Parties (DOUBLE Participation)


‘Pedo Parties’ and Racist Ragers: Why Are Frat Bros Fixated on Fucked Up Theme Parties?

Originally Published at Jezebel

After Kappa Sigma fraternity suspended its chapter at Duke University following a racially insensitive Asian-themed rager — “Herro Nice Duke Peopre,” the brothers wrote in the email invite — stories of other recent questionably themed gatherings started to circulate around campus. Highlights included a predominately white fraternity that allegedly hosted a BET (as in Black Entertainment Television) party, and a Sigma Nu pregame gathering called “Creepy Guys and Cutie Pies” which some students referred to as “Juveniles and Pedophiles.”

All of these events took place within the first few weeks of 2013. Why are privileged undergraduates at elite colleges unable to resist the lure of “subversive” theme parties even though the potential repercussions could last a Googled lifetime? We spoke with Duke students both inside and outside the Greek system to find out.

Duke is hardly the only prestigious college where fraternities hold events with themes such as “Dress to get Lei’d”, “Presidents and Interns”, and “Give It to Me, Daddy, I Want It.” (Here’s an extensive list of dubious Duke frat party themes.) But given that the Duke parties have received so much media attention, unfair or otherwise, it’s a little bizarre that students would keep risking their charters and future job prospects for the chance to push the limits of social acceptability and hit on girls dressed as “Pocahotness.”

'Pedo Parties' and Racist Ragers: Why Are Frat Bros Fixated on Fucked Up Theme Parties?

These photos, which are admittedly tame by collegiate standards, are from the aforementioned “Creepy Guys and Cutie Pies” gathering at Sigma Nu, one of Duke’s most exalted fraternities. “Oh, you mean the pedo party,” said multiple Duke students when I asked them if they had heard about it. I spoke at length with a Sigma Nu sophomore who was adamant that the gathering was never meant to be called “Pedophiles and Juveniles,” but not because that wouldn’t be funny; because it would be a majorly dumb move. “Sigma Nu is pretty renowned and known as the smartest fraternity,” he said when I asked him why he thought frat guys loved offensive themed parties. “You’re asking the wrong guy at the wrong frat. Find one that isn’t as certain about its values.”

But does “Creepy Guys and Cutie Pies” really scream “values,” or is that pushing it? “Not every party we throw is going to be Kafka themed or Galileo themed,” he said. “We like to be a little more creative than sitting around and watching Milton Friedman videos or The Wizard of Oz. If the worst party we’ve ever thrown is ‘Creepy Guys and Cutie Pies,’ we should be hailed as one of the good fraternities.”

'Pedo Parties' and Racist Ragers: Why Are Frat Bros Fixated on Fucked Up Theme Parties?Expand

Ok then. Still, why take the risk that you’ll end up on, say, a Gawker Media blog dressed as a pedophile or sumo wrestler? Steve, a junior who helped organize protests against Kappa Sigma’s Asia rager, said he thinks it’s clear when you consider what the function of a frat party actually is. “Fraternity men need women to fuck—if at all in order to fulfill the strict codes of masculinity which they reproduce (e.g., taking whatever you want whenever you want it)—and they need alcohol to create an environment in which all that is possible.,” he wrote in an email. “But your party theme can’t just be ‘Powerful Men and Submissive Women’ (though honestly some party themes come disturbingly close), and so other powerful-powerless relationships become necessary.” He noted that it seems like innocent fun because it’s reminiscent of children playing dress-up.

Tara, a senior who described herself as a former sorority member who was once a “guiltless attendee [at the] World Olympics party and clothing lender for Pocohotness,” concurred and told me that it’s hard for freshman to resist the opportunity to become part of such an ingrained culture. “All it takes is accepting an invitation,” she said. “I know I have and thought no more about it than finding a cute costume, asking roommates from other ethnicities to borrow clothes, taking my best guess at what shade of eye shadow completes the look.”

