Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fraternity Initiations - Giving Your Brother A Helping Hand

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 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.

There was an exception to the "denigrating and belittling" aspect of fraternity initiation rites that came up in the bonding that was supposed to take place between a pledge and his assigned Big Brother. It was the Big Brother's responsibility to help the pledge through the initiation process, to help the pledge learn about the history of the fraternity and to be mentally ready to accept the "proofs of loyalty" that were to follow. This bond between the Big Brother and the pledge was expected to last for life. As a result, there were a number of bonding activities a Big Brother could utilize to create that special bond.

The most common bonding activity used by Big Brothers in the fraternities I was familiar with was generally referred to as "Giving A Brother A Helping Hand". This activity did not take place in public but usually in the Big Brother's dorm room. The reciprocal activity included the Big Brother and the pledge getting naked. One would lie on his back on the bed while the other would massage his body with a soothing lotion. The purpose of this activity was to provide a relaxing and pleasurable experience for the person massaged. At some point, the massaged guy would get hard and the massager would then give him a "helping hand" until he came. After being cleaned up, they would change places. This bonding would be repeated many times during the pledge period and the goal was to create a special bond between the two guys. It was considered most likely that this was the first time the pledge ever had another guy touch his dick so this first experience was expected to, and did, create a bond between them that could never be broken.

Depending on the inclinations of the two guys involved, this "secret" activity sometimes was shared later in life whenever the two got together, sometimes even after the two married their respective wives. This was not considered "gay sex" because neither dude was attracted to guys sexually. It was just considered two guys giving each other a "helping hand".

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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