Working on my Undead Sexist Cliches book has made me aware what a common, and ugly rape-apologist cliche this is. To wit, if she was too drunk to give consent, it’s her own fault: she chose to drink, right? She chose to drink to excess, right? So isn’t that the same as freely choosing to put herself in a position where a guy can stick it in? So how can he be blamed?
New DC Circuit Court judge Neomi Rao, for example, declared back in Yale law student days (the 1990s) that “a woman, like a man, decides when and how much to drink. And if she drinks to the point where she can no longer choose, well, getting to that point was part of her choice.” So if you want to avoid date rape, stay sober! Hopefully she’s not lying about having changed her views.
Susan Patton, the Princeton alumnus who thinks college women should marry in freshman year, similar sees it as a matter of choice: “If you are too drunk to speak, then you may be incapable of saying no or warding off unwanted advances. And then it’s all on you.” (No, it’s on the man)
We Hunted the Mammoth catches a man online claiming he raped a woman while drunk (he preferred to describe it as “I stuck my penis in a vagina”). Only he insists it wasn’t raped “unless you’re the ‘OMG I drank so much by my own volition, but it was rape!” Well yes, it was; drinking by her own volition does not mean having sex while out cold is by her volition. Despite which the rapist insists he’s blameless: “Have I forced someone to drink? Have I spiked someone’s drink? No.”
Ken Frezza, a fraternity leader and Forbes columnist argued that women who get raped while drunk at frat parties should accept some of the responsibility (“Drunk Female Guests Are the Gravest Threat to Fraternities.” After all, frats “have very little control over women who walk in the door carrying enough pre-gaming booze in their bellies to render them unconscious before the night is through.” In the same Fox discussion segment where Frezza made his case, Fox host Andrea Tartaros agreed: “These girls show up at these fraternity houses, and the guys — what are they supposed to do? Lock them out? … It is a legitimate fear.” Feminists, she complained, think “we should be able to wear whatever we want and drink as much as we want and pass out in the streets.’ Well, it’s not really like that, girls.”
Kirsten Powers, another host, thought “the point is that the drunk woman is — she’s just not held accountable for anything. The drunk guy, however, is supposed to make all these amazingly perfect decisions, and not make any mistakes.” (To her credit, it appears she’s changed her views since).
Defense attorney Matthew Kaiser, in a May 2014 op-ed in Time, said he was “more concerned for my son than my daughter” because current college rules treated drunken consensual hookups as rape Kaiser claims he’s never seen any other kind of college rape case (I find this implausible).
In Asking For It, Kate Harding quotes someone witnessing the Steubenville rape of a few years back and wondering if the passed-out victim wanted to be raped. And two men in California actually got off on charges of raping a drunk woman because they were too intoxicated to know if she consented (this is California law, not a bad call by the prosecutor).
As Harding points out in her book, this is not a standard we apply to other crimes. If I murder someone drunk, I can be charged; even California law allows that (though it might lower a murder one charge to something less drastic). If I drive drunk and someone ahead of me, in Tartaros’ words, drinks as much as they want and passes out in the streets, I can’t claim “they were drunk!” as a defense if I run over and kill them. Only rape gets this kind of bullshit.
And if “she was drunk” is a defense, that gives rapists the green light to assault any intoxicated woman. Which is not what any decent person should want.
#SFWApro. The Scream is by Edvard Munch, all rights to image remain with current holder.