'Pedo Parties' and Racist Ragers: Why Are Frat Bros Fixated on Fucked Up Theme Parties?Expand

Tara said she thought Duke undergraduates were drawn to racist and sexist themed parties because the concept of breaking social rules intrigues kids who are book-smart but haven’t experienced real struggles; i.e., your stereotypical Duke student. “No matter where we come from, a Montessori school in Portland or small prep school in Virginia, we all have a background in the politically correct,” she said. “Dressing up in a ludicrous summation of an entire people and culture just seems like another crazy risk, getting laughs from your peers for creativity or absurdity. It is laced with the subversive, your parents wouldn’t approve, you wouldn’t put it on your resume, but for awhile ‘but it’s college!’ is enough of an excuse for a lot of questionable behavior.”

How many more cringe-inducing Facebook photos do we have to gawk at before college kids stop slipping the word “slut” into every invite and donning blackface for “Ghetto Fabulous” parties? Steve isn’t too optimistic; he said he doesn’t think racist and sexist party themes go out of vogue after scandals like these because the resounding message merely becomes: “Go forth, my brothers! Find new ways to get booze and women, and this time, don’t offend anybody!”

The underlying assumptions of college social life are not questioned,” he said. “The lesson is simply that we must become nice conquerors of women” — and minorities — “if we want to continue getting away with it.”

Yi Zhu, a senior, said he thinks frats will continue to throw insensitive parties because “even intelligent and well-educated students lack the real life exposure to the hardships and pain that stigmatization brings.”

“This kind of hardship is something people can’t understand even if he or she belongs to the group being marginalized, unless that person lived through it,” he said. Unfortunately, that’s an issue that doesn’t stay on campus after graduation day.


23 thoughts on “Parties (DOUBLE Participation)

  1. These types of parties seem harmless and funny until they go far enough and get personal. I know many people that have been affected by the “humor” at these types of parties. For example, a friend of mine at another school was sexually abused growing up and attending the ‘pedophiles and juveniles party’ was horrible for her. Other such themes as ‘CEO’s and office hoes’ are so degrading towards women, not only emphasizing the power of men but also exploiting the sexuality of women. These kinds of events, like racist jokes, may seem funny or distant in the moment but it is crucial to the integrity of our society to step back and realize the greater message they send. These parties contribute to stereotypes, prejudices and possible discrimination; they undermine the slow progress our country has made at eliminating these gender and racial biases.

  2. There are parts to this post that I agree with and parts that I don’t. Having racially targets party themes is bad, yes, but “creepy guys and cutie pies” is not racially insensitive at all. Is it classy? Probably not, but why are people making such a big deal out of that theme? It was their choice to use it and it isn’t affecting anyone besides the people at the party. The quote: “Why are privileged undergraduates at elite colleges unable to resist the lure of “subversive” theme parties even though the potential repercussions could last a Googled lifetime?” doesn’t make sense to me. 1) not all the kids are privileged and 2) they are putting all “privileged undergrads” in to one category. Isn’t that stereotyping? The fact that they are putting not only greek students but ALL undergrads into the same category doesn’t make sense. I do believe that it crosses the line when they are targeting a specific race, that shouldn’t be happening, but it seems like the article tried to stray away from that fact and focused more on the fact that greek fraternities are throwing themed parties that are subjective to ladies. The guy that said: “You’re asking the wrong guy at the wrong frat. Find one that isn’t as certain about its values.” Is full of it because everyone knows for a fact they throw themed parties. That’s what happens in the greek system.

    • Christine – They are talking about these parties at a particular schools. Yes, they happen across the country and yes they are not limited to Greek organizations. The article is also pushing us to think about how some parties perpetuate rape culture, others perpetuate sexism and others perpetuate racism.

      • Okay that makes more sense then. I agree that the themes can perpetuate rape and other sexually abuses to happen that didn’t really cross my mind when i was reading it. I think what i mainly saw was that they were taking the fact that people are throwing racially obtrusive parties which are terrible and focusing on the fact that people are throwing “creepy guys and cutie pies” themed parties. I wish they would have focused more on the fact that there are people and groups out there that are throwing parties that are bashing on other races.

  3. I found these videos and article quite interesting. The first thing I want to touch on is the third video, Pundits Debate Racist Party at Tarleton State. I agree with the majority of the group in the sense that I do NOT believe the students who attended the party should be kicked out of school. Mark said that they should, and as I was watching the video my first thought in response to that was “there is NO way they can figure out every single person who was there at one point in the night.” The students apologized for their actions, we have to stop pointing blame on anyone and everyone. One woman blames their parents, others blame the school. At this point, I just think there needs to be actions put in place in order to stop this from happening again instead.

