideological point about how it’s all the men’s fault anyway (PHMT).

    But I’m mostly just stating what causes confusion among men. That doesn’t equal blaming. I want a real discussion about these things, and while blaming women is cheap, I’m thinking that your strategy of not taking the pain and confusion seriously on the indiviual on the collective level isn’t that helpful either…

  19. Sam, I’ve offered solutions for years. Encourage opposite-sex friendships among young men to break down the hegemony of the “boys’ clubs” and give boys an opportunity to develop their full gifts. Provide workshops (something I do, and I sure as hell don’t know of any MRAs who do the same) to give young men a forum for working their anxieties about reconciling lust and desire.

    Am I doing this perfectly? Heck no. But I suspect I’m doing more to work with young men day in and day out than the vast majority of my critics.

  20. Hugo,

    “Provide workshops (something I do, and I sure as hell don’t know of any MRAs who do the same) to give young men a forum for working their anxieties about reconciling lust and desire.”

    can we leave MRAs out of the picture? I doubt they should be your standard of comparison. Most of what I read from/about them is not particularly helpful, many of them them come across like the crazy loon radfems on the opposite end of the spectrum (which you still attempt to pacify, remember your recent discussion with one of them calling you names?).

    I’m all for workshops about these aspects, and I’m ceartainly not in a position to say how these workshops work, but as someone who’s psycho-sexual development was (partly) delayed and hurt by feminist messages, please excuse my saying that “workshop” can mean a lot of things, including blaming men for their desire and how it’s intertwined with Patriarchy, and reinforcing notions of toxic masculinity, etc.

    I think men need a lot workshops, but since there is really no clear idea about what masculinity is these days, I believe that attitude matters, and, well, I think the attitude that often, not always, comes across in your writing with respect to male suffering is not one I would describe as ‘understanding’. It really sometimes feels like you’re writing about a different species, when you write about men.

    So when I was saying “possibly not helpful” I was mostly looking at what I perceive as your attitude with respect to male problems in your writing (in your writing on this blog – it’s my only source) – and thus, indirecly, about your moral reference system. Remember that recent post about you marginally changing your position on porn *because you thought about it after you received letters from women*? It’s totally possible that your changed position is totally independent of that fact, but it’s certainly coming across as if you value *male positions* on the matter less than female positions. You see what I mean? You seem to have incorporated the feminist position that women have an epistemological privilege in gender matters across all your positions to a degree that seems to make it difficult to look at male confusion and just take it at face value (an individual’s pain) without saying, “but, dude, you’re a man, you brought this upon yourself.”

    See, since we’re using metaphors today – here’s another imperfect one. When the Red Army invaded the German territories in 1945, they left a trail of rape and murder. For 50 years, the predominant approach to that pain was one of denial, because structural explanations of collective responsibility and guilt meant that these people’s suffering was not allowed to be discussed because they were part of the group that had started the war… they were seen as the primary architects of their fate, their agency was overrated with respect to responsibility and, because of *that* disallowed with respect to suffering. Sounds familiar, somehow?

    “men are the primary architects of their own adversity.”

  21. For the record, the MRAs are waaaay more insane than Schwyzer or liberal feminists, but I don’t get the fixation Schwyzer has with MRAs. They’re a fringe movement of crazies that are mostly concentrated online where they can express their dumbass opinions anonymously. As for the few reasonable “MRAs”, like Glenn Sacks, well, honestly I’d be reluctant to assign them that label just because it’s so loaded.

  22. Sam, I reject the analogy. The German civilians who got raped by Russians were German women (though men are occasionally raped in wartime, it’s not at an equivalent rate). Even there, German men and women didn’t suffer in the same way.

    And who are the Russians in your analogy? Women? No — the problem is patriarchy (or kyriarchy) and stifling masculine social structures. Individual men didn’t create them by themselves, but they were created by other men collectively and not by women. Extricating yourself from complicity is thus the first step to one’s own healing.

  23. “Encourage opposite-sex friendships among young men to break down the hegemony of the “boys’ clubs” and give boys an opportunity to develop their full gifts

    The fact that this is the first “solution” you think of is very telling. You would never assert that women need the presence of men to develop their full gifts. Bigotry reveals itself particularly clearly in our attitide towards groups. When you consider groups of men, you think of only danger, of abuse, of hegemenic power. You can’t imagine any group of men by themselves sharing bonds of love and affection, and spurring each other on to some noble endeavor. If you’ve ever felt the slight bit anxious about the activities of any group of woman, or the slightest concern that women, by themselves, wouldn’t be able to develop their full gifts I’ve seen no evidence of it.

