Why Is Crunkfest Allowed by the Administration?

For those of you don’t know, every spring a group of students hold an event called Crunkfest in the Worth Dorm courtyard. Crunkfest is essentially a lewd, sexual, and very public, adult themed scavenger hunt. Students preform sexual acts of all varieties on each other publicly and some consume illegal drugs openly. This event occurs on school premises and the administration seems to turn a blind eye to it. When you ask Swarthmore students about Crunkfest, the typical response is a chuckle followed by “that’s just Swarthmore”.

One would think that an event like this would be prohibited by an administration that cracked down on Phi-Psi for handing out bids with explicit images of women to their pledge class.  Students expressed outrage that a fraternity would dare to show images of scantily clad women to their new members. While Phi-Psi’s actions were perhaps tasteless, they did not violate any school rules- but they are being punished as if they did. Some people were offended and Phi-Psi is a frat, so Phi-Psi was punished.

Meanwhile, every spring, students gather in front of the Worth dorms to “express their sexuality”. The events that occur at Crunkfest are undoubtedly more offensive than pictures of half naked women. Furthermore, having sex (and doing whatever else they do at this event) in public qualify public indecency. Anyone who happens to pass through Worth courtyard, not to mention anyone who lives in the dorms, are forced to witness the events of Crunkfest. Apparently, because some students can only truly express their sexuality by forcing passing students to watch them do it, the events of Crunkfest are ok. Similarly, students don’t seem to care as long as the actions aren’t associated in any way with a fraternity.

I reached out to Christina Hoff Sommers, a noted scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who is best known for her critique of late-twentieth-century feminist and her writings on feminism in contemporary American culture. On recent events at Swarthmore, Mrs. Sommers commented: “It seems to me that Swarthmore is suffering a serious bout of heterophobia. If you are going to have an “anything goes,” sexually permissive campus, then you must include the sexual preferences of straight young men. And straight young men like pictures of scantily clad women. On too many campuses, heterosexual masculinity is being marginalized and demonized–even criminalized– just as homosexuality once was. Why replace one set of prejudices and with another? What Swarthmore needs is more tolerance–as well as a visit from Miss Manners.”

For those who think this is unfair, just imagine if an event like Crunkfest was organized and sponsored by the fraternities. The ensuing uproar would almost certainly lead to the fraternities being kicked off campus in a matter of days -look at what happened to Phi-Psi for handing out bids with explicit pictures to their pledge class.

It seems that the administration has a clear anti-fraternity prerogative. Students will be allowed to hold parties and events that are explicitly sexual and offensive as long as they aren’t members of a fraternity. Fraternities, however, will be punished if they do anything that offends any group of students – even if they did not break any school rules.

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29 comments

  1. Nat, you’re 100% right about Crunkfest. This event should not be allowed on Swarthmore’s campus.

    This does not excuse the Fraternity’s bids — it is inarguable that they are a symbol of a culture of objectification of women that deserves complication, since women aren’t ‘objects’.

    However, to reiterate, you are 100% right about Crunkfest, which has the unfortunate additional component of problems of consent… the atmosphere causes negative peer pressure to do potentially emotionally scarring things to your body in public basically a huge no-no, yes?

  2. Honest question, as I don’t know a whole lot about either the frats or Crunkfest:
    Have any str8 folks been shamed and harassed at Crunkfest the way some queer folks have at frats?
    As far as I know, the context makes Crunkfest seem less harmful.
    Frats’ history in regards to consent seems to be a bit dodgy as well compared to Crunkfest. You make a good point that maybe Crunkfest “forcing” innocent bystanders to witness public sex acts is a bit dodgy, especially for people who live in Worth, although I guess it wouldn’t be too hard to plan around it, as the time is announced beforehand. Otherwise, I don’t know much about whether there is a culture of consent at Crunkfest. If you know about any sketchy shit that’s happened at Crunkfest in regards to coercion you should definitely make a fuss.
    I know public sex is icky, and I tried to avoid Crunkfest as much as I could last year, but from what I hear some of the stuff going on at the frats behind closed doors and in the bushes is a hell of a lot worse.

    • “I know public sex is icky, and I tried to avoid Crunkfest as much as I could last year, but from what I hear some of the stuff going on at the frats behind closed doors and in the bushes is a hell of a lot worse.”

