Random Thoughts: The Don’t Drink and Rape Edition

If you care to know what inspired this post, you can mosey on over to Slate and look for the headline: “The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted”.

I can’t link to the article because of Slate’s horrible, terrible, no good redesign. On the upside, I am being more productive at work AND posting more here.

My thought on the article is this: It’s clickbait, pure and simple. The headline is enraging, meant to drive attention. Despite objections to the contrary, to me the way the article is written comes across as victim blaming. There’s a lot of phrases in the passive voice like, “ends up being raped”, and a small riff about how the author had a college career that was full of risks but not binge drinking (i.e. “You don’t know have to binge drink to have fun!” — a sentiment I fully agree with).

1. Yep, binge drinking is bad, and binge drinking is a huge problem on college campuses. It needs to be addressed.

2. Both sexes need to be apprised, and sternly, about the risks of binge drinking. Not just “those college lasses need to be told not to drink so darn much!” Binge drinking leads to accidents, brain damage, and death, too.

3. Drunk sex — like, really drunk sex — sucks. No one should be having sex when they are really drunk. It’s dumb, it’s dangerous, and it’s no good.

4. Rape is also a problem. Not just on college campuses. Yes, a rapist (usually a man) will use alcohol to incapacitate his chosen victim (usually a woman). But sober and not-blackout-drunk women get raped, too, by rapists. The problem isn’t the alcohol — though it doesn’t help. The problem is the rapist.

5. Yes means yes. Silence does not imply consent. Learn this lesson, boys and girls, and learn it well.

While I can understand people saying, “Well, we should tell women how to be safe!”, I do have a problem with the implied message that teaching women to look, act, BE a certain way will keep them safe.

If a girl goes to a party, and doesn’t get drunk, but still gets raped, victim-blamers are going to say, “She shouldn’t have gone to the party.” Or, “She shouldn’t have worn a skirt.” Or, “She shouldn’t have been so pretty.”

None of those messages is okay.

What if a woman goes on a few dates with a man? What if he decides he wants to have sex, but she doesn’t? If she invites him in for coffee, and he takes that as an invitation into her bedroom, and she is raped? Should she not have gone on the date? Invited him in?

No. He should not have raped her.

One of the root problems at the heart of rape is the double standard we hold for men and women when it comes to sex. Men are taught to expect sex; boys and men are taught that sex is their right, that they are entitled to have sex.

Women are taught that they have to be good girls. Act the right way, dress the right way, not associate with bad people, not drink too much.

Because of this double standard, it is very easy for some people to blame a victim of rape for her rape.

In rape, it is never the victim’s fault.

++

I will teach my two daughters and my son the risks inherent in binge drinking — all of the risks. I hope to instill in them a healthy respect for alcohol. I also hope that we can take away the taboo of alcohol, not treat it like a forbidden fruit. I hope by normalizing it a little, the allure will diminish.

An inherent risk of interacting with the opposite sex, however, is rape. And my daughters are not in control of not getting raped. A man is in control of choosing not to rape. We have to teach our sons better, get out the message to men: Don’t rape. Yes means yes.

We also have to make clear that rapes and assaults should be reported. Reported crimes need to be treated seriously, regardless of the social status of the criminal. Regardless of the sobriety of the victim. And the laws have to be more strictly enforced when someone is raped.

I’m not going to rant about ‘rape culture’ — or maybe I just did, I’m not 100 percent clear what that phrase means. Violent crimes of all kinds are down across the board, although you would never know it reading or watching the news.

But articles like the one in Slate, that try to address an aspect of sexual assault in our culture, don’t help the conversation when they are so one-dimensional, and demonize alcohol consumption (which, again, binge drinking = bad news) instead of demonizing rapists.

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