    And Hugo – Sam said both rape and murder in his analogy. I know that when men are murdered by other men it is always just their own damned fault, and so it is of little account. But at least show some compassion for the women that loved those murdered men, and who mourned their loss.

  24. Hugo,

    the point of the analogy was not the rape or murder itself, but that the pain inflicted because of the rape and murder wasn’t considered as equally worthy of consideration or much of regret in the aftermath because of group based structural explanations along the lines of “they made their bed, now they lie in it”. Again, their agency was overrated with respect to responsibility and denied with respect to mourning and pain. We’re certainly not talking about the same thing, but, to me, it does come across as that’s not rarely your basic point – you made that point right here, in your reply –

    “but they were created by other men collectively and not by women.”

    Of course, women have nothing to do with the bad stuff in a Patriarchy matrix… nothing. You know, I do recognize the seductive power of ideology. Really. Sometimes I wish I could convince myself of this or some other conspiracy theory, convince myself that there really is a simple mechanism that all else derives from, that there is a single unified structure making sense of it all. Makes finding answers so much easier… except – it’s not actually answers.

  25. Maybe I’ll be polite for a second in an effort to get through moderation and maybe even get some kind of acknowledgement. Schwyzer keeps talking about how men are “the architects of their own adversity.” This is true in the very narrow sense that men police other men regarding masculinity (just as women police other women, but let’s ignore that little blind spot for now.) This is also true in the sense that men commit most (okay, almost all) violent crimes, against either men or women. I’m not disputing that, and I think he’s right to discuss it. But as I’ve said before, “Men” does not exist, it’s a social group of very different individual men. So what’s the point of bringing up, time and time again, that “other men” commit crimes against men? These male victims are no more similar to the perpetrators than female victims are, and it create a weird sort of loaded hostility toward said male victims, a sense that they aren’t worthy of as much consideration as victims of the opposite gender. Basically, there are echoes of victim-blaming, whether Schwyzer intends it or not.

    Now, you want to discuss problems with masculinity as a whole, that leads men to commit such a disproportionate share of violence, I think that’s a fine topic. I don’t know, maybe that’s what Schwyzer intends to do in the first place. And, quite honestly, if you’re in an established feminist community, using jargon as stated in the first paragraph is okay in my book, because everyone understands what you’re referring to. This is why I don’t post on and don’t have a problem with feminist echo chambers or even radical feminist blogs. But But Schwyzer is clearly an inclusive feminist, who actively attempts to bring men into the feminist fold. His current tactics may work with men who are already sympathetic towards feminist goals (hence the male population in his classes), but it’s unlikely he’s going to be attracting any converts with his general insistence that men (as a whole, of course) are responsible for every ill in this world, for both men and women.

  26. Hugo,

    we all have our sets of axiomatic beliefs that are hard to justify. I have them, you do, Gorbatchev does and so does George W. Bush. The difference between the Gorbatchev and Bush wasn’t merely their different belief systems, it was that the former was intellectually able to see beyond and the latter wasn’t.

    I’m here because I believe you’re like Gorbatchev and I think I’ve mentioned before how impressed I am by your ability and willingness to question yourself and reconsider previously held opinions. It may not be that apparent, because I don’t write posts, just comments, but you’ve also changed my position on a couple of things.

    With respect to the argument above, I think you’ll come around to see my point… eventually.

  27. “Sam and Jim, blaming women for men’s insecurity is a bit like blaming Indian workers for the loss of American manufacturing jobs. ”

    Where did I say I was blaming women? I am blaming men for pandering to women, over-protecting, sacrifincing themselves for them and so on. You are on record as being against that.

    I am just pointing out that a great deal of the harms that men inflcit on other men are intended beneit women in some way, however littel those actions actually achieve their ends. Lynching comes to mind for instance, and for that matter chivalrous attitudes around rape and the way they play out in discriminatory ways in handling rape, and DV as examples. Plenty of feminists are on record about these inequlaities too. Feministe has had threads devoted to these issues.

  28. ” Even there, German men and women didn’t suffer in the same way.”

    No indeed. Typically they were killed. That’s hardly the same degree of harm at all.

