The Sexist

Frat Boys at GW Rush to Undo Homophobic Stereotypes

GWU, beta members
Beta Testing: Brothers Zelenty, Belok, and Molldrem try something new.

According to fraternal historian ­Nicholas Syrett, America’s fraternity culture has thrived on a fear of homosexuality since the 1920’s. All-male fraternal organizations, Syrett writes, “compensate for what might be perceived by outsiders as either feminine or gay behavior by enacting a masculinity [of] aggressive heterosexuality.” In order to preempt homosexual interpretations of the fraternal bond, the brothers employ ritualistic paddling, frat house sex, and homophobic epithets to fight their way back to straight.

The Syrettian fraternal tradition poses some pre-professional problems for the young men on the campus of George Washington University.

After all, GW’s fraternity brothers are the nation’s future congressmen, investment bankers, and CEOs. They won’t reach those positions if their Google profiles turn up associations with homophobic and misogynistic fraternities. So GW’s frat boys—and don’t call them that!—are straining to undo the legacy of “aggressive heterosexuality” and gay-bashing forged by their predecessors. It’s an effort that involves a good deal of re-education, some new alliances, and a compensatory vice or two.

RUSHING. Each September, GW’s potential pledges navigate a monthlong schedule of university-sanctioned rush events. The activities provide a brief introduction to each fraternity’s social reputation. Will the future fraternity brother enjoy s’mores at Kappa Sigma’s “acoustic jam” or feast upon Kappa Alpha Order’s steamed Maryland crabs? Will he chat up Sigma Chi’s favorite sorority ladies or help Sigma Nu launch a frozen turkey down a Slip ’N Slide? Will he scarf Lambda Chi Alpha’s Chipotle burritos or watch the brothers of TKE take a sledgehammer to a car?

This year, Beta Theta Pi decided to trade the food porn and the masculine displays of destruction for a more meaningful approach. “The events that I rushed into initially were food-focused,” says Stephen Molldrem, the fraternity’s vice president. “This year, we’re trying something completely different. Other fraternities will pick men who share their values out of the ones who show up for the Maryland blue crabs. We attract men of values, and we then just happen to serve them Maryland blue crabs when they show up.”

Stephen Molldren
Beta Theta Pi Vice President Stephen Molldrem

That formula—values first, crabs later—helps weed out the homophobes with the hungry. In Beta Theta Pi’s first rush event this year, titled “Frat Versus Fraternity: Myths Debunked,” Molldrem and his brothers discussed popular misconceptions about “frat boys” with potential pledges.

William Zelenty, the fraternity’s rush coordinator, says the strategy had helped establish Beta Theta Pi as an organization of principle. “In the past, the fraternity was about upholding the status quo and letting the sexist and homophobic stuff fly,” he says. “Now, we’re dealing with it. If you’re the kind of person who goes around and says that kind of stuff, you’re not the kind of person I want involved in our chapter. Not everyone is perfect, but if any homophobic comments arise in a meeting or on the Listserv, I can tell you right now that it’s quelled immediately.”

Also not welcome at Beta Theta Pi: stereotypical comments about sexist and homophobic “frat boys.” “It’s just patently offensive,” says Molldrem, who is gay. “Even using the words ‘frat boy’ together can connote a bias.”

Will Zalenty
Beta Theta Pi rush coordinator Will Zelenty

HAZING. When one GW sophomore pledged an off-campus fraternity last year, he was relieved that the hazing process did not involve the “grotesque display of homosexual actions and physical pain” he had heard rumors of back home in Alabama. But what the hazing lacked in homophobia, it made up for in Kentucky Gentleman.

The night he officially pledged the fraternity, the student and his pledge class assembled in the frat house. “A trash can was brought out and put into the middle of the floor, and we were told to stand around the trash can,” he says. “We were then asked to drop our pants, but to leave our underwear on,” he says. The light homoeroticism—and the trash can—proved red herrings for the main event. Once the pants were dropped, the student says, “a bottle of Kentucky Gentleman bourbon was introduced to the circle, opened, and passed around among the circle of pledges.

