Re: Neil Peart: conspicuously absent

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This was all explained quite clearly in episode 2 of season 3 of Veronica Mars.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 11:14 AM
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Now streaming free for Amazon Prime members.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 11:37 AM
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I think they're called pledges?


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 11:43 AM
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The MIT version wasn't quite this regimented, but the ranking/choosing thing went on, and there was a lot of behind-the-scenes trading in the name of "fit" and avoiding rejection. Since I lived in a co-ed house, some reps from the sorority system would visit before every Rush to explain the system to us (in case someone we were interested in was also interested in sororities, which was not likely).

We tended to stare at them like they were some kind of space aliens. One year we had a rush T-shirt featuring the phrase "It's not like kickball", in reference to the weird sorority process.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 11:50 AM
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Smearcase, don't even pretend you're unsure of the term. You can tell us about your sorority days, this is a safe space.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 11:52 AM
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I remember sorority girls having to dress up in ridiculous outfits during rush - pippi longstocking braids with 12 bows, football smears on their cheeks, and Peggy Bundy clothes, frex. I think that is considered hazing and less allowed, now, which is why they're reduced to wearing formal clothes now.

Other horror stories: pledges have to get naked and the older members circle the parts of their bodies where they need to lose weight.

My suspicion is that somehow the viciousness is still there, depending on the house, but I have no idea how they circumvent hazing rules.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 12:13 PM
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4: Funny, I think sororities must have been new between your time and mine. There was one, maybe? Or people trying to start one?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 12:20 PM
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I like when they wear matching, non-costumey clothes. One day, it would be a crew of 30 girls in camis, short denim skirts and Uggs. The next day, khaki walking shorts, topsiders, and sweater sets. Or the guys all in khakis, blue oxfords, and navy sportcoats. Some sororities used to ban the girls from carrying purses (to limit signalling how wealthy they were?) and made them use plastic bags, so they all looked TSA approved. And a little crazy.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 12:32 PM
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I've mentioned before, Heebie University's adorable little faux-scandal. One of the sororities blindfolded their pledges and took them down to the river (my favorite detail), and made them line up in order of how many guys they'd slept with. Then they slut-shamed the slut-end. One of the girls called her parents, crying, and all greek activity was killed for a year.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 12:39 PM
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I've never understood why more pledges don't just say fuck it, I'm outta here. I had a roommate on college who had to learn to recite the Greek alphabet in the time it took a lit match to burn down to her fingertips. The pledgemaster started "practice" with no forewarning, so she came home with burnt fingertips. There was also a fortnight where she was "forbidden" to shower or brush her teeth. That would definitely have been the moment I quit (if not sooner). This was for a "professional" co-ed frat, not a sorority. God only knows what those required.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 12:58 PM
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There was a frat here that made its pledges carry a plunger at all times, and the older fraternity brothers would try to steal the plungers. Another one had its pledges carry around their Greek-lettered paddles. Because they had paddles.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 1:06 PM
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man, it seems like a really weird and laborious way to pick your friends

Doesn't it, though. Word is, from people who've been in frats (I have not read anything from those in sororities), that the bonds last a lifetime, etc. I don't doubt it, but the same is probably true among college friends in general, frat/sorority or no.

As a way to pick friends, is there some calculus in play regarding, erm, leveraging connections in future life?

It reminds me a bit of people who seem to choose mates - husbands or wives - according to a calculated cost/benefit analysis. I hear from frat members that it's not like that at all; John Cole frequently defends himself on this front. But then he is a bit of a joiner in the first place.

