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September 21, 2014

Burkas or Booze – Neither matters to a Rapist

By Juliet Jeske - from Julietjeskeblog.com

In Slate.com Emily Yoffe makes the argument, The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting so Wasted. She begins by pointing to three high-profile rape cases which involved alcohol but did not occur on a college campus. Yet most of the research she cites are studies about sexual assault on college campuses. Then Yoffe warns of the potential perils of binge drinking including accidental death. At times I couldn’t tell if she was advocating against binge drinking or rape. Finally she used herself as an example, “I enjoy moderate drinking and have only been hung over three times in my life. I have never been so drunk that I browned out, blacked out, passed out, or puked from alcohol ingestion.” Well that’s great Yoffe, but you are a grown woman and in the three cases you cited in your opening paragraph, all of the victims were minors or extremely young women.

Of course no one is for underage girls drinking alcohol. But who is more likely to make a mistake and accidentally consume too much, an adult woman with some life experience or a child? Is it really the fault of a child for curiously getting into the liquor cabinet, or the 18-year-old boy who raped her when she had too much. Women and girls are responsible for their own actions, but so are the boys and men who rape. And why did Yoffe use examples of teenage rape victims, and then rail against college aged drinking binges?

Ironically in one of the high-profile cases Yoffe cites, the victim was so viciously blamed for her own assault her mother’s house was burned to the ground. Why would anyone blame a teenaged victim? Perhaps because they are feeding into attitudes that somehow this girl deserved what happened to her. Unlike the “good girl” Yoffe, she couldn’t use restraint.

Articles like these are dangerous because ultimately they are feeding into the culture of victim blaming. Binge drinking is dangerous for both men and women, and women do metabolize alcohol at a slower rate than men. Regardless women will still get raped. Women get raped in countries where alcohol is largely prohibited. Women get raped while wearing full length burkas. Women, children and men get raped for doing absolutely nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I would also agree with the author that we should arm young women about risky situations. But as much as she claims we are Infantilizing women by ignoring risks such as binge drinking, she is Infantilizing men by not making them more responsible for a culture that not only obscures responsibility but blames victims.

In my youth, I had more than a few sexually intimidating and threatening situations where alcohol played no role whatsoever. When a college professor made me feel that my grade and future education depended on me humoring his constant advances – I wasn’t exactly drunk. When an older boy repeatedly forcibly fondled me in a friend’s pool – I was 12 years old and no alcohol. When I got roofied in my freshmen year of college at a party and woke up on a loft bed with a naked man on top of me – was I being irresponsible when I had only sipped on a Diet Coke? Luckily in the last scenario I managed to escape the assault without being raped, but only barely.

The common denominator in my own experiences were men who enjoyed dominating, intimidating and controlling women. If we want to put an end to rape culture, we need to warn women of the dangers, but we also need to change our attitudes towards male sexuality. Men are not wild beasts who cannot control themselves in sexually charged situations. The men and boys who rape, make a conscious choice to view their victims as less than human. Rapists attack anyone who is weaker or vulnerable including children and even other men. In rare cases even women rape. The source of sexual violence goes deeper than a 20-year-old at a college party who had one to many beer bongs. Instead of focusing on the victims of the abuse, perhaps we should focus on why rape is so pervasive. What causes a man to view a woman as prey? Why is there so much confusion about constitutes consent? Why is their one set of standards of behavior for men and another for women? Why do we so often blame the victim? What about our culture produces men who rape? Until we face the harsh realities that feed the culture of rape: misogyny, male aggression, fear of female sexuality, and a firmly entrenched madonna whore complex, we are never going to solve the problem of rape.

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Juliet Jeske writes for HuffingtonPost.com – please check out her blog at http://julietjeskeblog.com. Follow her on twitter at JulietJeske.

She is New York based comedian, actress and writer. She has worked extensively in theater and live performance. Due to overwhelming support from readers of the Huffington Post she is currently working on a memoir about being married to a gay clown.

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13 Responses to “Burkas or Booze – Neither matters to a Rapist”
    • Alaska Pi says:

      yeah right.
      stoopid doof.
      holding a 14 year old to a fully adult understanding of what might happen/what one can expect whilst not holding a 17 year old responsible the same way?
      most 14 year olds think no further than the end of their noses and some vague expectation of a bunch o undefined fun when they do such dippo things as sneak out and drink…
      she-shoulda-known-because-women-are-born-temptresses-and-guys-can’t-help-themselves crap ! infantilizes men, places responsibility for male behavior on women whilst demanding youngsters of the female variety be aware of their soiled existences from the time they are born.
      way to stay stuck in a culture which tolerates rape…Pfffttt!
      this wasn’t sex, this was assault.
      two kids get into a shoving match which turns into a fight, we bust em up, and come down hard on the originator don’t we?

