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Ever been a frat boy? Please help me write my novella!
July 12, 2014 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Hi folks. I'm working on a new eBook, a comedy-fantasy novella about a frat boy who is appalled to find himself transformed overnight into a sexy girl. There's just one problem: I don't know jack about frats! I'm trying to research frat life, but I could really use the experience of somebody who has actually been a frat boy, or at least spent enough time in a frat to have some knowledge about them...

The frat in the novella is a total party dump, full of boozy bros. I know this is a stereotype that doesn't reflect all frats, but I thought it was the most entertaining setting for this particular story. Even if you were a member of a more classy frat, your experiences could still be valuable here. Anything might help!

My questions:

How many guys sleep in a room? Would two be unusual? Can two guys who are already friends become roommates at a frat, or do you not get a choice about roomies?

I'm trying to set up a scenario where two guys are roommates, but they have some place where they can get away from each other. If you have a roommate, are your beds always right next to each other in one room? Do the rooms ever have partitions or alcoves to give you some relative privacy? Does a "unit" ever have more than one bedroom?

What about bathrooms? Would it be more realistic for frat roomies to have their own bathroom, or just a communal one down the hall?

How frequent would the parties be, in a real party frat?

For a while my transformed frat boy pretends to be his roommate's girlfriend, so he can stay at the frat. I've read that girlfriends sometimes stay at frats, but I'm wondering how rare it is and how the other guys might react.

Any opinions about how far I can go with the bro culture? If I depict most (but not all) of these guys as homophobic, sexist jock creeps, is that just too much? Or in your experience, are some frats really gross like that?

I've read that meals are often provided in a dining hall. Does this reflect your experience?

Finally, what am I leaving out? What is the stuff that NEEDS to be there, to reflect life in a real frat?

Really looking forward to your comments!
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I dated a couple of guys who belonged to run-down, trashy, booze-driven frats. Definitely not your classier type of frat. These were the kind of frats that, rather than having a big brick house that had been built as a dedicated frat, were in big old homes that had been converted. One of the guys I went out with had graduated but made special arrangements to keep living in the frat house, which I think says something about him and about the culture of the frat.

My observations: There was definitely roommate choice. The rooms, though, were mostly like regular house bedrooms, with no private spaces. Bathrooms were communal and down the hall, with multiple toilet stalls, showers, and sinks. The furniture was eclectic and run down.

Nobody thought anything of girls being there overnight or whatever. For the most part, guys I ran into in the hall or the bathroom didn't chat; they might say hello. They might, rarely, ask who I was with, or, if they knew who I was with, ask whether I knew if the roommate was home, for instance.

Beds were bunks or lofts. A loft was considered sufficient privacy for sex and sleepovers; more than once, I was with my date in his loft while his roommate was with a girl in his (so sleazy, I know. The young are so uncivilized).

It was pretty common for other guys to walk into bedrooms without knocking, looking for somebody. More than once I had conversations with a frat brother of my date while half-naked, because my date had gone out to use the bathroom or get something to eat or drink and someone had come into the room looking for him.

Some frats had kitchens, cooks, and dining rooms, but not all. I dated one guy whose frat dined with another frat at their house.

One of the most striking things to me was that these guys were really sweet and decent and affectionate one-on-one, but tended to devolve when in a group. Get around four or five brothers, and they'd get stand-off-ish, stop being affectionate, start making with the sexist and homophobic jokes. It was like they were all really nice guys, deep down, but somehow this was a secret for each and every one of them, and so they were all pretending for each other's benefit. Or something. It was this dual nature that really soured me on dating frat boys.