  29. Jim, being raped before being killed makes a qualitative difference, I’d say.

    And indeed, I have no time for faux gallantry, and share your conviction that we’d better off without it.

  30. In the end, it’s sort of distasteful to be debating about who has it worse in war or genocide. I don’t care.

  31. Then I suggest you start by restraining your gallant urge to always center the suffering of women. You do neither the dead, nor the perhaps-raped-and-then-killed no service by weighing their sorrows and electing a winner.

  32. STF, you know damn well that gallantry has nothing to do with it. The canards used against feminist men:

    1. We’re all gay (because sexual desire for women cannot coexist with seeing them as human)
    2. We’re using feminism as a front to get laid by women
    3. We’re operating from a distorted sense of gallantry and a longing to rescue
    4. We’re filled with self-loathing as males, and secretly wish we were women.

    Been there, heard that, all fraudulent.

  33. “Jim, being raped before being killed makes a qualitative difference, I’d say.”

    That’s a judgment call, but I’d priobably come down on your side. I doubt there were many German who escaped getting raped by vengeful Russians. Anyway, for every German man killed, there were probably several that “went east”, and certainly more than women, since the women were not worth as much as labor. Then they died later. The difference with the women rape survivors was that they probably stayed in the area, were assimilated into the new order, and had a much better chance of surviving than in the Gulag. Again, I’m not sure which I would prefer.

    Anyway, the real story of the vertriebene Deutsche, and those who didn’t live to be vertrieben, is genocide and ethnic cleansing. That effort permanently moved the historical German-Slav border considerably westward. The gendered aspect of that atrocity is a footnote.

  34. “STF, you know damned well . . .”

    The best way of addressing a supposed “canard” is to clearly manifest its opposite. You’ll have to complain to others about 1) and 2) and 4) as I never claimed anything remotely like them. 3) is purposely overstated by you to make the claim seem foolish.

    I’ll continue to await the demonstration, not the claim, that you have a realistic view of men and women, and a belief that they both have the full complement of human nobility and human sin. A suitable demonstration would be taking any man’s side against any women regarding any incident – simply stating that in this particular case (just pick one, they aren’t at all hard to find) this particular woman did something morally wrong to this particular man and she deserves our censure. Just one post.

    You won’t do it. You can’t do it. Feminist women could, theoretically, criticize a particular woman and take a man’s side in some cases. Feminist men can’t. You might be gallant, but you are not so stupid as to do that.

  35. Guys, I’ve let the thread drift go on too long here.

    For heaven’s sake, some men are more feminist than some women. Chris Coons is a better feminist on the issues that matter than is Christine O’Donnell: Jerry Brown is a better feminist (and will have my vote) over Meg Whitman; Harry Reid is better on most women’s issues than Sharron Angle. And I damn sure supported Joe Biden for veep over the lamentable Palin.

    And I came down very hard on Mary Kay LeTourneau for sexually abusing the young boy Vili Fualaau. He was an innocent child, she was a predator. Done.
    All you wanted was one incident; there you go.

    Now back to Dekes, please, and the Yale incident.

  36. I’m not saying I think the analysis is necessarily wrong but I think it misses some important things.

    First, in so many hazing incidents, there is an element of sexual degradation and humiliation of those being hazed. I can’t help but think that the chant itself is directed as much as the men doing the chanting as it is at any woman – the implied threat of sexual shaming of the pledges themselves.

    Second, there’s a deliberate – and from Yale students you can’t convince me it’s anything else – transgressing of acceptable boundaries of behavior entirely for shock value. I would go so far as to suggest it’s a deliberate mockery of a Take Back the Night rally. And it was intended to yank people’s chains; it worked. The frat no doubt calculated the could ride out any controversy.

    Third, and I’m not quite sure how to write this point, but I suspect there’s something going on here around sexual communication. I’m not suggesting the frat brothers actually got it – they probably didn’t – but in their stupid way they touched on central assumptions we as adults love to tell kids at school. Because sometimes “No” means “try harder” and other times it means “I want to say yes but I don’t want you to think I’m a slut” and other times it means “Not now” and yeah, sometimes “no” really does mean no. There’s this bizarre disparity in how we talk about these things – that it’s the boy’s job to ask and understand the answer and girl’s job to give an answer. B But when they’re both drunk neither of them is capable of either giving or receiving consent but tomorrow morning we’re going to hold the boy accountable and treat the girl like a victim. But what if neither of them culpable? What if both of them are culpable? These dumb frat boys are inadvertently holding up a mirror we’re not happy to look into.