    The next comment I have was the irony of the article, it is so clearly using stereotypes about the Greek community on campuses while talking about how we shouldn’t be stereotyping people. Countless number of articles have been and will continue to stereotype Greek members in a negative way. No, the party themes weren’t a good choice or a good representation of the chapters involved but it’s not just Greek chapters holding these parties, it’s just easier to blame them.

    I read a comment from another student about her personal story of a friend who was offended, with reason, of the “creepy guys and cutie pies” party. I was thinking about it as I spoke to my roommate about it, it’s like watching someone fall, it’s funny until you know they broke their leg. It’s funny until you know someone is hurt by it. That is clearly true or we wouldn’t have show where families win one million dollars by sending in their home videos.

  4. I do agree that some of these themed parties are unacceptable, and the majority of them are strictly based on stereotypes, for example the Compton cookout is very offensive to people that lived in Compton, It is telling people that are attending to dress ghetto and basically use their stereotypes to dress up for the party. It is highly insensitive and does enforce and maintain a set of stereotypes and deeply degrading ideas about African Americans. In the second video they are asking if it makes a difference that a minority set up a noose compared to a non minority and it does not make a difference of who set up the noose, the problem is that the noose was set up in the first place and is a act of racial violence no matter what your color. This act maintains and supports a set of stereotypes and those degrading ideas of African Americans. Many of these parties seem normal to the average college/greek student, until they go as far as they did and begin to slowly counteract the work everyone has done to eliminate stereotypes and racial prejudice, they may even cause pain and frustration to certain people that attend the party and can relate to the theme.

  5. I truly do not see anything funny about any of these parties. To tell the truth I never knew people were really having parties like this until I came to college up here. These parties do not promote anything but more negativity. I could not even possibly think how the name Compton cookout for a party is alright if you are not from Compton and then the dressing up like how they think black people from Compton dress. I have numerous friends from Compton who would be highly offended and that could cause further racial issues between black and white people. Then there is the “Creepy guys and Cutie pies” party that is just outrageous. Once again I know people who have been kidnapped and raped and I just don’t even see how that can be something to draw a party around. These parties seem to be direct cases of people looking from outside being black, being in a situation with a pedophile, or degraded sexually at a place of work and to them it may seem as a light situation but to the people who are in these positions can be hugely affected and cause extreme sadness or rage. This is truly disturbing to me.

  6. As I look at it the people who come up with the ideas and themes to these parties think it’s all fun until it does end up going too far to get personal to people. There are many people who get offended by these parties that don’t mean to come off offending to others. I couldn’t imagine going let alone putting on an event called the Compton cook out where you dress how you think black people do, along with trying to act how they do. I agree that most of these parties are unacceptable, and most of them are based on racial stereotypes. The Compton cook out is just plain and simple offensive to people who are from Compton. It’s telling people to base their looks and actions on racial stereotypes which deeply degrades in this case the ideas about African Americans. I also think that the Creepy guys and Cutie pies party was just a horrible idea in the first place. The people coming up with these themed ideas aren’t thinking of the possible people they are hurting. This partied theme seems as it is encouraging rape culture which is very wrong but yet people still end up going to them. People may think that it’s just a dumb party and no one is trying to offend people but they do. All of these parties are contributing to stereotypes while our country has tried to eliminate them. It will be a slow process but there is going to be more parties that will offend many people in ways of stereotyping, prejudice, and even discriminating towards others. These badly themed parties aren’t good for the college or in these cases Greek students and they will ultimately end up causing pain and frustration to the certain people who do attend these parties.

  7. There are some decent frats out there that throw acceptable parties with the traditional drinking. I have been to one frat party and I got a little bored at one point because there was not a lot of commotion. It was a simple party, I had fun meeting new people and I am thankful there was no events, pictures, or any black outs that I have to worry about that may come back to haunt me. It was very low key, the theme was Around the World (which only meant different types of drinks), and there was not trampy women, creepy frat guys, or any spiked drinks.
    Nonetheless, when I walk around greek row, sorority girls are always wearing the tiniest and tightest clothing, despite the weather. When frats design these immature, appalling, idiotic themes for women to dress up like tramps is saddening. Why these houses think sleeping with women is a show of masculinity is beyond me. These frats may think it’s a fun joke and an excuse to have a party but one of these days they will realize the error of their ways. They will cease having any racial themes and start respecting other ethnicities.

