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Hazing and Biology

After evaluating psychological and sociological factors causing hazing, we can look to biology as a third major explanation for the specific acts of hazing. Biology can play a huge role in just about every human interaction, and hazing is no different. The evidence supporting this belief is the countless research displaying the differences between hazing involving males and hazing involving females. However, it is worth mentioning that males and females are at equal risk of being hazed.

Historically, hazing has been handled more efficiently when it is performed by females, with many chalking male hazing up to the belief that “boys will be boys.” One of the main reasons for hazing among males is to promote a sense of masculinity, toughness and domination. Ironically, in an effort to build masculinity male hazing sometimes involves activities that strip victims of any sense of masculinity. This is done to signal the rejection of any inkling of femininity that exists in the group by communicating the necessity of masculinity. The reasoning for this is that femininity is typically seen as a weakness that will bring down the success of the group. In direct correlation, the NCAA has found that dangerous hazing is most common in football, a sport that places an absolute premium on masculinity. Due to this purpose, male hazing is more often marred by bodily abuse and torment, therefore rendering it more physically dangerous (Risser). In male groups, hazing commonly includes severe beatings and forced participation in risky, sometimes life threatening, activities.

This contrasts with the hazing that regularly occurs within female groups. Female hazing is generally used as a means to embarrass or degrade its victims. Hazing between females usually consists of less violent acts such as “composing and singing songs or dressing up.” Girls attempt to humiliate victims through acts like using a marker to circle imperfections on victims’ bodies and faces. The forced simulation of sexual acts is also used by female hazers. While there are certainly numerous cases in which either gender uses hazing tactics normally associated with the opposite gender, it is useful to note that biology does play a role in the typical use of hazing. By identifying these differences, it is easier to find remedies to counteract hazing.

With an appreciation for the biological influences for hazing, we can better combat the actions by both genders. For men, the key to impeding hazing may well lie in education. By teaching male students that hazing will not increase masculinity and certainly will not lead to cohesion building, males will be less likely to rely on hazing. For instance, males in athletics use hazing to promote the masculinity that is commonly the central focus of men’s sports. By teaching athletes about the negative group effects of hazing, they will likely shy away from it for fear of hurting their team. Also, upon educating these men about the other principles inherent in athletics, there will be a decreased need for the promotion of masculinity and a new interest in advancing these other values. This example of athletics can easily be transferred to fraternities, marching bands and other collegial groups that currently utilize hazing.

With women, the difficulty in preventing hazing is that the methods used are usually considered too benign to do anything about. Therefore, it is necessary to take actions that will stop all forms of hazing, even those that may seem insignificant. To do this, one tactic is to have all group members and directors sign documents promising not to participate in any actions of hazing or initiation.
As a matter of fact, 79 percent of students support using and renewing such a contract every year. Doing so will obtain a promise against hazing, while simultaneously creating an opportunity to instruct those involved that even minor instances of hazing are inappropriate. Examples of what activities are regarded as hazing should be listed in the contract, as well as in a group handbook. This will help students identify what activities are in fact unacceptable and assure that ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the college’s hazing policy. While this is a useful method for both males and females, it should be particularly stressed among female groups in which activities may be harder to classify as hazing and undesirable. Recognizing the biological differences in hazing is useful in determining when to apply specific prevention strategies.

– Rocco Zambito, Jr.
Student President

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