Also, doesn't it seem a bit constraining? What if you change during the course of your college years? What if you go from making fun of yogurt and granola as 'gravel and paste' (as I once did), to fucking loving the stuff? And yet you've locked yourself into a cohort who liked you based on your self at pledge time. Yuck.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 1:39 PM
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You can eat yogurt and still be in a sorority.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 1:44 PM
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That was not my point, Stanster.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 1:59 PM
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In college I joined a selective house, which was very much like a fraternity. Some of the sororities spurned us, but others didn't. Our hazing involved embarrassing pictures, stealing signs, and drinking a lot of cheap beer; only later did we start putting our balls on each other. Some of my friendships stemming back to those days have mysteriously trailed off lately, but I'm starting to think that's due to issues which most people won't ever deal with. Everyone changes after college and that can either improve or strain friendships, regardless of how they were made. If you're friends with assholes, you can expect them to keep being assholes though.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:13 PM
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9: Which end of the pledge is the slutty end? Maybe they should have circled in marker the parts of the pledges which were too slutty.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:16 PM
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The pledges are all thinking "Yeah, but next year, I get to be the bully, and that will make it all worthwhile."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:16 PM
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Which end of the pledge is the slutty end?

I'd have thought by the end of college you'd have figured that out, upetgi.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:19 PM
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Probably some frat or sorority members (former) should weigh in to defend themselves.

Basically, colleges whose sociality - socialization? - is oriented around frats/sororities are setting themselves up as particular forms of social engagement. I favor colleges at which they're banned. Grow the fuck up; find friends on your own; explore and figure out who you are. Some rare persons know who they are at an early college age, and are right about that. Otherwise, what is the advantage of a pre-made community? I don't get that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:29 PM
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Cialdini's Influence does a great job of explaining how hazing creates loyalty by exploiting loss aversion. People hate to think that they have made a big sacrifice for something stupid, so they cling fiercely to any group that has a high admission price.

IIRC he talks about this in the same chapter he discusses the UFO cult that predicted the end of the world. When the world didn't end, the cult doubled down on their crazy beliefs rather than admit they were wrong. Loyalty to frats, criminal gangs, and the military works the same way as that UFO cult.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:35 PM
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9 is the plot of the deleted verse of Springsteen's song.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:47 PM
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rob helpy-chalk, I love you.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:49 PM
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Probably some frat or sorority members (former) should weigh in to defend themselves.

I doubt we have very many around here, but sure, it would be interesting to hear their take.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:51 PM
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Apo, I think? I may be misremembering.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 2:58 PM
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Yeah, but his was some sort of weird co-ed frat that probably doesn't have much in common with most of them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:08 PM
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There are possibly a lot of frats that aren't like most of them. That's the nature of the defense. Stanley's description presumably covers only a particular type. ?

Maybe these other types of frats don't do the whole procedure described in the OP. I don't know what still makes them frats (or sororities), though: I gather just a lifetime official membership. Official.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:17 PM
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My impression is that most frats are actually very similar to each other.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:21 PM
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When I first heard about Phi Beta Kappa inviting some people I know, I was really confused about why they would join a frat.

For that matter, I'm still confused about what the purpose of Phi Beta Kappa is.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:22 PM
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Oh, that can't be true, teo. I myself have known a handful of people (in college) who were in frats, and the atmosphere was very different in each. Except for the part where they were all members of the specific club, and lived in that house.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:24 PM
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I dunno. I knew tons of people in college who were in frats, and they all seemed pretty interchangeable.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:25 PM
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30: You went to the frattiest college I've ever been associated with. I wonder how it stacks up against, say, a typical state school.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:29 PM
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I mean, I'm sure there was some inter-frat variation (we had about 50 of them, and about 40 sororities), but the Greek/non-Greek distinction was much more salient. There was definitely a type of person who went Greek, and they were not hard to identify. But this may vary by school.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:30 PM
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31: That would be an interesting comparison, yeah. My impression is that it would be about equally fratty, but I don't really know.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:31 PM
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Actually, Halford was in a frat, wasn't he? I bet he has a lot to say about this.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:31 PM
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Different environments, then, I guess. A frat at WPI was a total party house, keg parties and girls and such. One at MIT was gentlemanly in the extreme, with a formal dinner, each male member accompanied by his guest (some members were designated as servants), all seated at a long elegant table, cloth napkins, the whole nine yards of courtliness.