One caveat was that this was at a college with a huge drinking culture and almost no other social options on weekends. I also attended a college with much less of the culture of drinking to excess, being assholes, and having a lot of sex with people whose names you don't know, but I didn't date any fraternity members there so can't speak to the differences.
posted by not that girl at 9:44 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


I imagine this will vary wildly depending on the school, but I'll answer from my perspective as a sorority member and girlfriend of frat president at a very small east coast liberal arts school that had off-campus frat houses owned by the fraternities:

1. Two guys in a room normally, but officers of the chapter (pres, vice pres, etc.) got to have singles
2. No privacy in double rooms, just two beds, two desks, two closets
3. Communal bathroom with stalls and urinals, one per floor
4. Parties with a formal theme and a sorority partner (known as mixers), like heaven & hell, eggs & kegs, crush party, etc. would happen about once a month. Regular keg parties every weekend. Drinking every night.
5. It was common for girlfriends to stay over a lot if the brother had a single room. It wasn't particularly frowned upon by anyone as far as I know. Hookups also happened frequently of course, and there was more of a "walk of shame" aspect to that.
6. In my experience there were many gay brothers and brothers of different ethnicities, and there was not a lot of homophobia/racism THAT I SAW (huge caveat there probably). Sexism definitely existed but not like in the movies...the occasional slut/whore comment (again THAT I SAW/HEARD, it was probably worse behind closed doors).
7. Meals were almost always in the cafeteria, but the houses did have (filthy) kitchens with microwaves for ramen and mac & cheese.
8. A pool table in the basement/common room seems to be a frat house requirement. Empty kegs always hanging around waiting to be returned. Composites going back decades on the walls. Paddles everywhere. Floors in common areas always sticky. The pervasive smell of stale beer. Front lawn littered with beer cans in the morning before the pledges clean up.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:48 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Also: because of the types of houses frats were in at my college, parties were held in the basements, which were just crappy basements. But when visiting a friend at another school, I went to a party at a fraternity that had a built-to-order house with a big, nice social hall for parties. Both the frat and the sorority my friend belonged to dressed better for this party, and although there was some drinking, there was also more conversing and socializing. Eventually, people moved off in smaller groups to bars and apartments, where the really heavy drinking commenced. At the college I went to, the heavy drinking started immediately and there was little to no effort to even pretend that there was any point other than getting really drunk and finding someone to have sex with. So, that's a glimpse into the differences between cultures at different schools.
posted by not that girl at 9:48 AM on July 12


I am currently living across the street from three or four frat houses. From an outsider's perspective, a defining feature is "Playing music so loud that it sounds like it's coming from inside your own building even though you're a few hundred feet away." Also: having volley ball nets set up in front of their house. One frat actually replaced the grass with sand.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:53 AM on July 12


I can tell you how it worked when I was familiar with frats -- I wend to a college with a big Greek scene and was in a sorority, so we spent a lot of time in fraternity houses and also our house wasn't open in the summer so I rented rooms in various frat houses for my college summers.

Answers will be regional, but this was for a huge northeastern state school that was famed as a party campus, with a well-entrenched on-campus Greek house system.

1. How many guys sleep in a room? Would two be unusual? Can two guys who are already friends become roommates at a frat, or do you not get a choice about roomies?

1 - 4, and everyone chooses. They are frat brothers, they all know each other.

2. If you have a roommate, are your beds always right next to each other in one room? Do the rooms ever have partitions or alcoves to give you some relative privacy? Does a "unit" ever have more than one bedroom?

In the houses I knew, guys would build lofts, hang curtains, etc. Rooms were usually a good size, bigger than dorm rooms. Houses also had a couple of living rooms and a study lounge, so there was some privacy in the room and outside it, too.

3. What about bathrooms? Would it be more realistic for frat roomies to have their own bathroom, or just a communal one down the hall?

Communal. There would be one or two single rooms with their own bathroom, usually reserved for seniors and usually senior house officers had dibs.

4. How frequent would the parties be, in a real party frat?

Every weekend, often both Friday and Saturday, except during exams. Formals quarterly.

5. For a while my transformed frat boy pretends to be his roommate's girlfriend, so he can stay at the frat. I've read that girlfriends sometimes stay at frats, but I'm wondering how rare it is and how the other guys might react.

In my experience, it's rare enough. If you have a GF from another school, a weekend stay over or maybe a week over spring break would be fine, but more than that would start causing issues.

6. Any opinions about how far I can go with the bro culture? If I depict most (but not all) of these guys as homophobic, sexist jock creeps, is that just too much? Or in your experience, are some frats really gross like that?

