I was sitting on the couch with a friend from Alpha Epsilon Pi a few weeks ago while he was looking through one of the fraternity’s group Snapchat stories. The sound of people having sex filled the living room. He cringed and closed it, looking embarrassed.
“You couldn’t see anything,” he said. “It was just the door.”
This was a boy who made me chocolate chip pancakes in the morning when I slept on his couch, who refused to keep things going with a cute girl who had a crush on him, feeling like he’d be using a person he wasn’t emotionally invested in. I met him when I went to “Champagne and Shackles” with him as a favor for a mutual friend, and instead of trying to hook up with me, he talked to me about music for two hours and became my best friend. I couldn’t quite process how he could be so nonchalant about something like this.
The next night, I was with him when he opened his Snapchat again. This time, it was the sound of sex outside a bedroom door again, but with the added caption: “Is she cumming or crying.”
Maybe I partially wrote off the first video as a poor attempt at making a joke about being sexiled. But the added commentary in the second video changed everything about it.
This wasn’t creepy; this was scary. This girl had become the punchline of a joke while unwittingly being recorded in one of the most vulnerable positions imaginable. The caption — “Is she cumming or crying” — fails to acknowledge that ‘she” is a person. It is the language of abusers, of men screaming at me on the street, of someone who has never thought about a woman as anything other than something to fuck. The lack of consent in flippantly recording girls without their knowledge in a sexual context and making fun of them echoes sexual assault in a way that should unsettle anyone who hears it.
I have always been wary of fraternities. But Alpha Epsilon Pi was different — the boys there were my friends. For every guy who made me uncomfortable in some way, there were so many more who I loved hanging out with.
That illusion is powerful. It’s how Alpha Epsilon Pi gets half the girls who regularly come to their parties in the door. It’s not a sexy fraternity or a cool fraternity. They don’t throw the best parties. But it is the self-branded “Nice Jewish Boy Frat,” and I’d felt safe there largely because of that image.
There are other frats who characterize themselves as the “good guy” frats — houses that recognize the misogyny in Greek life but claim that their house is different. They create environments where girls can make friends and let their guard down.
The campus community talks a lot about rape culture. We give consent talks at every party; we have sober brothers and sisters and Greeks Against Sexual Assault and hotlines you can call and police reports you can file. But no one wants to police their friends or feel like they’re being policed, especially when there are no consequences for inaction.
Some of my friends have brought up the smaller incidents of misogyny and sexism in discussions within the fraternity. But ultimately, nothing has been done to combat these incidents. There is no accountability.
I haven’t met a fraternity brother who has a problem with turning my sex life into a joke I’ll never hear. The Greek system as a whole protects and endorses some of the worst people and behavior at UC Berkeley in its reluctance to punish anything less than assault. This kind of behavior is coming from people we all know, whether we’re aware of it or not.
After I reported the Snapchats to two of Alpha Epsilon Pi’s chairs, I was told that the fraternity had made the decision not to do anything about it. It made me feel like I didn’t matter.
No matter how many times I explained how much this hurt me and explained all of the pain that shit like this has ingrained in me and every other woman I know, nothing changed. And there are so many more boys in that fraternity who I can’t reach, who don’t want to empathize with someone who they’d rather fuck than have a conversation with.
Eventually, I came to a realization: No fraternity is designed to be safe for me. I’m sure that plenty of women are reading this story with the fraternity they’re closest to in mind — the one that they have friends in and feel relatively safe at. And I’m sure that many of them would also have a similar story. This is not an isolated incident — this is a persistent and systemic issue.
This is just one fraternity — and one that considers itself to be a part of the moral high ground. I don’t have illusions that I can fix this system or Alpha Epsilon Pi or even most of the people I know in it. But I can’t stay quiet when there are girls who need to know that they shouldn’t feel safe at any fraternity, even if they’re surrounded by “nice boys.” And if there are boys who think that one girl can’t do much to hold them accountable, they should know that she’ll still fucking try.
Cloe Wood is a UC Berkeley sophomore studying political science.