The #1 date-rape drug: ethyl alcohol

The #1 “date rape” drug is, and always has been, alcohol. Yes, it’s possible to slip another drug into a drink so the victim doesn’t know what she’s taking, but if that were eliminated 90+% of the problem would remain. Drunken women are easy victims, and current social norms encourage young women to get drunk. A would-be rapist really doesn’t need Rohypnol.

Of course the flip side of that is also true. Drunken men are much more likely to be sexually (and otherwise) aggressive, and current social norms encourage young men to get drunk; that’s a problem on top of the fact that other norms encourage their sexual (and other) aggression.

Three cheers for Emily Yoffe for being willing to write this down. At some point, as the hysteria about “drugs” recedes, maybe we can start a serious policy discussion about the drug that does more damage than all the “controlled substances” combined. The result of that discussion should be higher taxes, negative marketing, marketing limits, user-set personal quotas, and bans on alcohol sales to people convicted of alcohol-related crimes.

But starting the discussion with the simple proposition that getting trashed is a very, very bad habit wouldn’t be a bad start. And yes, part of the problem is that school-based “drug prevention” programs often fail to distinguish between drinking and getting drunk.

Footnote The editors of TPM seem to have been fooled into running a prank commentary. I suspect (or at least, I hope) that “Soraya Chemaly” is either an anti-feminist, engaged in a broad and un-funny parody of feminist analysis, or a beer-company shill doing the alcohol version of the gun lobby’s “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” shtick.

Of course the primary moral onus for sexual assault is on the assailant; who denies it? Not Yoffe, who states it explicitly. But alcohol makes potential assailants more likely to offend and also makes potential victims softer targets. Subtract drunkenness from the equation, and there’d be much less sexual assault. (Also true, it turns out, of domestic violence.) Understanding that doesn’t mean blaming rapists less; it simply means adopting one effective means of denying them vulnerable targets.

Yoffe, as a woman writing to women, suggests that they can defend themselves by not getting sloshed in public. She’s right. “Chemaly” (or whoever borrowed her identity) suggests that men should be convinced not to commit rape. Yes, that would be nice to do, if someone knew how to do it. But “Chemaly” seems to think that telling potential victims how to protect themselves constitutes “blaming the victim.” That’s beyond dumb.

Update One theme, in the commentaries below and in the discussion of Yoffe’s essay elsewhere, is that any individual girl who doesn’t get drunk is simply pushing victimization onto someone else, without changing the total rate of victimization. That would be true if the number of potential predators was fixed and if each predator kept searching until he found a victim and then stopped. But stating those conditions makes it clear how implausible the argument is. Of course the number, distribution, and behavior of potential victims influences the number of completed crimes. Surely lots of men commit acquaintance rape who didn’t explicitly intend to do so at the beginning of the evening, and equally surely lots of men looking to “score” by fair means or foul fail to do so because they don’t encounter an adequately vulnerable target.

Comments

  1. Cranky Observer says

    = = = Of course the primary moral onus for sexual assault is on the assailant; who denies it? Not Yoffe, who states it explicitly. = = =

    This is about the 33rd time in the last five years that Yoffe has written about women’s responsibility not to put themselves in a position to be raped. Say, by attending parties or wearing clothes of their own choosing. Does she “deny it” – men being responsible for committing rape? I suppose not. Still, she seems to have a bit of a fixation, no? Nor does she ever reply to thoughtful and cogent criticism of her writings.

    Here’s a counterpoint based on one of Yoffe’s previous articles: http://feministing.com/2013/01/07/dear-prudence-how-should-i-respond-to-your-rape-denialism/

    • Mark Kleiman says

      I’ll have to take your word for it that Yoffe doesn’t reply to “thoughtful and cogent criticism.” The piece you link to sure isn’t it.

      You don’t link to any writing where Yoffe says that women are to blame for attending parties or for their choice of clothing. Does such writing exist, or are you joining Yoffe’s other critics by attacking her for something you imagine she might think rather than for something she has actually said?

      • says

        No, but the article you criticize links to several. Here’s one:

        Your approach, however, seems to be to treat your sex life as if it is subject to regulatory review by the Department of Health and Human Services. Your prim, punctilious, punitive style has me admiring your put-upon husband’s ability to even get it up, given the possibility he’ll be accused of rape—or turn himself in for it!—if one of you fails a breathalyzer test.

        Not exactly empathy-rich.

        • Foster Boondoggle says

          Well, since you helpfully linked to the “Dear Prudie” piece, I went and found this in the letter she’s responding to: “After coming back from a friend’s wine tasting we went to bed and he started to kiss me. I liked it and went along, only to wake up in the morning and remember only half of it. Now I am in the same painful spot I was before and I can’t fathom how he could have ignored our agreement.” To me that reads almost like the sort of prank letter college kids used to send off to “Dear Abby” to see whether they could sneak the joke past her. This woman has a serious problem, and it’s not that she’s been “raped” by her husband.

          I also see that Amanda Hess has joined the pile on, basically by saying “stop telling women what not to do, and start punishing rapists more”. The second half is fine, but I really don’t understand the “feminist” problem with noting the very obvious fact that a young woman who gets drunk puts herself at risk.

          • a4t says

            I think the prime feminist objection to the drinking piece lies with how it goes against a common thread in contemporary feminist ideology, namely that women have a right to blame others for the consequences of choices which end badly.

            At one point on this thread is the belief that women should be able to get black out drunk without any risk of sexual assault. If the woman is assaulted, it’s entirely and utterly the fault of society for not protecting her. At another point on the thread is the belief that a woman who has consensual sex which she later regrets can retroactively blame the man for raping her. If a woman made a bad decision, it wasn’t really her fault. It was the fault of the man instead, and the man should be held responsible.

            Feminist objections to the drinking piece and their reactions to the Dear Prudie piece are two sides of the same coin.

            These people are off the deep end.

          • says

            My point was that Yoffe shows a lack of empathy toward women when alcohol and sex intersect. So yes, of course I linked to it. The adverb isn’t “helpfully”, it’s “honestly”. If I craft an excerpt to make a point, I’m going to put the original source right next to it so you can see it in full.

  2. NCG says

    I don’t know if there is real heat being applied, but imho, there isn’t really a debate about whether or not it’s “smart” to get s-faced with people you don’t know well. It obviously isn’t.

    But let’s not forget how society dumps all over rape victims pretty much regardless of the circs. All women are liars etc etc. Or, they asked for it. Whichever is most convenient.

    So I get why so many women are angry when they see these pieces, even though it is still good advice. Funny, the military hasn’t gotten the message yet either. You would think this would be obvious, but no. So little attention is put into raising good men.

  3. says

    Mark, you’re wrong.

    There’s protecting individuals, and there’s protecting groups. It’s my job to protect my daughter; it’s society’s job to protect women in general. I make my daughter safer by teaching her how to stay away from trouble. That passes the trouble on to the next woman, but there are limits to what an individual can do, so there we’ve reached risk reduction at society’s level. I teach (or will) my daughter to be careful about getting intoxicated; society (including but not exclusive to parents) has to teach men not to rape.

    There’s an excellent counterpoint in Slate. I’m in agreement with it.

    • Cranky Observer says

      Some additional thoughts here:

      = = =
      http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/
      Yoffe is wrong because if men, women and alcohol are a bad combination, it is sexist and unjust for women to be the ones excluded. Jaclyn Friedman was eloquent on this subject five years ago, and Ann Friedman brilliantly flipped Yoffe’s construction on its head this morning, and Soraya Chemaly picks up the same theme. Yoffe manages to re-make a Victorian, angel-of-the-hearth argument about how women’s moral purity will protect them and into the bargain civilize the savage male: but then she has the gall to call it a feminist argument! = = =

      • Mark Kleiman says

        This assumes that the only thing to do about excessive drinking is to preach about it. There are also policy interventions. It’s not the case that the rapists get *all* the blame for rape: the beer companies that encourage them and their victims to get sloshed certainly have to own part of it.

        • says

          I don’t disagree with that. Perhaps they can be convinced (by which I mean made) to finance broadcasting some ads like this one, a certain number for every commercial ad they run. I’m sure there are other interventions at the policy level.

          But the public focus needs kept on rape, and men, and convincing (by which I mean doing whatever is necessary) them not to rape. This society has yet to convince (by which I mean give a sh*t) itself that drunken women don’t deserve to be raped. Once it’s figured that out, maybe I’ll trust it to tell my daughter how to reduce her chances of being raped without shaming or putting the blame on victims. Maybe. Till that day, I’ll take care of that part myself. It won’t be the first time I’ve had to explain she is being unjustly forced to adjust her actions based on the wrong behavior of others.

          • Foster Boondoggle says

            “It won’t be the first time I’ve had to explain she is being unjustly forced to adjust her actions based on the wrong behavior of others.”

            How is this anything more than “teaching her to live in the real world”? And particularly where getting blind drunk is concerned: would this be OK with you if it weren’t for the date rape risk?

          • says

            As to your first question, there’s a qualitative difference between telling someone to behave well because it’s the right thing to do–like telling boys not to commit rape–and telling someone to condition her behavior on fear of others–like telling girls to constrain themselves or someone will hurt them. I suppose we could call both those “teaching [someone] to live in the real world”, but they are very different nonetheless.

            As to the second, yes. Yes, it is, aside from date rape, driving drunk, and so on. (There’s a lot of so on.) Moderation is best in moderation. Once she’s old enough to drink, for her to get hammered on occasion, at the right time, in the right place, with the right people, is fine with me.

            This is a good place to note that Yoffe has things to say which I agree should be said. For instance, I don’t think most people know that women metabolize alcohol more slowly than men, and therefore Hilary Clinton matching John McCain drink for drink is a dumb way to bond with him. That’s one. There are others.

          • Ned says

            there’s a qualitative difference between telling someone to behave well because it’s the right thing to do–like telling boys not to commit rape–and telling someone to condition her behavior on fear of others–like telling girls to constrain themselves or someone will hurt them.

            I’m not counseling that we should tell people to live in fear. But in small ways, we condition our behavior on fear of others all the time. When I leave the house in the morning, I lock the door because I would like to reduce the chance of someone burgling my house. As I drive to work, I try to drive defensively, because I would like to reduce the chance of someone causing an accident. And so on.

            Why is it common sense to teach our children to constrain their own behavior in all these various ways for the sake of reducing their chances of being victimized … but somehow fundamentally immoral to do so in this one specific instance?

          • Brett Bellmore says

            Because telling them to be careful in this particular circumstance comes into conflict with a fundamental tenet of feminist thought: That anything a woman later regrets is always the man’s fault. Even if they were both drunk and enthusiastic about it at the time. It’s the man’s job to accurately forecast whether she’ll change her mind, because women can’t be expected to suck it up and accept the consequences of their own choices.

          • Cranky Observer says

            = = = Brett Bellmore @ 3:04 am: Because telling them to be careful in this particular circumstance comes into conflict with a fundamental tenet of feminist thought: That anything a woman later regrets is always the man’s fault. = = =

            Three instances of this meme on this thread within three hours. Is it the line being pushed on breitbart.com today?

            Cranky

          • Brett Bellmore says

            Maybe it’s just the sort of obvious point that spontaneously occurs to anybody who’s not saturated with the feminist koolaid? That if two people get drunk and have sex, automatically designating one of them the “assailant” doesn’t necessarilly reflect reality?