That's a stereotype. Do you really want to write stereotypes? Also note that different frats within a campus will have different personalities; my campus had a house where all the hockey players pledged, another for lacross players, a predominantly Jewish frat, a house where they were all going to be bankers and lawyers so academics were emphasised, etc. There was also a house (I'm looking at you, SAE) where the guys were all stunningly gorgeous lacross players and swimmers, only dated girls from particular houses, and were infamous for being date rapists. There was at least one gang rape incident at that house when I was an undergrad. The victim was a girl on my hall and it was awful.

The guys at the house I spent most of my time in were not assholes, were not scary sexist, and were not stereotyped jocks although there were certainly varsity players. I hung out with black guys, white guys, a couple of bi guys, and at least one beloved brother everyone knew was gay but wasn't out yet. The unspoken rule was that it was girls only for hookups in the house, though. I would not have spent my summers there had I not felt safe.

Empty kegs always hanging around waiting to be returned. Composites going back decades on the walls. Paddles everywhere. Floors in common areas always sticky. The pervasive smell of stale beer. Front lawn littered with beer cans in the morning before the pledges clean up.

To that I would add: naked bar slides. Keg stands. "Frat shoes" that lived on your dorm room window ledge because the basement party room was sticky and could have standing swill; you never wore them except for frat parties. Security on the door for weekend parties and a lot of fake ID. Pledges who did a lot of scavenger hunts and were always coming to us for our knickers (bonus points for signed). And also sweet things like serenades, pinning ceremonies, and getting to wear your boyfriend's frat letters (which was a big deal.)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:59 AM on July 12


I dated a guy who lived in a frat my senior year and just wanted to share one data point: many frats declare one bathroom (typically a single) the "girls bathroom" and go out of their way to keep it semi-decent. The other bathrooms were not off limits to me, but they were typically foul, as they were only cleaned twice a week.

Also, I liked my boyfriend's frat brothers. I still like 'em. No homophobia or slut-shaming that I witnessed. Most of the guys were pretty courteous to me, possibly on the off-chance that I might introduce them to my girlfriends later on, but most likely because they are real people who don't have an underlying need to be mean.
posted by samthemander at 10:09 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


The frat I was in was a co-ed, mostly-dry breakaway, so my personal experiences are probably unuseful and atypical.

But of possible interest specifically to your story conceit: transsexual brothers of fraternities (both MtF and FtM) have totally been a thing that has happened, and in a perhaps surprisingly encouraging number of cases, the fraternity has been supportive and helpful. Of particular interest, perhaps, are the story of Donnie Collins, a brother at the Emerson College chapter of Phi AT, whose surgery was sponsored by his brothers, or this recent Dr. Nerdlove post in which social/sexual dynamics of MtF brothers are discussed.

Of course, your scenario is presumably nonvoluntary, sudden, and undesired, and I imagine your proposed frat is a lot less socially progressive than these examples (I have no doubt there are frats out there which deal very badly with transgender brothers), so there's a significant difference here, but if the outside world connects in to your story, then there might be stories like this, say, being shared by other members of the IFC.
posted by jackbishop at 10:15 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


There's a subreddit for fraternities, believe it or not. Might be worth posing some of these questions to them.

It might be useful for you to research online -- or take a road trip -- to see what actual frat houses in the region where your story is set really look like. In my experience they are literally houses, with a finite number of bedrooms. Which are the kind of bedrooms you usually find in houses. They're big houses with a lot of rooms, and maybe big rooms. But at the end of the day, they're not apartment complexes or dormitories or Oxbridge colleges*. They're literal houses. I've driven past USC's fraternity/sorority row before and even at a huge private school in a city known for big elaborate houses, they're just houses.

Keep in mind that A LOT of fraternity members, especially at large universities or universities in urban areas, do not ever live in a frat house. My brother was Lambda Chi at a big state U and only spent maybe a year living in their frat house. And he was one of the dudes who was really active and his whole social circle revolved around Greek life.

