Women and girls get lied to from all sides. I prefer truth.
So here are two true things: If you’re around men, and you’re drunk enough that you can’t think straight, the likelihood that a rapist will target you is higher than if you were sober. And you will be less able to defend yourself.
Unfair, I know. It ought to be enough to tell men not to rape; end of story; period.
As much as I hated the headline (“College Women, Stop Getting Drunk”), I read Yoffe’s entire piece on Slate. Did her critics do the same before they decided she was a mockworthy scold/rape apologist? Because her observations — that women who are drunk are often targeted by rapists, and that drunk women are less able to defend themselves — are common-sense, albeit not the way things should be.
My whole deal is this: I don’t stake my personal safety on the way things should be; nor will I encourage other women — much less teenage girls — to do so, because that would be disingenuous hypocrisy of the worst kind. As much as we thrill to rape-prevention tips for perpetrators — “Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks” — the culture changes slowly and painfully and I don’t intend to be a test case. I’m not increasing my risk of victimization to prove an ideological point. Kind of like I don’t tend to hold hands with my girlfriend as we skip past some rural redneck convention in Killdyke, AZ. It’s so wack and unfair that the onus is on my girlfriend and I to be cautious! We should be able to hold hands wherever we want, without fear of a Killdykian attacking us with a baseball bat!
“Only men can stop rape.” True.
Here’s another true thing I learned from spending time with 18- and 19-year-old women: They’re still developing that mental algorithm which, in women with more life experience, works automatically and quickly when we’re around men. When we walk down a dark street alone, our brains conduct an unconscious series of equations; an internal call-and-response:
I see a strange man coming towards me.
Is he alone, or are there other men nearby?
Is he walking purposefully? or erratically?
Is he carrying anything? Walking a dog?
Do I feel uncomfortable in any way?
Could I get out of this situation quickly if I had to? How would I go about doing that?
Life experience teaches us not to wait when we get that creepy, prickly danger-feeling. We don’t need to spend precious seconds analyzing it, questioning ourselves, or justifying our decision to exit stage left.
Our brains run the algorithm at parties and on dates, too. We’re less likely to stick around because we’re afraid of hurting his feelings or looking foolish. It’s a key part of getting home safe. It’s not theory. Not politics. Life is not a Gender Studies class. You want to talk “lived experience,” I got some lived experience right here for you and so do all my friends.
I care about girls and women. So I won’t tell them that their choices, in a dangerous world, are meaningless. That’s infantilizing.
Our choices matter. Our survival skills matter.
Rape is never our fault — whether the rapist is a stranger, a “friend,” or a partner. We can’t guarantee that we won’t experience sexual violence at the hands of a man, but we can stack the deck in our favor. You can choose not to stack yours in a show of insistence that women ought to be able to get drunk in the company of men without increased risk of rape. You do you.
I choose to stack mine. That’s not blaming victims. That’s me trying not to become one.