          • Ned says

            Cranky, I wouldn’t assume that when it comes to posting obnoxious, inflammatory crap, Brett needs any help from Breitbart or any other right-wing website. He’s perfectly capable of generating this nonsense on his own.

            Just over a week ago, Brett wrote “As I recall, the big scandal about the OK bombing was the extent to which they discovered it had been facilitated by government agents playing provocateur.” He still hasn’t apologized or admitted the lapse in judgment. The man has no capacity for shame.

    • Katja says

      I honestly don’t follow you here. By the same token, should I keep the door of my house unlocked, because if I locked it, I’d pass the burglary risk on to others? There’s selflessness and there’s stupidity. Protecting yourself is completely orthogonal to policies that reduce risk for society at large. The Slate article saying that the two are mutually exclusive strikes me as unsupportable. On top of that, the article claims that there is a substitution effect without supporting the claim. Rape is frequently an opportunistic crime; it does not follow that when a rapist is denied an opportunity, another woman will be victimized.

      Note also that Emily Joffe is not talking about drinking alcohol as such; she’s talking about drinking so much that you incapacitate yourself (“when they get wasted”, “when they render themselves defenseless”). I don’t find this controversial; in fact, it strikes me as just plain common sense for both men and women: being drunk makes you easy pickings for all kinds of criminals, not just rapists, and makes it more likely to get involved in physical altercations (a disproportionate number of homicide victims are drunk). It just so happens that the RoI for not getting drunk is particularly high with respect to avoiding rape. (That’s not counting how you may put others at risk, even as a pedestrian or passenger in a car.)

      • says

        People lock doors to protect themselves. Society provides police to protect everyone. Sure, lock your doors, but don’t expect to stop burglary. For that, you need something more.

        • Katja says

          Absolutely. That’s why I said that protecting yourself and protecting society are not mutually exclusive.

          • says

            I agree. What the disagreement is down to, for me at least, is how to appropriately engage the role of overintoxication in acquaintance rape and date rape. My opinion is that personal protection is a matter for personal engagement. Parents, peers, and in some cases teachers (and not educational institutions) need to be the lead instructors for women on this issue. Educational institutions and, well, society as a whole need to take the lead on teaching men not to rape.

            The UK Home Office is producing really good anti-rape material aimed at men. I wish Keith felt like weighing in on that, as I suspect he’s more familiar with it than most of us here. So, Keith: Come on down! Get a respite from the contentiousness of drug policy!

  4. Nick says

    Of course the primary moral onus for sexual assault is on the assailant; who denies it?

    I’m pretty sure you read this blog that you’re posting on so I’m mystified how you can ask this question (rhetorically, no less) just two days after this story was posted.

    The answer to your question is: virtually everyone, when doing so is more convenient to them.

  5. Philip says

    Thank you Mark for writing this.

    That boys and men need to be much better taught not to follow decades, centuries old patterns of aggressively pursuing sex with women at times into a gray zone of morality or even beyond that, into forcible rape, is absolutely true and should be the central focus.

    But many of the stories Yoffe has responded to (the feministing article quotes a few, in my view misleadingly) include two very drunk individuals, a man and a woman, and sex occurs that the woman at least remembers little of, and there are increasing voices from many feminists that this is akin to rape. It certainly doesn’t seem obviously that way to me without clearer case-by-case evidence. That some, maybe many, men, drunk, have a predilection to even semiconsciously take advantage of such a situation is, again, what we should be focusing on changing. If we could watch a videotape of each of these encounters it would probably be obvious in 90% of cases which ones have the man ignoring the woman’s desires and taking advantage. But we can’t, and the memories of the individuals aren’t reliable either. We regularly let likely murderers walk because of our ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ requirement at the center of our justice system; we are unfortunately going to let likely date rapists (as well as many innocent of that crime) walk because of the same factor. if the option is between that and switching to a ‘guilty if the woman says you did it’ standard, extreme feminists may want the latter but our long history argues for the former.

    in that situation, it seems unfortunate but reasonable advice to tell women to be careful about how drunk they get when in certain situations. As a secondary message to changing male attitudes.

    no one is saying a drunk woman jumped in a parking garage and raped asked for it. that’s not the situation yoffe is targeting. yoffe is saying if the couple are drunk and engaged in sexual activities and the woman is too drunk to make and express clear conscious decisions (while still being conscious enough to move and respond physically) then she’s in a situation where even she, the woman, doesn’t know what happened, and that situation is one to try to avoid. in that situation, i believe the woman may bear some responsibility – if her behavior was confusing to an aroused, drunk, well-meaning man; or perhaps she bears no responsibility not if the man took advantage of clear signals. In most cases no one will ever know.

    • Cranky Observer says

      Sort of like this?

      = = = http://annfriedman.com/post/64213173982/college-men-stop-getting-drunk
      College Men: Stop Getting Drunk
      It’s closely associated with sexual assault. And yet we’re reluctant to tell men to stop doing it.

      In one awful high-profile case after another—the U.S. Naval Academy; Steubenville, Ohio; now the allegations in Maryville, Mo.—we read about a young man, sometimes only a boy, who goes to a party and ends up raping. As soon as the school year begins, so do reports of male students sexually assaulting their female classmates. A common denominator in these cases is alcohol, often copious amounts. But the obsessive focus on blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young men that when they get wasted, they are putting young women in potential peril.

      A 2009 study of campus sexual assault found that by the time they are seniors, many college men will become rapists, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. Very few will ever be reported to authorities. The same study states that more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol. Frequently both the man and the woman have been drinking. The men tend to use the drinking to justify their behavior, as this survey of research on alcohol-related campus sexual assault by Antonia Abbey, professor of psychology at Wayne State University, illustrates, while for many of the women, having been drunk becomes a source of guilt and shame.

      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 men know that when they drink their decision-making skills into oblivion, they can do terrible things. Young men are getting a distorted message that their right to match each other drink for drink is proof of their masculinity. The real masculine message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will become the kind of person who, shall we say, doesn’t have others’ best interest at heart. That’s not saying all men are rapists; that’s trying to prevent more rapes.= = =

      • Anonymous says

        I know little of the details of most of these examples, but Steubenville where I believe there were pictures of the woman passed out, and perhaps videos, is obviously a crime. And due to masculine attitudes and the cult of athletics in US high schools based on what I’ve heard. Terrible.

        The question that Yoffe addresses though – the situations she has commented on – are all much grayer than this. Given facts anything like Steubenville you can be sure she would tell the writer to report the man and tell the victim she was in no way responsible. Rightly.

        The point you seem to be making is that many young men are at heart willing to exploit women when they get drunk, that when a man and woman get drunk many men will take advantage of the woman. There are clear cases of this – college fraternities which send around emails about how to prey on women before a party, for instance. Again, Yoffe would indict the men and hold blameless the women.

        But can you generalize these examples to the point where you assume in the gray situations Yoffe has commented on – both man and woman drunk, no witnesses, the woman’s memory cloudy, no history of sexual violence by the man, no evidence of prior planning – that we must assume in these cases that the man committed rape? I don’t. And I think the studies which you refer to in the second half of your comment make just such a generalization – that most men are predators waiting to be uncovered, and when something happens where we have little facts and the woman feels hurt the man is to blame. I think the behaviour is much more difficult to untangle and that women bear can in some cases bear responsibility for how things develop in these situations.

  6. NickT says

    “I suspect (or at least, I hope) that “Soraya Chemaly” is either an anti-feminist, engaged in a broad and un-funny parody of feminist analysis, or a beer-company shill…”

    If you had bothered to investigate further, you would have discovered that Soraya Chemaly is a real person, is a feminist – and has been quite active blogging and Tweeting.

    It’s embarrassing when you attack someone for disagreeing with you by alleging that they must be an industry shill or somehow anti-feminist – when their track record makes it perfectly clear that they aren’t.

    I hope that you’ll have the decency to retract the unwarranted accusations you threw at Ms. Chemaly.

    For Soraya Chemaly and her credentials and views, you can review the following:

    https://twitter.com/schemaly

    http://sorayachemaly.tumblr.com/

    http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/author/profile/soraya-chemaly

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Sorry to hear that you’re irony-challenged. I’ll try to be more diligent in using the /sarcasm/ tag in the future. For now, let me translate the post into simpler words: Chemaly’s screed would make sense only as a piece of anti-feminist parody or as a piece of industry flackery.

  7. a4t says

    Chemaly’s piece is very, very unlikely to be a prank or satire. Most of the contemporary popular feminist sphere uses the same kind of slipshod, manipulative, argumentation to defend a wide assortment of shibboleths, very much including the notion that giving women harm reduction advice constitutes victim blaming or is defending the “right” of men to rape women (!).

    The popular feminist iceburg is deeply unhinged only a short distance under the surface.

    A large swath of the popular feminist sphere is frothing at the mouth in response to Yoffe’s article. It’s even odds that one of the usual suspects in the farmed-outrage-for-hits feminist blogosphere will call for Yoffe to be fired and/or will try to organize a defamation and harassment campaign against her, just as they usually do whenever popular feminist shibboleths are questioned by people with a platform.

  8. Foster Boondoggle says

    I was equally stunned when I saw the TPM piece by Chemaly. I’m 100% with Mark on this: I can’t think of anything more anti-feminist than denouncing men for being such cads while denying that women have any responsibility for what happens when they *choose* to put themselves in a risky situation.

    I have a college age son and a high school age daughter. We’ve had to deal with dangerous drinking and risky situations that they’ve put themselves in. Somehow, my frat-member son has taken it on himself to become an anti-rape counselor, and I’m very proud of him for it. I have to think that that’s at least some evidence that he’s not going to take advantage of a drunk girl. Meanwhile, I’ve had to give the “it can be fine 100 times, and go terribly wrong the 101st” speech to my daughter more than once, unfortunately. I think she’s gotten the message: *it’s up to her* to make sure she doesn’t become incapacitated and let herself become a victim, just as it’s up to all of us not to wander into a dangerous part of town with wads of cash sticking out of our pockets. It’s not “blaming the victim” to observe that there are all types in the world, and part of growing up is learning to be careful. It’s just preposterous to suggest that this is some sort of anti-feminist view.

    It’s the most ridiculous self-righteous sermonizing to demand that men – all men – become angels so that women need not take any care about the situations they put themselves in. There’s nothing feminist about it. It’s just stupid.

    • says

      Mark, you say this:

      “Chemaly” seems to think that convincing men not to get hammered is no part of convincing them not to commit rape.

      I say you’ve missed this:

      Here’s what I say: “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 men know that when they get drunk or engage in sexual activity with someone who is drunk and incapable of consent, they are at higher risk for being rapists and face terrible consequences.”

      And this:

      Binge drinking and sexual assault, especially one in which victim blaming plays a significant role, share a common root: puritanism. The same culture that teaches that sex is shameful, dangerous and illicit is the one that significantly increases the likelihood of alcohol abuse.

      And this:

      …the “coercion, enforcement, and social engineering” required to end a culture of alcohol abuse are equally relevant to ending institutional tolerance for sexual abuse.

      And most especially this:

      It really isn’t funny how articles re college, sexual assault & alcohol rarely focus on boys not drinking to avoid higher risk of being jailed for risky behavior, like rape and sexual assault.

  9. says

    “Chemaly” seems to think that convincing men not to get hammered is no part of convincing them not to commit rape.

