Over 100 students and faculty attended Elizabeth Armstrong’s lecture April 21 at the Ford Alumni Center. So many were in attendance that several dozen students were left without seats, listening along while sitting cross-legged in the back of the room.
The talk, titled “Status, Violence, and Alcohol: How Status Competition Creates Risk,” was part of a series of discussions for Sexual Assault Awareness Month hosted by the ASUO Women’s Center, Fraternity and Sorority Life as well as the Department of Women and Gender Studies.
Armstrong’s talks focused on research that found social status to be at the root of many of the behaviors that lead to higher risk of sexual assault and rape. By actually living in a residence hall for a school year, Armstrong and her research partners were able to interview more than 50 women living on a co-ed floor about their experiences with dorm life, Greek Life and the college party scene.
The findings of this report echo the risks highlighted by the external report of the FSL community that was published earlier this month. Armstrong focused largely on the behaviors of young women who were rushing for, or members of, sororities on campus.
“What we found, resoundingly, is that concerns with status led these young women to pursue risky behaviors,” said Armstrong, “They are more likely to drink, and they are more likely to hook up to increase or solidify their social status.”
Armstrong’s research also highlighted that the FSL hierarchy gives fraternity men a lot of power over the social scene. Often, fraternities are allowed to have parties while sororities are not, leading to a higher percentage of women going to fraternity parties to drink.
Men also tend to have easier access to transportation, leaving women, particularly first-year women, at the will of fraternity members to get to and from events and parties.
Similar to the external report conducted of UO FSL, Armstrong highlighted that a blackout culture within colleges leads to higher risk of sexual assault.
“The ability to drink a lot of alcohol, to party a lot, is seen as a marker of social status,” said Armstrong, “And by having an abundance of alcohol as well as control over who gets access to it gives fraternities a tremendous amount of control.”
UO Professor of Sociology C.J. Pascoe moderated a Q&A discussion after the talks, introducing public commentary by saying, “I have only been at the UO for a short amount of time, but it seems to me that some of these same issues may be at play on our own campus as well.”
Continuing the conversation next week, the Sexual Violence Prevention Board will hold an all-day call to action rally on April 25 on the Condon lawn. Look for the big chalk board in the quad that day to attend and get involved.
Also next week will be a Coalition for Consent, a monthly discussion group that meets in Straub 252 that focuses on education and prevention of sexual assault and harassment.