Eckerd College paper schools it's college president on sexual assault
November 27, 2014 5:11 AM   Subscribe

President of Eckerd college Donald Eastman III wrote a letter to the students about preventing sexual assault. His recommendation? Less alcohol and less casual sex. The college's student paper, The Current, responds in a civil, well spoken and cogent rebuttal.
posted by asavage (123 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite


 
The efforts suggested in the President's email and the efforts suggested in The Current article are not mutually exclusive. Why not do both?
posted by saeculorum at 5:31 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Everything about this screams "Onion Parody": the bowtie-sporting, Eurocentric-value spewing president with a Roman numeral appended to his name, who hauls Plato into the first paragraph of his argument as an exemplar of sexual restraint, drops mid-20th century, pre-multicultural terms like "virtue" into the mix, and closes his diatribe with a reference to the male-female gender binary.

Right-wing critics of education, you've found your spokesman.
posted by Gordion Knott at 5:33 AM on November 27, 2014 [20 favorites]


If there was a way to do it without victim-blaming, I think it would be worth having a (much more careful and nuanced) discussion about alcohol and campus rape culture. I truly don't believe that casual sex has any place in this discussion.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:39 AM on November 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


Socrates didn't get drunk at the Symposium because he's got a higher tolerance. Not sure that's the right reference, which makes me think the President hasn't actually read much Plato.

The idea that casual sex is in some way the cause of sexual assault, on the other hand, is so much more deeply pernicious and stupid that it makes me think the President hasn't read much of anything.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:42 AM on November 27, 2014 [13 favorites]


There's a definite generation gap on these issues, one that spotlights how recently and rapidly awareness of rape culture and sexual assault have come to the fore. For one thing, it certainly seems as if gross violations up to and including rape were effectively normalized far into the 20th century even in what were otherwise "liberal" contexts. Victims were silenced, and where they were not silent they were blamed.

And to a significant portion of older generations, that's just how things "work;" that was the cost of interacting with "the boys" or with powerful men, and "wise" women didn't drink, or aim at certain careers, or go out unguarded. And if it happened in an otherwise "innocent" context, well, why did it happen to you and (supposedly) not to that (good, silent, demure) one over there? After all, it wouldn't do to shame these important, accomplished people for a mere...well, you get the ugly picture.

It's also quite odd seeing people try to mobilize virtue ethics in this way, even though the move should be familiar as a kind of boilerplate move in conservative intellectual circles in the humanities. (Even weirder, Eastman's CV doesn't seem to indicate that he's a classicist by training.) Were he a bit more reflective, a bit wiser, a bit more competent and decent, he might well have written something less awful...or at least had the sense to listen and learn rather than deny and declare.

The efforts suggested in the President's email and the efforts suggested in The Current article are not mutually exclusive. Why not do both?

The President's arguments boil down to "don't get drunk and avoid casual sex, and then we'll have less sexual assault." He is blaming the victims here, and he's not even covering it with the usual, "it's unfair but practical" justification. He's outright calling these elements of bad moral character. That's what the language of "virtue" is all about.

So, yes, the President's remarks would exclude the discussion the student paper opens up. He is, in the most literal sense imaginable, blaming the victims by implying that they are responsible for creating the conditions in which other people sexually assault them. These aren't neutral practices he's suggesting; he's telling victimized groups to stay in, get married, and stay sober...while victimizers need not listen to a word of it.
posted by kewb at 5:44 AM on November 27, 2014 [51 favorites]


I love how a well-reasoned response can so politely and effectively say, "You're a doofus who doesn't have the slightest grasp on the underlying issues."
posted by leotrotsky at 6:06 AM on November 27, 2014 [19 favorites]


You know, the guy didn't say why you shouldn't drink. If I were coming into this whole thing without ever having heard of the issue, I would assume he was advising students not to drink because they might commit sexual assault, not because they might be sexually assaulted. And frankly I think that's good advice.

The casual sex comments are idiotic, though.
posted by Hizonner at 6:25 AM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


The president is right, but he should have qualified his suggestions since they are not the entirety of the problem and to assure victims they aren't to be blamed if they don't do these things.

Anyway, nobody ever listens to the college president.
posted by michaelh at 6:26 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


The casual sex thing is purely victim blaming (and a particularly inane variety, since there just isn't any kind of logical connection between casual sex and sexual assault). The alcohol discussion, though somewhat inept on his part, is something I think we are going to see more of in the next few years at universities, because alcohol seems to function both as a date rape drug and as a drug used by perpetrators to lower their own inhibitions.

