By: Amanda Dee – A&E Staff Writer, Sophomore
On Oct. 15, journalist Emily Yoffe published an article on Slate Magazine‘s website regarding the correlation between sexual assault and alcohol intake. The headline of Yoffe’s article, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk,” points toward victim-blaming; however, the two pages of content point toward the bottle of vodka in the hands of both victim and perpetrator.
Fires of infuriated responses have burned steadily since Oct. 15 on blogs, in magazines and on social media sites. Comments on the article page itself ignited the debate. One comment criticized, “What’s wrong with telling boys that it’s never OK to rape? Oh, I guess that would be hard.” Some critics turned to the blog site Tumblr, derailing the article as “gross,” “awful” and a “victim-blaming nightmare.” Feministing, a feminist blog, decried the article as a “rape denialism manifesto.”
I am a feminist. I see victim-blaming as a serious issue in today’s culture, but the fact of the matter is alcohol clouds our judgment, our memory and the blame.
We can’t solve rape by pointing fingers at the victim, at the perpetrator or at the bottle of vodka; we can’t easily eradicate the “male culture of sexual entitlement” that Yoffe addressed in her response. The reality is that we can only begin to solve rape by educating, by actually doing something about it.
Yoffe’s article is clear saying, “Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice.” We can skim over this article as anti-feminist and throw it into the proverbial misogynistic trash, but if we examine the original article alongside journalist Ann Friedman’s response in New York Magazine, “Men: Stop Getting Drunk,” the message is “totally clear.” Binge drinking is dangerous.
Binge drinking, for females, is considered four or more drinks on one occasion and, for males, five or more, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
As defined by Antonia Abbey in the Department of Community Medicine at Wayne State University, in the journal “Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault: A Common Problem among College Students,” sexual assault is the “full range of forced sexual acts including forced touching or kissing, verbally coerced intercourse and physically forced vaginal, oral or anal penetration.” Rape is defined as “some type of penetration due to threat of force, lack of consent, or inability to give consent due to age, intoxication or mental status.”
According to Abbey’s journal, approximately 54 percent of women in a study of over 6,000 students across 32 colleges reported experiencing some form of sexual assault.
I am by no means dismissing male victims; rape and sexual assault research just primarily focuses on the estimated 95 percent of victims, who are female, as cited by Abbey’s journal.
At least 50 percent of these sexual assaults on college campuses are associated with alcohol (74 percent of the perpetrators and 55 percent of the victims in a nationally representative sample).
These statistics do not prove or imply alcohol causes rape or sexual assault, nor does the journal (or Yoffe’s article). These statistics do prove that rape and sexual assault on college campuses is a serious issue and that alcohol exacerbates it. The issue festers in this muddied puddle of alcohol, but it is entangled in deeply rooted gender role expectations, sexual norms and binge drinking culture.
According to Abbey’s journal, when under the influence of alcohol, complex cognitive abilities like interpreting subtle social stimuli are impaired. The male, assigned the role of sexual interaction “inciter,” waits for the female, assigned the role of sexual interaction “limiter,” to control the interaction. When under the influence of alcohol, a kiss is easily misconstrued as an invitation for more and “no” is easily misconstrued as “convince me.” Women are subjugated to this passive, responsive role and, subsequently, find themselves silencing and blaming themselves for the perceived failure to respond to these situations correctly.
Alcohol is a source of shame for victims and an excuse for perpetrators. Sixty-two percent of perpetrators attributed alcohol as the reason for their rape, as cited by Abbey’s journal, and perpetrators are more likely to use it as an excuse again.
We need to decimate the “I did it because I was drunk” excuse and strengthen the relationship between sexual assault training and alcohol education at UD.
In my next column, I’ll examine the relationship between binge drinking and sexual assault at UD, and evaluate the steps that the administration has taken and should take to educate students about this critical issue.