Nthing what others above have said about frat guys being good people one on one, but devolving into an icky group mentality. Also, as the sibling of someone who rushed a pretty traditional frat at a traditional big state U school in the south, people who are involved in greek life tend to be (heavy on the TEND) pretty traditional and small c conservative in outlook, and greek life can be a bit of a bubble in terms of being exposed to people who are different from you. I would definitely buy a frat member calling someone a t____y, to name one example that is probably close to your subject matter.

Also Nthing that different frats have different personalities. Hell, I went to a non-traditional urban commuter school which had exactly one fraternity, and it was co-ed! I've also met a lot of people, as an adult, who turn out to have been members of super-traditional/stereotypical greek organizations, who are absolutely nothing like the stereotype at all. Including one person I've known since before college, who I never in a million years would have guessed would go on to be a Tri-Delt of all things. And who emerged from that as someone who I still would never guess was a Tri-Delt of all things. People contain multitudes.

It might be helpful in your research to watch a show like ABC Family's Greek, in order to see how other writers are dealing with the tropes of frat culture without just writing a bunch of boring cliches.

*Unless, of course, they are in the area where your story is set. Because as is already evident from the answers upthread, this is something that really varies.
posted by Sara C. at 10:25 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


How many guys sleep in a room?
We had rooms of varying size, from a single occupant up to six occupants.
Would two be unusual?
We had no rooms that were literally two, but we had rooms that were one, and rooms that were three. I would imagine that two is not unusual.
Can two guys who are already friends become roommates at a frat, or do you not get a choice about roomies?
You get a choice, but it might not be 100% your choice. If I remember correctly, anyone who lived in any given room (other than the single-occupant rooms) the year before had the right to choose to stay in that room. After that, all the seniors got to choose (in a random order, I think), then the juniors, and so forth. So you mostly had a choice, except: (1) When it came your turn to choose, it's possible that the room you want would already be fully occupied; (2) If you have already chosen, and your room is not yet fully occupied, you don't have a choice as to who else might choose to be your roommate. However, there's no reason why, after everyone has chosen, people couldn't trade if they wanted to.
If you have a roommate, are your beds always right next to each other in one room?
No. There were some rooms with bunk beds, some rooms with beds on opposite ends of the room, some rooms with beds lining one wall, some rooms with big lofts that contained several mattresses, etc. It was a wide variety of layouts.
Do the rooms ever have partitions or alcoves to give you some relative privacy?
Yes. Not always, but yes.
Does a "unit" ever have more than one bedroom?
Yes. Most of the larger "rooms" (5 or 6 people) were sectioned off into sub-rooms; typically it would be like (1) "the entry room", which has desks and chairs for a few of the occupants; (2) a small literal "bedroom" off of it for 2-3 people that basically just has beds and dressers; (3) a larger "inner room" with the desks and chairs for the others plus common space like couches and coffee tables; (4) another small literal bedroom off of that for the remaining occupants.

The smaller rooms (1-4 people) were each a single literal room, except for one which had a very small "semi-single" off of the main room which basically just held a bed, desk and chair.
What about bathrooms? Would it be more realistic for frat roomies to have their own bathroom, or just a communal one down the hall?
Communal. We had an average of one bathroom per eight occupants.
How frequent would the parties be, in a real party frat?
I don't think we were a "real party frat" (certainly not in the Animal House sense). Maybe once a month for a real large party where basically the whole campus is invited, plus a few times a month for smaller more personal parties (i.e. brothers and their friends), plus... a lot of impromptu spur-of-the-moment tiny parties.
For a while my transformed frat boy pretends to be his roommate's girlfriend, so he can stay at the frat. I've read that girlfriends sometimes stay at frats, but I'm wondering how rare it is and how the other guys might react.
Not rare. Other guys would react as if it were completely normal.
Any opinions about how far I can go with the bro culture? If I depict most (but not all) of these guys as homophobic, sexist jock creeps, is that just too much? Or in your experience, are some frats really gross like that?
I'm sure there are horrible fraternities out there, but there seems to me to be a popular perception of fraternities being CRAZY EVIL MISOGYNY RAPETOWN that... does not comport with my personal experience to any degree. If I read your piece with WOO BRO YO I'M A CREEPY HOMOPHOBIC SEXIST JOCK CREEP WOO PAR-TAYYYYYYY, I would roll my eyes.
I've read that meals are often provided in a dining hall. Does this reflect your experience?
We had a large room that doubled as a dining room and entertainment room (e.g. pool, ping pong, stereo system, dance floor, etc.).
posted by Flunkie at 10:35 AM on July 12


