In Slate.com Emily Yoffe makes the argument, The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting so Wasted. She begins by pointing to three high-profile rape cases which involved alcohol but did not occur on a college campus. Yet most of the research she cites are studies about sexual assault on college campuses. Then Yoffe warns of the potential perils of binge drinking including accidental death. At times I couldn’t tell if she was advocating against binge drinking or rape. Finally she used herself as an example, “I enjoy moderate drinking and have only been hung over three times in my life. I have never been so drunk that I browned out, blacked out, passed out, or puked from alcohol ingestion.” Well that’s great Yoffe, but you are a grown woman and in the three cases you cited in your opening paragraph, all of the victims were minors or extremely young women.
Of course no one is for underage girls drinking alcohol. But who is more likely to make a mistake and accidentally consume too much, an adult woman with some life experience or a child? Is it really the fault of a child for curiously getting into the liquor cabinet, or the 18-year-old boy who raped her when she had too much. Women and girls are responsible for their own actions, but so are the boys and men who rape. And why did Yoffe use examples of teenage rape victims, and then rail against college aged drinking binges?
Ironically in one of the high-profile cases Yoffe cites, the victim was so viciously blamed for her own assault her mother’s house was burned to the ground. Why would anyone blame a teenaged victim? Perhaps because they are feeding into attitudes that somehow this girl deserved what happened to her. Unlike the “good girl” Yoffe, she couldn’t use restraint.
Articles like these are dangerous because ultimately they are feeding into the culture of victim blaming. Binge drinking is dangerous for both men and women, and women do metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than men. Regardless women will still get raped. Women get raped in countries where alcohol is largely prohibited. Women get raped while wearing full length burkas. Women, children and men get raped for doing absolutely nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I would also agree with the author that we should arm young women about risky situations. But as much as she claims we are Infantilizing women by ignoring risks such as binge drinking, she is Infantilizing men by not making them more responsible for a culture that not only obscures responsibility but blames victims.
In my youth, I had more than a few sexually intimidating and threatening situations where alcohol played no role whatsoever. When a college professor made me feel that my grade and future education depended on me humoring his constant advances – I wasn’t exactly drunk. When an older boy repeatedly forcibly fondled me in a friend’s pool – I was 12 years old and no alcohol. When I got roofied in my freshmen year of college at a party and woke up on a loft bed with a naked man on top of me – was I being irresponsible when I had only sipped on a Diet Coke? Luckily in the last scenario I managed to escape the assault without being raped, but only barely.
The common denominator in my own experiences were men who enjoyed dominating, intimidating and controlling women. If we want to put an end to rape culture, we need to warn women of the dangers, but we also need to change our attitudes towards male sexuality. Men are not wild beasts who cannot control themselves in sexually charged situations. The men and boys who rape, make a conscious choice to view their victims as less than human. Rapists attack anyone who is weaker or vulnerable including children and even other men. In rare cases even women rape. The source of sexual violence goes deeper than a 20-year-old at a college party who had one to many beer bongs. Instead of focusing on the victims of the abuse, perhaps we should focus on why rape is so pervasive. What causes a man to view a woman as prey? Why is there so much confusion about constitutes consent? Why is their one set of standards of behavior for men and another for women? Why do we so often blame the victim? What about our culture produces men who rape? Until we face the harsh realities that feed the culture of rape: misogyny, male aggression, fear of female sexuality, and a firmly entrenched madonna whore complex, we are never going to solve the problem of rape.
- Slate Forgot That the One Common Factor in Rapes Are Rapists (theatlanticwire.com)
- Slate Columnists: Stop Getting Published (charliedavis.blogspot.com)
- How To Write About Rape Prevention Without Sounding Like An Asshole (jezebel.com)
- Sorry, Emily Yoffe: Blaming assault on women’s drinking is wrong, dangerous and tired (salon.com)
- Dear Prudence: Stop blaming women for their own sexual assaults (deathandtaxesmag.com)
- Emma Gray: What Slate Got So Wrong About College Women And Sexual Assault (huffingtonpost.com)
- College Men: Stop Getting Drunk (nymag.com)
- Reading Yoffe and McDonough on College Drinking and Rape (theegalitarianist.wordpress.com)