    Finally, it reminds me why I was glad to go to a college without a greek system at all. We had some guys live in an off campus house on semester and called themselves Kappa Epsilon Gamma (KEG, get it?) house. They did so much damage to the house the school moved them back into the dorms after less than a semester. I don’t think I know anyone who did the greek thing who actually looks back on it and thinks it was worth it. By the time you get past the hazing and the drinking and the random nastiness, it’s just high school with more booze and less adult supervision.

  37. That’s the point, don’t you get it?

    Seriously, I hear you but on the same coin, I maintain Greek life can and does do a lot of good. Obviously, as we’ve established, not all houses are drenched in alcohol, abnd to make a new point, it is a place to belong, and that has incalculable value. Yes, sometimes this feeling comes at the expense of others, which is unfortunate, but most of the time it doesn’t. I think a lot of young men (and women, there are sororities too), feel out of place, between adolesence and adulthood, and for those lucky enough to attend college Greek life can serve as a place when the brothers or sisters will have your back no matter what. That’s worth something.

  38. Maybe this is all too abstract. I will say that being in a fraternity did me a lot of good, and it did it without putting down others. I was a fairly unhappy person during most of my adolescence. Part of it was that I was simply awkward and insecure, kind of like Schwyzer has claimed to be. Part of it was the fact that my left eye is disfigured and I had to wear an eyepatch until I was 16. I have a false eye now but it was tough for a long time and it’s part of the reason I was so insecure. I felt like a freak. I’m certainly not trying to garner sympathy- there are a lot of people who have had it far worse than me. But the point is, life wasn’t great.

    When I went to the state school I joined a fraternity. It wasn’t a hard-partying house, it was just one of many, but it did me a world of good, and it made me a better person. Schwyzer, you might not like me now, but if you could have seen me two years ago you’d understand. I was a real bitter, angry person. I never spoke to girls so no one ever knew, but I was fairly misogynist as well. I felt like I was inherently unlikable in some nebulous, indefinable way and there was nothing I could do about it. Being in a fraternity gave me the confidence I needed to live my life. You’re part of a community there, an established group of people, and no matter what you look like or how you act, the members support you. Because you’re one of them. When you want to stay home and study rather than go out to a party, they don’t judge you and talk about it behind your back. When you turn down alcohol you don’t need to worry about how that will be perceived, because they don’t care. When your eye falls out of its socket and into the punch bowl they don’t freak out and avoid you, they laugh and invite you back to the house to play a game of poker. It’s all about belonging.

    Were there negative aspects to the fraternity? Yes. Of course we never anything really immoral or illegal, certainly nothing like this Deke incident, but the hazing was a bit intense. There was (is, I’m still only 19) a somewhat mean-spirited rivalry between one other house. That kind of stuff. But, for me, the good far outweighed the bad.

  39. And I came down very hard on Mary Kay LeTourneau for sexually abusing the young boy Vili Fualaau.

    Actually, you did not. You commented that your inclination was to congratulate the woman for marrying her victim, then you turned to discussing female victims, and you ended by stating that “for what it was worth” (whatever that means) you were glad LeTourneau went to jail and wished her and her victim well in their marriage. That does not sound like you came down very hard on her. An example of you coming down hard on someone (undeservedly, I might add) would be your post about Pal Sarkozy.

  40. the problem is patriarchy (or kyriarchy) and stifling masculine social structures. Individual men didn’t create them by themselves, but they were created by other men collectively and not by women.

    So men’s social structures were created by men, not by women.

    And from previous posts I know that you believe women’s social structures were created by men and imposed on women, not by women.

    You seem to believe that women are either unable to create social structures, or that any social structures which they do create are completely unable to compete, in evolutionary terms, with the structures created by men. The only structures that matter are male structures.

    Seems to me like the Dekes, rather than feeling powerless and expressing their resentment of that lack of power, must feel overwhelmed by their hegemonic agency. If your view of the complete memetic incompetence of the female sex is right, then those guys are expressing pain, not power.

  41. This comment is from Glenden, and was accidentally deleted. I’m posting now:

    “omega – I believe it was Carol Tavris (but it may have been Philip Zimbardo) who observed that the harsher the initiation/hazing creates greater in-group loyalties. To put it another way, the more you have to give up to join, the more you value your membership.