Of particular interest, perhaps, are the story of Donnie Collins, a brother at the Emerson College chapter of Phi AT

I went to Emerson, and one thing I'll say about it is that the greek culture there is really, really different from other schools, for Reasons.
posted by Sara C. at 10:36 AM on July 12


Since Jack Bishop brought trans frat brothers up, the nonfiction writing series DORM LIFE by Mikey on Original Plumbing may interest you.

A college student blogging anonymously about his life as a trans man living stealth in the dorms while pledging a fraternity.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:42 AM on July 12


Here's another point of view from a large Midwestern state school with a heavy emphasis on the Greek System.

A fraternity/sorority is called a "house." "What house is he in?" And the actual houses we lived in were large. Most held 80-100 people. There is a house mom, a nice dining room, formal rooms, a library, etc.

As for sleeping arrangements most were split into 2 or 3 very large rooms on the top floor of the house. A "cold" dorm and a "warm" dorm. Rows of bunk beds in the rooms that were essentially quiet zones. No alarms, no lights. A pledge woke us up.

Also everyone shared a room (suite) where they kept their books, clothes, and usually a couch to crash on or to entertain on. Typically girls slept in the suite and not in the cold/warm dorms.

I can go on for days but I'll stop now.
posted by Lil Bit of Pepper at 10:46 AM on July 12


Also people in the Greek System rarely called fraternities frats. There is a lewd saying about doing so that equates it to calling your country a ...
posted by Lil Bit of Pepper at 10:49 AM on July 12


Mr. Meat was in an undergrad frat. I met him at a frat party. I went to a different school. This is my perspective.

The house used to be a brothel, and it was converted, and it was a huge awesome southern house. Every two rooms or so had a bathroom. The number of guys per room varied based on the number of guys who wanted to live in a house. Rooms/roommates were decided by ritual order. Mr. Meat had a huge single when we met, with a private bathroom that also belong to the tube room. He kept it as clean as you could, but I still wouldn't shower without flip flops.

One woman lived in the house during a summer. One alum whose job is very mobile lives in the house on occasion now, but his room has a private entrance, kitchen, and bathroom.

I like the brothers. They were nice to me, they're still nice to me, they'd have conversations with me when I showed up to the house for the weekend, they know my name. I will let frat boys stay at my house anytime - they are the best houseguests.

They had a kitchen downstairs that was disgusting. Apparently they used to have a chef, but that went by the wayside, and each guy was on his own for food. Some had meal plans, some didn't.

There is a pretty active group of alumni from his frat, and they get together every other summer or so to go backpacking.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:59 AM on July 12


After reading some of the other answers here, I'd like to add a small clarification to my own answers:

Some of the people who answered that bathrooms were communal added that they had multiple stalls, urinals, and so forth. I also said "communal", but I didn't mean in that sense. I meant "as opposed to each room having a bathroom". They were just, like, normal bathrooms in a normal house, not like some sort of multi-stalled restroom you'd find in a dorm or a restaurant or whatever. Sara C.'s comment that they're "literal houses" and "not apartment complexes or dormitories or Oxbridge colleges" is spot on in my experience.
posted by Flunkie at 11:01 AM on July 12


My brother lived in one of those regular houses with a bunch of his frat friends. Details: the front door didn't even have a lock anymore and was hanging open half of the time, the bathroom had a big hole in the wall where a party-goer had punched it while drunk, the table on the front porch was sticky and had a massive and full ashtray (like the size of a dinner plate, at least 2" deep), and out back a ping pong table for playing "beer pong" stood in unmowed (like 14" high) grass.
posted by slidell at 11:01 AM on July 12


I was not in a fraternity but knew a couple of guys who were, and I went to a couple of frat parties very early on in my freshman year (when they would all have big blow-outs to try and attract new pledges.)

