It’s time to stop being silent on binge drinking & how it turns women into rape victims

Women friends toasting with shots at a bar
Ladies, please be safe.
Image via HuffPo.

Emily Yoffe at Slate penned a thoughtful, must-read yesterday that I’m sure she’s taking a lot of grief from “feminists” over – the emerging culture of binge drinking among young women and how it is turning some of them into rape victims:

In one awful high-profile case after another—the U.S. Naval AcademySteubenville, Ohio; now the allegations in Maryville, Mo.—we read about a young woman, sometimes only a girl, who goes to a party and ends up being raped. As soon as the school year begins, so do reports of female students sexually assaulted by their male classmates. A common denominator in these cases is alcohol, often copious amounts, enough to render the young woman incapacitated. But a misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young women that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves in potential peril.

A 2009 study of campus sexual assault found that by the time they are seniors, almost 20 percent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. Very few will ever report it to authorities. The same study states that more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol. Frequently both the man and the woman have been drinking. The men tend to use the drinking to justify their behavior, as this survey of research on alcohol-related campus sexual assault by Antonia Abbey, professor of psychology at Wayne State University, illustrates, while for many of the women, having been drunk becomes a source of guilt and shame. Sometimes the woman is the only one drunk and runs into a particular type of shrewd—and sober—sexual predator who lurks where women drink like a lion at a watering hole. For these kinds of men, the rise of female binge drinking has made campuses a prey-rich environment. I’ve spoken to three recent college graduates who were the victims of such assailants, and their stories are chilling.

Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.

Experts I spoke to who wanted young women to get this information said they were aware of how loaded it has become to give warnings to women about their behavior. “I’m always feeling defensive that my main advice is: ‘Protect yourself. Don’t make yourself vulnerable to the point of losing your cognitive faculties,’ ” says Anne Coughlin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, who has written on rape and teaches feminist jurisprudence. She adds that by not telling them the truth—that they are responsible for keeping their wits about them—she worries that we are “infantilizing women.”

Ms. Coughlin is right – we ARE infantilizing young women by withholding critical information from women,  giving into the popular myth that it’s wrong to discuss rape prevention methods that involve women taking more care when it comes to their surroundings and state of mind. It’s my personal belief that the deliberate shielding of women from this obvious fact has caused more of them to become victims of rape.  It’s so critically important that the public dialogue on women’s safety gets this right and starts being more upfront and candid about measures women young and old to take to cut down on the likelihood that they will become victims of crime.

I wrote about this a few months ago after reading about the Steubenville, case:

I get in trouble sometimes for making this argument because some people think I’m “blaming the victim.” Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a difference in saying something might have been preventable versus blaming the victim for what happened. No victim of rape deserves to be raped. Period. Full stop. My point is that I want there to be less victims of crime, not more, and the best way to reduce your chances of being a victim is to start by being responsible for where you are and the condition you are in and who you are with. Why is this so controversial to say? Parents tell their kids not to play too close to the street. Husbands remind their wives not to drive or walk in a bad neighborhood at all, especially at night and especially not alone. Mothers strongly urge a buddy system for their teenage daughters when a group of them get together for a beach trip. Why not encourage women, especially young high school and college women, to avoid getting drunk? Doesn’t mean you can’t drink, but it also means to not have so much to drink you forget who you are, where you are, and who you are with —- and what you’re doing. This applies to guys as well, of course, but fortunately for them they don’t have to deal with being date raped very often. Ladies – don’t put it all on the guy to be responsible. You need to be responsible, too, just in case.

These are common sense suggestions that aid in keeping people safe. They aren’t fool-proof, of course – you could take every single precaution possible and still find yourself in a situation you’d rather not be in – but you lessen your chances of being a victim of crime just by following simple advice on how to protect yourself.

Yes, we should be able to go where we want to go, and do what we want to do without fear that we’re going to be attacked – and that goes for men, too. We have the “right” of free will. But having “the right” to do something in our society doesn’t always = being ok to exercise it. With freedom comes responsibility, and we must be responsible for ourselves, and in our decision making, because our society is not perfect. And that is the reality of it – we don’t live in a perfect world, and there are people out there who will always be up to no good, so we must guard ourselves against such people. Amazingly enough, I’ve been able to do this for years and still – gasp – have managed to have fun!

It wasn’t always like this, however- when I was younger I DID find myself in situations that could have gotten me in a lot of trouble. I was VERY fortunate that ultimately they did not. I’ve done a lot of maturing since then, and my hope is that anyone reading this who has the mentality that they are invincible, please do a little soul-searching …. and growing up, too. Most men don’t rape (newsflash for “feminists”!) but there are bad people in the world, and taking precautionary measures to try and prevent yourself from being hurt could save you a lot of pain and grief and agony.

Isn’t it worth it to at least try?

Well?

Related: Yoffe responds to her predictable knee-jerking “feminist” critics here.

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