Everyone who’s ever told you that your school doesn’t have sorority houses because ‘they’re legally a brothel in this state’ is a damn LIAR
Debunking an urban legend that dates back half a century
Depending on what university you attend, you may have noticed that the sororities on your campus don’t have houses while the fraternities do, or maybe no Greek life group has official housing. And if you’re like me, you might be wondering why that is.
As I was going through the college search process and the topic of Greek life came up while I was visiting schools with no sorority housing, the tour guide always claimed that the city or state has an old law where “more than a certain number of unrelated girls living under the same roof is considered a brothel.”
So naturally, this is what I believed. I was infuriated by how sexist this law is. Why wouldn’t more than a certain number of guys living under the same roof have negative connotations as well? However, as I began to do more research on this subject, despite how commonly believed this law is, it is nothing but a rumor.
There are over 100 colleges with no sorority houses despite a Greek life presence, and many of the students at these colleges are under the same impression that the lack of houses are thanks to this ancient law.
“Yeah we don’t have a house. I think it’s because of that whole brothel thing.” – Maddie Pitel, Temple University
“You can’t have more than like 10 girls living together. It’s considered a brothel in the state of Pennsylvania lol.” – Kristen Aquaro, Penn State
“Apparently there’s some law that makes it illegal for 6 or so girls to live together because then it’s a brothel.” – Lydia Simon, Boston University
So no sorority housing in Salem because apparently there's a law here that 6 or more women living together is considered a "brothel".. kk.
— noname (@kaybahns) September 17, 2015
Fun fact: No sorority houses in Clemson because in SC, any place housing 5 or more women with no man, is a brothel.
— Will Ovington (@WillOvington) July 29, 2011
Its illegal to have sorority houses in Tennessee cause a building housing more than 15 women is considered a brothel. True stat.
— Josh Mackey (@JMackey1981) April 28, 2010
Despite how commonly this law is believed, based off previous research by students, there are no records of it throughout different cities and states.
This poses the question, “Where did this rumor stem from and why has it been circulating for so long?”
This rumor has apparently been around since the 1960s due to an increasing number of women attending college. Some say it stems from miscommunication about what a zoning law is. Part of a zoning law’s definition is that is decides what a plot of land can and can’t be used for. However, if the zoning law prohibited brothels, it would have no effect on sorority houses because a brothel is defined by actual prostitution occurring inside a given residence instead of the gender and number of people inhabiting it.
So if this brothel rumor isn’t true, then what’s the real reason sororities don’t have housing on certain college campuses?
While The New York Times acknowledges the persistent brothel myth, it instead suggests that some colleges don’t have sorority houses because of the alcohol ban that the National Panhellenic Conference instilled to make joining sororities more affordable.
I contacted Boston University to ask why the school doesn’t have official sorority housing. John Battaglino, Assistant Dean of Students, said:
“The University is not standing in the way of ‘official’ sorority housing. Unfortunately I think there are two major factors that make it challenging to move forward– 1. Oversight and 2. Finances.”
Battaglino goes on to explain that if housing was available to sororities, then the University would have to make sure the residents adhere to all the same housing policies that apply to other dorms across campus. Meaning the sorority houses could have RAs, quiet hours, and a guest policy. He also acknowledges that finances are a huge issue.
“Boston is expensive. However, if a sorority was able to purchase a property and maintain the property, then the sorority would be able to have an official house.”
On top of that, he explained how overcoming these two difficulties would not end the struggle for official housing as the on-campus housing system is already at maximum capacity so finding specific areas for Greek life could prove daunting. It could also influence other student groups on campus like athletics, bands, and cultural communities to inquire about getting their own housing as well.
“And finally, we would have to agree that living in such a community is in the best interest of everyone involved,” Battaglino adds.
So long story short, living in a house with other girls you’re not related to does not make you a prostitute.