Yesterday I came across this article by Emily Yoffe on Slate – “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk.” Yoffe writes on how drunk women on college campuses are much more susceptible to male, often sober, sexual predators. She is clear that she is not blaming women, assault is the man’s fault. But choosing not to get drunk is one way a woman can protect herself.
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.
In her article she mentions many cases of sexual assault where alcohol played a role, including most recently the horrifying story out of Maryville, Missouri. She ends her article by reminding her target readers, female college students, that safety begins with them.
Articles like this take guts to write because it will be said she is blaming the victims. Yoffe takes pains to say she is not, and I do not think she is. It would have been great though to have a companion article with a similar title: “College Men: Stop Getting Drunk.” If it is a woman’s responsibility to do as much as she possibly can to keep herself safe, it is a man’s responsibility to understand consent and not rape and assault women.
A little while ago (literally like 20 minutes) a friend of mine posted what could have been such a companion article by Tyler Kingkade from Huffington Post: “Why Don’t We Start Telling Men Not to Drink as Rape Prevention?” This article brings up some good points in response to Yoffe’s. But it seemed to be a little idealistic, specifically this phrase:
A woman should not have to fear that if she reaches a certain Blood Alcohol Level, one of her friends, acquaintances or even boyfriend might sexually assault her.
I fully agree, and I imagine Yoffe would too. Yet we live in a world that is a broken mess and there are lots of things that we wish we did not have to fear that we do. In a perfect world women could trust all men around them to treat them with respect. On that note, in a perfect world there would be no rape or assault. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world
Kingkade ends his article by writing, “But in terms of stopping sexual violence, let’s start with teaching people not to rape and go from there.” Yes. Amen. And as we go from there we need to remember that not everyone will learn this lesson. Because not everyone will learn this lesson, Yoffe’s argument still is helpful.
I try to be a realist. I work with college students and I know (or at least think I know) how prevalent alcohol is on a college campus. The majority of students get drunk and are not shy about it. I’ve had students tell me about it…and I’m a pastor for goodness sake! Again, we don’t live in a perfect world. In a perfect world people wouldn’t need to drink themselves silly to have fun. In a perfect world there’d be no more drunk driving or alcohol poisoning.
If we want to limit sex assaults in the real world we need to have a comprehensive view that includes points made by both Yoffe and Kingkade. Like so many things, it is not an either/or, it is a both/and. Such an approach would include lots of teaching. Let’s teach our sons not to rape and assault women. No means no. For that matter, no response because she is too drunk to say “yes” also means no. Let’s teach our sons and daughters that you can have fun without getting drunk and to remind them that bad things happen when you are drunk. Stopping drinking on campus is not going to happen, but maybe we can begin to get people to drink a little less. In this, we can also teach people how to be as safe as possible when partying.
And finally, let’s teach women that sexual assault is never, ever her fault: A Short Guide to who is to Blame in Cases of Sexual Assault