The lyrics to "From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill," which came up in the discussion of the ongoing (and growing) scandal at UVa, are a good example of this:

All you girls from Mary Washington and R.M.W.C,
Never let a Virginia man an inch above your knee,
He'll take you to his fraternity house and fill you full of beer,
And soon you'll be the mother of a bastard Cavalier!

posted by Dip Flash at 6:40 AM on November 27, 2014


Whenever boomers worry about millennials I'm so baffled. Look at these eloquent kids writing a tactful and utterly brutally effective letter on a sensitive issue in a politically awkward situation. The kids are alright. The kids are, overall, way more aware of the power structures and social systems and challenges of the world.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:53 AM on November 27, 2014 [33 favorites]


The President also seems completely mired in the idea that solution to rape is greater awareness on the part of women -- that women, in short, must work harder not to be raped -- which naturally slides quickly into victim-blaming, even if that isn't the goal. The most empowering methods of "helping women protect themselves" are going to fail at least sometimes, with the ugly side effect of "you didn't protect yourself enough."

I'd like to see the President's idea on how to teach his male students not to be rapists, identify the ones that are, and hold them responsible. instead of making the responsibility for avoiding rape a woman's duty, maybe we could make the responsibility for not being a rapist (as well as covering for rapists) a man's duty.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:55 AM on November 27, 2014 [23 favorites]


I'd like to see the President's idea on how to teach his male students not to be rapists, identify the ones that are, and hold them responsible. instead of making the responsibility for avoiding rape a woman's duty, maybe we could make the responsibility for not being a rapist (as well as covering for rapists) a man's duty.

I initially perceived the advice to limit alcohol consumption and casual sex as the president's idea on how to teach his male students not to be rapists. I agree that the corrective from the student newspaper on how victims of sexual assault might hear the message as shifting blame to them is cogent and well-spoken, but I am struck by the number of commenters here who read the president's letter as directed solely to the victims rather than the perpetrators.
posted by layceepee at 7:16 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


The only reason people would assume that his advice was directed at female students to avoid rape, rather than male students not to commit rape, is the entire history of our society's messaging on rape. If that's not what he's saying, great, but he's going to have to be a little clearer on that point.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:20 AM on November 27, 2014 [42 favorites]


It's also quite odd seeing people try to mobilize virtue ethics in this way, even though the move should be familiar as a kind of boilerplate move in conservative intellectual circles in the humanities.

Agree completely. The squishiness of virtue ethics is a feature not a bug. It's based entirely on the individual and really supplemental to other ethical systems. There's no one set of "virtues" that define it, so one person's virtues are not universally applicable to every other person. As the editors rightly point out, offering abstinence as a curative to sexual assault ignores modern social mores and is therefore an unrealistic solution, however much it's offered in good faith.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with recommending caution in potentially risky situations, but precaution is always situational, and consent should always take primacy in such discussions.

A better appeal to virtue would be not to fucking rape somebody.
posted by echocollate at 7:23 AM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


I've had this discussion with olders a couple of time about how Millennials "expect too much" and then they usually cite things like not wanting to work late, wanting a raise too soon (and too much) and so on.

And I have been mostly silent because I am not Millennial and have not personally run into these issues with them.

But the more I think about it, the more I think, you know what? Even if they "all" act that way, which I doubt, I'm with them. We do work too long for not enough compensation. We shouldn't have to grovel in gratitude for the blessing of employment. I also am tired of my elders telling me to kiss their ass for whatever crumbs fall off the table.

That feeling is bolstered by stuff like this. That's a hell of a letter. I wish I had been capable of writing something that good at that age. Give 'em hell, kids.
posted by emjaybee at 7:25 AM on November 27, 2014 [29 favorites]


Perhaps it's uncharitable of me, but whenever I see shit like this, I wonder how many women the speaker raped in college. He would never CALL it that, of course - but if the definition of rape is updated to reflect, ya know, reality, suddenly he's a rapist, and he CAN'T be a rapist, so everyone else must just be wrong!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:26 AM on November 27, 2014 [17 favorites]


The focus here should be on obtaining consent in any sexual situation, not on the level of commitment present between the two parties.

What they said, those students who wrote the editorial.
posted by rtha at 7:27 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'd like to see the President's idea on how to teach his male students not to be rapists, identify the ones that are, and hold them responsible. instead of making the responsibility for avoiding rape a woman's duty, maybe we could make the responsibility for not being a rapist (as well as covering for rapists) a man's duty.

I've never understood what's so hard about teaching a male, as he grows up, that "Hey, the girls and the women of the world are people and individuals too. Treat them like you would want to be treated. Be a good person. Don't have sex with someone who isn't 100% on board with having sex with you."

(Though it honestly doesn't help when other women, same-aged and older, are calling women and girls sluts and whores. I actually had to roll my eyes at Bette Midler calling teenager Arianna Grande a "whore" at the AMAs. Or Sinead O'Connor chastising Miley Cyrus. My eyes ought be permanently stuck in the back of my head by now. )
posted by discopolo at 7:28 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Me too, liz. How many girls did he get drunk and go to town on in his college days?
posted by emjaybee at 7:28 AM on November 27, 2014


I initially perceived the advice to limit alcohol consumption and casual sex as the president's idea on how to teach his male students not to be rapists.

