In this commentary, author Olivia Evans discusses HBO Max’s Sex Lives of College Girls and its intense focus on fraternities and sororities.
A recent episode of College Girls Sex Life The title Frat Problems begins with a stereotypical college-age nightmare scenario: Bela, Kimberly, Whitney, and Leighton throw a party and nobody shows up. They were banned from the fraternity after Kimberly sued Theta for fraud in order to keep their place in Essex, but they are trying to come to terms with their exile. Bela makes a funny but honest point about reality for many women who want to have fun at college: “Now we don’t have to wait in long lines and freeze our ass off hoping some power-hungry git will let us in.”
However, in a complete turn of events, the party’s failure leads the girls to decide that their social life cannot exist without the fraternity parties; The episode ends with the group organizing a fundraiser to keep Theta’s “good” status on campus. The girls raise $11,000 for climate change in exchange for getting back to attending frat parties (and getting lap dances). The episode is still filled with the lightheartedness that makes it so SLOCG So endearing, the series takes a questionable stance on the problems most college students face during their freshman year when it comes to Greek life: If you can’t beat them, join them.
Of course, a show set on a college campus will eventually spawn Greek life, but SLOCG was so quick to integrate her protagonists into her culture. Contrasting with the show’s assertiveness when it comes to other social, financial, and structural issues faced by its characters, its portrayal of frat culture is that it’s a necessary evil for freshmen to participate in. (And that every cool, interesting, hot person somehow lines up for these parties when in real life they just don’t.)
This is not to say that the depictions are all positive or that they do not draw attention to the exploitation of Greek life. At the end of the very first episode of the series, the girls go to their first frat party together and wait in the cold for a few minutes before Leighton’s brother Nico, a member of the frat group whose party the girls attend, allows them to step in line; In Season 2, the girls can also cut themselves into a long line because Bela shows her “toddler top” to the bouncer. While both cases are mostly harmless and the latter is a pretty funny moment, this speaks volumes for how Greek life values exclusivity from the moment students arrive on campus. Access to Greek life and certain sororities and fraternities is a status symbol.