College Myths Debunked: The Sorority Brothel?

Sorority house. Not whore house.

As college students, we are constantly inundated with new knowledge. It can be useful, thought-provoking, or crammed into our head on a Starbucks-fueled binge several hours before an exam. However, very rarely do we question the validity of all this new knowledge (unless you take philosophy classes, then you’ll question away).

That’s where College Candy comes in. We’re not going to debate whether or not the Theory of Relativity actually exists (a disappointment, I know, but I’m a communications major and stopped taking science classes after Baby Bio fresh year). However, we are here to thoroughly investigate the most widespread college knowledge (no, not rhyming)—the myth.

Recently, a good friend of mine came to visit me at escuela. When she got here, we screamed and squealed and moved all of her bags upstairs into my room. We chatted and caught up for a while, before I offered to give her a tour of my place.

I adore giving house tours, because the place where I live is so much more than my home—it’s my sorority house. I love showing friends and family all the beautiful details of our old Southern mansion, pointing out hidden symbols and telling the histories behind everything that decorates the house.  My guests are usually very interested and complimentary, so I was kind of bummed when I realized my bestie was being super quiet (and not in the “I’m-so-jealous-you-don’t-have-to-cook-or-clean” kind of way).

When I asked her what was up, she sighed and told me that she’d always wanted to live in a sorority house, but unfortunately the city where her campus was located strictly forbade her chapter from having one. “Why the anti-Panhellenic attitude?” I asked. To which she replied, as thousands of collegiates before her have, “Well, under city law, any more than 5 women living under the same house is considered a brothel.”

Whaaaat?! Brothel? Huh?!

Seriously, all those movies and books have it wrong. No, Sorority Row, we do not throw giant foam parties in our formal sitting room (my House Mom would spontaneously combust). Sorry, Alexandra Robbins, we are not having “naked parties,” and not all of sorority housing is glamorous (I’m a 21 year old woman who sleeps in a bunk bed). Hell, we aren’t even allowed to have guys upstairs (ever)! How the hell could a sorority house, or for that matter, any female dwelling be considered a brothel based solely on the number of its occupants with vaginas? I decided to investigate.

Turns out, this rumor has been circulating for quite some time. Richard Roeper commented in the Chicago Sun Times that it was “the most widespread piece of university folklore making the rounds.” That was in 1994, and not much has changed.

According to Snopes, the myth probably originated due to confusion and misinterpretation of “Blue Laws” and zoning restrictions.  “Some municipalities do indeed have zoning laws prohibiting more than a specified number of non-family members (male or female) from living together, but not even in those cases would a household in violation of those codes be labeled a brothel.”

More importantly, any law that stated such doesn’t apply to fraternity, sorority, or any other form of intentionally communal living. So, good news for my friend (if she wants to contact her national headquarters and start some hardcore fundraising), sororities (and fraternities, and non-Greeks alike) can indeed all live happily together under one roof without the city labeling them as prostitutes.

Unless, of course, they are exchanging sex for money. That might be a problem.

Campus Couture: Chic Mr. Shane
Campus Couture: Chic Mr. Shane
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