Even if we charitably assume that the assumptions here are different than they usually are when these "explanations" of sexual assault crop up, they don't make much sense. Is the premise that drinking makes men more likely to sexually assault someone? Or that enjoying or seeking casual sex leads directly to perpetrating sexual assault? Given the long history of marital rape, the line about "commitment"as an antidote to rape doesn't hold up very well, either. Historically, that's been used to shame victims rather than to condemn rapists.

Agree completely. The squishiness of virtue ethics is a feature not a bug. It's based entirely on the individual and really supplemental to other ethical systems. There's no one set of "virtues" that define it, so one person's virtues are not universally applicable to every other person.

And it's almost always employed in the context of Greek philosophy, as here, with the implication that some sort of once-dominant, old-fashioned Western values has been lost and must be reasserted. Naturally, these takes on virtue ethics aren't often informed by the way the ancients actually behaved. As you say, they're more like empty, "squishy" boxes for the speaker's particular convictions.

Functionally, it's usually the sophisticate's version of the just world fallacy.
posted by kewb at 7:33 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


The President's statement was idiotic and of the the wrong century, much less the wrong decade.

I'm still uncomfortable with the kneejerk defense of getting publicly wasted as the inalienable right if not duty of college freshmen. Completely aside from the issue of sexual assault, there is nothing appropriate or gained by passing out in public. This culture that finds it OK for anyone to push alcohol (or drugs) on inexperienced people because it's "funny" or crazy", where a large group chanting "shots! shots! shots! " or "chug!", drinking games is normal -- no.

It's coercive and even more closely tied to other crimes (DUII, regular assault, robbery) than sexual assault. And a lot of discussion about UVA said that Rugby Row frats known to foster rape culture still drew huge crowds of freshman "because that's the only place undergrads could drink", and you had to allow it because "if you don't, they'll just go to parties off cacmpus." No. Just, no.
posted by msalt at 7:37 AM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am struck by the number of commenters here who read the president's letter as directed solely to the victims rather than the perpetrators.

I think it needed a sentence stating that it is advice for everybody.
posted by michaelh at 7:37 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I initially perceived the advice to limit alcohol consumption and casual sex as the president's idea on how to teach his male students not to be rapists.

Except, as the student editorial pointed out, casual sex is irrelevant to the issue of rape and puts the emphasis on "rape as sex" rather than "rape as violence." There is a really short road between "causal sex is a bad idea" and "women have to withhold sex to keep men in line," making it once again "women's fault" (also making it really cis- and hetero-normative, but that's maybe a different argument for another time). If the President really meant to address the male students, he would have stressed that they shouldn't expect sex as a right -- not during a drunken encounter, not after x dates, not after a series of mutually satisfactory sexual encounters -- none of that is really part of a "casual sex" culture; it's part of a culture that does not respect women as autonomous people who can make decisions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:47 AM on November 27, 2014 [15 favorites]


I realize that this is a serious issue - not in any way making light of it - but this is so ripe for parody - what with the bow-tie, the pocket square, the dogs and the unnatural hair coloring. He seems like the college president out of central casting from 1913. And his ideas, too, are right out of 1913 as well. I see Gordion Knott has also made the same observations.
posted by McMillan's Other Wife at 8:05 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm still uncomfortable with the kneejerk defense of getting publicly wasted as the inalienable right if not duty of college freshmen.

I don't see where this is occurring.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:09 AM on November 27, 2014


As you say, they're more like empty, "squishy" boxes for the speaker's particular convictions.

I've always viewed virtue ethics as supplemental to other ethical systems. It's first and foremost about defining one's own principles and standards for personal conduct, rooted in the idea that operating within that framework will allow the individual to thrive intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, socially, materially etc., and that to thrive one needs balance among the elements of one's personal system. This is essentially what we talk about when we talk about "character." When a person modulates his or her words, actions, and reactions according to the kind of person he or she wants to be, that's virtue ethics in motion. But those formulations are always made within the context of other ethical systems.

What constitutes a virtue varies wildly from person to person, but, as formulated by the Greeks, it was intended to be a moderating force on the individual rather than a license to just do whatever the fuck one wants.

A person choosing not to drink alcohol because he or she doesn't like the loss of control over his or her decision making is, I think, a virtuous choice, though not universally applicable.

Not raping someone because it's a violation that deprives the victim of agency, which is at the very root of virtue ethics, is a virtuous choice (in addition to any rationale from other ethical systems, "it's against the law," "it's an act of horrible violence," etc.).

