So, I saw yet another article floating around claiming that if women don’t want to be raped, they should stop drinking alcohol. The author claims up an down that’s totally not what she’s saying, but the text says differently. I have decided to take it upon myself to rewrite the article from a different point of view. I’ll be telling men that if they don’t want to rape someone, they should stop drinking alcohol. Trigger warning for rape in the following piece.
Let us look at a hypothetical situation. Long, long ago, in the land of Drink, there was a young man who like to, well, drink. Alcohol made him delightfully less inhibited. He was absolutely, 100% sure he could control himself. One evening, he found himself in the apartment of a woman he’d just met. For some reason, he decided it would be fun to have her match him shot for shot. Eventually, she became severely drunk and passed out. Despite the numerous objections in his mind, he insisted that he must go home, and managed to stumble out the door before anything bad happened.
The young man in our story may never know how close he came to being a statistic. All he knew was that he was very lucky. And that he had acted like an idiot.
Alcohol plays a huge role in sex assaults. In one survey involving U.S. first-year undergrads, 83% of rapes occurred while the woman was incapacitated. The article in which the survey is quoted unfortunately devolves into victim blaming. If alcohol is such a major factor, why don’t we warn young men about the risks of heavy drinking?
Simple. No one wants to blame the rapist. For years, society has wrongly spent years educating the public and the courts that rapists are not responsible for sexual assault – their victims are. But this has resulted in a mass evasion of certain unpleasant, but essential truths.
Earlier this month, a British judge, Lindsey Kushner, reinforced this point during the sentencing hearing for a man who had raped an 18-year-old girl. They’d met in a Burger King after she’d spent the night out drinking. The judge said there is “absolutely no excuse” for sex attacks. But she added that girls and women put themselves at risk when they get drunk. They are less likely to fight off an attack, less likely to report one because they don’t remember what happened and less likely to be believed than someone who was sober. “Girls are perfectly entitled to drink themselves into the ground,” she said. But they “should be aware” that potential assailants “gravitate toward girls who have been drinking. It shouldn’t be like that, but it does happen and we see it time and time again.”
The pile-on was fortunately swift. The judge was accused of victim-blaming, and of deterring other women from coming forward. “When judges basically blame victims for rape – by suggesting how much alcohol a woman drinks or what she wears is part of what causes rape – we remove the responsibility from the man who did it,” one advocacy group said. Unfortunately, she had nothing to lose. It was her final case before retiring.
None of this is fair or just. It’s unfair that women can’t drink like men without someone blaming them for the things done to them while under the influence, unfair that alcohol provokes men to be sexually aggressive, unfair that men regard drunken women as prey, unfair that the justice system is often very far from perfect. Some of these things can perhaps be changed while others cannot..
Yet as one mother of two sons said, “We can’t wait until the legal system improves. We have to teach our sons how they can make the world safe for girls.”
But some of the most important things they can do to make the world safe are never mentioned in anti-violence campaigns. Perhaps that is also because heavy drinking among men has been normalized.
Victims aren’t responsible for rape. Rapists are responsible for rape, just as muggers are responsible for mugging you if you walk down a dark alley in a dicey part of town at 4 a.m. But if you could do something to reduce the risk of mugging someone, wouldn’t you?
There are many things we can do better to reduce sexual violence. We must teach more young men to have respect for women. We must also teach young men to have respect for booze. That’s not blaming men – it’s empowering them to manage risk.