    I say you’ve missed this:

    Here’s what I say: “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 men know that when they get drunk or engage in sexual activity with someone who is drunk and incapable of consent, they are at higher risk for being rapists and face terrible consequences.”

    And this:

    Binge drinking and sexual assault, especially one in which victim blaming plays a significant role, share a common root: puritanism. The same culture that teaches that sex is shameful, dangerous and illicit is the one that significantly increases the likelihood of alcohol abuse.

    And this:

    …the “coercion, enforcement, and social engineering” required to end a culture of alcohol abuse are equally relevant to ending institutional tolerance for sexual abuse.

    And most especially this:

    It really isn’t funny how articles re college, sexual assault & alcohol rarely focus on boys not drinking to avoid higher risk of being jailed for risky behavior, like rape and sexual assault.

    • Foster Boondoggle says

      Shorter version: “Men shouldn’t be bad. They should be good. And lets never tell women that they have to think twice about anything they might feel like doing because it’s not their fault that some men are still bad, because we’re not telling them hard enough to be good.”

      • says

        It loses something in the translation. The meaning, I think. Remember what Albert Einstein probably didn’t say: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Anyway, I’m refuting Mark here.

        (Crapola! When I replaced the comment, I lost that first line, which made it clear I was replying to Mark: “Mark, you say this:”)

        But what exactly is wrong with focusing attention on those who behave wrongly? And on the role of their binge drinking in their wrong behavior?

        • Ned says

          Why do we have to choose to “focus attention” on only one category, the potential victims or the potential offenders? Why not address both?

          [a] Young men should be raised to not commit rape. One part of that should be warning them that getting drunk can put them at risk of becoming rapists, so for this (and other) reasons public drunkenness is something to avoid or be wary of.

          [b] Young women should be raised with whatever knowledge will help them reduce (not eliminate) their chance of being raped. One part of this should be warning them that getting drunk can put them at risk of becoming rape victims, so for this (and other) reasons public drunkenness is something to avoid or be wary of.

          We don’t need to choose to talk about only [a] or [b], we can do both.

          As for the moral objection (talking about [b] is unfairly asking women to modify their own behavior to avoid being victimized, when we should be asking the victimizers to change their behavior) … I really don’t see the problem with explaining to young people that “the world ought to be this way, but sometimes it’s that way, and fair or not you need to recognize that and adapt to it”.

          Burglary and theft are wrong. In an ideal world, people ought not to have to lock their doors, or avoid leaving their laptop and wallet on the table in the library when going to look for another book. And we can certainly engage in moral suasion to try to convince young people not to grow up to be thieves or burglars. But would anyone seriously suggest that it’s immoral to also recommend that our children lock the door when leaving the house, and don’t leave their valuables lying unattended at the library?

          This is not “blaming the victim”! It’s practical, common-sense advice to help our children reduce their chances of becoming victims.

  10. Russell L. Carter says

    Unlike Mark, and apparently, Keith Humphreys, I’ve actually raised a kid who is
    now in the environment under discussion.

    And damn, similarly with the Iraq War: Mark, you are completely, totally wrong,

    Yes, alcohol is a social problem. Yes, bad things happen more often when people
    are intoxicated. So what? Rape happens when one person exerts coercion over another.

    Proper girls don’t let that happen because proper girls don’t get intoxicated?

    Ok… follow the logic. Maybe you were intoxicated by the possibilities offered by
    the Iraq War promoters. That’s at least an explanation of why the archives in February
    and March of 2003 are, or should be, mortifying. Perhaps you were raped… by people
    who had drunk from the same punch bowl.

    I view the whole thing, as well as Humphrey’s and Kahn’s posts on subjects they know
    nothing about, as vital reminders to us all that expertise is finite in scope.

    • a4t says


      Proper girls don’t let that happen because proper girls don’t get intoxicated?

      Sorry, but that’s a deeply disingenuous imposition of strawman subtext.

      People who are sober or buzzed have a much greater chance of getting out of a worsening situation before they become victims than do people who are drunk or who have passed out. Maintaining an awareness of one’s surroundings when among untrusted people is basic common sense whether the victimization risk is theft, robbery, rape, kidnapping, or murder.

      Implying that people who make this argument are really excusing rape is intellectually dishonest.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Yes, all expertise is finite in scope. Mine happens to be about substance abuse and crime.

      Alcohol is ferociously criminogenic, both in potential offenders and in potential victims. That’s simply a matter of observable fact. (About a third of homicide victims, and about a third of homicide perpetrators, are drunk at the time of the event.)

      Of course not all victims or offenders are drunk. And of course a drunken (helpless) victim aggravates the crime, rather than excusing it. And of course I disagree with a4t: it ought to be possible to get drunk without fear of criminal victimization, regardless of one’s sex, and someone who is raped while drunk is no more culpable than someone who gets beaten and robbed while drunk. But, in this wicked world, making oneself vulnerable increases one’s risk, and drunkenness makes one vulnerable.

      We should say so, out loud, and then do things, privately and publicly, to reduce the incidence of drunkenness and thus of drunken violation and victimization.

      • a4t says

        And of course I disagree with a4t: it ought to be possible to get drunk without fear of criminal victimization

        We are not in disagreement on this because I have never said or implied otherwise.

    • Ned says

      Russell L. Carter says: Unlike Mark, and apparently, Keith Humphreys, I’ve actually raised a kid who is
      now in the environment under discussion.

      And damn, similarly with the Iraq War: Mark, you are completely, totally wrong,

      Oh, please. Do you imagine you’re the only parent here?

      Like Russell, I’ve actually raised a kid who is now in the environment under discussion. And apparently that’s enough for me to dismiss arguments I don’t like. So, Russell, you are completely, totally wrong.

  11. says

    Mark is right.

    I think people have the right to drink if they want to. Prohibition proved the alternative doesn’t work. The legal right to control your body and choose your recreation is important.

    But would we be better off if people DIDN’T drink? By far. Nothing good comes from getting hammered. And one of the bad things is it facilities sexual assault (and yes, it is just as much that young men shouldn’t drink to excess either).

    So anti drinking campaigns in college? I am on board, as long as we don’t return to Prohibition.

    • Brett Bellmore says

      I’m not sure we would be. Drinking not equaling getting hammered, I’m not sure we’d actually be better off if people didn’t drink a beer on a hot day, or sip wine.

      Speaking of Prohibition, keep in mind that equating drinking with getting drunk is just one of the Prohibitionists’ talking points. They want to make any drinking that isn’t excessive just vanish, airbrush it out of the picture, so that taking away alcohol doesn’t deprive people of anything worthwhile.

      I guess my complaint here is this business of equating the woman later having regrets about something she did while drunk, with her sex partner, likely equally drunk, automatically being an assailant. Which really doesn’t necessarily fit what’s going on here, even if it is feminist dogma.

  12. says

    Mark, there’s another misapprehension in your argument. You say:

    Yoffe, as a woman writing to women

    Is she? Or is she writing to the general public? (She didn’t write the headline.)

    And that’s my quarrel with it. I can (and will) tell my daughter to avoid getting drunk in dangerous situations in a context that makes it clear this is an unjust situation. Emily Yoffe means well, but she can’t do that in public without being her argument used by misogynists to justify rape.

    We don’t know how much we can reduce rape by concentrating on changing men’s behavior. Somehow, that idea hasn’t gotten much traction. One of Chemaly’s points is this:

    Binge drinking and sexual assault, especially one in which victim blaming plays a significant role, share a common root: puritanism.

    These are indeed linked problems, but the most important linkage is not the one you identified. Chemaly is taking a third-wave feminist position here, where women’s pleasure is taken seriously (something second-wave feminism was less good at), identifying the root problem as puritanism and not patriarchy.

    So rather than putting the public focus on restricting women’s rightful pleasures, we should concentrate instead on moving men away from predatory behavior. The commercial from the UK does this quite well, showing why a man should consider it not in his interests to force an incapacitated woman into non-consensual sex. There are surely other ways to communicate this message. Why are we not focusing on that? If we can reduce the number of casual abusers, and at the same time get more women reporting what Yoffe correctly points out are difficult cases to prosecute, the serial abusers will develop records. Over time, the bad actors will stand out.

    • NCG says

      I am glad this bothers you! You sound like a nice dad. And I think most of us here agree that convincing boys/men, as well as girls/women to drink less — at least in public, like at a big party — and let’s not forget, the drive home! — is a good idea, especially since being drunk can often lead to poor decisionmaking.

      I am though very sorry to hear though that this apparently isn’t covered in most high schools. Seems like it ought to be, every other day.

      This thread is getting long, but, I have an issue with this whole campus thing. I think it’s fine for colleges to promote responsible drinking, but I think rape cases should probably be taken to real police, not some half-baked campus procedure. If it’s a crime, it’s a crime, no?

      • NCG says

        The other thing we might want to tell our daughters/nieces/friends is that they should look out for each other. That, and sticking to Prudie’s two drink max, would indeed cut down a lot of this. It will take years to fix the deep issues Betsy describes, but this we could do now, and there’s no good reason not to.

  13. Ned says

    Can we (mostly) agree on certain things?

    A. People have the right to dress “provocatively”, go to parties, drink, and even drink to excess, without consenting or deserving to be raped, harassed, robbed, or otherwise victimized. The only person who should be blamed in a case of rape, harassment, robbery, or whatever is the rapist, harasser, or robber.

    B. Dressing conservatively, avoiding parties, and abstaining from drinking is no guarantee of safety. One can do everything “right” and still be victimized.

    C. Drinking to excess will increase a person’s risk of either committing crimes, or being a victim of these crimes.

    Acknowledging (C) alongside (A) and (B) does not make one a “puritan” or mean that one is “focused on restricting women’s rightful pleasures”.

    • J. J. Ramsey says

      I don’t see why you should juxtapose dress “provocatively” with drinking to excess. IIRC, unlike intoxication, dressing sexily doesn’t really increase one’s chances of being victimized.

      • Ned says

        I included “dressing provocatively” in (A) because (A) is a list of stuff that some people wrongly think of as explaining away rape or making it less outrageous.

        I specifically did not include “dressing provocatively” in (C).

        So I think you’re actually agreeing with me.

  14. Rob in CT says

    Meh, here I side more with the feminists.

    A general message that drinking to excess is bad is fine. Telling your own kids to be careful not to get blitzed at parties is also fine, and pretty much everybody does that!

    The message re: rape should be:

    1) Don’t be that guy (or, less commonly, gal). This is for the persuadable rapists out there. If you believe that alcohol makes someone more likely to rape, then you believe in persuadable rapists. Strong conditioning against rape would help. Alcohol lowers inhibitions. It doesn’t make up an entirely new personality for you. In Vino Veritas: what you already are comes out with less restraint. This is why, despite getting hammered many a time in college, I never once even considered attempting to rape anyone.

    2) Don’t accept that guy (or gal). This is the bigger problem, IMO. This is what feminists go on about when they talk about “rape culture.” Rapists are predators. They often plan in advance, and this includes planning on how to escape blame/punishment. They know they can get cover from others. Creating reasonable doubt about what happened is also key, and that is one way alcohol does contribute to the problem. It’s hard to convinct in a he-said/she-said situation when both were drinking.

    3) When you find that guy out, nail him (or her).