  1. Alaska Pi says:

    so-
    I went and read Ms Yoffe’s column, some of the other rebuttals to it (beyond this one ), and her apologia .
    and-
    I have multiple issues with her stance , like so many others do.
    Ms Yoffe starts off on the completely wrong foot with naming this column ” the Best Rape Prevention…” and goes downhill from there.
    Should she have written a column questioning/blasting binge drinking by college students and included the increased chances for young women to be raped amongst the other damages involved , Ms Yoffe would have stood a chance of being heard seriously. The statistics of harm related to binge drinking are awful to both women and men and extend well beyond the binge drinkers themselves.
    It is interesting to note that collegiate binge drinking has been in a decline for about a decade and that the most important part of discouraging young adults from jumping on that wagon is letting them know “no, most students do not binge drink” ( I read 2 of Wechsler’s studies too )
    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/BingeDrinking.html#.UmPwMVNNROc
    However, Ms Yoffe, who says this comes from a mother whose own daughter is heading off to college, chose to frame this all very narrowly as a rape-prevention strategy and pretty much totally ignores the binge drinking problem overall. As we all know, teaching women to dress conservatively, don’t-go-out-after-dark, and the like has not dented rape statistics one bit and actually bolsters the blame-the-victim strategies employed by rapists and their community cohort – be the cohort into the madonna and the whore garbage or simply folks who don’t respect women.
    AND , leave us never forget, there are many, many women in that cohort.
    Ms Yoffe shores up her argument in her apologia with many mentions of those who contacted her in support who cry the feminists-did-this-to-us crap. Well, Pffftt!
    Using examples of youngsters or extremely young women as cautionary tales further feeds into the old, old, old story of blaming the women/girl/female for any assault on their person- the one where we-all-know-THEY-were-born-to-tempt-us-into-sin with its various permutations of being less than fully human anyway.
    While Ms Yoffe chooses to see the best rape prevention as not getting drunk and while a way too high percentage of rapes happen to women who have had too much to drink, I don’t see, as everyone here says, that it really addresses the underlying issues of our cultural tolerance for rape.
    And THAT is what we have to keep working on.
    As the mother of a son, who is now raising a daughter and a son of his own ( with his extraordinary wife ), cases like the Maryland, MO one set my hair on fire. When I hear of the slutshaming garbage and boys-will-boys crap which always seem to attend these assaults, I am reminded of the months and months the small community we lived in 22 years ago flapped on about its-the-girl’s-fault when something similar happened there. I am reminded of the endless conversations with my teenaged son about it all, his first acceptance of the prevailing attitude, his growing skepticism, his abrupt shift and his outspoken rejection of that attitude. We have to do better than one-by-one like my son, we have to shift the whole dealie. We really do.

  2. mag the mick says:

    Of course, we should be telling young men “not to rape”. And until that actually happens, we should also be telling young women not to get themselves into situations where they are more vulnerable.

  3. fishingmamma says:

    I am more than a little disheartened by our continuing inability to make a dent in this problem. When I was a young woman, we had “take back the night” marches and spent hours in conciousness-raising groups, thinking that empowering ourselves would create a better climate and eliminate the destructive attitudes that prevailed toward women. (the mandonna-whore thing). Women can get credit now, and can buy our own homes, and can apply for jobs without explaining our reproductive plans, but we still are not safe in our own homes from controlling partners and from predatory sexual monsters.

    Rape and domestic violence stem from the same root – disregard for the dignity of women. Not from alcohol, not from poverty, not from any other ‘social ill’. And don’t get me wrong. Women are just as guilty as men of perpetrating this blame-the-victim attitude and this lack of respect for women.

    Last year, the rage was all the women reading that book, “50 shades of grey” and now it is to become a movie, sexual bondage? I never read it, and don’t intend to, but that sounds like a perversion of the relationship, and it is being hailed in our culture as ‘literature’ and ‘art’.

    We have raised a generation of sons that we thought were going to be ‘differant’ and would treat women with dignity and respect, and some do, but then some did back in the 70′s as well, and nothing has really changed. Parnell has a ‘choose respect’ slogan, and women’s shelters in the state are still full. Slogans don’t work, but putting batterers in jail and putting rapists in jail does work. It just doesn’t happen enough.

    Years ago, I read about a community that finally had enough of domestic violence and changed the municipal law so that the crime was one perpetrated against the community, and not against the victim. The police were then empowered to arrest batterers and charge them without the assistance of the victim. Instances of domestic violence plummeted. batterers spent time in jail and the victims could get assistance as crime victims and were not treated as welfare moms.

    Answers are available to us, but in a political climate where we would rather shut down the government than pay our bills, I am not hopeful that we will see anyone with the will to institute any meaningful solutions.

  4. Zyxomma says:

    Rape is disgusting. It’s not about sex, it’s about power over those perceived as weak, vulnerable, or less than human. Rape “culture” must end, whether it’s teenage athletes at parties, victim-shaming, or the “use” of prisoners by either fellow prisoners or guards and other prison personnel. Sign up for action alerts at http://www.justdetention.org/ to see how you can help.

  5. KanaW says:

    Thank you.
    I was disturbed by Ms Yoffe’s article, but was unable to put into words exactly why it rubbed me the wrong way so badly. You’ve written the reason perfectly.
    Yes, women shouldn’t allow themselves to be incapacitated. BUT, men shouldn’t take advantage of it when/if women do.
    It seems to some as if, when a woman is drunk, she’s to blame for stupidly not keeping herself under control, but when a man is drunk, then he’s simply not in control of himself and therefore not to blame. It’s frustrating when people take that attitude.
    True men don’t rape. Period. And I’ll bet that there are a lot of men out there who will agree with me.

  6. mike from iowa says:

    In the Maryville,Mo. case a special prosecutor is going to re-open the case and hopefully justice will prevail. It is a sickening story,especially the attitude of the perpetrator-if her name starts with ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ she wants the D.

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