My school was a little different than some in that the campus was on a big isolated property in the suburbs, so there was no off-campus fraternity row of old converted mansions or purpose-built frat houses; Fraternities were housed in what amounted to semi-private dormitory buildings right alongside the residential quads. Every one I visited was pretty gross; the furniture was always grubby and/or torn, and even if they weren't cluttered with the sterotypical empty pizza boxes and beercans, they always smelled vaguely of stale beer, puke and feet.

I'm pretty sure they had the same "one communal bathroom per floor per wing" layout as the rest of the dorm buildings, and being on campus like everyone else, most members probably had dining hall meal plans. I think each house might have had a kitchenette and fridge, but can't remember with any real clarity.

I had never really thought about it before, but I agree that most fraternity brothers were good guys one-on-one, but would lapse into gross dudebro behavior when assembled in packs.
posted by usonian at 11:37 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I was in a fraternity. (Fraternity, not frat just as country not...) We were somewhat of the animal house. Most rooms were doubles. As rush chairman (damn glad to meet you) I had a single. My girlfriend stayed over occasionally, but not often. That was more her choice as the place was a dump. I had to wear a pair of old chucks in the shower to avoid the broken bottles. Also, the bathrooms were only cleaned once a week and the supply of TP was only addressed ad hoc so whenever I had the chance to use a bathroom in a classroom building or a dorm that had some privacy, I did. Even with my single, I would say that that year was a year of little to no privacy.

We had parties almost every weekend. There were some official party weekends, like Easters, Openings, Homecoming, Mid-Winters, etc. On those weekends, we had a band on both Friday and Saturday night. We would also have six or seven kegs in the basement for those who were parched and wanted to quench their thirst with an adult beverage. During rush, we had parties 2-3x per week usually one with a local band. Included in my rush budget was enough cash to take potential pledges, rushees, and a bunch of brothers out to local bars for several rounds of drinks, several nights a week. Almost always we ended up back at the house in the chapter room watching sports on TV and some were doing bong hits.

With respect to the bathroom and my girlfriend, she would go to the communal bathroom and use one of two stalls. Everyone sort of knew her so they respected her privacy. If, god forbid, she needed to shower at the house, she would put a sign on the door and would take a quick shower. She lived on the other side of grounds, so a lot of my friends would stop by her place after classes either looking for me, her or a cold beer with one of her roommates.

We had several formal parties that were invitation only and we had frequent mixers with sororities. We also would head down the road to some all girls schools like Sweat Briar and have mixers with them. Those rarely ended well. 30 guys piled in the back of a U-Haul drinking for an hour on the way is not conducive to stimulating conversation.

We had both a cook who cooked two meals a day five days a week (also brunch on Saturday) and a "house man", a retired gentleman who would clean the house and do handy man work such as replace broken panes of glass from our last party. The cook was a fixture in the house and was like a mother to many of us. She had once been the private cook for "that crazy Kennedy boy" (Ted) who "used to entertain his lady friends at all hours of the night", so she was never surprised by or overwhelmed by whatever havoc we created. She did like her bourbon though and that may have been a bonding experience with some of us.

Fwiw, I got my best grades the year I lived in the fraternity house. It forced me to go to the library and get my work done in the afternoons and early evenings before the card playing, drinking and smoking began. I got my worst grades living in the old dorms.

As for getting away from your roommate, I thought it was pretty much like being in a dorm in that if you had a guest, you might leave an indication on your door that suggested your roommate sleep on the couch in one of the other rooms. Of course, there were some rooms where both residents entertained guests simultaneously. If I wanted to proactively get away from my roommate for privacy, I would go to the chapter room or down to the basement dining room and hang there.

As for bro culture, I think the stereotype is overblown. Very few were homophobic. A lot were into sports and drinking. Sexist? Maybe, but I think that would be collectively, but if anyone was talked to alone you would find a genuinely nice person who respected women (and men). I can only view it from my girlfriend's perspective and she felt they all (except BoBo) treated her with respect. We would sometimes walk into a crowded room where all the seats were taken and several guys were offer her a seat. Except for secret fraternity stuff, she was treated as an equal right down to the rule about having to take a shot of tequila whenever one of us shot the moon in hearts or whenever the opposing football team scored a touchdown.

