Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Non-Sexist Approach to Blaming Rape on Alcohol

Act #324:  The most common cause of rape:  the rapist.

*** Trigger warning***

It's no secret that sexual assaults are more likely when alcohol is involved.  The vast majority of rapes on college campuses happen when the rapist and victim are both drunk.  For the purposes of this piece, let's just get one thing out of the way:  Men can be victims and women can be perpetrators.  But statistically speaking, women are raped more often than men.  And statistically speaking, men are more often the perpetrators of sexual violence than women. Hence female education classes on How Not to Get Raped, warnings from our mothers about how to protect ourselves, and entire self-defense curriculums designed just for women.

So for argument sake, let's just say that alcohol is indeed the number one date-rape drug.  Now go ahead and imagine a man in your life that you respect deeply.  Maybe it's your grandfather, your husband, a mentor, your pastor.  Someone who is kind, compassionate, and has integrity.  Now imagine getting him completely wasted.  What are the chances that he would suddenly transform into a violent beast and begin to sexually attack and assault women?   Maybe there's a slight possibility, but realistically, most rapists don't just accidently drink too much and suddenly begin raping - they use alcohol as a weapon to exert power over their victims.

Now let's say you completely disagree with me and think that it is possible that a one-time excessive drinking binge can unknowingly cause a perfectly nice man to have violent tendencies towards a woman.  If that is indeed the case, why then do we spend all of our time and energy educating and preaching primarily TO WOMEN about binge drinking and protecting ourselves?  Shouldn't we also be holding classes and seminars for men on controlling their binge drinking?  Shouldn't fathers be taking their teenage sons aside and giving them the same "talks" on How Not To Transform Into A Rapist At A Kegger?

If alcohol is indeed the culprit of rapes among young people, why then are we not also preaching the woes of it to both men and women?    Because it's not.  It doesn't "suddenly" transform nice guys into rapists or "suddenly" make women want to be raped.  Because rape has never been about sex or booze.  It's about power and control.  And alcohol is merely a tool that is used to make conditions easier for someone to exert that power and control over someone else.   Unfortunately, alcohol has also been used as a tool in the criminal justice system - and countless rapists have walked away because we, as a society choose to focus on blaming the victims’ drinking.

So that's why there are many of us in the anti-violence movement who are working hard to change a culture that has vilified women for the very same conduct that we tolerate in men.  Especially when women are still the ones who disproportionately end up being victims.  That's why we don't blame the alcohol.  That's why it's dangerous for us to focus on alcohol as the primary "cause" of sexual violence. Because if we do, we will be taking our attention away from the real culprit - the ingrained, sweeping inequalities and oppression that continue to foster a culture of violence against women.

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