In both cases, virtue is located in individual agency and is informed by modern social mores.

Again, I think it's OK to advise general caution in potentially risky situations, but specific proscriptions against drinking and fucking as a means of preventing rape don't really have anything to do with virtue ethics as far as I can tell.
posted by echocollate at 8:09 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


You find these guys, it's always guys, sprinkled into certain upper echelons of WASPy well-heeled academic circles - monied family, shallow-read be-bow-tied reactionaries who consider themselves gentleman squires and classicists despite not seeming to know much about anything except that they know more than you.

They always bring out an hitherto unseen bully in me. I just want to dump their books while shouting YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE PRACTICTES OF THE SYMPOSIUM AS DINNER PARTY. TRY EXTRAPOLATING A MORAL AND ETHICAL FRAMEWORK FROM SOMETHING WRITTEN IN THE LAST THOUSAND YEARS.
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on November 27, 2014 [28 favorites]


The first letter says that "these incidents are almost always preceded by consumption, often heavy consumption, of alcohol, often by everyone involved in them", which I take it includes both victims and perpetrators, but everyone seems to have read it as saying that "if you drink and get raped, it's your fault".

The second letter is confused about what it wants to say about alcohol: first it quotes surveys pointing out how often alcohol is involved in sexual assaults (not clear what "involved" implies about who had been drinking) i.e. a lot, and then makes a bunch of odd statements. "sober victims also exist" - who said they didn't? "correlation doesn't imply causation" - not generally, but given what we know about the effects of alcohol, I don't see a reason not to think it that alcohol is a contributory causal factor in both perpetrators' actions and in victims' inability to defend themselves at the time and produce evidence that is admissible in court later. This means that drinking is a moral fault on the perp's part (assuming they know it'll make them more likely to commit a crime) and imprudent (but not a moral fault) on the victim's. In both cases, the world would be a better place if people drank less, though I agree with the second letter's point that the moral difference between a drunk perp and a drunk victim should have been made clear.

I agree that the stuff about casual sex doesn't make a lot of sense in isolation. Possibly what the first letter was shooting for is that drinking and casual sex in combination lead to consent problems. I'm pretty sure I've seen Mefi discussions along those lines i.e. that sex at a particular level of drunkeness would be OK in an existing relationship but, without an existing relationship, could be an assault (or at least, should be avoided because you couldn't be sure enough that it wasn't).
posted by pw201 at 8:52 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why should an 18-year old woman have to run through a rape gauntlet just to get an alcoholic drink? It makes no sense, and I hope future generations will find this unconscionable.
posted by jonp72 at 8:55 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I can't find it, but more than once a study about (I think) college-age rapists has been linked here, about how there's a set of repeat offenders who themselves remain sober so they can choose their inebriated victims.
posted by rtha at 9:29 AM on November 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


They always bring out an hitherto unseen bully in me. I just want to dump their books while shouting YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE PRACTICTES OF THE SYMPOSIUM AS DINNER PARTY. TRY EXTRAPOLATING A MORAL AND ETHICAL FRAMEWORK FROM SOMETHING WRITTEN IN THE LAST THOUSAND YEARS.

It's also fun to ask them if, since they think Plato is such a good guide to behavior, that they also subscribe to his ideas about the proper role of women and boys in a man's sex life. You could also ask their opinion of whether they agree with Plato's assessment of Alcibiades' hotness, if you prefer to avoid reinforcing heterosexual panic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:35 AM on November 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


I am struck by the number of commenters here who read the president's letter as directed solely to the victims rather than the perpetrators.

I think I can explain that with this comparison: What do you know about drunk driving? What you probably know, and what has probably been drilled into your head since you got your license (or even before), is that you're not supposed to do it. It's foolish, it's dangerous, it's a costly gamble, it's a bad idea, it can ruin lives, and you, as a driver, need to make good decisions about it.

Why do you know that? You know that because of the public service announcements against drunk driving that started up in the early 80s and are still everywhere today -- on billboards, on the sides of buses, at the end of every TV beer ad. Our ingrained knowledge that drunk driving is bad isn't this organic thing that just happened. It was a concerted public awareness effort, and it worked. I'm not saying it worked in that there aren't still idiots who do it, but the awareness piece of it? It worked.

Thing is, that public awareness campaign is very clear on where the responsibility lays: With the driver. With the person who makes the choice to drive, and therefore puts others at risk. The ad on the side of the bus doesn't say "When you drive home tonight, make sure you're not in the path of a drunk driver." And why would it? How could you know? How could you know which of the other cars on the road is being driven by someone who's impaired? You can't.

That's the difference between the 30-year-old effort to raise awareness and responsibility around drunk driving and the current conversation about sexual assault. One places the responsibility squarely on the potential offender. The other conversation is always -- always -- about what the victim needs to do in order not to be a victim.

