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by Mariah Feria

The only brit at the party: An outsider’s view of American frat parties

American College is famous for its Greek Life. In the movies, the iconic Fraternity is often the only thing that is really explored; think Bad Neighbours, American Pie: Beta House, and Goat. We are presented with a fast-paced, raunchy, and often dangerous setting, in which young men play out the final few years of their ‘boy-hood’.

Last school year, I spent a semester at a College in America, one famed for its bustling Greek Life and a so-called ‘party school’. During my time there, I managed to go to a handful of Fraternity parties. Even though I wasn’t part of a sorority, most girls can easily get an invite. I first got invited when I was just getting out of the pool at my dormitory…the guy didn’t even know my name. It definitely helped that I am British too, and hung around with other girls from around Europe. I guess we were kind of exciting to them.

Sadly though, a ‘watch your back’ message was echoed throughout the campus when it came to attending a Frat party. Don’t get too drunk, don’t get left alone with a guy…the kind of thinking that should be reserved for dodgy locations. Here, the drinks were free…but with risk. We’d already been warned to guard our drinks and don’t accept any that are handed to you. This baffled me. We were at a campus Frat party, with likeminded students of similar ages…not a seedy city club!

Who can go to a Frat party varies from college to college. For example, my boyfriend said at his College, he was able to go to Frat parties. However, if he had tried to do that on my Campus, he would have most likely been asked very sternly, to leave. Only guys from that Frat could attend their own parties, whereas whichever girl could go….as long as they bought friends. I remember one time I actually had to pay $5 for a male friend to come in with me, and that was only after we’d managed to convince the ‘leader’ that he was my younger brother visiting from England (he wasn’t). This kind of girl to guy ratio is even enforced at regular house parties. During my first few weeks there, I went to party with four male friends, and two female friends. At the door, the guy looked us over, clearly disappointed that there was one too many guys. Again, we had to lie and say we were all single (we weren’t) in order to get in. We basically had to ensure our bodies were ‘up for grabs’ just to be allowed a few hours of dancing, beer pong, and booze.

The more parties I went to however, it seemed evident that the guys were only after one thing. Their friendly exteriors soon fell flat; I was even told by one guy that he had ‘wasted his time’ talking to me when I said I had a boyfriend. He then angrily stomped away and sulked to his friend, whilst I laughed about it with mine.

Weirdly though, this wasn’t the kind of attitude the American girls had. At a different Frat party, one where I didn’t have the safety net of my female friends, I was taken under the wing of a couple of sorority girls. They were nice enough – sweet, friendly, even if they were just wearing their underwear and an unbuttoned shirt (I’m not joking). However, when one tried to get me to ‘dance’ with one of the Frat guys, I said yet again that I had a boyfriend. She replied, ‘oh that’s fine, so do I’, and continued to grind up against a guy I’m presuming was not her boyfriend. I must admit I sat out the majority of that party in the toilet, and was rather pleased when the police came to shut it down.

It’s a weird kind of dynamic that exists at the American Frat party. Boys are clearly only there for one thing, but oddly enough, the girls like it. In fact, they seem to know and understand this male obsession, and even play to it sometimes. Whilst the Frats may throw interesting themed nights, give out loads of alcohol, and overall host a pretty decent party, I’m certainly glad to be back in the awkward domain of the British club night.