    Talking about how alcohol connects to crimes is great, Mark. Continue to do so. But this business of “ladies, don’t do this, that and the other thing if you don’t want to get raped” is a half-measure, at best. The problem has to be worked from the other side too. Don’t rape. Don’t cover for rapists. Fraternities, for instance, really should be pushed to police themselves (mine did, or at least tried to within reason).

    The point isn’t that you cannot tell a woman to be careful about certain things. The point is balance. Women are justifiably sick of being told over and over that they have to do XYZ to avoid rape, whereas men are told… what, exactly? I do remember my highschool sex ed class having a session on date rape. I don’t think that’s nearly enough.

    • Rob in CT says

      Regarding “don’t be that guy” :

      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/dont-be-that-guy-ad-campaign-cuts-vancouver-sex-assaults-by-10-per-cent-in-2011/article1359241/

      However,

      http://www.theunexpectedtnt.com/2012/01/partial-success-dont-be-that-guy.html

      The success in Vancouver is welcoming news. However, yesterday it was reported that rapes in Edmonton had risen year over year. In 2010, there were 600 rapes reported, compared with 687 in 2011. According to Karen Smith of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, there are at least two reasons for this: victims are now less reluctant to report assaults and young people have greater access to drugs and alcohol. The spokesperson added that the number of reports on a weekend at the Centre is about 15, but when there’s a rave or an all night dance party, the number can go as high as 40.

      “When young people are under the influence of intoxicants, they seem to commit more sexual assaults,” said Smith.

      Both angles. Work both angles.

      • Rob in CT says

        Just trying to follow up on the resultsin Edmonton, it looks like nearly all crime dropped significantly in 2012, including sexual assualt. So it’s hard to tease out whether the Don’t Be That Guy campaign was doing anything. So… down in 2010, up in 2011, down in 2012. Need more data.

    • Ned says

      Meh, here I side more with the feminists.

      A minor point in the grand scheme of things, but can we please not paint this as “feminists vs non-feminists”?

  15. Betsy says

    If I may. Some of what is getting people on both sides, but especially feminists, o excited here is that culturally women’s consent exists in a default “yes” position. A woman CAN say no, but only in a particular set of circumstances and surrounded by various cultural factors. In this cultural norm, a variety of complicating factors are used to re-set the consent setting to “yes.”

    Aunt Twisty says it best regarding perpetual default consent and the circumstances which officially legitimize “no” or “yes”:

    There are rules about what sort of woman can even attempt to make the “I said no” argument in court. Women who typically are not eligible to opt out of consent include: women who drink in bars, women who walk alone, women who walk at night, women who use drugs, women belonging to certain castes, women who dress a certain way, women who don’t dress a certain way, women who are married to men, women who have had multiple sex partners, women who may have said yes last month, women who may have said yes at the beginning but who, three minutes in, found it disagreeable and changed to “no,” women who didn’t fight back hard enough, women who didn’t tell anyone or report it right away, women whose physical similarity to pornulated women aroused the defendant, women whose behavior at the party aroused the defendant, teens with a “reputation,” and prostituted women.

    Remember, being married (one factor) used to be sufficient to have the consent setting re-set to “yes” as to the husband in all circumstances.

    In Saudi Arabia, just being outside the house alone is another such factor.

    Combatting rape culture is partly about re-calibrating the circumstances under which women are acknowledged not have given consent. If “women are for penetrating,” then having sex with a passed-out woman is perfectly OK.

    The pushback is about the cultural battle to change the attitude that women are for penetrating, UNLESS x, y, or z pertains. Feminists want the default setting to be that women are NOT for penetrating, unless they themselves agree.

    • a4t says

      If I may: the feminist habit of pseudo-politely accusing everyone who doesn’t follow their specific ideology of advocating, supporting, or defending rape is really rude and is very dishonest.

      What you are doing is using a straw man argument to poison the well while using the tone of being a polite, friendly, critic. Accusing people of supporting rape, however, is not a polite thing to do. It is, instead, a particularly vicious ad hominem.

      The pushback feminists receive has nothing to do with a nebulous mass of people who believe that rape is acceptable. Rather, it is based on the fact that feminists bully others and cry victimization when they are called out for their behavior.

    • Foster Boondoggle says

      I think this is a helpful comment for framing the “talking past each other” aspect of the discussion. But I also think it ignores what Yoffe is saying. She’s not saying that women shouldn’t have a presumption of being treated as empowered individuals who can assume they are safe from unwanted sex. She’s saying: alcohol will make you stupid and you may regret the results. It’s really not complicated, except that so many people are choosing to turn it into some sort of twisted political issue, along the lines of “feminists must continue to battle until all the potential rapists are locked up, and warning girls to be careful is an admission of defeat”.

      Here’s a key quote in the middle of the essay: “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.” I don’t see how this is “justifying” a male “default = yes” view or blaming the victim.

      BTW, I completely disagree with the notion that in modern society there’s some sort of “default = yes” setting in male/female interactions. There are a small percentage of ill-behaved men out there who will take advantage and then excuse their behavior by saying “she said no but I knew she didn’t mean it”. Everyone but that same small percentage recognizes this as BS and the perpetrator as a rapist. Everyone recognized that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a perp and the caribbean house cleaner he tried to rape was a near victim. There was no cultural assumption anywhere I’m aware of that she was OK with it. It’s a grand leap from noticing that there are still troglodytes in society to asserting that they define the norm.

      • Betsy says

        Mmmmm … not everyone. Actually, popular opinion is prety well on the side of default consent in certain circumstances. The problem is juries. Take a look at this excerpt from the yes means yes blog:

        I’m endorsing Dripp’s thinking as interesting, but not as persuasive, and I’m not endorsing much of his language. His article can be a frustrating read for many reasons, including assumptions buried in it that will be foreign to people who don’t spend time on criminal justice issues, and an unrepentant elitism. I’ll let him make his own point:

        My thesis holds that rape exceptionalism is rooted in a divide between elite opinion, reflected in statutes, court decisions, and academic commentary, and popular opinion, as reflected in jury verdicts. Elite opinion values sexual autonomy and suspects, when it does not despise, sexual aggression. Popular opinion supposes that sexual autonomy may be forfeited by female promiscuity or flirtation, and views male sexual aggression as natural, if not indeed admirable.

        [p. 958.]

        To be clear, because it isn’t from the quote but it is from the piece, Dripps thinks that respecting consent and autonomy is right, and what he calls “popular opinion” is just plain wrong. I’ll unpack his language a little. Where he says, “rape exceptionalism” he means that there have been attempts to make it easier to prosecute rape by changing things like substantive statutes and evidentiary rules. He discusses some of those, and says, “Sadly, these departures from basic principles of both criminal law and the law of evidence have done little to increase the prosecution’s ability to win justified convictions. Conviction rates in rape cases remain the lowest for any of the serious felonies.” [P.966, internal citations omitted.] Where he says “popular opinion,” readers of this blog can simply substitute Rape Culture.

        As I indicated, Dripp argues, “clever defense lawyers are able to play on popular opinion and invite nullification of the legislature’s facial prohibition of sex without consent … we must bypass the jury openly.” [Pp. 959-60.] He backs this up with references to juror research that I have not read, but I think he’s right that juries are a major factor in the inability of acquaintance rape survivors to get justice from the criminal process. Dripp places it as not just a factor, but the absolute limiting factor. He continues:

        Linda Fairstein, the well-known New York prosecutor, confirms the social science from a blood-under-the-nails perspective. She declared in 1993: “Although our laws now permit us to prosecute them, not until we are able to inform and educate the public – the men and women who serve on our juries – will we be able to convict more of the men who are guilty of acquaintance rape.”

        The familiar jury myth of “justified rape” is very much still with us. When the victim met the defendant at a pick-up bar, or asked the defendant into her room, or accepts a ride home from him, jurors remain willing to believe that she asked for what she got. Such opinions, moreover, seem about as common among women as among men.

        If the root problem is, as Professor Bryden concludes after deep research, jury reluctance to convict men accused of raping women who have violated traditional sexual mores, the turn to consent will fail to normalize rape law. Prosecutorial discretion will be constrained not just by the cost of trial, a cost all felony defendants may bargain with, but also by a high risk of acquittal at trial, an asset most felony defendants do not enjoy. We can expect legislatures and courts to continue trying to help the prosecution by legal interpretations, and by evidentiary rules and rulings, that would not be forthcoming outside the sexual assault context. And we can continue to expect that these heterodox maneuvers will fail to secure convictions at anything like the levels that prevail for other felonies.

        [Pp. 972-73, internal citations omitted, emphasis supplied.]

        This understanding leads to Dripp’s policy proposal: a “sex without consent” statute, a B misdemeanor that could be prosecuted before a judge and not a jury. There are benefits but also serious problems to this.

        The most serious in my mind is that we already live in a culture which doesn’t consider anything but violent stranger rape as “real rape.” Some folks may worry that the use of a lesser included offense would trivialize rape by saying that it is only “worth” six months, that it isn’t serious. I would put is a little differently. The subjects in Lisak’s research raped women, and they admitted it, but they didn’t want to use the term “rape.” Commentators are inventing new terms, like Laura Sessions Stepp’s “grey rape” to separate some rapes from others and keep from calling the alcohol-fueled rape of friends (which Lisak’s research tells us is the norm) by the same name we use for the stranger-in-the-bushes assault. I think in many quarters, rape is considered serious, but the effort to narrow what is recognized as rape is so successful that the term remains an island describing a tiny portion of sexual assaults. Dripp’s proposal would further, and in fact codify, a division between “real rape” and some sort of lesser stuff that society will continue to refuse to call rape.

        • John G says

          The Globe and Mail (“Canada’s National Newspaper”) ran an interesting article a couple of weeks back, about how changing the terminology of the Criminal Code from ‘rape’ to ‘sexual assault’ has not had the desired effect of increasing the number of convictions for the events the terms refer to. The idea was that ‘rape’ was too pejorative, that juries would not want to convict for it, and in any event the prosecution had to prove penetration, which was sometimes difficult to prove. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/the-law-alone-cant-change-rape-culture/article14728762/#dashboard/follows/

          Social norms are still the problem. I think Betsy’s very largely got it right about the cases in which the popular (not the ‘elite’) view is that the woman has in some way consened to what happens to her. Depressing that teenagers these days seem to have the same language and ideas – or worse because better ‘educated’ by the Internet – as my peers back several decades ago. I had hoped that society was getting smarter, but apparently not.

      • Betsy says

        Well, we have been successful in REDUCING the number of circumstances that set the victim’s consent to “default yes”. For example, some states got rid of the marital rape exception in the late 1980s.

        There is still “some sort of default = yes” setting.

        For example, the prosecution must *prove* lack of consent. (see Herbison comment below) That’s a pretty big “default yes” imputed to the victim.

        • NCG says

          Betsy, thanks for these comments. I have no idea who Twisty and Dripp are, but I certainly recognize what they are describing. We humans are a long way from being civilized, still. And I think the fact(?) that female jurors are just as bad is important — this is a problem we all have and should all work on.

        • Foster Boondoggle says

          “That’s a pretty big “default yes” imputed to the victim.”

          Hardly. I’d say it’s part of demonstrating “guilt beyond reasonable doubt” for an extremely serious criminal charge. Do you really want a society where every one night stand has to involve a document attesting to consent? Signed in the presence of a notary, of course. And after the signing of which the woman can no longer change her mind without going back to the notary and signing another document.