And that's why people are coming into this thread thinking that the president's letter is directed at the victims instead of the potential perpetrators.

The conversation needs to change, and it needs to start focusing on the assailants and potential assailants. I think (I hope) that this might be the beginning of it. There's been a larger conversation about sexual assault over the past year or two, and I think that as a result the veneer is being slowly (sloooowly) chipped away.

Hopefully, 30 years from now, the sexual assault PSA will be structured like the drunk driving PSA: "Hey you -- don't do it." We're not anywhere near there yet.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:35 AM on November 27, 2014 [35 favorites]


I don't see where this is occurring.

Throughout discussions about the UVA rape, including the (surprisingly reasonable, aside from 2 trolls) comments on the original Rolling Stone article.

Generally, it is just assumed that students have to and will drink, and that any attempts to limit that are foolish and unrealistic. It's a drunkenness culture on most campuses as well as a rape culture. For example, in this discussion:

Why should an 18-year old woman have to run through a rape gauntlet just to get an alcoholic drink?

To which I'd ask, why is it so important to make it easy for any 18-year old, male or female, to drink? At UVA, it it clearly linked in a very direct way to the rape culture, and one of the most obvious culpabilities of the UVA administration was their granting of an effective monopoly on (illegal) underage drinking to fraternities right on campus, in full view of everyone.
posted by msalt at 10:37 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Eastman's letter is so short that it's hard to tell what his underlying reasoning actually is, but hazards of victim blaming notwithstanding, I'm surprised at how few people seem to be able to conceive of any legitimate grounds for what he's saying.

Anyone who understands how alcohol can make giving consent problematic should also understand how alcohol might make recognizing consent problematic, which isn't a victim problem. A cultural critique of alcohol as a primary backdrop for social activities *combined* with hookup culture also isn't a victim blaming conversation, it's recognizing how combining the two ingredients is likely to be corrosive to consent culture. Maybe you can solve that problem by really really really reinforcing consent alone. Maybe. Maybe not.

There's also something to the critique of casual sex culture alone. Enshrining consent as essential is great. We should keep doing that. Is reducing the set of culturally expected obligations involved with sex to consent -- and momentary consent, at that -- really a good idea? It has a lot of benefits as far as personal freedom goes, but there's certainly room to treat people poorly even on the respectable side of that boundary. And if you're a college president with a close-up view of adolescence-magnified human follies, watching barely-adults attempt to navigate the consent boundary under the influence of natural drive, "just do it" culture, and no other obligations, it's not too hard to imagine arguing for more restraint than "well, s/he said yes and seemed into it."
posted by weston at 10:46 AM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


Generally, it is just assumed that students have to and will drink, and that any attempts to limit that are foolish and unrealistic. It's a drunkenness culture on most campuses as well as a rape culture. For example, in this discussion:

This is somewhat true, but I think conflating them is a mistake. They have different root causes and different effects.

Besides, at some point, students will need to be able to drink responsibly, since (whether you imbibe or not) alcohol is an integral part of most human societies, so young people need to learn to navigate alcohol. On the other hand, there is no such thing as "raping responsibly," and male students really need to learn that no amount of rape is appropriate. Conflating "drunkeness culture" and "rape culture" overwhelmingly throws the responsibility back on the women.

I work on a campus, and I think that less drinking among the students would be a good idea, but I don't think young women should be brutalized for wanting to go to a party (whether I approve of that party or not).
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:49 AM on November 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


The conversation needs to change, and it needs to start focusing on the assailants and potential assailants. I think (I hope) that this might be the beginning of it. There's been a larger conversation about sexual assault over the past year or two, and I think that as a result the veneer is being slowly (sloooowly) chipped away.


I agree with the core of what you're saying; we absolutely need to make it clear that perpetrators, not victims, are the ones who should be held responsible for rape. There's a long, ugly history of rape victim blaming, and it needs to end. And even well-intentioned advise, like the president's letter, often comes off as tone-deaf at best and victim-blaming at worst. We need, as a culture, to direct more of the message on boys and young men, potential (and maybe even unwitting) perpetrators of rape. We need to make it clear that it's never okay for men to take advantage of women, and we need to work at eroding a culture of sexual aggression that offers cover to these acts. And the fact that colleges are often complicit in covering up rape rather than prosecuting it is frankly disgusting.

With that said, though, I think there's a tendency for those in social justice circles that's a kind of overreaction to these kind of victim-blaming narratives, and it's something I've seen a lot in this thread. There seems to be an idea that simply telling women to be cautious and avoid bad situations is in and of itself victim-blaming, and I think this idea is dangerous. Women need to do what they can to protect themselves from rape. That shouldn't be in any way a controversial statement, and that shouldn't be conflated with saying rape victims deserve to get raped.

