Well, a new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research may have you second-guessing the role of alcohol when it comes to one-sided flirtation. Researchers analyzed 258 incidents involving aggressive sexual advances in large bars and clubs. In 90% of the cases, male initiators acted aggressively toward female targets.
Though bar staff rarely stepped in to mitigate a situation, other club- and bar-goers intervened 21% of the time — sometimes to help the target (women, mostly), but in some cases, to egg the initiator on. In these primarily male-initiated, female-targeted scenarios, researchers found the act had a lot more to do with how drunk the target was, not the other way around. To put it another way, it’s not that the men were acting out because they were drunk, it's supposedly that the women were drunk and seemed like easy targets.
So, is an unwanted sexual advance the fault of the tipsy girl who ripped more shots than she has fingers? Obviously not. What this study shows is that it's not that alcohol magically cracks a respectful man's moral compass, leading him to act more aggressively than he otherwise would. It's that men who act aggressively — regardless of how much they've had to drink — may actively target women who are impaired.
Past studies have delved into the effects of alcohol on the likelihood of sexual aggression. In a relatively small, self-reported study, a man’s level of intoxication (especially if he’d been in contact with violent pornography) increased his chances of being sexually aggressive. Other research suggests alcohol consumption of both the perpetrator and the victim may contribute to the incidence of sexual assault. However, just looking at alcohol consumed, this most recent study asserts that aggressive advances have more to do with how much the person on the receiving end has had.
Let’s get one thing straight: Sexual aggression is never okay, no matter who's been drinking what. What this study proves is that, unsurprisingly, men don't transform into raging aggressors the moment they get tipsy. The pattern of targeting impaired women is part of a larger, darker culture of male aggression. Remember that "joke" from ABC's bro-fest/rape-joke sitcom, Mixology? "We need to find you a nice, sweet, drunk girl. You know — the kind that breaks a heel." Not so funny anymore.