As the pledges drank, the brothers sang. “You would have to drink until they stopped singing,” he says. “The first time, it was not that bad—they didn’t sing for that long,” he says. “The second time, they sang for maybe 10 to 12 seconds—an extremely long time.” When the bottle was finished, the pledge pulled up his pants as a newly minted member of the fraternity. “Shortly after that, I blacked out,” he says.

The student awoke in Georgetown University hospital to learn that he had left the post-pledging party, entered another student’s dorm room, and urinated all over his possessions. The student called the University Police Department, which administered the pledge a breathalyzer test. He blew a .24.

All hazing activities—from “paddling” to “scaveneger hunts”—are banned on the GW campus, and many fraternities honor school rules. When GW frats do haze, the activities—low on the homoerotic domination, high on the blood alcohol content—comport with the campus’ progressive nature. When fraternity brothers don’t fear associations with homosexuality, they’re a lot less likely to turn their hangups into a good paddling. But chugging alcohol is universal. Stereotypically, “frat boys are thought of as sexist and homophobic, but I don’t know if I’ve ever really heard that at GW,” says Josh Brown, rush coordinator of Zeta Beta Tau. Brown, who doesn’t drink, says that even GW’s wildest frat parties involve only “drinking to prove yourself,” not “drinking to get a girl drunk.”

PARTYING. Todd Belok, a GW sophomore, was a member of the school’s Naval ROTC program when he decided to pledge Beta Theta Pi. Belok wanted to make sure his potential brothers “didn’t hate who I am,” so he casually informed a couple of brothers of his sexual orientation over the course of the pledge process. “I was taking a course with one of the brothers who happened to be in my class,” says Belok. “I asked if I could bring my boyfriend to [a fraternity] party, and he said that would be completely fine.” Later, inside the Beta Theta Pi house, another brother “pulled me over and told me it was totally OK, and they didn’t have a problem with it here.”

Todd Belok
Beta Theta Pi brother Todd Belok

The fraternity house quickly became a safe haven for Belok. A few weeks later, Belok was again partying with his boyfriend in the Beta house when a couple of Belok’s fellow NROTC midshipmen saw the couple kissing and reported the infraction to their superiors. “I had seen the guys at the party, and I was a little bit concerned,” says Belok. “But I thought it was really wrong to keep on hiding.”

The incident, which led to Belok’s dismissal from NROTC under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” revealed a growing rift between two of the nation’s most masculine traditions—fraternity life, which embraced Belok’s sexual orientation, and military life, which rejected it. Belok’s dismissal hasn’t prompted Beta Theta Pi to take a more discriminating approach to its guest policy. “What are you going to do? Stop everyone at the door and ask them about their thoughts on various social subjects?” says Belok. But it has renewed the house’s commitment to its idea of fraternity culture. “A lot of the brothers were really angry that it happened,” says Belok. “And they were really angry that it happened here.”

Photos by Darrow Mongtomery

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  • Emily

    I went to GWU and I've barely even heard of those fraternities. The best known ones on campus still foster environments where sexism, homophobia, and violent and dangerous behavior can flourish.

    Ugh.

  • http://gwbeta.com Michael

    I'd have to completely disagree with you, Emily. As a current student at GWU, I've seen a big shift in fraternity attitudes since I was a freshman. Ever since APEs was officially disbanded earlier last school year, I'd have to say that fraternities and sororities alike are taking huge strides in changing their images. GWU has a strict anti-hazing policy, which has become more stringent in the recent past. The "best known ones" are only best known because they have published in campus publications for the outrageous crimes that pledges and brothers commit. However, ask any non-Greek at our school and you'll see that fraternities like Beta are known for being filled with gentlemen, not homophobes.

  • jules

    Good for them...I went to a school with a strong greek presence (and was in a sorority myself) and I imagine its hard for a group of guys to take the less-popular/more-open-minded approach.

  • http://myspace.com/lacoterie Christina

    This is great.

  • Nupe1911

    Interesting article.

  • Larry

    Fuckin fags!