I don't know of sororities.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:32 PM
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A friend of mine who is a professor at Caltech was telling me that he thinks the House system there, which is essentially a very nerdy mildly co-ed version of Rush, is one of the school's greatest weaknesses b/c it only exacerbates the students' self-sorting tendencies. He thinks they should be assigned houses, either randomly or by some careful demographic mixing algorithm, and then all the resources which are put into facilitating the extreme logistics of House-selection should instead be put into facilitating assigned-House-bonding. Makes sense to me. I think one of the more valuable lessons of school can be how to make friends with whomever you're thrown in with.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:34 PM
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At my college the frats were basically interchangeable, but there was one which had engineers in it, and then of course there were a couple black frats.

As for the sororities, who knows. They all looked similar, that's for sure.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:34 PM
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Yeah, I think a lot of the character of the Greek system at a given school must be affected by the characteristics of the student body. I would certainly expect frats at MIT (which I didn't realize even had them) to be quite different from those at, say, UMass.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:35 PM
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35 to 30.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:35 PM
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MIT is actually all fratted up, or at least was in the late 80s/early 90s. My understanding of the reason is that the school guaranteed housing for all the students, but didn't have enough dorms, so the frats were a necessary part of the student housing system. (My co-op (also Nathan's) was an ex-frat, and was treated by the school as the same sort of thing as a frat.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:44 PM
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I also have the impression that black frats have a very different character from white frats, generally having more of a socially-conscious outlook and a more serious character. But that's mostly based on things that come across my FB feed, which probably involves a strong selection effect, so I don't know if it's true.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:45 PM
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40: Huh, that's also how Cornell got so fratty. Interesting.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:45 PM
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41: Melissa Harris-Perry sometimes speaks of her sorority, which sounds intensely socially conscious, what with the reciting poetry by Maya Angelou (or someone) as entrance fee.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 3:55 PM
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23, 10 -- As I've said here before, I was a pledge who decided to say fuck it once the hierarchical bullshit got annoying. it wasn't hazing exactly that turned us off, a bunch of us just realized that we could drink as much, see about as many women and act just as idiotically if we left and hung out with each other and other friends, so we did.

My impression at the time was that it was totally fine of you were a girl into your sorority freshman and sophomore year, but if you were super into it as a senior there was something wrong with you.



Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 4:30 PM
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My mom was a Tri-Delta at Carnegie Tech (now CMU) and, legend has it, was ejected from a field hockey match against another sorority for swearing (this was around 1950). She taught us kids some of the Tri Delta songs, which were a hoot when I was five years old. She didn't keep up with any of her "sisters," to my knowledge, and was pretty much the antithesis of the sorority girl stereotype.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 4:30 PM
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I didnt then and don't think now that the people in the frat were particularly assholish at all, but the structure had some annoying rules and it was kind of socially limiting. If you we're worried about meeting girls, it was nicely efficient as a structure for that, which made me think it made most sense early on in college.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 4:34 PM
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41 -- I literally just got back from lunch with a friend who was in a black frat and was describing all the hookers they had at their national convention, so you know.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 4:36 PM
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The frats during my time at (Teo's) school were reasonably different than each other, at least under my impression at the time. There was a range from stereotypical jocks to fancy non-jock rich kids to super-nerds to hardcore drug users to country type people to (most common) typically fratty UMC kids from Long Island. About the only groups not represented were self-consciously arty people, self-consciously left political people, and gays, all of whom I at least still wanted to hang out with. An the fraternities were of course very racially segregated, though there were a few black kids in the one I'd pledged.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 4:48 PM
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I won't try to judge you. I'm just here to learn about your fascinating culture.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 4:54 PM
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Apparently, back in the '50s, the U of Mn had a socialist frat. I think that's been gone for awhile now though. Of course on a campus that big, where such a small percentage of students are in the Greek system, they all wind up looking kind of weird. At the newspaper, it was generally understood that if one of our colleagues was in a frat or sorority, they were significantly to the right of the prevailing newsroom ideology. If anything, Greek life on campus at the U seemed to be a exercise in understanding the principle that "the world is run by those who show up" -- frat guys and sorority girls were always on hand for any kind of meeting where student input was required.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 5:02 PM
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The frats at UMass weren't terribly socially important twenty years ago. Dunno if it's changed. The first two years everybody is required to live in a dorm so I think dorms become more of a locus of social organization. Plus there are a zillion students, so the frats are really outnumbered.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 5:02 PM
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I went to a big state school where a little less than half the students were in the Greek system. There were two types, professional and social. Both had a nominal "service" mission, so all would do charity fundraising. The professional frats were co-ed, but no less odd socially. They were understood to give members a networking advantage, although I have no idea whether that was actually true. Living in Greek housing was significantly cheaper than dorms or apartment, which I think explained some of the draw. The professional frats tended to have the old exams on file/subject assistance. Also, booze. I knew lots of folks in frats, but I'm not sure I could draw a universal characterization. Some were nice enough (usually the girls in coed frats), some were disagreeable (usually sorority girls), and some were rapey (social frat dudes). Needless to say, I wasn't ever interested. I think they were more important socially for the first year or two, but it was a big enough place that there were plenty of people not in the Greek system.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 5:25 PM
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I can sing several DG songs, due to once having a very committed former U of I DG as a co-worker. Another friend was a Tri Delt at Bucknell, but the only songs she taught me were mean ones about KKG. I don't really know what any of this means.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 5:35 PM
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Locally, the weird thing about the black fraternities was that they were officially unrecognized, because officially recognized fraternities weren't permitted to be racially (etc.) selective, and they weren't willing to play the game that, for example, the nominally-Jewish fraternity did of just using social pressure and maintaining their "type" even if not all the members quite fit that. As a result they weren't part of the residence system in the same way, and their party flyers always had the oddity of "Blah Kappa Blah, Inc.", where the "Inc." kind of stood out.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 5:38 PM
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I have a former neighbor who I could swear was a member of a frat at my alma mater, and was active in it through his senior year -- I could swear I saw him at a rush event when I was a freshman and he was a senior. But he claims not to have been in a fraternity, so it could be that I am mistaking him for someone else. Or I guess he might be self-conscious about it now, though I wouldn't think it such a big deal.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 6:03 PM
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A lot of fraternities and similar non-fraternity groups are more about hooliganism than anything else. And while hooliganism isn't the most socially beneficial cause one could adopt in college, it's very attractive to an eighteen or nineteen year old. There's probably still some hooligan in me.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 6:09 PM
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Or maybe it's that this neighbor says he was in one fraternity but really was in a different fraternity. I could also be confusing him with someone else.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 6:13 PM
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Frats on Wall Street, what could possibly go wrong?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 6:30 PM
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This was one of our most discussed articles (speaking of female journalists getting threats.) The distinction between traditional drinking frats and more social ones was to use the term "fratty frats" for the former.
MIT rush has been changed significantly in the last 10 years- all freshmen now live on campus so they don't have the "decide where you're living in the first 72 hours you're on campus" issue. I was interested in a frat but thank god they rejected me, it would have been terrible for me to live there. I did join a professional frat junior year but didn't have much to do with it after I graduated.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 6:34 PM
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About the only groups not represented were self-consciously arty people, self-consciously left political people, and gays

Meanwhile, that was about 75% of our fraternity.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 6:44 PM
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He thinks they should be assigned houses, either randomly or by some careful demographic mixing algorithm sorting hat.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 6:59 PM
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The frats during my time at (Teo's) school were reasonably different than each other, at least under my impression at the time. There was a range from stereotypical jocks to fancy non-jock rich kids to super-nerds to hardcore drug users to country type people to (most common) typically fratty UMC kids from Long Island.

