Emily Yoffe, author of the widely respected “Dear Prudence” column at Slate, has decided that “the best rape prevention” is to “tell college women to stop getting so wasted.” She argues that drinking is a choice (duh), drinking to extreme excess makes you unable to protect yourself (duh), and then it gets weird: Yoffe says that college women just haven’t figured this out.
“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.” Who doesn’t know that binge drinking is dangerous? This is the basic Bynes-Lohan Principle at work: nobody looks at a girl who’s falling all over herself and thinks “yep, she’s got her life under control.”
“We are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them.” OH WOW. I had NO IDEA that being defenseless made me so…defenseless. How NICE of this Slate columnist to come over and tell me, because I really sure am SHOCKED.
There are plenty of reasons to tell young people not to drink to excess. It’s bad for your brain, kidney, and liver. It impairs your ability to make decisions. It’s empty calories. It’s illegal. It’s not classy. You’ll have a hangover tomorrow. None of these reasons are gendered. To give women a lecture on drinking and assault, and let the men skip it, is to say that binge drinking is only a female problem. This also sends the message that only sloppy drunk women get attacked. So if, heaven forbid, it happens to you, then you must be a sloppy drunk woman. If only you would quit drinking in college, you would not have had this problem. See the slippery slope here?
It’s not wrong to ask women to protect themselves, but it is wrong to look at a crime committed overwhelmingly more often by one sex, and task the other sex with preventing it. Don’t make us play defense. Go on the offensive and talk to the men, too.
Yoffe cites a 2009 study, which says “more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol. Frequently both the man and the woman have been drinking.” If a woman and a man get drunk, and the man commits a crime against the woman, it is the man’s drinking that is the problem.
Drinking and partying are behaviors that, according to Yoffe, increases the chances that a college woman will become a victim of sexual assault. But here are some other behaviors that increase those odds:
1. Having friends: According to RAINN, “73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.” Minimize your risk by never meeting anyone new.
2. Going to college: 100% of sexual assaults that occur on a college campus, happen on a college campus. Don’t want to get attacked in college? Don’t go to college!
If you’re going to tell the girls “don’t drink so much that you are in a position to get attacked,” you better also tell the boys “don’t drink so much that you do the attacking.” Anything less is to put the burden of prevention on victims, instead of on the perpetrators where it belongs.