Slate published an article by Emily Yoffe (aka Prudence, the advice columnist) that had me shaking my head for the entire morning. In it, Yoffe reveals startling statistics on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and the role alcohol plays in many of these incidences. She goes on to say that women should not get to get drunk so as to prevent potential sexual assault and advising such is NOT akin to victim-blaming. My response? NO. No. No. No. No. No. NO. NO. Aaaaand NO.
Listen, everyone should be careful when consuming alcohol, especially on college campuses, regardless of gender. Just look at these numbers published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institute of Health:
- Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes (Hingson et al., 2009).
- Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2009).
- Assault: 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking (Hingson et al., 2009).
Obviously, drinking irresponsibly leads to all sorts of trouble so our efforts shouldn’t be focused on telling women not to get drunk because there are bad people out there but telling EVERYONE to CHILL OUT WITH THAT SHIT.
While it may not be exactly victim-blaming, her article still puts the onus on the victim to protect herself from harm. It’s akin to telling women not to go out at night, or wear revealing clothing, or step out of the house, or breathe. There’s an underlying assumption that women’s bodies are public domain. Your body is for consumption and does not belong to you whether or not you’re inebriated, but especially if you are. Perpetrators will assault women regardless of their state of consciousness; does it make it easier when you’re inebriated? Yes. Should women forever be frightened into constantly policing themselves? NO. There are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of rape cases that go unreported because the victim feels as though she deserved it or somehow let it happen. Just last week Yoffe received a letter from a woman who was raped by her boyfriend’s womanizing best friend but hadn’t reported it because she had let him in the apartment. Did Yoffe admonish her for allowing him into her home despite her knowing he had a history of being a cad and, interestingly, drunk? No. Because you don’t do that.
We are a nation of reactionary, pearl-clutching, hand wringing zebra farts. Instead of focusing on prevention, we only do something once some horrendous event occurs. Take gun control for example. This debate has been raging on the sidelines for years but it took an elementary school massacre in order for the conversation to be brought to the national stage. Did anything happen? Not really. Anti-gun control activists have a much louder voice, a stronger lobby, and well, guns. Their counter argument? People need guns to protect themselves from gun-toting maniacs. What’s wrong with that picture? MANIACS SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO HAVE GUNS IN THE FIRST PLACE. How do you achieve that? BY INSTITUTING COMPREHENSIVE GUN CONTROL REFORM. There have been numerous studies showing how gun culture actually only serves to perpetuate gun violence, not deter it. There are plenty of countries who serve as a perfect case study for why we need it – take Australia. They had one massacre and instituted swift and strict gun control policies and haven’t had one since.
So back to the point at hand. Stop policing women’s bodies. Stop telling women that they should do this, that, and the other thing to prevent assault. Stop re-victimizing women by assigning them blame for not taking “proper precaution.”
Focus your efforts on telling men not to take advantage of women who are inebriated. Teach men that women’s bodies are not public space. Reform sexual assault laws to make sure women can report sexual assault without fearing recourse. Tell your sons, brothers, relatives, friends, that women are autonomous individuals who deserve humanity regardless of how drunk they are, what they wear, or how late it is.
Also, just NO.