Huh, that's interesting, and as I noted before it's quite different from my impression, which was that frats were overwhelmingly populated by the UMC Long Island types (who were not all from LI specifically; many were from other upscale suburban areas in New York State), and within that demographic there were subgroups such as jocks, fancy rich kids, etc. I'm not sure how much of this difference in perception is due to Halford being closer to the Greek system and more familiar with it and how much is change over time. I definitely knew openly gay frat guys, so the latter seems to have been at least a part of the difference.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 7:24 PM
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I ended up at what was, at the time, the frattiest SLAC in the nation because when I did my college visit was when the nascent independent movement people had chalked their anti-frat slogans and hung sheet signs and so I assumed there was a healthy cultute of dissrnt and it would be no big deal not to be involved. I guess most of those people graduated or dropped out before I got there, although things got better for non-Greeks in the years I was there. But it was weird and alienating.

My favorite anecdote is during an overseas trip one girl was explaining how there are stereotypes, but it's not actually true that all DGs wear pearl earrings and Kappas have diamond studs and Thetas wear silver hoops, and yet everyone at the table fit the stereotype, including the speaker. I felt a little better about constantly feeling left out after that.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 8:08 PM
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There have been frats at the colleges I've been affiliated with. I think.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 9:19 PM
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The joke is that Mr. Peart is a member of a band called Rush.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 9:51 PM
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Thanks, I was wondering about that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 9:52 PM
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I've had an earworm all day, since seeing this thread this morning. When passing a group gathered outside a frat house during rush, a housemate of mine sang it was Greek to them and they came again. OK, those were dark times.

I'm working at switching over to this.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-12-14 9:56 PM
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Living in Greek housing was significantly cheaper than dorms or apartment, which I think explained some of the draw.

It would need to be when you factor in the cost of getting to classes from the wrong end of the Mediterranean.

What is the origin of this curious phenomenon? I've always supposed it was mostly about gaming the job market, and I think apo has said here that frat membership has played a part in every job he's had, but was this the idea back whenever these things were invented?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:02 AM
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I think - outlier frats aside - it's fundamentally about accessing a lifestyle which depends wholly on a quorum of syncophants all agreeing on what should be considered desirable. If you want to be on the inside of the consensus, join a frat or sorority.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:07 AM
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63: It always warms me to know that there was a healthy culture of dissent underpinning all of my personal decisions.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:13 AM
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68: I think the original idea was simply the same thing you'd tend to call cooperative housing today. College kids have to live somewhere, and it's much cheaper to have a big household for a couple of dozen people than it is to set up a number of little households. Once you're doing that, you're going to pick people for perceived social compatibility. Throw in the nineteenth/early twentieth century fondness for organizations with complicated secrets and rituals, and there you go.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:35 AM
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71: I suppose it's a consequence of universities not running their own accommodation in the same way that they did at that time in the UK. No need for frats at Oxbridge - everyone lived in college. But at other universities there tended not to be halls of residence - students took lodgings with private-sector landlords. Not sure why the common-housing aspect of the frat system didn't arise in, say, Edinburgh - I suspect also because a lot of students would have been living with their families.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:49 AM
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68 et seq: I actually think it was a fuzzy reproduction of the university/college distinction.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:52 AM
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The coolest place I ever lived in undergrad was a dorm consisting of seven separate buildings all connected by underground tunnels. I mean, come on, underground tunnels. In my house.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 9:02 AM
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I rushed a fraternity, one that made a fairly big deal about not hazing or being secretive, so that's better than the stereotype right there. I got rejected more than halfway through the rush process (I did it during the spring semester, so it took a couple months) for a reason that in hindsight was either bullshit or a big misunderstanding, but I quickly realized I didn't mind too much. It was a better fit for me than I would have expected a fraternity to be, but still not all that good a fit.