      Not even close to true. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE.

      • What does this mean?

        I mean at least for me, public, taboo, but consensual sex acts are much less offensive than rape, public or private.

        So when I see people giving each other peanut butter rim jobs in worth courtyard, I’m certainly disgusted. I think Crunkfest could definitely create a hostile environment on campus. That said, I’m lot less disgusted by that than my public rape at a DU event.

    • A lot of students always say that the frats shame and harass queer students. Although this is true, the current members of the fraternity and the sorority are moving their organizations into new directions. These are not the same students that were here three or four years ago. These students that everyone labels as homophobic or rapists happen to be your class mates, your hall mates, your friends, etc. These groups are trying to change their perception to move forward while you are stereotyping them and slandering them.

  3. […] The latest First Amendment fracas began on Oct. 6, when a group of non-Greek students intercepted a copy of Phi Psi’s bid invitations. Notably, most of these students were also involved in last spring’s failed referendum to outlaw Greek life. The invitations in question featured a collage of half-naked women copied from the Internet—risqué, perhaps, but surely protected speech on a campus that annually hosts Genderf**k, masturbatory theater, the Vagina Monologues, and Crunkfest. […]

  4. If you don’t like frat parties, don’t go. Don’t shut them down. If you don’t like crunkfest, don’t go. Don’t shut it down. LOGIC. HOLY SHIT. Stop over-intellectualizing everything Swarthmore, get your heads out of your asses.

      • Peter Parker didn’t say or imply anything about rape. You’ve tried to make him guilty of promoting something he didn’t promote. Your question strikes me as similar to “Have you stopped turning men into success objects? Have you stopped beating your boyfriend?” and other types of *loaded* questions. Try making an actual argument.

  5. “It seems to me that Swarthmore is suffering a serious bout of heterophobia…” What world is this ‘noted scholar’ living in? Have we heard of any chalked death threats to straight men scribbled on campus grounds? Any straight men being thrown out of a frat party or threatened with physical abuse because of his sexual orientation? As far as I am aware, Crunkfest is open to all sexual orientations. The administration’s policy toward Crunkfest cannot be viewed as an effort to “marginalize and demonize” heterosexual masculinity if the event is open to all sexualities.

    If you want to make an argument that frats are being unfairly targeted, please try. But please don’t paint it as an attack on heterosexuality.

    • It’s an attack on male heterosexuality, because the fraternity gets targeted, but a sorority that appeals to women manipulating men or the sorority having a similar collage won’t get anywhere close to the same sort of harsh treatment. “Have we heard of any chalked death threats to straight men scribbled on campus grounds?” There DO exist university teachers like Sally Miller Gearheart, or professors sympathetic to her point of view, that have openly advocated that males should make up less than 20% of the human population. In other words, we’ve heard of *worse* than mere death threats against individuals.

      • Good God.

        1. What in the world makes you think Theta appeals to women manipulating men?
        2. Convince me that a collage of naked men for a sorority bid would not evoke disciplinary action.
        3. Stay on topic. This is about Swarthmore’s campus culture and history. If you are a current member of the community, you would know of the incidents I am referring to. For all I care, I’m sure some fringe feminist sometime somewhere has argued for the eradication of 100% of those who identify as male. It’s not relevant to this article or comment thread.

      • Are you going to pretend now that Swat feminists are allied with Theta? Most of the opposition to Theta’s existence came from feminist groups on campus.

  6. 1. The women in the images are being objectified, and unknowingly. No one in Crunkfest objectifies anyone else.

    2. Crunkfest is not about “expressing your sexuality,” it’s about confronting taboos. I have done Crunkfest twice, and I was completely sober for all of it — it’s not some wild party, it’s a challenge. There’s very little pressure and a lot of stress. Please ask anyone who has ever actually participated (or better, judged).

    • Do you really expect people to sit here and believe that if men got similarly “objectified” by a sorority the university would have even close to a similar reaction to the sorority that they had against the fraternity? Honestly, there’s no way in hell that a sorority would get punished in a similar way.