          Human relationships are complicated and the criminal justice system is a very blunt instrument for enforcing an interpersonal code of conduct. Suggesting that people not ingest substances that cause them to lose inhibition and perhaps consciousness as a way to avoid trouble seems rather straightforward by comparison, and I really don’t understand why it’s so controversial.

          • Betsy says

            Hey, you’re the one suggesting that unless a notarized statement is involved, the woman’s response is “yes.”

            In any case, you’ve raised a crazy strawman. I do believe “the feminists” just want consent to be obtained before sex happens. You don’t have an issue with THAT, do you?? Nobody said anything about a notary.

          • Foster Boondoggle says

            Betsy: I edited my reply poorly leaving my point thoroughly garbled. I was really responding to “the prosecution must *prove* lack of consent”. Which is obviously a difficult threshold (particularly when alcohol is involved) but quite necessary for criminal justice. Hence my point about avoiding trouble being a simpler strategy than depending on prosecution to solve the problem. I certainly don’t believe in any sort of “default yes”.

          • NCG says

            Betsy, again, thanks for your comments. It is amazing that some of this still has to be said — not so much here, b/c I think some of us are a little bit tripping ourselves up, rhetorically — but “out there,” the idea that there are people who don’t know that an s-faced person can’t give consent is just scary and depressing. They call it impairment for a reason.

            And no, apparently, we *can’t* say it too many times. It needs to be said over and over until it sinks in. And I would argue, even based on this amazing post and comments, that as a society, we might as well aim for less drinking for *everyone.* Just like Mark said. There’s usually no reason for a third drink, is there? And now, to completely undermine myself, I have to wonder if maybe this shouldn’t be taught at home? Before we shop for those extra long sheets, maybe have the kid drink a couple, so they know what it’s like? (I’m just thinking out loud here. This may be a terrible idea.)

        • J. J. Ramsey says

          the prosecution must *prove* lack of consent. (see Herbison comment below) That’s a pretty big “default yes” imputed to the victim.

          No, that’s just a matter of the prosecution having the burden of proof. If the elements of a crime are A, B, and C, then the prosecution has to prove A, B, and C. In rape, one of the elements of the crime is lack of consent, much in the same way that an element of the crime of murder is the intent to kill.

          • Betsy says

            So if someone is passed out, obviously, that takes care of proving the lack of consent. Right? Right? No, sadly, according to juries and DAs and cops, it does not.

            Don’t bother teaching me about the elements of a crime, by the way. I’m a lawyer.

          • J. J. Ramsey says

            So if someone is passed out, obviously, that takes care of proving the lack of consent. Right? Right? No, sadly, according to juries and DAs and cops, it does not.

            The victim in the Steubenville rape case had been unconscious, yet her rapists were convicted, so there’s at least one counterexample to your broad claim. Furthermore, the NDAA guide Prosecuting Alcohol-Facilitated Sexual Assault also contradicts you, saying that “sexual assault can be proven by showing that the victim was unconscious at the time of the rape and therefore could not consent.”

  16. John Herbison says

    Rape and sexual assault are horrendous, vile and criminal acts. No question or ambiguity about that.

    One or both participants being intoxicated does not excuse a perpetrator’s bad conduct — in the moral sense. From more than a quarter century of practice as a criminal defense lawyer, however, I should caution folks as to how drunkenness can significantly complicate a criminal prosecution of unlawful sexual conduct. Simply put, intoxication of the victim (or in some cases, of the perpetrator) increases the likelihood that a rapist will get away with his crime.

    An intoxicated person may or may not be able to consent to sexual activity. The burden is on the prosecution to establish lack of consent beyond a reasonable doubt. A victim’s intoxication often impairs the victim’s ability to appreciate her circumstances and to remember and later describe the circumstances of the event. All of this inures to the benefit of a perpetrator at trial.

    A perp’s intoxication can also complicate prosecution. Conviction of rape requires proof beyond reasonable doubt of a culpable mental state. Voluntary intoxication is ordinarily not a defense to a crime. Where the accused was intoxicated to the extent that his ability to form criminal intent was impaired, however, the prosecution will have greater difficulty proving an essential element of the crime.

    Likewise, intoxication of either the perpetrator or the victim can complicate how consent is refused or, if initially given, is withdrawn. The government must prove the accused’s awareness and appreciation that he did not have consent. Any ambiguity there will increase the difficulty of conviction.

    Beyond a reasonable doubt it the highest standard of proof known to the law. A mother’s or father’s parental rights can be terminated upon a lesser showing.

    This acknowledgement of real world consequences is not “slut-shaming.” Again, no one deserves to be raped or assaulted.

    • Cardinal Fang says

      “The government must prove the accused’s awareness and appreciation that he did not have consent. ”

      This is appalling. Am I presumed to have consent for other actions, or just rape? If I steal your wallet, does the prosecution have to prove that I didn’t have consent from you? What if I say I did, and you say I didn’t; do we have to presume that I’m telling the truth? Why is the default not “I don’t have consent,” and I have to prove that I did have consent?

  17. J says

    I think the problem is that the two sides here are talking past each other. Both sides want to prevent rape but one side is more focused on principles and the other is more focused on pragmatism.

    The “principles” side (rightly) wants acknowledgement that the rapist himself is always and solely to blame for the rape. They look dimly on any suggestion that certain behaviors may increase a person’s risk of being raped, because that is seen as “blaming the victim” and/or as an effort to restrict women’s freedom to engage in those behaviors. In this view, efforts to combat rape should focus more or less exclusively on things like consciousness-raising, teaching men not to rape, and changing how rape victims are treated by society.

    The “pragmatic” side agrees that the blame for a rape accrues to the rapist, not the victim, but believes that in the real world efforts to prevent rape by focusing on the rapist often fall short. In order for individual women to minimize their own chances of becoming victims, they need to recognize the risks in certain behaviors (mainly, alcohol abuse) that are highly correlated with sexual assault. For this side, the issue of “blame” is less salient than the practical issue of how to avoid being raped in a world where, unfortunately, there are still too many guys who don’t get it. In this view, a broader approach is needed that combines anti-rape education aimed at men, with giving women the knowledge and tools to defend themselves (women’s self-defense classes, and information about what kinds of places, contexts, and behaviors are associated with higher risks).

    Does that seem like a fair summary?

    Many people may agree in part with both of these “sides”. For example, some have stated that they would take a “pragmatic” approach in raising their own children, but think that the public emphasis should be on the “principled” side.

    • J says

      Just adding that I’m deliberately ignoring the anti-feminist or anti-anti-rape commenters, who I don’t think have anything particularly useful to contribute to the discussion.

    • paul says

      I think one of the reasons that two sides seem to be talking past each other is that we’re in Year N of women being told all the things they can do to avoid being raped. When I was in college more than 30 years ago most of this helpful advice was already thoroughly in circulation. Young women already know these things, having gotten used to the repeated coverage of passed-out teenagers being raped and their pictures broadcast globally. Sure, they may think it doesn’t apply to them, or that the guys they know and hang out with aren’t rapists, but the increased risk due to alcohol has pretty much been done to death.

      So at some point framing it as something new or counterintuitive or speaking truth to power does begin to sound more like cover for the status quo than good-faith argument. Especially in the absence of a similar drumbeat of advice aimed at young men. (When young rapists are portrayed as having their futures ruined by a prosecution rather than by having committed a hateful crime, the optics just aren’t good.)

      • Foster Boondoggle says

        “Stay safe” is good advice for any generation. The fact that you heard it 30 years ago is not evidence of anything.

        • kate says

          I, and most women I know, have a constant barrage of how avoid rape advice. The problem is not that we are failing to lecture young women enough about their drinking, clothing, and transportation choices. The problem is that people, including potential rape victims, can not wrap their minds around the fact that some of actual, nice, charming, talented boys that they grew up with, go to school with, hang out with, are rapists. If someone went to a party at a friend’s house and someone took their keys and stole their car, no one would blame that on their drinking. People should be able to trust their friends to not steal their car – and to not sexually assault them. The problem is, that rapists are usually the ‘nice’ guy helping the drunk person home, but that the reverse is not true and it is impossible to know which is which until it is too late.

          • Ned says

            We all agree that people should be able to trust each other, but in the real world, one can’t. So do we encourage people to take measures to look after themselves, or do we refuse to do that because in an ideal world it wouldn’t be necessary?

            And, again, no one here is blaming rape on drinking. Rape is the fault of the rapists. But in a world where you can’t make all rapists go away, Yoffe is correct that not getting drunk can be helpful.

          • kate says

            The problem, as I said below, is that, while people blame rape on rapists in the abstract they do not do this in actual, real life circumstances. When they look at particular cases, people do not want to acknowledge that that nice looking boy, so promising, did something horrible. Drinking is often used as an excuse by communities to shift blame onto the victim. That context is vital. Focusing on the drinking of victims and potential victims, supports those narratives. It does more harm than good.

          • Ned says

            I think we’re just going round and round on this.

            I agree that we should try to change the fairly widespread belief that a victim of sexual assault or rape who was drinking at the time somehow “deserves” their fate.

            But I don’t agree that consciously avoiding warning people about the dangers of alcohol abuse will do anything at all to accomplish that change. Instead, it will merely lead to more tragedies.

            It is a clear and well-established fact that alcohol exacerbates a wide range of violent crimes, specifically including sexual assault and rape. That is true for alcohol consumption by both the victim and the perpetrator. We desperately need to communicate this fact more effectively, not hush it up.

          • kate says

            I would love to see more emphasis on the fact that people are more likely to commit crimes while drunk. I think that would be great. I don’t think that there is a lack of awareness of the fact that being drunk makes one more vulnerable. It’s just obvious. There may be a shortage of people warning men about their greater risk of being victims of theft of assault while drunk, but as a woman I can assure you that there is no shortage of warnings to women. We are aware and we are sick of being lectured about it. The problem is that people are being assaulted by people who they thought that they could trust to get them home safely. How much will not drinking reduce that threat? Might is just increase the amount of physical force that rapists use to get what they want once they isolate their victim? Mark seems to think rapists will just give up if they can’t find a mark who’s drunk. I’m not sure.

          • Ned says

            OK, I don’t think I have anything else to add. I don’t want to “lecture” people and I’m sorry if you feel that others have been “lecturing” you about alcohol all your life. Nobody likes being lectured.

            At the same time, I’m acutely aware of how alcohol abuse ruins lives. I hate to see young people — whether men or women — fall victim to that. Sexual assault is part of it, but there are so many other negative ramifications as well. But, as I said, enough.

          • GiT says

            “We all agree that people should be able to trust each other, but in the real world, one can’t.”

            Part of Kate’s point seemed to be that we actually are able to trust each other (when “each other” is our friends and acquaintances) about a lot of things, like not stealing each other’s stuff. Rape is, rather, something unique in the extent to which women cannot trust others about it.

          • kate says

            I’d also add, that we can trust the vast majority of men not to rape and treating all men like rapists is really stifling, for both women and men. It would be much better if we could just remove the small percentage of men who rape from society as soon as they start raping.

      • J says

        Well, the column in question was written by Emily Yoffee and published in Slate. So I think the “counterintuitive, speaking truth to power” spin can be ignored; that’s just Slate’s M.O. The question at hand is whether the advice is any good.