A lot of my friends were members of a co-ed fraternity. They seemed to enjoy it, for however much a co-ed fraternity is relevant here.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:23 AM
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My understanding is that the popularity of fraternities is also connected to the 19th century US decision to model university life on a German, not British model. Encouraging frats made more sense to University administrators and faculty who'd spent time in Prussian universities and been in Verbindungs.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:24 AM
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As for the residency thing, I don't think fraternities were a big part of the college ecosystem in that way, partly because most of them had houses on campus itself, and they weren't all that big. However, their houses were in a great location, right near the middle of campus, so that probably attracted some people to them. I know sororities weren't much of a housing alternative to dorms, because most of them were in dorms - no separate houses for them. We were told this was because of some bylaw about brothels, but that was probably an urban legend.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:28 AM
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The coolest place I ever lived in undergrad was a dorm consisting of seven separate buildings all connected by underground tunnels

You were at university with Fantastic Mr. Fox?

76: but, tragically, without the officially encouraged sabre duels. "From the scar that ran down from the corner of her right eye, I could see that she had attended Swarthmore."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:29 AM
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We were told this was because of some bylaw about brothels, but that was probably an urban legend.

Indeed. http://mentalfloss.com/article/28557/any-all-female-house-really-considered-brothel

There are laws in lots of places that limit the number of unrelated people that can live together (in NY for example: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/29/nyregion/29roommates.html?pagewanted=all) but those are intended, depending who you talk to, for fire safety reasons (avoid subdividing houses with lots of locked doors); because people didn't like living next to shady boarding houses; or as a desperate 1980s-vintage measure to restrict the spread of wacky sitcoms.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:33 AM
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74: My co-op had (probably still has) one room, the door of which was concealed behind an old Coke machine that swung open. This was almost certainly a fire code violation, but the inspectors never noticed that there was a room missing or anything funny about the machine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:50 AM
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because people didn't like living next to shady boarding houses.... because the shady boarding houses were often brothels.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:55 AM
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81: maybe. The NYT article says
"Jerilyn Perine, a former city housing commissioner, said the roommates rule came about to address another concern. It dates to the 1950s, she said, when the city balked at the number of sketchy single-room-occupancy buildings and their often equally sketchy inhabitants, and wanted boarding house brownstones to be converted back to family homes."

80 is rather splendid as well. If I had a bigger house I would definitely start thinking about concealed doors.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 10:58 AM
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A lot of houses in my neighborhood were speakeasies in the 20s and have incredible hidden rooms --fake bookshelves that spin around and lead to a bar, doors to basements hidden in wainscotting, etc. I thought seriously about putting in a fake speakeasy or at least a trick bookshelf when I fixed up my house but it was way too expensive and seemed kind of lame to have a phony one.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:01 AM
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84

82.2: Maybe your house is bigger, and you just haven't located the concealed doors.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:01 AM
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84 is a good point. Clearly there could be facts about my house that I haven't yet discovered.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:11 AM
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85: Ha, exactly!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:23 AM
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Such as the fact that it needs to be referenced in superscript.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:23 AM
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but, tragically, without the officially encouraged sabre duels

Oh look, the (wonderful) dueling scene from The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp is on youtube.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:26 AM
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This thread is making me want to re-watch The Duelists (highly recommended if you haven't seen it).


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:39 AM
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83: Oooh, one of my best friends from high school lived in a Prohibition-era building on Central Park West; his apartment had a small bar concealed behind paneling in the living room. I have often regretted not marrying him in the hopes of inheriting that apartment. (Also, his fashion sense was impressive.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:42 AM
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My ambition is to have a house with a priest hole. Sadly, this is unlikely to be fulfilled.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:49 AM
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You could only round up enough priests to fill it partway?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:52 AM
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It's sad that it's now impossible for me to think of "priest hole" in a non-gross way.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 11:54 AM
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Fortunately, Chris' priest hole is unlikely to be filled. Here are some more ambitions for the new year.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 12:08 PM
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94

Every time someone smugly edits a Wikipedia page to add "[Citation needed]," I will make sure they're trampled to death by a horse that won the Triple Crown.

