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Have You Ever Thought a Culture Could and Should be Rape-Free?

Dr. Peggy Reeves Sandy is R. Jean Brownlee Endowed Term Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.  I find her research and writing really amazing.  I have never come across anyone who has actually lived in and studies rape-free cultures.  She has written a book called Women at the Center.  In this book as well as articles about fraternities she has studied, she has successfully compared factors that describe rape-prone versus rape-free cultures.  To have a rape -free culture is beneficial for both sexes.  Here are some of the factors that she  identifies as characteristics of a rape-free college campus culture:  

  • “On this campus, everyone, administrators, faculty, and students are on a first-name basis..”
  • this…”makes the atmosphere more egalitarian than most campuses.”
  • “interpersonal interaction is guided by an ethic of respect for the individual. 
  • Those who are disrespectful of others are ostracized as campus life is motivated by a strong sense of community and common good.”
  • “Sexual assault is is a serious offense treated with suspension or expulsion”
  • There is not one group, such as athletes or fraternities that dominate the social scene.
  • Attitudes of racism, sexism, homophobia, are nonexistent.
  • “Individuals bond together in groups not to turn against others but because they are drawn together by mutual interests.”

She goes on to write about a fraternity she found which identifies itself as QRS.  The following are characteristics of this fraternity:

  • two of the QRS men feel fraternities should be abolished
  • there are no drinking games
  • binge drinking does not occur
  • “At parties there are always brothers who watch out for women or house members who have had too much to drink”
  • “…it is clearly not acceptable for someone to take advantage of a drunk woman, because that is rape”
  • “There is no talk in the house about getting a girl drunk to have sex…”
  • “If a female passes out or is very drunk she is watched or escorted home.”
  • “Women are not seen as sex objects….but as friends.”
  • there are no ‘party-girls’
  • women are never referred to as sluts
  • any brother who acts inappropriately with a woman is severely reprimanded.  He may even be expelled from the fraternity.
  • Women can study at this fraternity and there are even strong, outspoken feminists and activists.  The men are not offended by them. 
  • one QRS brother has started an organization called Men’s Association for Change and Openness (MAChO).  He is an active participant in the University’s student peer-counseling group for sexual health. 
  • another brother has a “Refuse and Resist” sticker on his door.  It says “Date rape: cut it out or cut it off.” 
  • it is a safe haven for women.

There is so much more to Dr. Sanday’s writing.  I hope you will read her material.  I am just amazed at the above fraternity!  These men are clearly taking a stand against rape, even identifying it for what it is.  Rape when a woman is intoxicated is still rape.  Date rape is still rape.  I wish more men would take such strong stands against a cultural travesty. 

The above material is extracted from the article  “Rape-Prone versus Rape-Free Campus Cultures”, by Dr. Peggy Reeves Sanday, Published in Violence Against Women, Vol. 2 No.2, June, 1996, pp. 191-208.

I went on a mission trip to Peru in 2003 to treat rape survivors in the Andes Mountains.  These women were primarily survivors of ‘rape as a spoils of war.’  Rape and war could be a whole book in itself.  One woman in Peru was just desperate to come to America where rape didn’t happen.  She could hardly believe it when I told her it was no different here.  But we can change.  We need to change.  The Bride of Christ needs to be the leader.


  1. Hey Sherrill,

    The key to me, of the QRS group was viewing the women as friends or sisters. Somehow our loss of healthy “family-like” relationships has huge ramifications on the way we treat each other. I found Dr. Sanday’s study very stimulating. Thank you for sharing it.

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