        I work on a university campus where alcohol-related sexual assault is a real problem. If there were one single piece of advice I could give all students, male and female, it would be “don’t go out drinking”. It’s deeply depressing to consider all the negative consequences — exams failed, students hospitalized, assaulted, or turned into assaulters, lifelong addictions begun.

        You’re of course correct that students already hear that message and obviously too many of them ignore it. I wish we could do a better job of getting that message across.

        • kate says

          I think if you want more women to listen, leaving sexual assault out of it might actually improve your results.

  18. kate says

    “Of course the primary moral onus for sexual assault is on the assailant; who denies it?”
    In the abstract, few here would deny that the onus for sexual assault is on the assailant. In fact, they often go even further – it is an awful, awful crime which only a monster would commit. In fact, in one study 6% of men admitted to committing acts which fit the definition of rape. Think of twenty random men you interacted with over the past few days. None of them probably seem like monsters to you, but one of them is probably a rapist. This is the root of the problem.*
    In particular cases, there is an actual, living person, who usually does not appear to be a monster, accused of rape. This is when “the primary moral onus for sexual assault” shifts from the assailant to the victim in too many peoples’ minds – when they are confronted with the conundrum of “clearly non-monster person accused of rape”. For individual victims, what people generally believe in the abstract is meaningless, if the people around them do not apply those beliefs to their particular cases. Blaming a victim’s alcohol consumption is one of, if not the primary excuse people use to shift blame from perpetrator to victim in particular cases, even if they don’t do it in the abstract.
    People are very quick to defend the rights of accused rapists to not be presumed guilty – but what of the right of alleged victims to not be presumed guilty of perjury?
    It is estimated that the rate of false reports of rape is about 2%, and most false reports are not false accusations (since they do not name a particular perpetrator, but rather blame a vaguely described stranger). This does not mean that we should convict all accused rapists. We should not. The standard for conviction in a court of law is proof beyond a reasonable doubt and it should remain so. However, it should impact our estimation of how reasonable it is to doubt an alleged victim’s sworn testimony in rape cases.
    Moreover, we do not have to use the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ legal standard in our social lives. If someone in your social circle is accused of raping someone, the chance that the alleged victim is telling the truth is well over 90%, and you should act accordingly, even if it causes some inconvenience for the alleged perp.
    * As far as I know, a similar study has not been done for women. It is generally believed that women rape at much lower rates than men. The problem with female rapists is that their existence is often denied altogether.

  19. kate says

    Also, what Echidne said http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com.au/. My favorite part:

    “The pearl in her story: That we should all take care of ourselves and make sure that we are not the slowest zebra in the herd running away from the hungry lions. The pig dung in the story: The lions* will still chase the zebras and the slowest one gets eaten. Yoffe pays little attention to that aspect of the story.”

    • Foster Boondoggle says

      Echidne is 100% mistaken about what Yoffe says. Top of paragraph 3: “Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice.” And further down: “I don’t believe any of these statistics will move in the right direction until binge drinking joins smoking, drunk driving, and domestic abuse as behaviors that were once typical and are now unacceptable. Reducing binge drinking is going to require education, enforcement, and a change in campus social culture.”

      This wasn’t the main focus of the story because there was another main focus, which was how girls can avoid being victims in the world AS IT EXISTS.

      • kate says

        In the world AS IT EXISTS, the main problem is women being raped by men who they thought that they could trust – friends, classmates, boyfriends.

        • Ned says

          Yes, exactly. So the question is how best to reduce that. There may be multiple different things we can do to reduce these acquaintance rapes, some at the level of the community, and others at the level of individual women making choices about how best to protect themselves. It shouldn’t be seen as either/or.

          To be fair, Slate deserves substantial blame for the headline they put on Yoffe’s column, which very much does play into this either/or dichotomy.

          • kate says

            As I said above, in the abstract, people side with the victim, but in particular cases, communities tend to side with the accused rapist. The abstract advice given to women on how to avoid rape, but totally not blaming them for any rape that might happen if they don’t follow that advice, is then used in particular cases to blame the victim and absolve the perp. That is why many feminists argue that this sort of advice does more harm than good.

          • Ned says

            And as I reply above, that assumes that “not warning people about the dangers of risky behavior” would somehow produce better outcomes. That’s an astonishingly counter-intuitive argument. Do you really think that courts would be much more sympathetic to rape victims if we just talked less about how risky alcohol abuse is? And that this hypothetical improvement in sympathy on the part of juries and judges and prosecutors would outweigh the greater number of young people engaging in high-risk behaviors in the first place?

          • Cranky Observer says

            Ned,
            Please point me to ongoing deep discussion in general society about role of football, fraternities (both by definition all male) in rape. Both heavily involved in many cases but discussion simply not allowed.

            Cranky

          • Ned says

            Er, what?

            If you imagine that I’m a fan of either football or fraternities, you are wildly, deeply misinformed.
            If your point is that there are other subjects besides alcohol that need to be discussed, I completely agree.

          • kate says

            A shift of focus to the relationship between alcohol consumption and committing crimes would be more effective and would not risk the unintended consequences of focusing on victims. There is no shortage of warnings to women about drinking and rape – or clothing choices and rape, or going out alone at night and rape (and on and on). The fact that being incapacitated makes you more vulnerable is obvious. Harping on it leads to victim blaming, which makes rape victims less likely to report crimes, leaving rapists on the street.

          • Cranky Observer says

            Er, what? If discussion of “risky behavior” focuses only on behavior of women for long periods of time (hundreds of years; decades in modern culture) & ignores (or societally condones) behavior of males, feminist anger over Yoffe & Kleiman pieces as enabling more understandable. Clear?

            Cranky

          • Ned says

            Cranky, I’m sorry but I just don’t buy that. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. The fact that alcohol and macho sports and all-male environments like fraternities are all pieces of the puzzle doesn’t strike me as an argument to talk less about alcohol, but instead to talk more about the other pieces. Blaming a drug-policy guy (Mark) for writing about the role of alcohol abuse instead of sports or whatever just seems counterproductive.

          • Cranky Observer says

            Which us brings us back exactly to my 12:58: please provide some evidence of the “both”. I received Yoffe’s advice in college orientation in the early 1980s; it isn’t new. If same level of intensity isn’t being directed toward make behavior (and I’m challenging you to show where it is), then the feminists’ charges of discrimination and culture issues are very strong.

            Cranky

          • Ned says

            You suggested that football and fraternities aren’t discussed sufficiently as factors in sexual assault. At least, that’s how I read your 12:58. And I agree with that completely! (Except I’d broaden it to include other traditionally male sports beyond football). So you’re “challenging” me to show something I never claimed and don’t believe. That’s why I said “Er, what?” in response to your 12:58.

            As for the “it isn’t new” argument … if you mean that as a refutation of Slate’s idiotic headline and spin on the Yoffe column, then I again am in agreement. If you mean that we shouldn’t keep talking about alcohol abuse because we’ve been talking about it for years and people are still being assaulted, then I don’t see the logic. We’ve been telling kids not to play with matches for decades, houses do unfortunately sometimes still burn down, and yet “don’t play with matches” is still good advice. Sometimes old advice is good advice.

          • Betsy says

            As someone above pointed out: you are confusing *good personal advice* with *rape prevention strategies by society*. Not the same things. Hence much confusion and quarreling.

          • Ned says

            Actually, Betsy, my point throughout this thread has been that we need both.

            But some people here keep trying to stop any discussion of “good personal advice” and only permit discussion of the broad-scale social strategies.

            I understand why — they see the former as implicitly either blaming women or constricting women’s freedom of choice, and as distracting from the core message of the latter.

            I don’t agree with that. I think it is possible to present young women (and men, for that matter) with realistic information about the risks of alcohol abuse, without implying any blame or condemnation of those who do drink to excess.

            Mostly, though, I think it’s extremely irresponsible to basically say “Yes, alcohol abuse is a leading factor in sexual assault, but we’re not going to discuss that in public because it conflicts with the message we’re trying to get across”. I think when it comes to young people’s decisionmaking about potentially risky behavior, it’s incumbent on us all to be as clear as possible about the facts and not engage in wishful thinking.

            It is a bit discouraging to have to say this over and over and over again. I completely and totally agree that rapists themselves are fully responsible for rape. I completely and totally agree that in an ideal world we would stop all rape by targeting the rapists, and it wouldn’t be necessary for the rest of us to think about how to protect our own safety. I completely and totally agree that, even though we don’t live in that ideal world, we should spend many many more resources in that kind of effort (preventing rape by educating or otherwise stopping potential rapists).

            I’m with you on all of that. Really! The only difference is that I also want to be able to talk about ways people can try to minimize their chances of being victimized. There are things people can do that genuinely will make their own personal lives more or less risky. There are also myths and misconceptions about risk factors. We ought to be able to talk about that honestly and without fear.

            Parents may want to give good advice to their children. Should they be cautious about alcohol, or other drugs? Should they sign up for a women’s self-defense course at the campus women’s center … or carry a weapon? Should they worry about strangers or about the nice guy in the dorm room next door? Should they worry about how they dress, or is that a myth?

            Kate claims that women are already told enough about the dangers of alcohol and that there’s no need for any further discussion. Maybe she’s right. But given that alcohol abuse is still a contributing factor in so many assault cases, I’m not convinced that we’re at the point where we can afford to stop talking about it just yet.

          • says

            Actually, Ned, we’re saying good personal advice needs to be given personally, that it is not a substitute for better policy, and that better policy beats good personal advice over the long term. All things in their proper places.

          • kate says

            Women already drink substantially less than men. They are twice as likely to abstain altogether (22.5% of women vs. 11.6% of men). Of those who do drink, nearly 80% of women report they have fewer than three drinks in a average drinking day vs. fewer than 60% of men in those categories. In every single category, women already drink less alcohol than men. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/drinking-statistics

            Again, I agree, emphatically, that we should be looking more at alcohol use among predators.

            And, Ned, I realize that you have good intentions. The problem is that your intentions do not matter. The lists of things women should do to avoid rape are used to discredit women when they are raped, whether you want them to be used that way or not. Maybe, at some point in the future, when rape is taken seriously enough as a crime that a significant percentage of rapists are actually sent to jail, we could start talking again about women taking precautions. But not with our culture the way it is now. As society is today, these “safety suggestions” are used all too often as sticks to beat rape victims with, preventing the reporting of crimes and the conviction of rapists.

          • Cranky Observer says

            = = = Ned @ 7:19: But some people here keep trying to stop any discussion of “good personal advice” and only permit discussion of the broad-scale social strategies.

            I understand why — they see the former as implicitly either blaming women or constricting women’s freedom of choice, and as distracting from the core message of the latter. = = =

            Ned,
            I have a family member who has taken certain actions for going on 20 years now. When I point out to him the consequences of his actions, he gets all confused, saying ‘that wasn’t his intention’ and ‘why are you focusing on this one time’. He cannot accept that when he takes an action toward other people consistently for 20 years he does it because that is what he wants to do.