Even if we take major steps to erode rape culture, and even if we lived in a world where college men and fraternities were paragons of sexual egalitarianism, there will still be some men who tried to take advantage of women, and women would still need to protect themselves from these men. There's been a lot of evidence recently that most college rapes are perpetrated by a small minority of men, repeat offenders who commit an average of 5-6 rapes. I suspect that the kinds of men who would do these kind of things are precisely the kind of men who would be difficult or impossible to reach out to. And even if we could cut down on the number of men who commit sexual assault-or if other men were faster to report them, and the criminal justice system more apt to prosecute them- there would still be men out there preying on women.
posted by Green Winnebago at 11:11 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Women need to do what they can to protect themselves from rape. That shouldn't be in any way a controversial statement, and that shouldn't be conflated with saying rape victims deserve to get raped.

When it's the only message that is sent out, it absolutely is equivalent to saying that rape victims are complicit in their own rape. Imagine a campaign about drunk driving that focused solely on wearing your seatbelt to prevent serious injuries from being struck by a drunk driver, and staying off the roads entirely after midnight -- that's the state of sexual assault prevention messaging right now. Those are both good pieces of advice, although the "stay off the roads" part is unrealistic and overly restrictive, but they pale in comparison to the basic message of "Don't drive drunk."
posted by KathrynT at 11:19 AM on November 27, 2014 [25 favorites]


Women need to do what they can to protect themselves from rape.

List please.

See, the problem is that every day of my life, I do what I can to protect myself from rape. If I get raped tomorrow, I'd like to refer back to the list to see which item I fucked up.

So, list.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:20 AM on November 27, 2014 [12 favorites]


List please.

In 1998, I was a criminology student at Indiana University (bloomington). I took a class that met only once a week (monday at 6-9pm) but was still a full credit class. I joked and told my friends that if I could find 3 more classes like this, I could do a whole week's worth of classes in one day.

Anyways, the class was something about "criminal investigations". It was taught by James Kennedy (former Army Colonel, lawyer, professor, and current Sheriff of Monroe County). He was ALWAYS talking about how stupid students were. ALWAYS.

He'd talk about how many times he has come into a scene where there was a hair dryer or curling iron in the sink full of water, and a dead body laying right next to it. He once talked about a scene where someone had died in a crash and they knew what had happened because the driver's hand had been jammed into the cassette slot (presumably while changing stations, changing tapes, etc, while driving).

And then one day he talked about rape. And it scared the shit out of the entire class. Class was usually full of people talking shit to him (i mean he still was a cop, and we were college students), and he was really cool about it. Once he even did a mass hypnosis and showed how its not magical, just "suggestive".

But that rape talk scared the shit out of the class. Because this is what he said(paraphrased):
"I've been asked a lot of times about how to prevent rape. Those whistles don't work because everyone is blowing one on Kirkwood Ave on Friday night and people are pretending to be traffic cops. Those whistles just draw attention to how stupid you students are. They don't draw attention to rapes, because the assumption is that you are going to blow the whistle when attacked in the street. As you should all know, thats 'blitzkrieg rape', and although this occurs, its not often. What often happens is that women are raped by someone they know. Even if they have a whistle, some women won't blow it. I know this because even after something has happened, some women still think THEY did something wrong, not the rapist.

So how do you prevent rapes? You just don't rape. There are many rapists out there who get off on whether you fight back, don't fight back, struggle, scream, whatever. You can try to put yourself in a safe situation, but even thats no guarantee. The only way to prevent the occurrence of rape is to not rape. I'm talking to YOU."

And we all just sat there, stunned. Because it made sense, and that is the only practical way to prevent rape.

Less alcohol and less casual sex? Academics are so dumb oftentimes.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:54 PM on November 27, 2014 [31 favorites]


A cultural critique of alcohol as a primary backdrop for social activities *combined* with hookup culture also isn't a victim blaming conversation, it's recognizing how combining the two ingredients is likely to be corrosive to consent culture.

Thing is, women have been getting raped and getting blamed for it long before "hookup culture" or "casual sex" were concepts. Easy access to alcohol and a lack of decent and realistic education around its use don't really help, exactly, but they're not the source of the problem.
posted by rtha at 1:02 PM on November 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


Academics are so dumb oftentimes.

Academics are dumb sometimes, and, even more often, smart in non-constructive ways. However, don't blame academics for things campus administrators write. They have an entirely different set of ways to be dumb. Sadly, the administrators I know are more aware and attentive to sexual harassment issues than most of the faculty, who may deplore sexual violence but aren't driven to address it because it's "not in their field." I really wish we could get a unified student-staff-faculty-administrator stand on the issue; then we might get more traction.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:06 PM on November 27, 2014


Women need to do what they can to protect themselves from rape.

