Update: Turns out the Stephen Zhang video purporting to show a drunk woman being harassed by a series of strangers is, indeed, a hoax. The Smoking Gun reports that the video's makers tricked the men in the clip into participating by asking them to "say a couple of lines for a comedy sketch." Ugh. Still, the video remains a reminder of the ongoing risk of harassment and assault that women face — but it's unfortunate to see an attempt to highlight such a serious topic undermined by its deceitful creation process.
Original Post: In news that is sadly unlikely to surprise anyone, it turns out that women who are intoxicated and ask male strangers for directions are at risk of assault. (So are woman who are not intoxicated and don't ask anyone anything at all, but we digress.) Maybe we didn't a need a staged viral video to prove that risk, but in case you'd like a reminder, you can view the latest from social media marketer Stephen Zhang: "Drunk Girl In Public (Social Experiment)." In it, a (sober) actress in a short dress and high heels pretends to be drunk on Hollywood Boulevard, swaying as she walks, drinking from a paper-bag-encased can, and asking male passersby for help finding her bus stop. A hidden camera records these male strangers' reactions.
"The bus? You don't need to take the bus!" one man exclaims. "We're gonna go somewhere else — to my house!" Another tries to usher the woman directly into his parked car nearby, joking that he won't charge her for his kindness. And, in a particularly Neanderthalesque display of mate competition at the end of the video, one man attempting to take the supposedly drunk woman home is thwarted by a man who walks up and announces, "Whoa whoa whoa whoa, you're not going home with him." Then, he turns to the woman's would-be companion/assaulter and declares, "She's coming home with me, fuck off!" How
charming scary. Only one of the five men featured in the video actually tries to guide the woman to her bus.
While it's not a given that these men would have attacked this woman had they escorted her to their homes, this video makes it clear that there's a huge risk factor here. (And, taking home a drunk woman you don't know even if you do plan to simply put her down for a nap? Not okay, either.) The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that in America, a sexual assault occurs every two minutes. Assaults by strangers are in fact the exception: About two-thirds of assaults are by someone the victim knows; 38% of rapists were friends or acquaintances of their victims before attacking them. While America's sexual assault rate is on the decline, we have a long, long way to go to bring it to zero. This video is a visceral reminder of the sweeping attitude adjustment it's going to take to get there.