            You keep saying, “this is just good advice to women; we can do both; we can walk and chew gum at the same time”. But ‘we’, as US society, haven’t done that for at least 35 years (and probably much longer, but I wasn’t as aware prior to that). Now we’ve started another round of ‘good personal advice’ to women about changing their behavior, but we haven’t and most likely are not going to do the same for men. When we as a society put the blame on women, and women only, for 35 years, and talk about how we “could” work on changing men’s behavior but don’t do that for 35 years, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that blaming and shaming of women, and valorizing of men who behave in the ways that lead to rape such as football players and fratboys, is because we want it that way. Which is exactly why the strong feminists are resisting your argument that your plan to ‘just offer good advice’ so strongly: such advice, even if well meant, is ignoring the entire cultural context.

            Is that clear enough?

            Cranky

        • Ned says

          John A Arkansawyer writes: Actually, Ned, we’re saying good personal advice needs to be given personally, that it is not a substitute for better policy, and that better policy beats good personal advice over the long term. All things in their proper places.

          John, I’m not trying to stop you or anyone from talking about “better policy”, in fact I would encourage more discussion of that. But whether or not you realize what you’re doing, you and various others here are busy shouting down any attempt to discuss the ways that young teens and their parents can help protect themselves. You’re saying that we should stop discussing this in the public sphere, and leave it for kids to discover in a haphazard fashion from their older siblings or parents or whoever.

          This may be an offensive analogy, but what you’re saying sure sounds a lot like the argument over teaching about contraception, behaviors, etc. in schools. The abstinence-only crowd insists that the public focus should be exclusively on promoting abstinence, for basically ideological reasons, and that any education that kids get about contraception or whatever has to be pushed off into the private sphere. They don’t trust kids with the facts and they are concerned that allowing any discussion of contraception, safer vs riskier behaviors, etc. will weaken the message that abstinence is the only acceptable solution.

          Similarly, the argument here seems to be that people are concerned that the ideological message (people should not be responsible for protecting themselves from rape, society should solve the problem of rape by focusing on the rapists) will be diluted or muddied if we allow any talk about stuff that people can do to protect themselves … and so for the sake of that ideological purity we’re going to not talk to young people about the risks, things they can do to protect themselves, and so forth. If their parents or older siblings or someone else wants to provide that “good personal advice” privately then that’s OK, but heaven forfend we talk about it in public!

          I feel so strongly about this that I’m going to mention something that I haven’t discussed with anyone except my own parents in 30 years. When I was an early teen, about the same age as the young women in this Maryville case, I had a part-time job working for a middle-aged guy who turned out to be a child molester. In my case, things went well beyond the threshold for “harassment” and stopped just short of “assault”. The details are unpleasant but not important. That’s not the bad thing. The bad thing is what he did to (I believe) multiple other boys who were a few years younger than me, before finally one of them talked to his parents, who went to the authorities.

          I’m furious with myself for not understanding what this man was up to, and I’m furious with myself for failing to protect certain other people who I probably could have protected if I hadn’t been a sheltered, naive, child who barely knew what “rape” or “sexual assault” was and literally had no idea that it was something that could happen to boys. Nobody — parents, teachers, nobody in the school or community — ever talked to me about that. Yeah, I was weirded out and disturbed when he’d pay me for my work by sticking bills down in my shorts. Yeah, I was embarrassed by the things he said to me and the way he talked about my body. But when he invited a bunch of us young teens over to his house for a “party” it didn’t seem dangerous, and we knew he had video games and fun stuff like that. And then he’d encourage kids to bring their younger brothers along. And at this point it’s so obviously wrong wrong wrong that thirty years later it makes me scream inside, but we just … didn’t … know … what we were getting ourselves and the younger kids into because no one ever talked to us about any of this.

          Kate, all the talk I got from grownups about alcohol as a kid was about the dangers of drinking and driving. Not about the dangers of drinking and being assaulted.

          John, when it mattered most in my childhood, I never got the “good personal advice” that you breezily dismiss in favor of “better policy”. And in my turn I failed to stop this man, failed to warn boys younger than myself, and actually unwittingly brought them along into a situation they never should have been in. Because neither I, nor the other boys there, understood anything about risks.

          I really, really understand that people are concerned about not wanting to tell people there are behaviors and places and circumstances that are risky … because then people who find themselves engaging in those behaviors or going to those places, and are victimized by assault, might blame themselves or be blamed by others.

          But there are other sources of pain out there. And I can tell you that being in a place where you ask yourself “why did no one ever warn me about this, why was I put in this situation at age 15 with no understanding or grasp of the cold hard facts at all, and oh my god how could I have failed to protect others who were even more vulnerable than me” well that’s a horrible place to be in.

          So if I seem a bit obsessed with making sure that young teens are warned about risky behaviors and ways they can make themselves more vulnerable or less vulnerable to predators, that’s why. And if I don’t necessarily agree with John’s statement that “better policy beats good advice”, it’s not because I don’t see the need for better policy. Last but not least, I understand that other people’s experience and conclusions may not be like mine.

          • kate says

            Ned, I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you. That was not your fault. You are not responsible for what that man did to you or anyone else. In the past thirty years, child psychiatrists and educators have developed protocols to teach children about sexual assault in ways that neither blame nor shame them. You are right about the importance of that education.

          • Ned says

            Thanks, Kate. I wouldn’t be surprised if most school guidance programs have gotten better and more comprehensive since the 1970s/early 80s, mine was pretty marginal and they mostly focused on drunk driving and drug use. Maybe there were some differences for the girls.

          • kate says

            Even ten years after us things were a lot better. My younger sister told. That’s why I’m o.k. now.

          • says

            Jesus, Ned, that’s awful. That shouldn’t happen to anyone, anywhere. It speaks well of you that you’ve felt that responsibility, but I hope you can learn to let it go. That’s too great a burden for anyone. And as kate says, it wasn’t your fault or your responsibility.

            I teach, through our church, a sexuality and whole life education class designed to equip kids to protect themselves from abuse and assault without shaming them (among many, many other things we teach them). I’m somewhat passionate about bringing it to as many kids as possible. My training is for K-1 and 4-6, so I can’t speak authoritatively about the more advanced classes here, but I think they do teach this. I am entirely comfortable with teaching older girls and boys alike about the dangers of overintoxication and sexual assault, in the context in which we teach. It’s not in our curriculum, but I’m prepared to talk about it if a kid brings it up in or out of class. However, one of the multitude of reasons I teach this class is that I have zero confidence in the people who teach in the context of (for instance) abstinence-only classes (which you rightly decry–and no, you didn’t offend me) to teach this point to girls* without shaming them.

            Possibly that explains where I’m coming from a little better. Trust me, the dismissal isn’t breezy on my part. It’s considered and ambivalent. I know exactly why Emily Yoffe, and Mark, and you want to teach this. I do, too. Just not in a way that doesn’t enable people who don’t mean well to use it for their own corrupt purposes. Perhaps I’m overly dogmatic in my feminism. It’s been said before–recently, in fact. But second-wave feminism saved my soul and third-wave feminism saved my life, so I’m sticking to the union.

            *I’m thinking through them teaching it to boys. Probably they should, even though they’ll screw it up. The issues are different.

    • J says

      I had read Echidne’s blog post earlier today, and was greatly disappointed. I felt that she failed to respond to Yoffe’s column constructively. It seemed a bit juvenile. Of course, that style is pretty widespread in the blogosphere.

      • kate says

        She addresses the main problem with Yoffee’s approach – that if an individual woman changes her behaviour she may be less likely to be raped, but that will not reduce the rate of rape. If large numbers of women did stop drinking, then the threshhold would be lowered to going out to places where alcohol is served and on and on. The problem is, most women already restrict our activities and movement considerably to avoid rape.

        • deathsinger says

          The problem is that women apparently restrict activity and movement to avoid rape not knowing what is the right approach. From your own links, 60%-71% of the rapes were intoxication based.

        • deathsinger says

          What’s your point? A higher percentage of women admit to binge drinking than those who have never had a drink.

          • kate says

            My point is that, compared to men, women already restrict our drinking significantly and that more than two thirds of us have never had a bout of binge drinking even once.

          • Foster Boondoggle says

            Binge drinking is a bad thing, so it’s great that women aren’t victimizing themselves by doing it as much as men are. This is not evidence of their straitened condition. It’s evidence that they’re less prone to self-harming behavior. It’s mysterious why you seem to feel that this is bad.

          • kate says

            I do not think that it is bad. I think it is evidence that women are already restricting their drinking, relative to the men in their communities. This is advice that most women already take.

        • says

          She addresses the main problem with Yoffee’s approach – that if an individual woman changes her behaviour she may be less likely to be raped, but that will not reduce the rate of rape.

          But what if large numbers of men and women decide to stop binge drinking on college campuses. Would THAT reduce the rape rate?

          And if your answer to that is yes, doesn’t Yoffe’s piece become more defensible (although she shouldn’t have gendered it, as male drinking is just as much a problem)?

  20. kate says

    “One theme, in the commentaries below and in the discussion of Yoffe’s essay elsewhere, is that any individual girl who doesn’t get drunk is simply pushing victimization onto someone else, without changing the total rate of victimization. That would be true if the number of potential predators was fixed and if each predator kept searching until he found a victim and then stopped. But stating those conditions makes it clear how implausible the argument is. Of course the number, distribution, and behavior of potential victims influences the number of completed crimes. Surely lots of men commit acquaintance rape who didn’t explicitly intend to do so at the beginning of the evening, and equally surely lots of men looking to “score” by fair means or foul fail to do so because they don’t encounter an adequately vulnerable target.”

    The question is, how much do women have to adjust our behaviour before the predators just give up. Will not drinking be enough? I’m not so sure.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Of course “predators” aren’t going to “just give up.” But the world isn’t nicely divided into saints and predators. There’s a distribution of sexually aggressive tendencies among men (a distribution influenced in part by drinking patterns) and a distribution of vulnerability among women. Changing either distribution will change the number of completed crimes.

      • kate says

        Do similar cultures with different rates of female alcohol consumption (eg. U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand) have different rates of rape? I’ve tried to find stats, but its really not clear to me. I don’t think rape is much more common in the U.K. and Australia than in the U.S., but I’m not sure.

        • Katja says

          I don’t think it would be easy to find comparable data. UNODC has raw data on rape, but it’s not clear that these numbers are comparable. A big factor, for example, is that rape may be more or less likely to be reported in different countries (for example, it has been argued that Sweden has a high number of reported rapes largely because Swedish women are much more likely to report rapes).

          Another problem is that different cultures are not necessarily comparable with respect to sexual norms. Paul Watzlawick provides this specific example of a culture clash in his book “How Real is Real?” [1]:

          “During the last years of World War II and the early postwar years, hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers were stationed in or passed through Great Britian, providing the unique opportunity to study the effects of a large-scale penetration of one culture by another. One interesting aspect was a comparison of courtship patterns. Both American soldiers and British girls accused one another of being sexually brash. Investigation of this curious double charge brought to light an interesting punctuation problem. In both cultures, courtship behavior from the first eye contact to the ultimate consummation went through approximately thirty steps, but the sequence of these steps was different. Kissing, for instance, comes relatively early in the North American pattern (occupying, let us say, step 5) and relatively late in the English pattern (at step 25, let us assume), where it is considered highly erotic behavior. So when the U.S. soldier somehow felt that the time was right for a harmless kiss, not only did the girl feel cheated out of twenty steps of what for her would have been proper behavior on his part, she also felt she had to make a quick decision: break off the relationship and run, or get ready for intercourse. If she chose the latter, the soldier was confronted with behavior that according to his cultural rules could only be called shameless at the early stage of the relationship.”

