Book Review: Fraternity Gang Rape by Peggy Reeves Sanday

What makes a person pick up a book like this (outside of a required reading list, that is)? For me, it is a love of knowledge combined with strong feminist ethos. However, I will readily admit that it took me a good while to get through the whole thing. At times, Fraternity Gang Rape does feel a bit dated. Originally published in the early 1990s, much of this book revolves around happenings in the 1980s at the University of Pennsylvania. However, Sanday’s methodology, theoretical underpinnings, conclusions, and presentation are just as crisp and salient today as they were over two decades ago. One would expect no less from such a foundational feminist figure. Additionally, the second edition of the book includes an afterword that reassess the relationship between fraternities and rape.

So, the question I have now is one of how much detail to go into here? First, despite conclusions that can easily be drawn from the somewhat sensational title, Sanday clearly defines “fraternity gang rape” as rape that functions to build cohesion within a group that derives their identity through perceived or actual brotherhood. She focuses on the Greek fraternities of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s, but it is important to remember that Sanday has the eyes and training of an anthropologist. There are several difficult chapters that discuss gang rapes, sexual assault, and hazing rituals in detail, and it was these portions of the book that I had to occasionally step away from. However, Sanday does offer a slew of solutions.

 

Bottom line:

Read this book. It is important that we educate ourselves on sexual assault and what can be done. If you identity as feminist, reading this book might make you feel better about the level of scholarship out there, it could make you feel worse about the state of society, but it will definitely stoke your dedication to human rights and social justice. If you don’t identify as feminist, you ought to take a look at it anyway, as it’s a prime example of thorough methodology and the marriage of theory and activism. While this book may feel a little dated at times, one only needs to look at the state of gender inequality in our society to know that this book is still far too necessary.

Inform yourself and be part of the solution.

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