  8. When it comes to certain parties that include frats, sororities or any others I do feel like parties are always fun and should always be fun. The thing that worries me is if something extremely wrong happens. Because if a party gets busted the cops will look for many minors with consumption of alcohol. It is not good when you are in the middle of it, especially if you don’t do anything. Also when I see all the people at parties I usually just laugh or just think differently of them. For example every girl that goes to parties always wear short and tight clothing for a better visual for guys. Also many guys dress up that has nothing to do with their race. For instance I have seen many white guys dress up as black guys because I feel like it is a stereotype. The stereotype that I see is that blacks party harder than whites. It just cracks me up when i see that. Also there will always be exposure of alcohol no matter what party you go to and all you have to do is be smart and not end up as a sloppy drunk. I have witnessed many parties and I have witnessed how crazy people get after drinking a lot.

  9. Most everyone can agree that some of the party themes are highly unacceptable. Not only are these themes derogatory to races and cultures such as the “Raging Asian” and the “Black Entertainment TV” but also to women when you get down to “CEO’s and Office Hoes”. None of these should be acceptable because they are dehumanizing. I do also believe that the people who participate should be the only ones getting in trouble for it, because the University shouldn’t really account for the Frats mistakes. But, on the other hand this should never happen again at these colleges and if they do I think there could be reasoning behind blaming the University itself. Also, you can see who really partakes in these events because not everyone that was on the guest list or invited went. But did they just no go because they were busy or had pervious plans or did they chose to not go because of the theme? If anyone was really concerned about it at the time they would have stood up and maybe said something to the social chair or whoever was in charge for the theme ideas.

  10. Although these parties seem to have been planned with no malicious intent, there are many consequences to come from situations like these. By throwing parties with insensitive themes, all the stereotypes these students seem to “harmlessly” be mocking actually reinforce those stereotypes and how they are viewed. These party themes not only reinforce stereotypes regarding race, but gender as well. There are many themes referring to women as “hoes”, which is degrading and emphasizes the ideal that women are inferior to men. After watching these clips and reading the article above, I also realized that these parties are yet another example of how privilege comes into everyday life. Meaning those students who think these parties are harmless and humorous are experiencing that privilege of not “thinking” about how it may effect someone who may be associated with those stereotype. Overall these themed parties are contributing to reinforcing stereotypes, encouraging discrimination, and showcasing yet another aspect of privilege. This is very concerning and is contributing to the backtracking our country continues to endure during the ongoing battle against stereotypes and ultimately discrimination.

  11. The themes that are being held at these parties are racist, stereotypical, and degrading towards all that are involved. Having an “Asian themed rager” seems over the top in terms of trying to gain attention for a fraternity. Gaining attention and getting girls are the main points of having ridiculous themed parties. However, there is a line that you can’t cross and basing these college parties off of racial stereotypes is by far surpassing that line. I am half Japanese and if we would have had an “Asian themed rager” I would have been horrified. Dealing with someones race can become highly offensive and hurtful when people are making a joke out of it all night. I can sympathize with the African Americans at UCSD who were offended by the “Compton CookOut.” Stereotypes like “gold teeth, bad weaves, loud, and nappy hair” don’t apply to all African American females and this stereotype should not be reinforced and made a joke out of. Not only can the racist themes be hurtful, but the “Juveniles and Pedophiles” can be too. Women who have been sexually abused or raped would feel that their encounter was being made a mockery of.
    Social chairs, as well as fraternity and sorority members need to be aware of the repercussions of the themed parties they are hosting. It can affect not only the members of the sorority or fraternity, but also their chance of getting a job after college or harm their chapter standing within the university.

  12. After reading these articles it really puts everything into perspective about these racial and sexist themed college parties. I am probably not the first to admit that many sororities, including mine, on campus have participated in an exchange that could fall under one of these categories. Though during the event, many people may not be aware of these stereotypes and many times not trying to cause any harm to anyone, people have to remember that there is someone out there that can be very offended by the theme.

