Friday, April 28, 2006

College Drinking, Part 2: Same-Sex Intimacy

Yesterday's blog argued that college drinking lets people from families with intimacy-preventing rules to temporarily suspend those rules. With the "social lubricant," men and women are freer to get close to members of the opposite sex, without permanently undermining the rules. This brought some very interesting comments, especially from Ken Lammers, that another function of college drinking is to allow members of the same sex to bond with one another. I agree entirely with this point.

Peggy Sanday, in Fraternity Gang Rape, posits that fraternity members have a strong homosexual attraction for one another, which they ruthlessly suppress through shared lust for women. Thus, frat boys talk dirty, watch porn, brag about hook ups, and, in the extreme case she studied, gang rape women in the frat house. I think Sanday is wrong in her basic thesis. But she does point to a problem for fraternities and other men's groups.

Fraternity men do bond strongly with one another as brothers. Their brotherhood would be ruined by a hint of homosexual attraction (as literal brotherhood would). Fraternities need a way to temporarily suspend the strong rule against intimacy with other men without confusing that intimacy with sexual attraction. Drinking games and drunken revelry suit that need.

I still think my main point is right: people from the Level 3 Rule-Bound families most need a social lubricant to get close to others. Men, and to a lesser extent, women, from such families would find that alcohol would make other solidarity-building activities easier. Even for men from more flexible and intimate families, though, I suspect that the rules against intimacy with other men are pretty strong. This would explain why fraternities have such a strong drinking culture, even when women are not present. Sororities also drink quite a bit, but in my experience they do not do so when men are not going to be involved to nearly the same degree.

I thank Ginny Anderson and Ken Lammers, two fine examples of different eras of Centre students, for advancing this interesting discussion.

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