A reader writes:
I cannot believe we’re still having this debate. As always, people who should know better like to combine and muddy issues that should be clear.
1) Of course the fault of rape lies with the rapist. Entirely and totally.
2) Talking about how to avoid rape isn’t about fault. It’s about how to deal with a flawed, screwed-up world. Given the fact there are people (mostly men) who rape, how do you deal with that?
I mean, who ever thought you could stop murders by telling murderers to stop? Or robbers to stop robbing? The world is full of bad people who commit all manners of crimes. Trying to prevent those crimes has nothing to do with making the victims at fault. But it is still practical and important. I don’t understand why so many people cannot handle the simple explanation: “If you get really drunk, you put yourself at risk of a large range of crimes from bad people. Rape isn’t the only one, but it is a major one. It’s not your fault, but it is a danger.”
As always, it’s the “should” that kills people. No one should go hungry. No one should be raped. The world should be more fair and equitable. Yes, but so what? “Should” is small comfort for those who’ve discovered that the world is built on what “shouldn’t”, not “should.”
Here’s a proposal for how we can give gender-neutral advice to people new to drinking: the buddy system.
Like swimming, drinking is an activity where everyone should have a buddy: Nobody should drink alone, nobody should go home without knowing that their buddy is safe for the night. This holds for both men and women – anyone who is up for a night of serious drinking is at risk of making stupid decisions. Run these decisions by your buddy first, that’s all we’re saying. And if two drunken people do want to hook up, their buddies can at least check that both participants are conscious enough to discuss condoms.
This is not the same as a designated driver – your buddy can drink too. But it’s someone who will come check on you if you vanish into a back room, or if you start walking down the middle of the highway, or fall asleep in a puddle of puke. And someone to remind you (and someone you will remind) that you agreed not to do shots that night.
The controversy surrounding Emily Yoffe’s warning reminds me of my days as a resident adviser back in the mid-1980s. In our RA training, alcohol consumption got a lot of attention, and one point I particularly remember was that drunkenness made people more likely to commit crimes and more likely to be the victims of crime. The advice was directed equally at women and men.
But something else came up the year I was an RA, and the double standard got to me. At an RA meeting, some male RAs brought up the fact that they had seen some female residents asleep in their rooms while their doors were open. The male RAs’ concern stemmed from fears that a wayward male might take that situation as an invitation. It had happened; there had been reports at our campus of young men just walking into dorm rooms and getting into bed with women they hadn’t met.
On the one hand, I could understand the concern. On the other hand, I didn’t like the tone. I remember a statement to the effect of, “Someone needs to talk to those girls and tell them they’re really asking for trouble.” The thing is, Andrew, if a guy fell asleep while his door was open, nobody would have thought twice about that. Maybe he didn’t face the same risk as a female, but to doze off in an open room was (so far as I could tell) unconsciously assumed to be a male student’s right and a female student’s poor judgment.