    Another note I would like to touch on that was brought up in the article that was published on is the idea of offending future employers. I think it is SO important that college students are constantly aware of the content he/she is putting out on social media. For example, if someone attends a BET (Black Entertainment Television) theme party or exchange, which is very offensive in itself, but let’s say he or she proceeds to post an image on a social media with that as a description for the picture and the future employer stumbles upon it when looking to hire this individual, this could be a huge red flag for a company. These racist/sexist themed parties happen every weekend here at WSU and I think action needs to be taken before we have our Greek System plastered all over the news along with these other universities.

  13. Personally I noticed I was paying more attention to how these events were being portrayed by the newscaster. It was extremely irritating to me in the second clip how the newscaster rudely asked why David didn’t participate in the teach-in when there were so many people “willing to listen.” I don’t know about her, but I work with university students every single day trying to get them to attend University programs like this and it’s not exactly an easy feat. Even if you get people to attend the chances of them walking away with them actually caring about what they just learned are slim. My best example would be the booze, sex, and reality checks we do here. Yes, it does reach some, but it’s obviously not doing enough because if it was we wouldn’t have so many students being taken to the ER every weekend. That’s because students treat this as something they are forced to go to and therefore don’t take it seriously.

    The third clip was more aggravating than the second clip. I found it interesting that the other people called to speak seemed more willing to just let this go because “kids are kids” and we “don’t want to stifle creative growth.” Are you serious? I pretty much applauded when Marc pointed out that this isn’t just a “kids being kids” thing- it’s creating a hostile environment for minorities, especially for black students. This one comment from him pretty much sums up my entire opinion of these parties and actions to a T. Yes, the students who put these parties on may not have meant any “harm,” but harm was done none the less because of the history behind these actions. The Minstrel Shows were a great example of the connection we can make to actions in the past that are similar to what is happening now.

    Finally, I kind of wanted to note that it’s not only Greek systems that are responsible for these parties/actions. The newscasters seemed to latch onto the fact that the “perpetrators” were part of the Greek system, and I feel that it really doesn’t matter as much as the newscasters are making it out to be. I think universities need to see these parties as part of a larger problem were students think that tolerance means ignoring hurtful past events and trying to make a joke out of it.

  14. These type of parties may seem harmless and funny while the party is occurring but once you step back and look at the theme of the party things begin to get hurtful and personal. Although many people believe that these parties aren’t that big of deal, but in reality this parties represent a bigger idea then just a “humorous” party. For example the theme “Business hoes and CEO’s” completely degrades women. It also shows that only men can hold the highest positions in the business world while the women are the secretaries. These parties send a deeper message. These parties support stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. It is crucial to our society that we draw the line and make it clear that these parties need to be stop. The parties that have been occurring on college campus are diminishing the work we have been doing as a society to move in a post racial world.

  15. After seeing these video clips and reading the articles I am very horrified by the things brought to my attention. I know that offensive themed parties like the ones described are party themes that happen here at WSU and being in the Greek community where a lot of these parties take place makes me embarrassed. I think all social chairs and anyone for that matter throwing a themed party needs to make sure that the theme choice they are picking is not something that has to do with race or a particular stereotype because that can be offensive to anyone. No one should be singled out for an entire night because of something so simple as the theme of a party. That is completely ridiculous and offensive to me knowing that this goes on in the community I am apart of.

    One more thing that caught my attention was the fact that pictures and statuses about these offensive themed parties are being posted on social media. I believe people should always remember that future and current employers look into our social media and what we are posting. For example, if one were to post a picture of them being a “gangsta” or a “milf” for a when I grow up themed party it could be offensive to that employer and also completely inappropriate. This could affect your chances of getting a job and it could also have people seeing this lose a lot of respect for you. I just think that we all need to be more aware of the things we are posting and saying and know that this could be offensive and we would never want to hurt someone’s feelings over something so small as a theme of a party or posting an stereotypical picture.

  16. This article really hits home with me because I have witnessed many of these themed parties. Being a part of the Greek community and a student here I can say that I am embarrassed to know that these themed parties happen on our campus and are never questioned by us students. I never thought to take a step back and see the possible repercussions these parties have on people that are looking from the outside in.

