Has Slate Lost its Mind?

Cross-posted from the College Conservative

Emily Yoffe, author of the widely respected “Dear Prudence” column at Slatehas decided that “the best rape prevention” is to “tell college women to stop getting so wasted.” She argues that drinking is a choice (duh), drinking to extreme excess makes you unable to protect yourself (duh), and then it gets weird: Yoffe says that college women just haven’t figured this out.

“A misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young women that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves in potential peril.” Who doesn’t know that binge drinking is dangerous? This is the basic Bynes-Lohan Principle at work: nobody looks at a girl who’s falling all over herself and thinks “yep, she’s got her life under control.”

There are plenty of reasons to tell young people not to drink to excess. It’s bad for your brain, kidney, and liver. It impairs your ability to make decisions. It’s empty calories. It’s illegal. It’s not classy. You’ll have a hangover tomorrow. None of these reasons are gendered. To give women a lecture on drinking and assault, and let the men skip it, is to say that binge drinking is only a female problem. This also sends the message that only sloppy drunk women get attacked. So if, heaven forbid, it happens to you, then you must be a sloppy drunk woman. If only you would quit drinking in college, you would not have had this problem. See the slippery slope here?

It’s not wrong to ask women to protect themselves, but it is wrong to look at a crime committed overwhelmingly more often by one sex, and task the other sex with preventing it. Don’t make us play defense. Go on the offensive and talk to the men, too.

Yoffe cites a 2009 study, which says “more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol. Frequently both the man and the woman have been drinking.”  If a woman and a man get drunk, and the man commits a crime against the woman, it is the man’s drinking that is the problem.

​Drinking and partying are behaviors that, according to Yoffe, increases the chances that a college woman will become a victim of sexual assault. But here are some other behaviors that increase those odds:

  1. Having friends: According to RAINN, “73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.” Minimize your risk by never meeting anyone new.
  2. Going to college: 100% of sexual assaults that occur on a college campus, happen on a college campus. Don’t want to get attacked in college? Don’t go to college!

If you’re going to tell the girls “don’t drink so much that you are in a position to get attacked,” you better also tell the boys “don’t drink so much that you ​do the attacking.” Anything less is to put the burden of prevention on victims, instead of on the perpetrators where it belongs.


4 thoughts on “Has Slate Lost its Mind?

  1. Douglas — as any prosecutor will tell you, the idea that such date-rape scenarios will turn into a prosecution at all, let alone “hard time” is a sheer myth.
    Serial stranger rapists rarely see sentences like that. And any case as liminal as the one you describe is not going to make it past the complaint phase — nor are most reported, anyway.
    This debate revolves around campus rape activism, not real prosecutions in the real world. And regarding the former, you and I are in agreement, though I would go further than you and suggest that many of the “morning after” scenarios now being presented as rape by campus activists are not rape. Activists have defined sexual assault too broadly; they are using rape to promote a political ideology, and they have created an on-campus reward/punishment system for claiming victimization or accusing others.
    They are also relying on “statistics” that would be laughable if they were not so intellectually dishonest and morally pernicious.
    Worst of all, this self-indulgent victim-shilling campus activism has made it more difficult for the real justice system to address real sex crimes. Most of all, I think it’s attention-seeking.

  2. I don’t want to be pedantic, but I think you are eliding the problem. You write, “If a woman and a man get drunk, and the man commits a crime against the woman, it is the man’s drinking that is the problem.” The question is whether or not the man has committed a crime, and in the case of rape, that turns on whether or not the woman has consented to sex. In the case of rape by force or the threat of force, there is no dispute about consent. In those cases, there is no dispute that a crime has been committed, and the use of alcohol, by either party, is not a defense. Ditto for cases where the woman has drunk herself into a state of unconsciousness – an unconscious person can’t consent.
    But what about the far more common case where both parties are drunk, there is no force used or threatened and the woman appears to be a consenting participant? That’s the heart of the problem, and you don’t even discuss it. Once upon a time we might have said that the man was “taking advantage” of the woman, but is that Victorian-era sin an offense that deserves 15-20 years of hard time? Juries don’t generally think so. A more forthright willingness to discuss this hard case, rather than glibly assuming that a crime has been committed and so there is nothing to discuss, would be welcomed.

  3. The money quote: “Anything less is to put the burden of prevention on victims, instead of on the perpetrators where it belongs”. The burden of prevention always lies with the potential victim, to claim otherwise is simply bizarre. It’s kind of why we call it prevention rather than intervention. From burglaries to food poisoning to sexually transmitted diseases, preventative measures decrease risk. At best society can punish perpetrators using fairly costly and time consuming mechanisms, but that’s pretty much it. Perpetrators have limited (maybe even zero) interest in decreasing the risk to potential victims. Perpetrators will exploit vulnerabilities; less vulnerabilities means less opportunity for victimization. Most people unburdened by doctrinaire post-modern philosophies, implicitly understand this fact. Insofar as Angela Morabito’s glib suggestions of women not meeting anyone new or not going to college, well that might work too, but there are more practical preventative measures that Emily Yoffe alluded to which can be very effective.

  4. Morabito just can’t accept the obvious: If there’s a risk of harm that you want to avoid, don’t engage in conduct that increases the risk. If I don’t want to be burglarized, I lock my doors and windows when I’m away. That doesn’t mean I’m condoning burglars, or that there aren’t other things I can do to reduce the risk. Nor does it mean that the fault all lies with me if I’m burgled. But it does mean that practicality trumps carping about how life is so unfair.

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