I don't think there is a generic experience throughout the country, but I do think there are several generic themes. I went to a sort of southern state university and I imagine there were similar houses to ours at all of the ones in our area. I know on grounds, we competed with two or three other houses for the same type of pledge.
posted by 724A at 12:21 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Ah yeah, studying at the library -- that was a theme I picked up on from my brother as well. In fact, there was a bit of peer pressure to be responsible about grades among his group, from what I saw at least.
posted by slidell at 12:35 PM on July 12


there was a bit of peer pressure to be responsible about grades among his group, from what I saw at least.

I don't know if things have changed, if it was chapter specific or maybe a national thing, but all of the fraternities I am familiar with had a GPA minimum. Nationally, SigEp has a 3.13 average among all members.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:32 PM on July 12


Pledges can sleep communally in a big room. Full members typically have two to a room. Communal bathrooms.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:20 PM on July 12


I lived in an Emerson dorm during the 90-91 year. Some fraternities ( none of which their own house)had gay members, but there was a huge flap when the members of one went around singing "All the girls say 'yay' because they know we're not gay!".
posted by brujita at 3:55 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I raised my kids in a college town and they used to sneak into frat parties when they were 15 or so.

I worked with local youthful offenders and one of the most obnoxious ones I met was a frat boy who got dumped by a girl. When she took up with another guy some time later the frat boy trashed the new boyfriends very fancy car with a tire iron.

Another frat boy decided to sneak into an enemy frat by climbing up on the roof and going down the chimney. The story did not end well.
posted by mareli at 4:44 PM on July 12


How many guys sleep in a room? Would two be unusual? Can two guys who are already friends become roommates at a frat, or do you not get a choice about roomies?
Two, generally. There were a few singles for upperclassmen/chapter officers who lived in the house.

I'm trying to set up a scenario where two guys are roommates, but they have some place where they can get away from each other. If you have a roommate, are your beds always right next to each other in one room? Do the rooms ever have partitions or alcoves to give you some relative privacy? Does a "unit" ever have more than one bedroom?

Beds were generally lofted and right across from one another, at the same height. As in the dorms, you could kick your roomie out for private time with lady friends etc, but no real privacy to speak of otherwise.

What about bathrooms? Would it be more realistic for frat roomies to have their own bathroom, or just a communal one down the hall?

One pretty big bathroom on each floor of the house. Communal showers and toilets. For people in the Greek system, by the way, "fraternity," not "frat," is the preferred nomenclature.

How frequent would the parties be, in a real party frat?

The house I was in was definitely not on the wilder end of the spectrum -- maybe somewhere in the middle, party-wise. We had parties once a month or so with sorority mixers in between. Other houses might have had public parties somewhat more frequently, maybe once every couple weeks.

For a while my transformed frat boy pretends to be his roommate's girlfriend, so he can stay at the frat. I've read that girlfriends sometimes stay at frats, but I'm wondering how rare it is and how the other guys might react.

It wasn't uncommon, but really, if a girl has her own apartment they're generally going to be staying there and not at the fraternity house. Because fraternity houses are gross at the best of times. Generally when somebody got a steady girlfriend we'd see him a lot less often around the house.

Any opinions about how far I can go with the bro culture? If I depict most (but not all) of these guys as homophobic, sexist jock creeps, is that just too much? Or in your experience, are some frats really gross like that?

Really not my experience at all. Beware of stereotyping people based solely on their affiliations.

I've read that meals are often provided in a dining hall. Does this reflect your experience?

For a couple of the years I belonged, there was a matronly older black woman who was employed full time to cook for the brothers in the house. Everybody would sit together at tables in the big common area to eat a communal dinner. This is not an uncommon setup.

Finally, what am I leaving out? What is the stuff that NEEDS to be there, to reflect life in a real frat?