      • Duh! Of course that would be totally different! Men objectifying women contributes to institutionalized, systemic oppression — that’s why that’s so much worse, because it’s much more harmful. Women objectifying women is still far from ideal, but the hurt it causes is much less. Everywhere in our society, we see reinforced the idea that women’s primary purpose is sexual, that women are useless if they are not at least somewhat pleasing to the eye; a sorority objectifying men would not reinforce the idea that men are only good for sex, because that idea does not exist. You’re right: that would be totally different!

      • “Of course that would be totally different! Men objectifying women contributes to institutionalized, systemic oppression — that’s why that’s so much worse, because it’s much more harmful. Women objectifying women is still far from ideal, but the hurt it causes is much less. Everywhere in our society, we see reinforced the idea that women’s primary purpose is sexual, that women are useless if they are not at least somewhat pleasing to the eye; a sorority objectifying men would not reinforce the idea that men are only good for sex, because that idea does not exist. You’re right: that would be totally different!”

        Women *by and large* don’t suffer from systemic oppression. They make up the majority of the voters with no responsbility to protect or defend a nation. Women have more constitutional power in that they, on average, live longer. Women have more power in that they can get empathy when hurt or suffering more easily than men. Women have a greater power to shame other people than men do. We have a national council on the status of women and girls. We have all sorts of programs like breast cancer awareness month devoted to health of women and girls. We have an a violence against women act, even though most violence happens to men, and domestic violence happens via both sexes in about equal rates. We have shelters for women who suffer from domestic abuse, but few to none for men.

        And actually there exist other forms of “objectification” here. Men DO get “objectified” by women as success “objects”. The harm here, when it has existed, comes as greater, because it often ends up that men end up working longer hours at more stressful jobs detrimental to their health. Sexual “objectification” of women (if legitimate as a concept) does NOT harm their health.

      • It’s sort of like why there’s a women’s history month, and not a men’s. Or why there’s a African-American history month, but no white history month. To be equitable is not always to be equal, because things aren’t equal to begin with.

      • Hi Doug. I’m actually replying to your comment that’s a reply to Maia’s reply, but alas, the website won’t let me nest my comment there.

        So, let’s see: denying eons of sexism, huh?

        This earns you…a piece by piece takedown:

        1. Majority of voters, maybe. However, we recently celebrated women finally making up a record high of 18% of Congress. That is a pretty lousy basis for political power when women make up just over half the population.

        2. Yes, women tend to live longer. But women also tend to run for office later. I mean, look at Nancy Pelosi’s career, or Hillary Clinton’s. Unless you’re a fluke rockstar, it takes years to go through the pipeline and gain the seniority to have any real power in high-level decision-making. A lot of most women’s early adulthood gets really wrapped up in things like uneven child and home care burdens that are pretty tied up in the persistent pay gap.

        3. Thinking that people feel more when women are hurt and that this is a good thing is itself sexist and harmful. It perpetuates the idea that women are weak and so it’s worse to hurt them. What you’re describing is sexism that undermines women’s abilities to, say, get certain kinds of training and promotions in the military, despite some women being ready and able to pursue them. It undermines women as responsible adults, to suggest that they need to be taken care of because they’re weaker.

        4. Sex and how we talk about it is a huge, HUGE part of what we all talk about and write about and sing about as a culture, and don’t you even start to suggest that men are more easily shamed with respect to sex than women are. Look into slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and double-standards, and get back to me. And what, women are angels who can pass moral judgment on others more easily? Check this out, instead (it’s also a good primer on the extremely unequal basis of our country that people have been fighting to right all along): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz5CnCqcMEA

        5. Everything else I’m talking about is the reason why we need a council on women and girls.

        6. Interesting that you don’t think breast cancer research benefits any men. And having anything that merely focuses on women and girls isn’t necessarily good or bad: women and girls are one kind of group of people and have many similar experiences and needs. Sometimes it’s useful to focus on them. Now, if your focus is “yay women and girls because men are always poopy and let’s kill them all in their sleep”, fine, not great, but here’s the thing: the incredibly long history of sexism and oppression heightens the need for particular focus on women and girls.

        7. We already generally ban violence. Domestic violence is a specific problem that requires special attention because of its history of being swept under the rug or considered a man’s right. Oh, and your claim of equal incidence? Haha, nope: “Women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, men for approximately 15%.(Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)”

        8. I think it could be good to offer more services to men who have faced domestic violence, but given the stat above, having vastly more for women just makes sense.