  • Lies

    Typical of shitty reporting and self-righteous assholes trying to get publicity.

    Newsflash: every--EVERY--fraternity at GW has gay brotehrs. They're treated just like everyone else because, for the most part, nobody cares.

    I'm really not sure where Beta derives the authority to dismiss the standards by which every other fraternity judges potential new members, but it's pretty slanderous to summarily label the rest of Greek life as homophobic idiots without a blink. If you were to take a second, you'd realize that Greek life, in general, is one of the most diverse and tolerant communities on campus-- not because we try to be, but because that's just who we are.

    Get off your high horse and realize that you're not knights in the struggle against intolerance, you're more like a bad plumber--creating a problem so that you can be the ones to "fix it."

  • Clay

    I don't agree with Molldrem that "weeding out the homophobes with the hungry" is a good strategy for Fraternity recruitment. The goal should not be to exclude segments of the student body, as doing so would make his organization equally guilty of discrimination. Providing food or dinners for recruitment is not masculine food porn and offering Maryland blue crabs certainly isn't "typical." The point is that Freshmen are on a budget and offering a nice meal is a good way to get a large turnout at an event- regardless of attendees sexuality. The Fraternities can THEN speak to attendees about Greek Life at GW, debunk myths, and talk about what the organizations are about.

    Offering an event entitled "Frat vs. Fraternity: Myths Debunked" will not attract anyone who isn't already interested in pledging a Fraternity and will never provide the opportunity for Beta to change the misguided perceptions and stereotypes of Greek Life possessed by many Freshmen who base their opinions off rumors and television. I believe Beta's strategy here is counterproductive to the rest of the Greek Community at GW. It would be nice if Beta could be more accepting of all diversity as it would provide them an opportunity to break down barriers and educate as many people as possible about tolerance, instead of just catering to those who "get it" and "weeding out" everyone else.

  • http://www.lemonparty.org Queen Steve M.

    Ohhh my! Like fingering another mans butthole is more masculine than having fun smashing a car. Get a life, you self righteous queen. YOU and those like you are the reason why gays are not more socially accepted. Sorry, I will never be comfortable with drunk trannies verbally assaulting me because I am straight!

  • Heard it through the grapevine…

    That their first invite night is at Apex. Just a rumor.

  • http://beastube.net Carl

    you gotta pay the troll toll if you wanaa get into steven molldrem's hole

  • Bill

    All of this could be avoided if Heterosexuals would stop teaching their boys to behave like assholes.

  • Bill

    Larry @ Post # 6 has just proven my point.

    Larry is one of the assholes I was speaking of. His parents failed him, and he doesn't even know it.

    Larry is a stupid fucking breeder.

  • “Breeding”

    is what sustains the human race. FYI.

  • Larry

    whats that bill? its larry hear again. i cant hear you with that giant tranny cock in your mouth! I hope u live a very unfulfilling life full of drama queen relationships and ending with u dieing of aids on the streets, with a meth needle hanging out your skinny drag queen arm!

  • Hank

    I heard that kid that woke up n gw hospital is Lee.

  • Greg

    I graduated from GW 18 years ago, was active in the gay students' group, and had many friends in fraternities (Kappa Sig especially) who had no problems with me or my friends, even in the late 80s/early 90s. I was glad to see this article linked to the beloved City Paper from TowleRoad.com, and judging by the range of comments, it seems that GW is still pretty much filled/associated with a wide variety of people who are basically live and let live ...

    Except for Larry, who reminds me of the people the campus mobilized against in the fall of 1989 following the last time the NAMES Project Quilt was displayed in its entirety on the mall ... we were called pedophiles for being gay and the student community wouldn't stand for that or for the LGBT community being condemned to death from AIDS based on pure homophobia and hate. As we said at the time, people who think like this are threatened and tortured inside by sexual insecurity and, oddly, an inability to spell correctly.

    Go Colonials!

  • http://www.lemonparty.org larry

    Greg I think i remember you, you were the ass muncher that got caught giving head to the basketball team in the gelman bathroom. have you made the move to san francisco or are u still scraping your knees and walking bowlegged from the black queens in dupont circle?