    Hazing and initiation rites are processes of stripping an individual of his/her identity and merging it with the group (as I look at that sentence it seems really negative!). Fraternity and sorority hazing is all about making membership “costly” in psychological terms. It makes members value their membership – “I’ve gone through this incredibly tough thing; it must be worth it.” The upside can be lifelong friendships and certainly a strong sense of belonging; the downside is a willingness to overlook damaging behaviors and actions taken by the group’s members as the group itself. Such initiations create a cycle of abuse – older members rationalize doing to younger members on the basis of “I went through it, so can they” and “I went through it, it’s no so bad – he/she was just weak and couldn’t handle it.”

    I’m not suggesting there’s no value in belonging to a community; I get that and it’s good you’ve found one that works for you. But there’s also a very dark side to groups. I look at the frat boys at
    Yale and think what we saw there was a perfect example of what happens to people who went through tough hazing themselves and can’t figure out how to stop the cycle – and so they make other people go through it.”

  42. “But there’s also a very dark side to groups. ”

    I gert a very Lord of the Flies feeling from this Deke business and from fraternities in general, but then I remember that old movie “If” with Malcolm MacDowell set in a posh school where the older boys appear to be running everything but the structures are very much exactly as the adults want them to run. So in fact the children are not in charge, they are just front men.

    “Hazing and initiation rites are processes of stripping an individual of his/her identity and merging it with the group ”

    One very different version of this is Basic Training. It’s different because among other things it’s very closely controlled, with harsh accountablibility for mishaps. Let some kid get heat prostration at Jackson in August and see what happens to the rest of your career. Hazing is what tropps do to each other; since it’s outside the control of the chain of command, its mere existence is considered a failure of leadership.

    “to people who went through tough hazing themselves and can’t figure out how to stop the cycle …’

    I don’t think this is what is happening. I think several other things are happening. One may be that they think this process in its present form is necessary to maintain standards. One may be simple sadism. One may be accomodation, where they see this behavior as normal and they inflict it on others they come to identify with themselves.

  43. Yeah, your points are not without merit. I mean when I say hazing, I’m not referring to anything illegal or sexual or physically harmful, I wouldn’t be down with that. At the same time, a lot of fraternities cross that line. So I get it. I also think I’ve shared too much.

  44. Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to be back to a “feminist” blog that lets MRAs and other woman-haters and justifiers of misogyny run rampant all over it. I don’t need to see this crap.

  45. I agree with b.g. I’ve been commenting less and less because all I hear lately is how feminism doesn’t provide a way for men to get laid, or have relationships….I mean poor men… isn’t this proof women don’t have safe spaces…can’t some of you men commenting see that???

  46. kristina – As I’ve been reading these discussions I don’t see what you’re seeing. I see some clumsy and some not clumsy attempts by men to sort out how to be good men, to respect women, but to not be inauthentic doing so. Frankly, this is new territory for a lot of men – because straight male desire is poorly coped with in our society. I know that sounds odd, but culturally it seems to me straight male desire is portrayed so narrowly and with such a paucity of language there it’s difficult to discuss honestly.

    I think about the straight men I work with – ranging from late teens early 20s through late sixties. They have inherited a language of desire that is limited to the sports illustrated swimsuit edition. But none of their wives or girlfriends looks like that. So when they try to articulate what they find attractive or desirable in their wives and girlfriends, they literally don’t have the right words.

    With a few exceptions these are really good guys who love and respect women and who really want to be good partners, to support their wives and girlfriends and supported in return, these are men who want to build lives together that are mutually affirming and positive – to my mind those are good goals; I know this because they often come to me for relationship advice – which is ironic at so many levels. They want to be good husbands and boyfriends. I think the work of straight men at this juncture is to find a language of desire that is authentic; the problem is our culture doesn’t provide that. So the steps being taken are awkward.

    I don’t see how discussing these issues automatically makes a space unsafe for women. The question “How can I be a feminist/feminist ally and still claim desire?” is not an attack on feminism. It’s to my mind an honest attempt to create that language – recognizing the inherited language of male desire doesn’t work. If men being honest makes a space unsafe for women, maybe that’s the work of women right now.

  47. Glendenb: “Really good guys” don’t whine this much about how the ebyl wimminz are screwing up their lives. If you can’t see how much utter misogyny flows through these comments, you’re not paying attention, perhaps because you’re blinded by your privilege.