        9. The doozy: objectification. Wow. So, anyone can objectify anyone, and here’s a fun fact: it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! The problem is when it’s the only thing. With women consistently being portrayed as nothing but pleasure objects for men’s gratification, you’d better bet there are dangerous consequences: eating disorders, street harassment, sexual assault, rape, and more!

        As for women generally treating men as “success objects” (is that a thing? what is that thing?): given that women are taught to empathize with others and consider others’ feelings and because of how the overwhelming majority of literature, television, movies, and other entertainment through history teach everyone to consider men as complex subjects, that seems like absolute bullshit. Most stories are from or about men and stories are one of the best ways to learn to understand others as human beings deserving of full consideration and dignity (no really: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy). Women are taught to nurture and listen. Therefore, women on the whole are pretty likely to understand men as total and real people.

        (P.S. Men working longer and harder jobs is another instance of one of your favorite mistakes: that’s not misandry, that’s another byproduct of patriarchy. Men work longer and harder because they tend to make more money and be perceived as better suited to physically challenging jobs. If you’re skeptical of anything but people’s own choices impacting the paygap, see here: http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/graduating-to-a-pay-gap-the-earnings-of-women-and-men-one-year-after-college-graduation.pdf . Also, don’t forget how all the women who worked in factories during WWII and supported the war effort fantastically doing physical labor to build massive amounts of machinery were told to just go home again when the war was over.)

        Generally: in the future, it’s good to think through some logical arguments and maybe looking into some research and evidence before making extremely unaware and baseless claims.

      • Hi Doug. I’m actually replying to your comment that’s a reply to Maia’s reply, but alas, the website won’t let me nest my comment there.

        So, let’s see: denying eons of sexism, huh?

        This earns you…a piece by piece takedown:

        1. Majority of voters, maybe. However, we recently celebrated women finally making up a record high of 18% of Congress. That is a pretty lousy basis for political power when women make up just over half the population.

        2. Yes, women tend to live longer. But women also tend to run for office later. I mean, look at Nancy Pelosi’s career, or Hillary Clinton’s. Unless you’re a fluke rockstar, it takes years to go through the pipeline and gain the seniority to have any real power in high-level decision-making. A lot of most women’s early adulthood gets really wrapped up in things like uneven child and home care burdens that are pretty tied up in the persistent pay gap.

        3. Thinking that people feel more when women are hurt and that this is a good thing is itself sexist and harmful. It perpetuates the idea that women are weak and so it’s worse to hurt them. What you’re describing is sexism that undermines women’s abilities to, say, get certain kinds of training and promotions in the military, despite some women being ready and able to pursue them. It undermines women as responsible adults, to suggest that they need to be taken care of because they’re weaker.

        4. Sex and how we talk about it is a huge, HUGE part of what we all talk about and write about and sing about as a culture, and don’t you even start to suggest that men are more easily shamed with respect to sex than women are. Look into slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and double-standards, and get back to me. And what, women are angels who can pass moral judgment on others more easily? Check this out, instead (it’s also a good primer on the extremely unequal basis of our country that people have been fighting to right all along): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz5CnCqcMEA

        5. Everything else I’m talking about is the reason why we need a council on women and girls.

        6. Interesting that you don’t think breast cancer research benefits any men. And having anything that merely focuses on women and girls isn’t necessarily good or bad: women and girls are one kind of group of people and have many similar experiences and needs. Sometimes it’s useful to focus on them. Now, if your focus is “yay women and girls because men are always poopy and let’s kill them all in their sleep”, fine, not great, but here’s the thing: the incredibly long history of sexism and oppression heightens the need for particular focus on women and girls.

        7. We already generally ban violence. Domestic violence is a specific problem that requires special attention because of its history of being swept under the rug or considered a man’s right. Oh, and your claim of equal incidence? Haha, nope: “Women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, men for approximately 15%.(Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)”

        8. I think it could be good to offer more services to men who have faced domestic violence, but given the stat above, having vastly more for women just makes sense.