    I think that many kids attending these themed parties in college see them as a “just a party” or a social function, and they over look these degrading themes such as “pig tails and pedophiles” or “BET vs. CMT”. In the third video Mark makes a great point that these types of parties are not isolated to just a few colleges across the nation but are wide spread. These themed parties may seem entertaining to kids who are attending them but lead to much bigger issues such as stereotypes, racism and gender issues that our nation has been struggling with. It shows that while many people think these issues are a thing of the past but they are still very prominent racial and gender issues that are now being mocked by kids our age at parties. These parties contribute to many of the stereotypes and types of discrimination that can still be seen within our society today.

  17. Being an active member in the Greek community and seeing these sexual and racial themes first hand, I never really thought about how these types of parties could be offensive to people. Everyone gets super pumped to dress up and are often times praised for the more graphic and creative their costume is. Parties like this have been normalized not only on campuses around the nation, but right here at WSU as well. The Greek community is supposed to be making men better men and women better women but the methods and values are clearly questionable. I honestly never even thought that someone could be offended when we dressed up as “CEO’s and Office Hoes”, it is a very obvious sexist theme and as a woman I didn’t get offended, it has been normalized!!!! I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a theme that has nothing to do with race or gender and I can count them on one hand… And even the ones that aren’t directed at a specific race or gender people still dress up, like the theme “When I Grow Up” people dress up as sexy cops, black NBA stars, and stupid blonde school girls.

    I think that one of the reasons we dress up for exchanges and parties is because it is something different and fun, we never intend to hurt someone’s feelings. It makes me wonder what they did for exchanges when Fraternities and Sororities were first founded. I’m sure they didn’t dress up as Cowboys and Indians. If people are really getting offended by the themes of parties thrown by the Greek community I think it is time for a change. Greek students are supposed to be positive role models who live to improve society and uphold values. If we are partying as black people who love chicken or Mexicans with sombrero’s and lots of children it is very easy to lose respect from our peers and earn a bad reputation. Panhellenic and the ICF should sit down with exec from each chapter and brainstorm some themes that won’t be hurtful to our fellow students.

  18. Having not ever been part of the Greek Life system, it greatly surprises me that such racist themes are being brought up in the Greek Life community when it comes to throwing parties. Here at Washington State University, I don’t believe that we have such parties from what i’ve heard from friends and acquaintences that are in fraternities and sororities. I believe that these themes have to do somewhat with the geographical outlook of universities. Having been to the South multiple times, I’ve seen first hand that the South is trully “another world racially” when it comes to acceptance of others, and racism. It surprises me that an organization that prides itself on class and acceptance is basically promoting the opposite, but then again this shows that racism is still alive in our modern day society and steps must be taken in order to completely turn a 180 in terms of racism on a global scale.

  19. Being apart of the Greek system here at WSU, I have experienced cases where parties are themed similar to these in the article. It is the opportunity for students to dress as “something they aren’t” or in other words take a different character and be them for a night. In some ways this could be seen as possible discrimination, and although I agree with what some of the article talks about, I believe that a lot of what is being talked about is more innocence and is never meant to portray stereotypes negatively. Themes such as ‘CEO’s and office hoes’ is degrading towards women, yes, but many college women encourage themes like this because they choose to dress as the office hoe. In society today the exploiting of women is more common because of the influencing factors. Girls do not feel pressured to partake in these types of themes but instead enjoy them and encourage them among other girls because that is apart of the norm today. It does make sense to say that dressing up in themes such as these can be racist or stereotypical but in fact any action in dressing up as something your not can be looked at as this. Halloween is just another example of taking a character and turning it into what we picture it as. This year I have seen more “homeless” costumes than before. People will dress up in grungy clothing, and use a piece of cardboard with an explicit saying on it, to portray the idea of a “hobo”. This is an example of how a person is taking the idea of what we believe homeless people are and turning it into a mindless joke, not meaning any harm on the actual person. Yes, costumes and themes can be taken to a new level and is sometimes degrading a certain group, but in fact we all do it in some way or another, there are just always those who take it to a different extent.

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