This mistaken belief has been recorded since the 1960s and is probably a great deal older than that. Its possible origin might lie in a mental confluence of half-remembered tidbits about old time
Some municipalities do indeed have zoning laws prohibiting more than a specified number of
Even in communities that carry such housing restrictions on their books, sororities and fraternities are exempted from them. The thrust of such laws is to set limits on how many people may reasonably inhabit what were meant to be single-family dwellings, not to enjoin those who are living in more communal settings in buildings meant for such purposes. Were such laws to apply to those latter forms of housing, local YWCAs would have been shut down and padlocked, as would a variety of nurses’ residences.
Collegians have been explaining the lack of sorority houses on various campuses through this flawed factlet for many a year. Richard Roeper noted this legend in 1994, calling it “the most widespread piece of university folklore making the rounds” and estimating from entries on collegiate bulletin boards that it was being told on at least
[Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Sorority houses are illegal in PA. Due to a 19th century law banning more the
5 unrelatedwomen from living in the same house. This law supposedly was meant to prevent prostitution houses.
[Collected on the Internet, 1998]
Well, my alma mater is Denison University. Dogs were part of the landscape when there were fraternities on campus. There are no fraternities there anymore. I was in a sorority, but we weren’t allowed to live in the sorority houses (old town law about more than
8 womenin a house constituting a brothel).
[Collected on the Internet, 1997]
I have a friend who goes to Loyola New Orleans. They cannot have sorority houses because more than five girls in one house is a brothel.
[Collected on the Internet, 1995]
I have heard from the ol’ rumor mill that the reason that sororities don’t have houses at the University of Chicago is that there’s some sort of local/state law which defines four or more unmarried women living together as a brothel.
The belief that a “brothel law” bars
We routinely hear from students who are convinced their particular university lacks a sorority because of this
- The number of sorority sisters that would supposedly trigger the “brothel” designation varies from telling to telling, with six being one of the more common figures cited.
- This legend is told as true on any number of U.S. campuses, always by way of explanation for each school’s lack of sorority houses.