College Women: Could You Stop Getting Raped, Already?



1Photo: REX USA/Food and Drink/Rex
Hats off to you, Emily Yoffe — otherwise known as the Prudence of Slate's weekly advice column, "Dear Prudence" — for putting forth one of the most tone deaf, trollish op-eds on the sexual assault question I've read recently. The essay, titled "College Women: Stop Getting Drunk," is a supposedly hard-hitting looking at the factors involved in the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.

Yoffe takes a "practical" approach to rape. Many sexual assaults take place when one or both parties are intoxicated. Yoffe claims that men use inebriation to excuse their behavior and that women who drink to excess put themselves in the crosshairs of rapists.

She quotes a 2007 investigation into sexual assault on campus that states, “Students may also be unaware of the image of vulnerability projected by a visibly intoxicated individual,” as if this proves her point. Don't you get it ladies? Your visible intoxication reveals your vulnerability. As if the expected response from any man upon seeing a blacked-out young woman is to rape her. As if projecting vulnerability — or being physically vulnerable — is like wearing a rape target.

And, if it is, then that's the real problem.

Yoffe states that if she had a son, "I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate," which is an odd, responsibility-ducking stance to take. As if those drunken boys always stand accused of wrongdoing they never committed. While false rape accusations exist and are possible, it's notoriously difficult to prosecute very real rape. Like, the kind where a young woman is sexually assaulted, then left passed out on her mother's front lawn in 22-degree weather. Despite law enforcement feeling confident in the level of evidence collected in this case, the young man accused in the Maryville rape case was never even tried.

Yoffe is promoting a sort of "harm reduction" approach to not getting raped. It's the same thinking that governs public health approaches to, say, IV drug use. Are you going to shoot heroin anyway? Okay, then at least use clean needles. Here, it's: Are men going to rape vulnerable women, anyway? Okay, then don't be one of those vulnerable women.

But, the issue here is that we're considering the culture of rape to be static and unchanging. We're regarding it as if it's an unstoppable force. And, that's a cop-out and isn't fair to men or women. The culture that needs to change is one of sexual assault diminishment and victim-blaming. Telling women they can't lead normal lives and make occasionally irresponsible decisions and drink a little too much sometimes places the blame squarely where it shouldn't rest: on them. (Slate)