Me: Blame is how we separate ourselves from victims. We want to believe that every move we make influences what happens to us–that we have more control than anyone else over our own lives. We hear about terrible things happening to other people and we look for reasons why it simply couldn’t have been us. Almost immediately we start searching for our own immunity. “I’m safe because I would never get that drunk” or “well, it’s her own fault because she should have never been in that neighborhood at that time.” Sure we empathize, but it’s often stained with a bit of a “that’s what you get” sentiment. We lie to ourselves because it’s too scary to believe it could happen to us and that really, we have no control. By blaming the victim of a violent crime, rape for example, we allow ourselves to temporarily suspend reality and believe nothing bad will happen as long as we take the necessary precautions–that there’s a logical explanation why it happened to that person and not someone else. If I avoid what that person was doing, I can avoid this terrible thing happening to me. It’s comforting, it’s reassuring. And it’s incredibly toxic.
I think that’s you’re attempting to do with this misguided and all together offensive piece “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk” in Slate this week. I think you failed to recognize what the entire internet thousands of outraged people (including the ingenious Anne Friedman and Alexander Abad Santos of The Atlantic) have been saying all over the internet–the second you blame a victim, even a little bit, for the circumstances of a rape, you remove some of the responsibility from the rapist. You can’t do that.
Having a conversation about the dangers of binge drinking is fine–it’s probably necessary–but it needs to be separate from a conversation about how to avoid sexual assault. I think this has to be a defense mechanism to combat your own fear, because, come on, you write for Slate–you must know binge drinking & being sexually assaulted are entirely different matters and that one is a conscious, albeit regrettable decision, and the other is the furthest thing from a choice that exists. It is so incredibly dangerous to start pairing the conversation about protecting yourself with who is a fault.
You also express concern that your son avoid binge drinking and thus avoid putting himself in compromising situations as well. Not because men can be raped, (which by the way, they can and it’s just as awful as when women are) but because he might black out from alcohol and end up the next innocent boy accused of rape. As though being in the wrong place at the wrong time could falsely label you a rapist. You present the accusation as the most offensive part of this twisted tale of fuzzy interpretations of whether or not there was consent. This kind of attitude, again, severely minimizes a rapist’s role in the act, it seems like a simple ‘he said, she said’ and preaches doubting accusations and believing that sometimes ‘no’ isn’t really all that clear.
There are no caveats to consent. It is terribly frightening to acknowledge anyone can become a victim of sexual assault, but looking for ways to divvy up the responsibility is a dangerous fallacy that yields no positive results and only seeks to increase the shame rape victims feel. Maybe the real best rape prevention is to start blaming rapists and stop blaming victims.
Me: Alright, alright. You’re really mad at the feminists of the internet because they didn’t like your article. Let me get you some wine, some ice cream or WHATEVER women eat when their emotions get out of control, amirite? But really, I think it’s important to stop acting like the sacrificial lamb of feminism and instead of just deflecting blows, let’s examine, briefly, maybe why some people may have found that first piece offensive.
So, let’s start with your use of “rape culture” as a trivial piece of subculture slang. Do you really think it’s an empty buzzword? That could be offensive to thousands, maybe millions of women, who believe the misogynistic tendencies and standards of the world are finally being recognized as such and are working every day to change that. So I think by acting like “rape culture” is an eye roll inducing phrase you are maybe not helping your case.
Secondly, you still never acknowledge that there is something wrong with rapists. That’s a pretty obvious thing to make a nod to with a piece like this I think.
Look, I believe you don’t want to blame victims, hence what I said before about it being a method of defense and wanting to believe we can prevent these terrible things, but you do. By saying there is something women can do to maybe possibly prevent sexual assault, you’re implying if you are sexually assaulted while binge drinking, you could have done more to stop it and thus own some, even its fractional. You still imply women let themselves be sexually assaulted.
And that’s victim blame and that’s what’s wrong with your piece. Still.