A Cornell fraternity has been placed on probation after its members conducted a contest they called a “pig roast,” in which men competed to sleep with women they consider overweight.
The university launched an investigation into the fraternity Zeta Beta Tau after multiple reports of the game. According to the student newspaper, the fraternity said the games were not “chapter sanctioned activities nor ones that brothers were aware of.”
The fraternity will be on probation for two years, during which it will have to hire a live-in adviser and participate in education related to sexual violence.
The actions attributed to the men describe a practice often rumored to occur in university settings. The behavior, which has also been described as hogging, aims to humiliate and demean women these men consider undesirable.
It’s unclear how widespread the practice actually is, though many men describe similar behavior in online discussions related to fraternities and sex on universities. Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Jeannine A. Gailey, a sociology associate professor at Texas Christian University, interviewed college men about the practice for a study published in 2006 in the journal Deviant Behavior.* “None of the men we interviewed admitted to engaging in the practice, but all but two knew what hogging was,” she wrote. “In fact, we never even used the term. We simply asked them whether they had ever heard of a practice where men try to pick up women they deem fat or unattractive as part of a bet or for sex, and they responded, ‘Yeah, hogging.’ ”
The students we interviewed talked about their friends or fraternity brothers giving prizes to the guy who had sex with the fattest woman, in addition to multiple ways in which their friends humiliated the women with whom they had sex. These encounters almost always involved alcohol and began at parties or bars. They talked about taking large women to their car for oral sex and then kicking them out, calling them derogatory names …
Why are women of size the targets of hogging — arguably, a form of sexual assault? The answer seems to lie in two basic assumptions, both of which encompass a larger societal phenomenon of fatphobia (the hatred of persons of size): 1) women of size are “easy” and “desperate,” and 2) women of size are viewed as deviant and even deserving of mistreatment.
Regardless of how widespread it is, fraternities do have a history of taking the subject lightly. In a blog post from 2015 tastefully titled, “Frat Mystery Theater: Who Banged Becky the Blimp?” on the popular, openly misogynistic website Total Frat Move, the writer, a “recent grad from the University of South Carolina,” imagines a supposedly humorous scene in which the men interrogate each other to learn which of them “went hogging” the night before. When Buzzfeed asked another writer on the site how he justified behavior like hogging, he replied, “I’ve never heard of ‘hogging,’ but it sounds hilarious.’ ” The Texas Christian University professor found the same sentiment in her research: “The most disturbing finding was that they all thought it was funny,” she wrote.
Cornell fraternities have had a bad year. In September, a chapter of Psi Upsilon was shut down after a black student was allegedly assaulted by some of its members. That same fraternity had come into trouble in 2016 when its president was accused of rape and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor sex offense. Also, in September, a different fraternity came under fire when one of its members allegedly chanted “build a wall” near the university’s Latino Living Center after Trump ordered the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Update, Feb. 14, 2018: This post has been updated to include the name of the cited study’s author.