This, a thousand times!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 12:12 PM
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It seems like it shouldn't be too hard to hide a door behind a bookcase or shelf. If you want it the books to be fake but look convincing enough to fool someone, that would take some craftsmanship, and if you want it to be a functional bookshelf that would make it heavy, but it should be doable, right? I'd happily pay, say, $1,000 more to have a door like that in a house. There's no place for it in my current house, though.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 12:13 PM
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96. The trouble is, it takes more than hiding the door to disguise the presence of a hidden room. Few modern houses are big enough or complex enough. See, for example, The Norwood Builder, where it took Sherlock Holmes a matter of minutes to find the secret room once he knew to look for it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 12:24 PM
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If you want it the books to be fake but look convincing enough to fool someone

I feel as if I've read several books in which the existence of a secret door is discovered because the titles of the books on it are things that don't exist, but the only one I can remember for certain is one of the Father Brown stories.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 12:25 PM
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97: The room doesn't need to be an unbeatable panic room to be worth having. I just think it would be cool. It would also be a little additional storage space, to be able to put books on a door, but then again storage space wouldn't be much of a problem in a house big enough that this hidden room idea is even halfway plausible. I can't think of where I'd put this in my current house.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 1:03 PM
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97: Once he knew to look for it is also pretty substantial. The hidden room behind the Coke machine was perfectly obvious if you looked into the flanking rooms and thought for a bit, but mostly people (including fire inspectors who really should) don't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 1:11 PM
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100: The fire inspectors finally did notice and make them undo it, maybe around 2002. The front panel is mounted on an adjacent wall, last I checked.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 1:24 PM
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Drat. But that's a decade or so -- I'm pretty sure it was put up while I was in the house, between fall '88 and spring '90. (The Coke machine was already in the room, or next to the room, but moving it to conceal the door happened while I was there.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 1:30 PM
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95: Every goddamn Wikipedia math page has an "issues" tag on the top of it now, because even if everything on the page is totally bog-standard and the standard text book is listed at the bottom, nobody has pursued the worthless task of looking up page numbers for each thing.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 1:32 PM
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98: I'm surprised that would be a trope - who can say, especially pre-Google Books but still to an extent, that a book doesn't exist? Unless you mean, say, the second book of the Poetics.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 6:16 PM
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Or, I suppose, something nonexistent by a known author - Naked Scything by Leo Tolstoy. And either way, that would be a pretty damn eccentric bookcase.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 6:42 PM
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Minivet, what are you going on about?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 6:51 PM
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I myself have an eccentric bookcase, though it is currently in the possession of my ex-wife. I believe it contains one of the books of Aristotle's Poetics, which I think was on the reading list for a class I took in law school, taught by Martha Nussbaum. I definitely did not read it cover-to-cover. I also kept a bunch of my old law school books, mostly because I wanted to keep my eccentric bookcase filled.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 7:01 PM
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It also contains the Constance Garnett translation of Anna Karenin which could very well be subtitled "a meditation on topless scything".


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 7:21 PM
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104: The one I remember is The Snakes Of Iceland (where there apparently are no snakes). But the second book of Aristotle's poetics would work perfectly as well, as a book famous for not existing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:27 PM
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Then I guess I own the entirety of Aristotle's poetics. But I may not have read even the portions I was supposed to read.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:50 PM
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We were in escrow on a house that had quasi-secret rooms. More like deep, connecting closets. But it would have done the trick for a dreamy eight-year-old, for sure.

The house also had an immense pot plant, but that was medicinal. That, they were planning to take with when they moved.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-13-14 8:58 PM
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scrotum.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 8:56 AM
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Great. Now it works.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 8:56 AM
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Now I can post the comment I burned with all last night.

