When the Sigma Alpha Epsilon national fraternity announced it was going to ban hazing, it broke a sacred agreement. The deal was that frat members got to throw fun parties, bang hot chicks and grow up to make more money than we non-frat guys by selling the stuff we made. In return, they were required to have horrifying, life-scarring, POW-camp-level homoerotic crimes committed against them during hell week. That way, while they lived with their trophy wives in their trophy McMansions and drove their trophy cars, at least the rest of us knew they had paid for it all with an elephant walk.
SAE is the largest, badassest frat in the nation—it’s 158 years old, its leader is actually called the Eminent Supreme Archon and it’s been nicknamed Sex Above Everything—so if it ends hazing, all the others will soon follow in order to remain competitive during recruitment. This, after all, is the same frat that former Dartmouth chapter member Andrew Lohse writes about in his upcoming memoir, Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy, in which he reveals he baptized dudes in a kiddie pool with cups of his own urine. As well he should have. Sure, I had to spend a whole semester hitting on whatever women happened to live on my dorm hall, while Lohse’s buddies hooked up with a new hottie every weekend, but I didn’t have to go into a single kiddie pool, not even one that enforced a strict no-urine-throwing rule. Also, I received the benefit of learning how to form meaningful long-term relationships. But mostly the not-getting-urine-thrown-on-me thing.
The problem is fraternities are getting rid of the bad parts but not the good parts. In fact, the good parts are getting gooder. Search Google Images for “rush boobs” and you will see hundreds of selfies of women who have taken Sharpies to their T&A to encourage men to join particular fraternities. That’s right: College-educated women, some of whom are reading Simone de Beauvoir, are turning themselves into naked human billboards for fraternities. No woman ever took a Sharpie to her breasts to write TRY OUT TO BE A HUMOR COLUMNIST FOR THE SCHOOL PAPER! This kinder, softer fraternity is unfair, because those of us who are actually kind and soft could never live in a frat house. I’m not good at sports, don’t like the taste of beer, get queasy after three drinks and am so uncomfortable seeing other men naked that I have never showered in my gym. Besides, if I wanted to follow a bunch of arbitrary rules, live with “brothers” I hadn’t chosen and go to formal dances, I would have stayed in high school another year.
In fact, I couldn’t believe frats were still around by the time I got to college. They had been dying since the 1960s, when radicalized students overthrew college dorm curfews, dorm parents, demerits and single-sex floors, thereby eliminating the need to flee to non-college-owned housing for fun. Then Animal House rebranded frats as a rebellion against the rebellion: a reaction to late-night dorm discussions about diversity and having to see girls on your hall go to the bathroom and thereby acknowledge that girls go the bathroom. But at least those late-20th-century fraternity brothers understood that if they wanted to live reactionary lives, they needed to live by all the rules of the past no matter how rough they were. That meant being paddled like a slave, stripping naked in front of their elders like a Greek boy and going face-first down a puke Slip ’N Slide like a Spartan.
After we graduate, we pretend none of these college distinctions matter. We “goddamn independents” grow up to be middle managers who work for our frat overlords. Only two percent of men were in frats, but 85 percent of Fortune 500 executives, 76 percent of members of Congress, 85 percent of Supreme Court justices and all but a few U.S. presidents and vice presidents were in the Greek system. So in order to go to sleep without hating myself for not being as successful as the frat bros, I need to know that all those successful people had to recite the Greek alphabet with a blood alcohol level of 73 while having something up their butt that shouldn’t be up their butt, which is anything other than butt.
In this new post-hazing world all I can feel superior about is that I didn’t live in a house that smelled like ass. That’s not enough compensation for not running a Fortune 500 company. Or for having had a college social life that revolved around dorm activities with such themes as “talking about the dangers of alcohol” and “talking about the dangers of sex” instead of frat parties with the theme “alcohol and sex.”
My only hope to fix this rip in the frat-guy–non-frat-guy agreement is to put this thought into the minds of drunken teenagers in colleges across the country: Maybe if you don’t find a way to evade the national fraternity’s new rule and do weird things to one another’s butts anyway, none of the alumni brothers who run colleges will trust you and let you into the Great Fraternity That Runs the World. And you will have lived with ass smell for nothing. Except that you will have had the sex, parties and rush-boobs thing. Which proves we non-frat guys will never win.