  • cbc

    This article is stupid and provides nothing new. When I went to GW starting in 01 the president of TKE and the president of Pi Kappa Phi (I think that was it) were dating each other. There is nothing newsworthy here.

  • http://gwu.edu Kyle

    Larry, you're an asshole.

  • Conrad Davis

    Larry,

    You're proving a point. It's not the point you think you're proving.

  • this is stupid

    there is no room for homosexuals in greek life. end of story.

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  • Conrad Davis

    With well supported and reasoned arguments like that, how could anyone disagree?

    Thanks for highlighting greek life's commitment to intellectual excellence!

  • Conrad Davis

    The last comment was snide, but truthfully in my mind there's a very strong correlation between Greek life and the stupid. This article, more than anything I've read in a long while, has changed that opinion.

  • http://www.beastube.com Carl

    I think Larry is forward thinking

  • Karl Hobbs

    I love basketball!

  • Colonial Army

    You suck at basketball!

  • Karl Hobbs

    That's true. Larry, can you play basketball?

  • Robert Loggia

    This is an utterly ludicrous, insipid, waste of time and effort. Whoever believes this is news is not thinking clearly. I do not understand why Beta feels the need to publicize something like this. If they were in such support of diminishing homophobic stereotypes pertaining to Greek Life, why don't they actually concentrate on recruiting high quality individuals? How is this article supposed to make homosexual individuals who are rushing Beta or wherever feel? It was mentioned that homosexuals don't want special attention and just want to be accepted. This article seems counterproductive. If people and fraternities are good matches, then that should be good enough, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, what have you.

    This is trash and I will be writing an additional letter to the editor demanding some sort of compensation for the time I wasted reading this slop and writing this response.

  • Rushchair

    RUSH PIKE!

  • Tom

    Robert,

    It's an interest piece. As someone who lives in the District, it's always interesting to see how local University students and administration are dealing with today's social issues. With that being said, this is most certainly an "interest piece". I don't think they were solicited for some kind of extensive work that was based on them showing off and taking shots at other organizations. I think this was more aimed at showing that fraternal life has certainly taken a turn for the better, and GW is on the forefront of that movement.

    I'm proud of GWU, and I think the fraternal system has been extremely progressive in their efforts to incorporate all students. Contributing negative comments on Beta's behalf because a reporter chose to write an article in her particular style is counter-productive to the efforts of the Greek system - scholarship, service, and friendship. I hope you can see that one organization that provides a positive message on behalf of the Greek community and the university is more of a positive externality, regardless of your social and Greek inclinations.

    Cheers.

  • Mike Joslin

    Nuke all frat houses from space. Not because their homophobic, racist, and misogynistic but because these over privileged chuckle fucks will be the future capitalist CEO's, lawyers, accountants, and government officials of our future.

    oh and ah bloo bloo hoo to anyone here who gets all pissy

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  • Robert Loggia

    Tom:

    Homosexual individual looks to join an organization. Finds he/she and the organization do not match. He/she looks at other organizations until they find the one that is right for them.

    It is really as simple as that. If he/she is a good person and a good fit in an organization, whether or not they are gay/straight/whatever should be irrelevant. That's how it is and that is a message I did not see this article convey.

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  • Greg

    Wow, Larry. You really seem to have the pulse on gay life at GW ... I didn't know the basketball team hung out in the bathrooms in Gelman Library, considering that they play in the Smith Center. Maybe you just play in Gelman and with the black queens in Dupont who, no doubt, would turn you out and upside your head. You're projecting so badly and loudly that it is causing traffic up here in Connecticut. At least you used spell check this time.

  • Lauren

    Robert, unfortunately, there's still a lot of fraternities that would make life hell for a gay member. It's nice to see that Beta doesn't.

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  • Karl Hobbs

    I need more players for my basketball team. Can any of these "black queens" play? Send them to the Smith Center anytime. Damien wouldn't give me the loving that I need, so that would be nice as well.

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