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The Rape Prone Culture of Academic Contexts: Fraternities and Athletics

About two decades ago, feminist sociologists stopped focusing on rape and sexual assault even though rapes and their destructive toll on girls and women did not end. Rape did not diminish appreciably and neither did the legal justice system dramatically improve its treatment of victims. Perhaps this is why 80 percent of women college students and 67 percent of non- college women fail to report being raped to the police (Langton and Siznocich 2014, citing National Crime Survey data). We now know that the great majority of rapes in the united States—about 80 percent—are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, not by a stranger who jumps out of the bushes. This pattern suggests that rape often is not a random event but, in many cases, a planned one. While some men are more apt than others to commit rape, some social contexts also are more amenable to rapes. Two such contexts that inhabit u.S. academic institutions—men’s social fraternities and athletic programs—are the focus of this essay. These contexts can be understood only within the wider parent institution—the contemporary college or university (Stotzer and MacCartney 2015). Thus, the qualities and dynamics of multiple contexts must be addressed.