Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fraternity Initiations - The Elephant Walk

Fraternities throughout the 1970s engaged in many initiation activities that were "rites of passage" for the new pledges. Many of these rites included sexual activities that the senior members of the fraternity went through when they pledged and that were then visited upon proposed new fraternity members. These rites were believed to create a special bond between the brothers as evidenced by similar hazing in fire departments and in military units throughout the years.

None of these hazing activities were considered gay in nature and, in fact, most fraternities did not accept gay members. The rule was "As long as you're not gay, it's O.K." even if the fraternity initiation rite contained an extreme amount of sexual conduct. The justification was clear and logical. The pledges who engaged in these sexual hazing activities were being forced to do so to get into the fraternity so they weren't gay and the older brothers forcing the pledges to engage in the behavior were doing so to denigrate and belittle the pledges so their activities weren't gay either.

One such fraternity initiation activity I witnessed (although did not participate in) was the Elephant Walk. Pledges were lined up in a circle naked (on their feet or on their knees). They were told to place one of their thumbs in their mouth and their other thumb deep into the crack of the ass of the pledge in front of them. When everyone was in place, they were instructed to more forward together as a group. If any of the guy's thumbs fell out of the ass crack of the guy in front, they had to switch thumbs and continue on their journey.

Another version of the Elephant Walk I witnessed had the guys lined up naked in a circle. Their left hand was placed on the left shoulder of the guy in front of them. Their right hand had to reach behind and get a good grip on the erect cock of the guy following behind. Then they all had to move in a circle as instructed.

These "rites of passage" were favorably looked upon by most fraternities. They promoted bonding and yet did not involve hazing that risked the life or health of the pledges. They did not involve forced alcohol consumption or the infliction of pain. Also, these activities took place prior to A.I.D.S. being a consideration and before all such activities were being classified as "gay" by future pledge classes.

Dr. Tom Stevens had an opportunity to observe fraternity initiation activities during the time he served as President of the Student Council of the Washington Square & University College of Arts & Science at New York University in Greenwich Village, New York where he was influential in approving budgetary requests made by fraternities associated with that school. He was not a member of any fraternity at the time but was given access to witness many fraternity initiation rites.

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