Uhhh, there's always a foosball table and usually a pool table. We had a half-court basketball court that saw very frequent use. People tend to be pretty serious about foosball and competitive sports in general. There would need to be some stuff in the story referencing rush and pledging, since those are some pretty major parts of the yearly cycle of fraternities. A lot of energy and time went into rush planning and rush itself, and then when there were pledges they were frequently at the house doing mildly-demeaning pledge stuff, most frequently cleaning up after parties. There was a house meeting once a week that most all the active brothers attended, and which was run according to parliamentary procedure. I think this is pretty typical across fraternities.
posted by killdevil at 5:11 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I have lots of friends that were frat boys. Although they all outgrew it, for the couple of years after graduating, they were still somewhat concerned with pack order and impressing their bros. not so much showing off, more like being concerned about their buddies' opinions & keeping up with the Jones. Much more so than non-frat friends were.
posted by Neekee at 5:11 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I lived in a frat in college. It was co-ed (I'm a woman). It wasn't your typical frat as you might imagine, but maybe there is some info here you can use...

How many guys sleep in a room? Would two be unusual? Can two guys who are already friends become roommates at a frat, or do you not get a choice about roomies?

- We had a lottery process to get a room for the following year, and the more seniority you had, the higher up you were in the lottery. I had a single room both years I lived in the frat. Most people did, but a few doubled up in bigger rooms. Usually the doubles were new members who didn't usually know each other or couples.

If you have a roommate, are your beds always right next to each other in one room? Do the rooms ever have partitions or alcoves to give you some relative privacy? Does a "unit" ever have more than one bedroom?


People would always move furniture around. Some people would build lofts for their beds, other times they just had mattresses on the floor and would throw the bedframe against the wall. Pretty sure that in our frat it was just one huge room, not separate bedrooms.

What about bathrooms? Would it be more realistic for frat roomies to have their own bathroom, or just a communal one down the hall?

In my frat, we had a communal bathroom and a separate communal shower upstairs. We also had some basement rooms also with communal bath and shower. There was *one* room with its own toilet and sink. I scored that room for my senior year!

How frequent would the parties be, in a real party frat?


Just about every weekend we had at least one party. Two or three massive events, the others were like dance parties with DJs or some punk band would play. The dance parties made us a LOT of money. Occasionally we would have a national act perform. All the members were expected to work security during the parties.

For a while my transformed frat boy pretends to be his roommate's girlfriend, so he can stay at the frat. I've read that girlfriends sometimes stay at frats, but I'm wondering how rare it is and how the other guys might react.

Any opinions about how far I can go with the bro culture? If I depict most (but not all) of these guys as homophobic, sexist jock creeps, is that just too much? Or in your experience, are some frats really gross like that?


We were really atypical as a frat, as mentioned earlier. This was at a super liberal school, too. We did have a more stereotypical "bro" frat down the street, but I never remember any creepy stuff happening with them.

My frat was just gross in terms of drug use, to be honest. It was the early/mid 90s and there was a LOT of heroin use going on in the house when I lived there.


I've read that meals are often provided in a dining hall. Does this reflect your experience?


Many frats have their own cook/dining service but we didn't. We had a kitchen in the house but it had been condemned in the 80s. None of us went to the dining hall for meals, since that was about 1000 miles away from the house. We either cooked in our rooms or got endless pizzas from the crappy on-campus pizza restaurant.


Finally, what am I leaving out? What is the stuff that NEEDS to be there, to reflect life in a real frat?



I just remember so much crazy behavior. People running through the halls screaming at 3AM on a Tuesday (again, drugs). A guy who never left the house during the day since he was afraid of sunlight (I don't think he even went there, he just lived with us). We had a trampoline in our attic common room.....just because. We had approximately 100000 nasty-ass couches lying around that all reeked of stale beer. And that faint odor of vomit in the downstairs bathroom that never went away...
posted by medeine at 1:03 PM on July 13


This site has video tours of several of the fraternity and sorority houses at Indiana University. (Greek life is very active at IU and the houses are huge.) From these you should get some good ideas as to the physical layout of the house.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:22 PM on July 13


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