Emily Yoffe's taking a lot of heat for an article she wrote for Slate online, titled College Women, Stop Getting Drunk. Commenters are accusing her of victim shaming, of being a rape apologist, chastising her for not simultaneously offering solutions for correcting what many see as a rape culture on campuses.
People react strongly to any discussion of rape. No surprise, particularly for those most likely to become victims of the crime. Hell, my hackles go up and I can get truly angry on this subject. I've had plenty of (heated) discussions with my Libertarian husband about some of his favorite pundits and bloggers who dismiss statistics like "one in four" and who question whether most date rapes are actually "rape." But Yoffe's article? Simmer down, folks.
The line between pragmatism and rape apology is neither fine nor indistinct.
I am a mother to a boy and a girl. None of the men most closely involved in their lives - father, stepfather, grandparents, uncles, cousins - are men who would ever treat women with anything but respect. None of them are men with a tendency to objectify women or who would ever dream of hurting a woman or initiating sex with her regardless of her lack of sobriety. They all know that "no" - or the lack of conscious capacity to provide consent - means NO. (For the record, SG once asked me if I'd ever said "no" when I mean "yes". He's lucky I wasn't close enough to give him a black eye.)
I agree that educating our boys is necessary and an important part of eradicating rape from our society. I believe that any individual who commits rape ought to be prosecuted and punished severely for their crime. I will raise my son to respect others and to never ever do anything to another person without their consent.
But for the same reason I teach my children not to get in a stranger's car, I also will raise my daughter to know that there are things she can do to reduce her risk of being raped and I will not do so apologetically or quietly.
I can't be the only person who saw the Bloomberg article about the UN-funded study which found that one in four men in Asia admitted to having committed rape. Granted, we have a difference in culture, but still - ONE IN FOUR. That's a horrifying statistic. In my opinion its possibly even more horrifying than the oft-cited statistic that one in four women will be raped in her lifetime.
I want my daughter to stay safe. There are many areas of her life in which I already or soon will have serious discussions with her in regards to protecting herself from harm. I don't want her drinking and driving, texting and driving, doing drugs, getting drunk, driving recklessly or putting herself needlessly in harm's way. In my opinion, cautioning her against drinking too much in social situations is no different than insisting she wear a seatbelt when she's in a car or making her wear a helmet when she rides a horse.
I don't blame any woman who has been raped for what happened to her. No person should ever be raped, drunk or sober. When a woman enters a bar and a man buys her a drink, then slips a drug into it when she's not looking, its in no way her fault. When a girl goes to a high school kegger or a college frat party and overconsumes and then is raped, she is NOT to blame. The man who rapes her is the person at fault. Wishing she had avoided that situation is not the same as blaming her that it happened.
Until men like that no longer walk this planet, I will encourage my daughter to take steps to protect herself and her friends from violence, not because I think what could happen to her is OK, but because I love her and I want her to be safe. I will tell her what I hope every parent tells their daughter -- to avoid becoming incapacitated by drugs or acohol; to never leave her drunk friend behind at a party; that she is statistically safer if she doesn't go to bars alone. I will also teach her that she ought to defend herself, violently if necessary. I believe that not teaching her these things would be terribly irresponsible on my part.
Do women have the right to be vulnerable without suffering harm? Of course they do. Let us also be pragmatic and admit that the world we live in is unsafe, and that it is advisible for women - or any of us, for that matter - to take precautions that keep us safe from individuals who lack the conscience and civility to respect our rights. As terribly wrong as rape is, I don't have the ability to make it magically cease to happen. So I'll do what I can. I will educate my son and all of the men I know NOT to rape. And I will educate my daughter and any other woman that there are things she can do to protect herself. And Emily Yoffe is not wrong when she states that not getting rip-roaring drunk at a campus party is one way to do that. The fact that this is the only aspect of rape prevention that she chose to focus on in her article might be unfortunate, but it doesn't make her wrong.