          The point is not the confusion but that sexual relationships (including failed ones) simply follow different patterns and rules in different countries, making it difficult to arrive at data about the effect of alcohol consumption on rape that can actually be compared. And there are other confounding factors: Other countries don’t have anything comparable to college football culture (though some have soccer hooliganism, a phenomenon that largely doesn’t exist in the US); binge drinking is actually a big problem in the UK, but often occurs in different contexts; teenagers in other developed countries tend to consume more alcohol than US teenagers, but consumption patterns relative to social activities are different, too.

          [1] While the example is about consensual sex, plenty of rape occurs as part of failed attempts to form a consensual relationship, as part of a normally consensual but deteriorating or abusive relationship, etc.

          • says

            Katja, wasn’t part of that story also that touching the breast came relatively early in the English pattern? It’s not strictly relevant, but I’m curious how bad my memory has gotten. It’s been decades since I read that book and most of my library is still packed.

          • Katja says

            Nothing like that is mentioned in my copy, though it may have been mentioned in the underlying study. And while I’m married to an Englishman, I’m pretty sure that dating patterns have changed since WW II, so my personal experience with American/British dating is not only anecdotal, but also about six decades off. :) That said, there still appear to be differences between dating an American and a Brit; one thing worth noting is that European dating (not just in the UK) appears to be much less ritualized than US dating.

            Also, pubs seem to play a fairly big role in the modern British dating scene (no first-hand experience, as we met in the US, but that’s what I’ve been told).

          • Ned says

            Thanks for sharing that example from “How Real Is Real?”, Katya. Very interesting. Plus, the US and UK would be two countries with relatively similar cultures, at least compared with other pairings one could come up with. How much more difficult it would be to come to a shared understanding about relationships between countries with different languages, more radically different cultural backgrounds, etc.

          • Katja says

            No apologies necessary, Ned. I’ve complained to my parents more than once that they didn’t anglicize my name (I was named after my Russian great-grandmother). They are the ones who deserve the blame. :) In practice, it has only resulted in everybody calling me Kat pretty much since childhood.

            And yes, other cultures may be even more different. There’s a funny story of how my mother (who is German) reacted to American-style engagement rings. According to my father, her reaction was roughly: “Women aren’t prize mares!” She claims that this is an exaggeration and that she just found the idea terribly unromantic. The German custom is that an engaged couple wears matching rings (plain or ornate gold, but no diamonds or other gems) on their left hands; the rings get switched to the right hand during the wedding ceremony; that’s what she was used to and why she found the American custom alien.

  21. Andrew Lazarus says

    A quick view of the Web shows that either the alcohol companies have a lot of shills, or Soraya Chemaly’s view is more common than he thinks. I’m with Kleiman about the merits of the argument. If I leave a bicycle unlocked in Downtown Berkeley, it will soon be stolen. The thief is a morally despicable person. Now, do I go off in high dudgeon about Thief Culture and how we need anti-theft sensitivity training from elementary school, or do I buy and use a lock?

    Part of the discussion is that, unfortunately, young women are more likely to suffer bad consequences than young men. Some people seem to focus on trying to “fix” that, rather than harm mitigation through not drinking oneself into a stupor.

    • kate says

      1.) The more apt comparison with acquaintance and date rape would be expecting to have your bike stolen when you leave it at a friends house, or to have it stolen by your brother’s friend when it’s in your own garage. These are contexts in which people generally don’t need locks, except for their vaginas. That’s the problem.
      2.) If when the person who stole your bike was caught, they refused to prosecute him because the fact that you left your bike unlocked was taken as evidence that you totally wanted to give it to him but were just now having regrets about that choice, would you be o.k. with that?
      3.) Men are more likely to be murdered than women, so no, they are not less likely to suffer “bad consequences” than women. It is just that restricting female choices is the primary response to rape whereas prosecuting murderers is the primary response to murder.

      • Foster Boondoggle says

        I’m afraid I’m still not getting it. Are you saying that the correct response is to say to women: “get as drunk as you want anytime, consequences be damned, not your problem”, and meanwhile, somehow, “create” a culture where no woman ever need fear acquaintance/boyfriend/husband rape? How do we do that? Lock all the bastards up? Call out the precogs? Does this female utopia exists anywhere that we can take as a model?

        • kate says

          I am saying that we need to take rape seriously as a crime and prosecute it without blaming the victim.

          • Andrew Lazarus says

            You know, I shook my head in disbelief when a friend lost her passport, money, iPhone, and iPad to a smash-and-grab theft from her parked rental car in Nice, France, a notorious haven of that type of crime. Every tourist guidebook on the planet says not to leave a bag like that in your car, and for Nice, it should be in boldface. It would be a better world where we don’t have to tote that stuff around when inconvenient. Is it blaming the victim to say Don’t Leave Bags in a Parked Car? I suggest it’s rejecting the Cult of the Victim, which is somewhat different.

          • kate says

            Are you saying that people who steal bags out of cars should not be prosecuted because the person who left the bag in the car was asking for it?

          • Foster Boondoggle says

            Who here is blaming the victims?!? Warning women about hazardous behavior – however many times you may have heard it and feel you’re being “lectured at” – is advice about how not to be a victim. It’s not some sort of anticipatory blaming or prudery. It’s just saying “be careful, because you might regret what happens if you don’t”.

            By all means, lets keep trying to change the culture to reduce assumptions about male privilege, “implied” consent, no means yes, etc. etc. But some of us (e.g., me) have daughters who need to understand the risks they face *now*. It’s part of my job as her father to help her – if I can – learn to avoid mistakes by means other than letting her put her hand on a hot stove. Right now I’m also teaching her to drive, and warning her that she needs to watch out for the idiots who pull out without looking or run stop signs, even though she has the right of way. Regarding alcohol, I’m not going to say to her “do what you want, and if something bad happens it’s the fault of the patriarchy”. You observe that many women are victimized by people they know. So what? Is it better for my daughter if, rather than trying to help her stay safe, I just denounce the culture?

            I still don’t get why this is so controversial.

          • Foster Boondoggle says

            And regarding your point 3 above: I “restrict my choice” all the time by not going after dark into parts of town where I’m at risk of being a robbery victim. I’d rather be safe than be a victim, even if I knew my assailant was likely to be found & prosecuted.

          • kate says

            I hear that you’re concerned about protecting your daughter. It sounds like you’re terrified, in fact. I am saying that what you are doing now is likely to do more harm than good. I say that as an assault survivor and former teenage girl. If you talk to your daughter about sexual assault the way you’ve been talking with me, there is no way she is going to come to you if, god forbid, something were to happen to her. I really don’t know how to get through to you, but now feel that it is more imperative than ever that I do.

            Try reading the letters and response at this link:
            http://captainawkward.com/2012/08/07/322-323-my-friend-group-has-a-case-of-the-creepy-dude-how-do-we-clear-that-up/
            Knowing to look out for men like these who violate boundaries, trusting her instincts about them, and getting her friends to back her up could provide her with some measure of protection.

          • Foster Boondoggle says

            “It sounds like you’re terrified, in fact.” Huh? Where’d that come from?

            “I really don’t know how to get through to you”

            I went to that site, which you’d already linked above. I read the first part of it, but not the 500+ followup comments about all the other creepers out there. I don’t think it’s news that there are creepy guys out there and some who will use any means at their disposal to get their jollies at the expense of women. Is this news? Is it controversial? I totally agree with the advice giver on the site who urges the various friends of these guys to confront their behavior squarely and not allow others to make excuses for them.

            None of that has anything to do with me encouraging my daughter not to put herself in situations where her safety and free will are compromised by alcohol. Thanks for letting me know that my attempts – lame though my daughter thinks they are – at providing fatherly guidance are making her worse off. I guess I’ll send her to some websites that explain how it’s all the fault of the hegemonic patriarchy and she should never ever allow her behavior to be *gasp* constrained by considerations of personal safety.

      • Andrew Lazarus says

        No analogy is perfect, and what’s missing from yours is the loss of control that comes from the binge drinking. For example, I most certainly do lock my bike when it is outside my own or my friends’ houses. And the question remains, until such time as anti-rape training seems to work (and there will be psychopaths for whom it never does), maybe using a lock is a good idea.

        I do think you have a good point about the murders, though. Where I think we differ is that prosecutors are often unable to do anything because the woman has no recollection of what happened (Obviously, this doesn’t count for the cases where people made videos). That’s true with murder with respect to the victim, but at least one key fact, the corpus delicti, is manifest. Unless you want to make an argument that women never consent (or even initiate!) sex when they are so drunk they won’t remember afterwords, I don’t see what prosecutors are expected to do.

        • kate says

          The point is, that in sexual assault and rape cases it is friends who victimize the person, not random strangers; and that people in the community all too often side with the abuser/rapist. Men do not just randomly start raping women. They test the waters first with inappropriate touching and talking, playing along the edge of what is appropriate. We need the 90-95% of men who are not rapists to back up women when we tell them that their friends are being creepy and threatening. This does not happen now.

          Here’s a description of the way our culture supports potential rapists:
          http://captainawkward.com/2012/08/07/322-323-my-friend-group-has-a-case-of-the-creepy-dude-how-do-we-clear-that-up/ Pay special attention to the second letter – Ben may not have raped anyone yet, but he is getting the message that if he does, none of the guys in his social group will care. Look at the comments too. This is not uncommon.

          • John G says

            That is a first-rate article, and very credible. The advice given by the woman in charge of the site is excellent as well.

  22. etv13 says

    Can we please get the terminology right? Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and even sixteen-year-old girls, the victims in the Steubenville and Marysville cases, are not “women.” Boys that age are not “men.” Talking about these cases in the same breath as discussing college students or adults binge-drinking is mixing apples and oranges. There is a huge difference between what it’s appropriate to expect of young adults, and what we as a society ought to be doing to protect children who are too young to be drinking without adult supervision. Both the boys and the girls in Steubenville and Marysville were way too young to be in unfettered possession of alcohol. There is no question in my mind that the boys in those cases behaved very culpably, but there seems to be a hell of a lot of silence about the adults who enabled their behavior by putting them in possession of huge amounts of alcohol and left them on their own to deal with its effects.

    • kate says

      This is an important point. Kids this age should not be having parties without adult supervision. Some adults are under investigation in the Steubenville case, as they should be.

  23. Frank says

    Mark,

    Holy cow the comments section to this post is insane?!? I would like to turn the dicussion to a more wonky direction be addresing your policy remeditations regarding alcohol abuse:

    “The result of that discussion should be higher taxes, negative marketing, marketing limits, user-set personal quotas, and bans on alcohol sales to people convicted of alcohol-related crimes.”

    I am all for higher taxes on alcohol-I think the evidence is compelling that those taxes would generate a nice bit of revenue, not really hurt the casual drinker, and marginally reduce problem drinking across the board. I am more skeptical of marketing restraints-have alcohol related crimes and harms gone up that much over the last 10-15 years due to the increase in hard-liquor advertising (I think there is evidence that hard-liquor consumption has gone up but have read nothing regarding alcohol related crimes going up).

    And has an governing entity established user-set personal quotas and bans on alcohol sales to people convicted of alcohol-related crimes? I can see the latter having positive effects but wonder if the former is really achieveable, except for a business doing the “right thing” by refusing sales to those that are visibly, highly intoxicated…

    Frank