An interesting debate on campus rape is taking place between two liberal columnists.
Over at Slate, Emily Yoffe, who is better known as Dear Prudence, has made what would appear to most people as a common sense recommendation to help college women avoid unwanted sexual encounters: don’t get drunk. Prudence writes:
Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.
That might sound infinitely sensible. But Katie McDonough, an editor at Salon, is outraged:
There is, of course, a lot to be said about Yoffe’s “this is not rape apologia” rape apologia, but let’s start with this: Our culture is not, and has never been, “reluctant” to tell women to stop doing things. In fact, people build entire careers around it.
And yet this false idea, that women’s behavior is the real reason they are victimized — and that we live in a society that does a poor job of policing such behavior — is regularly used to blame sexual violence on the “problem” of young women today.
Richard Cohen and Concerned Women for America have both cited Miley Cyrus’ recent embrace of tongue-wagging and half-shirts as a reason that teenage football players rape unconscious 16-year-olds. A judge in Montana declared a 14-year-old rape victim “older than her chronological age” and said she was ”as much in control” of the crime committed against her as her 49-year-old rapist. A 14-year-old cheerleader in Missouri is allegedly raped and abandoned outside by her alleged rapist, wearing only a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt on a freezing morning, and Yoffe points to the girl’s consumption of a “big glass of clear liquid” as the real problem in need of addressing.
This is the very definition of rape culture. And it is so completely tired….
Yoffe has plenty of good data to support her argument that binge drinking on college campuses isn’t healthy. The over-consumption of alcohol can literally kill people. What it can’t do, however, is make a woman responsible for a crime committed against her. …
Yoffe notes that, if she had a son, she would tell him not to binge drink so that he wouldn’t “find himself accused of raping a drunken classmate” (a chilling framing, really, since it casts suspicion on the credibility of even a hypothetical rape victim’s accusation); this is, perhaps, the piece she should have written.
Believe me, I want any man who rapes to be punished as severely as possible. Rape is a heinous crime. But Yoffe’s framing isn’t “chilling”at all—first, a mother is likely to know what kind of young man she has raised. Second, many young men on campus today who are accused of rape are not accorded due process under the law. There is a presumption of male guilt and the evidence is not collected and weighed as it should be when such a serious charge is lodged. The standard of proof for college men accused of rape is lower in part because of the Violence Against Women Act. Even liberal writer Wendy Kaminer has expressed concern over this.
The presumption of male guilt is embedded among feminists because they veiw women as victims–always. If a maverick such as Yoffe gives prudent advice to a young woman—don’t get blotto—it is regarded as an apologia for rape! No, Miley Cyrus' antics are not an excuse to rape. But when simple, motherly advice about getting drunk is regarded as an affront, young women are going to know less about how to behave properly, be safe, and exercise…prudence.