  48. I just feel like everything suggested somehow isn’t good enough…people make mistakes and I feel that feminists are painted as intolerant…there is no set right or wrong approach…and anyone who doesn’t recognize that..including women are fools. If you sense you made a mistake find out how to correct it with the person you are with. Communicating to me how you feel is a good start, but I’m nary the whole voice for women everywhere…it’s a lot of pressure…then I hear complaints about how limiting it is to communicate with the one you are involved with and how it may take the spark out of the moment… I don’t know what to say about that either…when I met my hubby and we were on the verge of sex, he asked me if it was what I wanted…yes it wasn’t what I expected, and yes it made me feel awkward and on some level undesired, but it made me grow fonder and have a more profound respect because it was so out of the ordinary…did that stop my knee jerk reaction of thinking he was less of a man??? no, but that wasn’t his fault, it was my conditioning of what I perceived as male desire..not even what feminists told me was male was what everything around me told me was male desire…feminism didn’t paint male desire as toxic, they observed it…At the time I met my husband I was rejecting everything that would make me an independent woman…I was told by men that men are dogs, that they only want one thing…this was NOT what women taught me. I had no relationship with women, I only had relationships with men in my life because women rejected me, and the only thing I heard over and over again was that men only want one thing…from the mouths of men…what the hell am I supposed to think?
    Women told me, find a man you’ll be happy…if he wants to do this or that, it’s ok as long as he comes home to you…I was told to suppress anything that could harm a man’s ego, if I wasn’t happy, as a woman I was more capable of handling it than a man..I was given a totally different idea of female strength…it wasn’t that females were strong to stand up for themselves, it was that females are strong as martyrs. I don’t hear the question how can I be a feminist/feminist ally and still claim desire…I hear a lot of rejecting of feminist ideals, and yes it’s not perfect because feminism isn’t monolithic…I can’t tell you how to express desire because it’s different for every woman, one of the claims feminism makes is to not treat women like they are all the same, there is no formula just because one is a woman, or a seems to me we are painted with the same brush just because we hold a certain ideal…it’s a strawman argument that I’m getting tired of hearing.
    I think it’s great if the true intention is how to express desire and still be a feminist ally, but I really don’t see it as such..I have sympathy for the position of just not knowing what to do…everyone has been there…I just don’t know how to solve the problem, and really it seems feminists are giving all the suggestions and they are getting shot down, it’s a one-sided conversation right now…when I see these guys giving suggestions I won’t feel like I’m mothering them, so far all I see is whining…Hugo has been giving suggestions, and I respect him for that…let’s see these other guys do some thinking and I’ll change my mind on their attitude…otherwise it’s all bitching to me.

  49. I don’t know…b.g. wouldn’t it help if perhaps they were at least giving some suggestions as to how they would handle a situation, instead of asking how they should have handled it??? Wouldn’t it be natural to take a defensive position to such questioning…almost like being skeptical that what we say couldn’t possibly work because they haven’t gotten results by having the mindset of a feminist?

  50. “I’ve been commenting less and less because all I hear lately is how feminism doesn’t provide a way for men to get laid, or have relationships…”

    That’s understandable how this would get bring, but since one of feminism’s claims is that it is the answer to a lot of men’s problems, ansd especially because Hugo seems ot think so, this ais a valid discussion and a valid place to have it.

    “If you can’t see how much utter misogyny flows through these comments, you’re not paying attention, perhaps because you’re blinded by your privilege.’

    Actually b.g, that comment is a display of your own privilege. It is a good example of what these straight men are dealing with.

    “I know this because they often come to me for relationship advice – which is ironic at so many levels. ”

    I know. It’s like Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, only on more fronts and more important fronts. I hope their women are ready to deal with the men they get back from having a gay guy advise them.

  51. I didn’t say it wasn’t a valid place for the discussion..I do feel however that it’s not a discussion…I don’t hear any suggestions coming from the other side…yes I know you’re respecting women by not making assumptions..but really doesn’t communication go both ways? I would honestly like to hear some men postulate on how scenarios could be handled, and actually participate in that side of the discussion…as of now I feel like I’m being put on the offensive to provide advice, and forced into defensive when that advice doesn’t “add up”…I can’t give a’s trial and error for everyone, not just men, that trial and error is not defined by the man, but by the woman, which would be one of the changing subjects in the situation…just as if women pursue men one of the only changing subjects is the man in which they are interacting with… To say that all males are basically the same and women have an advantage is misogynistic.

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