109: I get that, but if I knew there were no snakes in Iceland and saw that book, I and I think most readers would assume it was fiction or poetry or something, rather than a dummy book.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 8:59 AM
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You must have been one critical reader of the Encyclopedia Brown series.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 9:01 AM
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The Snakes of Iceland would read like a reference to De Quincey: Rats again! there are none about mail-coaches, any more than snakes in Von Troil's "Iceland".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 9:04 AM
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Is Father Brown a spinoff of Encyclopedia Brown, then?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 9:15 AM
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The other way around, that would be a heck of a fan fiction. Father Brown leaves the clergy for love, travels to America, and has a child who grows up to become the chief of police in Idaville.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 9:18 AM
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Of course, the styles of detecting are really very different, even allowing for era and age. Father Brown was one for understanding the mind of the criminal and Encyclopedia Brown more of a detail guy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 9:24 AM
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He is also paying Bugs Meany, the police, and others to foment babyschool cases for his grandson, to nudge him into the same hobby. (Money isn't a problem; he made off with the episcopal regalia.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 9:44 AM
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114: I think the point of the trope was that it's something you do on a secret door as a private joke: you're not flagging it as a door to the casual observer, and you don't really want anyone to figure it out, you're just amusing yourself. So you're right, that this kind of book title wouldn't be an unambiguous signal that something funny is going on.

(I'm trying to remember where else I've seen it, and other than the Father Brown story I'm only coming up with a similar door in one of Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire novels (which are fascinating in terms of class-warfare dynamics around World War II. If those were anything like representative of how people actually felt at the time, wow did the upper-middle-class unabashedly despise the working class.))


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 10:05 AM
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112, 113: Your scrotum was broken?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 10:17 AM
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Only metaphorically.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 10:19 AM
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The one I remember is The Snakes Of Iceland (where there apparently are no snakes).

Also "The Religion of Frederick the Great" (atheist) and "The Life of Pope Joan" (didn't exist).

But the second book of Aristotle's poetics would work perfectly as well, as a book famous for not existing.

OR SO THE MULLAHS INSANE BENEDICTINES WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 10:30 AM
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So, which Thirkell book was the secret door in? I'm drawing a blank.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 10:39 AM
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Drawing a Blank: Artists Respond to Mallarmé


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 10:55 AM
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I've given it more thought. I think that at my alma mater, and I can't really speak to others, fraternities and sororities essentially operated as a means for the sexes to present themselves to each other. My selective house was an outlier in that we had no idea how to present ourselves, but were charming hooligans nonetheless. But generally this is how it worked: each sex picked people it thought the other sex would admire most and then they put them together. Institutions fought to be considered that which the other sex admired most. All else served as advertisement.

And I guess there's nothing wrong with that. It may seem unnecessary in an age when men and women can simply go to bars, but keep in mind that at many college campuses that's actually difficult through the first two or three years.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 7:48 PM
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I suppose one might ask: why not foster an environment in which each sex gets to pick who among the opposite sex should be presented, in an ad hoc fashion? And I don't really know the answer, except that it is also fun for a bunch of guys to get drunk together.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 7:54 PM
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If you were an individual in that environment, I think it's sort of ridiculous for others to say: you were Greek, defend your choices. The defense is quite easy: the individual in question wanted to meet highly desirable members of the opposite sex, and also to be friends with others considered desirable to the opposite sex. People want access to sex. It's hard to blame them for that.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 8:01 PM
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And there might be an answer to 128: a vetting process fosters more fluid, open sexual relationships. People get to have sex with more partners without social consequence. And maybe that's what everybody wants at that age, if not at every age.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 8:13 PM
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I suppose the downside is that when people are excluded, the markers are obvious. And there will be gamesmanship at the edges, but that's true for all human institutions.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 01-14-14 8:35 PM
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