Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Greek traditions enforce sexism, heteronormativity

Spring has sprung. For many, that statement simply means winter is ending and a new season is beginning. For members of Greek Life on our campus, it means something else entirely.

Greek chapters are well known on both Augustana’s campus and on other campuses for implementing pledging practices that may seem strange or even distasteful to those outside the organization. Two such practices that are common to every Greek chapter on our campus definitely fall into this category.

The BTK, or the Bell-Tower Kiss, and Spring Has Sprung are  these two practices.

The BTK is where a sorority pledge’s “big” invites a person, usually a man, to kiss the pledge in the Tredway Library bell tower. Their identity is a surprise to the pledge who will be kissed until after the kiss happens.

For Spring Has Sprung, a fraternity pledge approaches a sorority pledge, gets down on one knee proposal style, and recites:

“Spring has sprung/Fall has fell/Kiss me now/I’m horny as hell.”

The sorority pledge then can accept the kiss, pointing at their cheek instead if desired. If the sorority pledge rejects it, some fraternity pledges are instructed to lick the sorority pledge on the cheek anyway.

These traditions are generally written off as harmless fun, despite the biological hazards posed by being kissed by an anonymous person or worse, licked. But there is an even deeper problem with these traditions that extends beyond just the awkward and unsanitary.

These traditions reinforce the heteronormative standards of romantic relationships, implying that men and women are supposed to be naturally sexually interested in each other.

We no longer live in a world where heterosexuality is the only acceptable option. Reinforcing this tired idea on an institutional level sets up Greek Life as inherently hostile to non-heterosexual people on campus, at least until individual chapters prove otherwise.

Luckily, some sororities allow for the BTK to be bestowed by a friend or a family member, giving it a different kind of meaning, and not every fraternity enforces the licking punishment for pledges who don’t accept the kiss. Yet problems still exist.

In both cases, the woman or the sorority pledge is the passive recipient of a kiss, or worst case scenario, a lick to which she/they did not consent. This reinforces sexist and patriarchal ideas about the role a woman should take in a relationship.

Spring Has Sprung sexually objectifies women, mocking a marriage proposal to satisfy a sexual desire in a public forum.  It normalizes men demanding sexual gratification from women, and in the case of licking a sorority member who has rejected them, fraternity pledges are participating in rape culture.

The lick is a punishment and a violation of physical boundaries for the sorority pledge, and a display of dominance and violence from the fraternity pledge.

Accusations that this is blowing the impacts of the tradition out of proportion are an example of how rape culture works to protect itself. By questioning the validity and relevance of challenges to the behavior, those who participate in it protect themselves from scrutiny and therefore from consequence.

The Spring Has Sprung tradition is not harmless.  It has clear benefits for the actor (the fraternity member) and clear repercussions for the person who has been acted upon (the sorority member), even if the repercussions are temporary.

It sets the stage for future replications of that same behavior, where sexual gratification is demanded as part of a power play, and a punishment is enacted when consent is denied.

These kinds of behaviors and traditions are rapidly becoming unacceptable in a progressive society. Changes are clearly being made on our campus, in some cases, to remedy a few of the issues. Not all chapters are equal participants in the worst of the behavior. Yet not enough is being done.

Augustana is attempting to have a campus conversation about sexual assault, through the increased emphasis on Title IX and the protections the legislation should afford students from sexual assault and harassment.

But are Greek practices such as these being singled out as forces of rape culture perpetuation?

Hopefully, they will be. The Title IX task force and committee are all genuinely dedicated to reducing and ending incidents of sexual assault on campus.

The challenge that is faced now is more a matter of how radical and how thorough these efforts will be when faced by the daunting wall of tradition that guards Greek Life.

A thorough self-inspection by Greek chapters could also be a solution to the issues presented here. Recognizing that a tradition is hurtful and perpetuates violence, sexism and heteronormativity and then changing it without needing to be told would be a true mark of character and maturity from the chapters that will hopefully go that route.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Augustana Observer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Greek traditions enforce sexism, heteronormativity