        9. The doozy: objectification. Wow. So, anyone can objectify anyone, and here’s a fun fact: it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! The problem is when it’s the only thing. With women consistently being portrayed as nothing but pleasure objects for men’s gratification, you’d better bet there are dangerous consequences: eating disorders, street harassment, sexual assault, rape, and more!

        As for women generally treating men as “success objects” (is that a thing? what is that thing?): given that women are taught to empathize with others and consider others’ feelings and because of how the overwhelming majority of literature, television, movies, and other entertainment through history teach everyone to consider men as complex subjects, that seems like absolute bullshit. Most stories are from or about men and stories are one of the best ways to learn to understand others as human beings deserving of full consideration and dignity (no really: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy). Women are taught to nurture and listen. Therefore, women on the whole are pretty likely to understand men as total and real people.

        (P.S. Men working longer and harder jobs is another instance of one of your favorite mistakes: that’s not misandry, that’s another byproduct of patriarchy. Men work longer and harder because they tend to make more money and be perceived as better suited to physically challenging jobs. If you’re skeptical of anything but people’s own choices impacting the paygap, see here: http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/graduating-to-a-pay-gap-the-earnings-of-women-and-men-one-year-after-college-graduation.pdf . Also, don’t forget how all the women who worked in factories during WWII and supported the war effort fantastically doing physical labor to build massive amounts of machinery were told to just go home again when the war was over.)

        Generally: in the future, it’s good to think through some logical arguments and maybe looking into some research and evidence before making extremely unaware and baseless claims.

    • “No one in Crunkfest objectifies anyone else.”

      Are you sure about that? As far as I can tell, the whole thing is a giant objectification of people. Abuse this drug. Stroke this cock. Wrestle this person naked. It belittles every participant to nothing more than tools of amusement for prior winners and spectators.

      You are running into the same issue as Phi Psi and you don’t even recognize it. Phi Psi believes its they are just guys looking at naked women. You are claiming, as a participant in the activity, that its just people enjoying some risque challenge.

      I’ve participated once in Crunkfest and was a member of Phi Psi that has received one of these bids. To me, you can either say both are okay or both are wrong. The middle ground is hypocritical.

      • I think we might just fundamentally disagree on our perception of the event. To me, Crunkfest is not primarily “entertainment” — there are really only spectators for the opening ceremony and for the Triathlon, and many tasks are completed out of sight of the judges/spectators/anyone else, really. I had the pleasure of interviewing Crunkfest’s founder a few years ago and was rather unsurprised to learn that she intended for it to be a sort of “liminal space” (her words) in which you can temporarily act differently from how you normally might, and when you come back to society and its norms and boundaries, you are in some way changed, and have gained a better understanding of yourself, and what you are or are not capable of. (This sort of thing is actually pretty common in human history — a set time and place where you can break taboos, but then you have to come back to society and obey them again — Twelfth Night in English history, for example.) I experienced Crunkfest as a very personal, internal thing; of course, I can only speak to my experience.

        There is, also, a gender aspect in the Phi Psi bid that does not exist in Crunkfest. Everything operates within a context; in the context of an all-male society within a larger society that has historically oppressed women, objectifying women is particularly damaging. In Crunkfest, there are no such gender boundaries, where only women perform, and only males gaze.

  7. Sorry, just to follow up — it’s not some like hippie free love free-for-all. I can’t imagine the frats, as you hypothesize, ever throwing Crunkfest, because it’s not a party. We do not have an “anything goes” sexual campus. Crunkfest is supposed to be weird, supposed to be at the margins of culture, supposed to be taboo — it’s not like, “oh, here is a normal sexual practice at Swarthmore.”

    Also, that Sommers quote — “On too many campuses, heterosexual masculinity is being marginalized and demonized”? Oh, please. People don’t have an issue with men expressing an interest in women — people have an issue when that interest is humiliating, objectifying, or (sometimes even) violent. That’s it! That’s all! Heterosexual masculinity is alive and well. Look at Genderfuck: somehow, a gender-bending party became “girls wear less.”

    • I suggest you read the book Heterophobia by Daphne Patai. Also, you would do much better to keep in mind that the standard of proof for rape cases on American college campuses has recently got dropped from a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to a “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

      • So? We accept a preponderance of evidence standard for civil cases. Being expelled from a university is much more analogous to being held liable for civil damages than it is to being thrown in jail.

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