Unless you want women to consider every single male as being a potential rapist and have women just assuming all guys are just soulless dummies incapable of empathy who just want sex no matter how they can get it and are inherently too untrustworthy to be around women at all, then I think the onus should be on men to not be rapists and for the men to think deeply about what constitutes rape and be sure they aren't doing that or coercing someone into unwanted sex.
posted by discopolo at 1:21 PM on November 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


Virtue in the area of sexuality is its own reward

Where virtue means communication and consent, yes. Somehow that's not what the rest of his letter seems to think it means. He also ignores how much rape occurs in established relationships and continues the construction of rape as sex-gone-bad rather than a deliberate act by a predator.

The students' response letter is fantastic.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:03 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


>> I'm still uncomfortable with the kneejerk defense of getting publicly wasted as the inalienable right if not duty of college freshmen.
>
> I don't see where this is occurring.

It's all in the eye of the beholder. Mine see it occur in any comment that (hilariously) morphs linking on-campus drinking and on-campus rape into victim blaming. But you can leave that aside because msalt did not say "here in this thread" and it's a very well known phenomenon generally. I have not forgotten the orgy of victim-blaming accusations thrown last year at Emily Yoffe for her Slate column calling out the very well established connection for college women between heavy alcohol consumption and getting sexually assaulted.

I have also not forgotten Amanda Hess's response, which included the self-contradictory claim Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue. Parents can tell their own daughters not to get drunk, but even if those women follow instructions, it won’t keep other people’s daughters safe. Self-contradictory, obviously, because if those well-advised women do follow their parents' advice and it keeps them unraped, or some of them unraped, or even a single one of them unraped, that alone is enough to make campus rape both a societal problem and a self-help issue.

Frankly, any parents who fail to tell their college-bound daughter "In the first place don't drink yourself blotto, period. And most especially don't drink yourself blotto at mixed-sex parties" should have their daughter taken away from them for negligence by state social workers. That exact advice might keep one daughter unraped. And that chance, all by itself, is very much more that enough to justify giving the advice, in the face of any number of claims that it should not be given because it might be taken to support victim-blaming. That's lunacy on exactly the same level as opposing vaccination. In the old but still very useful TV catch phrase, "Talk to the hand, because the face ain't listening."


N.b. in the interest of keeping my children alive I certainly did teach then that there were things they could do to avoid being hit by a drunk driver, and that they should do them. Be alert for other cars drivng erratically, or speeding, or making dumb mistakes. (Oh, that one that had to stop and back up because it went the wrong way down a one way street? Drunk-o, ninety percent chance, keep your distance.) Driving at night, in a college town? Drive as if half the other drivers are drunk. On a big game weekend? Strike "half," substitute "all."

There's quite a bit more and we covered every point repeatedly. Sure drunk driving is a societal problem. But if the take-away from that is supposed to be that there's nothing individual sober drivers can do to avoid drunkies, or that it's somehow wrong to do them, or wrong of me to teach them to my own young drivers then... y'know, pfui. Talk to the hand.

> See, the problem is that every day of my life, I do what I can to protect myself from rape.

Well, you're likely to get called evil for that, certainly on tumblr and very possibly right here, specifically due to your having this attitude that promotes victim-blaming ("there's something she could have done, and she didn't do it") and more generally for being so imperfectly communitarian in thinking that rape might be an individual problem for you rather than only and exclusively a societal problem for all of us.
posted by jfuller at 2:28 PM on November 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


"there's something she could have done, and she didn't do it" turns quickly into "she didn't do it adequately" and it's just a way of saying "make sure he rapes the other girl".
posted by bile and syntax at 3:18 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


jfuller, if your son went to a party, got drunker than he intended, and ended up being raped by another man at the party, would you place the blame on his alcohol consumption or on the man who raped him?
posted by KathrynT at 3:27 PM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


Perhaps it's uncharitable of me, but whenever I see shit like this, I wonder how many women the speaker raped in college.

Holy fuck that is incredibly uncharitable. That might well be the least charitable thing I've ever read here.
posted by forgetful snow at 3:29 PM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


Frankly, any parents who fail to tell their college-bound daughter "In the first place don't drink yourself blotto, period. And most especially don't drink yourself blotto at mixed-sex parties" should have their daughter taken away from them for negligence by state social workers. That exact advice might keep one daughter unraped. And that chance, all by itself, is very much more that enough to justify giving the advice, in the face of any number of claims that it should not be given because it might be taken to support victim-blaming. That's lunacy on exactly the same level as opposing vaccination. In the old but still very useful TV catch phrase, "Talk to the hand, because the face ain't listening."

Women shouldn't have to work harder than men to be safe, unless men are inherently not to be trusted. Get it?

And if that's the case, parents of sons need to not excuse their son's rape-y tendencies. Who would want a son who is a rapist? Make sure you impart to him that it is NOT OKAY to coerce anyone into sex unless he is 100% sure the person wants it---no ifs or "well, she let me and didn't fight me off."

How difficult is that? It's not difficult at all. Women should be able to live in a society where we don't fear men are Jekyll and Hyde. Teach your sons something. And stop blaming women.
posted by discopolo at 4:27 PM on November 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


Of course there are things women can do to protect themselves from rape; I think most women are painfully conscious of that fact, and lecturing them about it really doesn't help them at all. In fact, based on lots of testimony (including many AskMes), stressing that women should protect themselves tends to make victims of rape feel complicit, since they have been told it's their job to protect themselves. That's called "personal responsibility." Weirdly, at the same time, as seen in the UVA thread, society makes excuses for the rapists instead of holding them solely responsible. Yeah, college women probably shouldn't get drunk, especially at mixed-sex parties, but college men definitely shouldn't be raping women, yet that message somehow can't be said while the first is endlessly harped upon.

Why would that be? I'd guess the answer is that society is mysogynist down to it's roots, but I'll entertain other suggestions as to why we tolerate rapists so much more than rape victims.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 PM on November 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


But if the take-away from that is supposed to be that there's nothing individual sober drivers can do to avoid drunkies, or that it's somehow wrong to do them, or wrong of me to teach them to my own young drivers then... y'know, pfui. Talk to the hand.

The thing is, I never, as a beginning driver, ever got taught that I shouldn't drive after [whatever hour] because drunk drivers, or to pay attention to game schedules so as to stay off the road when drunk fans might be driving home, etc. I got told and told and told to not drink and drive, and not just by the driving instructor but by parents and teachers and billboards and PSAs on TV and so on.

Where is the constant, inescapable "Don't rape!" messaging? Why isn't it a thing? We have it for drunk driving and smoking and drugs. It'd be nice to have it for rape.
posted by rtha at 6:23 PM on November 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


Where is the constant, inescapable "Don't rape!" messaging? Why isn't it a thing? We have it for drunk driving and smoking and drugs. It'd be nice to have it for rape.

The consequence of constantly defining rape as only violent stranger rape is that we then were able to define a whole set of things as normal and basic perks of being male, like being able to have coercive and downright rapey sex without having it called or stigmatized as rape. That's a huge privilege that a lot of men have been benefiting from for a long time (and continue to do so).

We take the "don't drive drunk" messaging as mostly unexceptional now, but I can remember when it was new and how there was a lot of pushback because of how tightening the definition meant that "drunk driving" didn't just mean the dude who drank a handle of vodka and then drove blind drunk, but also newly included the millions of regular people who had a few beers after work or drank wine at a dinner party. Driving slightly buzzed was a lot harder to stigmatize and there are plenty of people who still don't consider it drunk driving even if they are well over the legal limit.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:38 PM on November 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


The consequence of constantly defining rape as only violent stranger rape is that we then were able to define a whole set of things as normal and basic perks of being male, like being able to have coercive and downright rapey sex without having it called or stigmatized as rape. That's a huge privilege that a lot of men have been benefiting from for a long time (and continue to do so).

For the past two decades, most of us have known that acquaintance rape is more common than stranger rape. If men choose not to listen or defend themselves or pretend that's not true, that is their fault for not paying enough attention or caring.

Honestly, how many Party of Five or Felicity episodes or pamphlets does it take? After all that, it's just willfully ignorant or stupid to pretend otherwise. These rapey guys seem to sniff out and look for technicalities wherever they can. (Also, how many questions on the green have we witnessed that are like "How do I get this girl to have NSA sex with me?" which is like "How do I manipulate her into letting me use her?" because he's not saying,"hey, can we have NSA sex?" Because he knows he'll have to risk getting a negative response. How about, hey, be blunt with your intentions and don't lead men/women on?)

Sex shouldn't involve trickery or manipulation. How is that not obvious to anyone with a penis or vagina?
posted by discopolo at 7:14 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Quite frankly, I'm surprised how many people in here thought the president's admonition against getting drunk was directed at the MEN. Because believe me, it almost never is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:32 PM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


The consequence of constantly defining rape as only violent stranger rape

1. I don't see how a message of "don't rape" is defining rape as only violent stranger rape.

2. It's not like "Don't [thing]" campaigns can't (existing ones sure do) include broader education messages that include more information and education. Why can't there be inescapable "don't rape" messages as well as education about consent and how yes, all it takes to make it rape is that she says no - no violent stranger required?

I can remember when it was new and how there was a lot of pushback because of how tightening the definition meant that "drunk driving" didn't just mean the dude who drank a handle of vodka and then drove blind drunk, but also newly included the millions of regular people who had a few beers after work or drank wine at a dinner party.

This is not a reason to not have messaging directed at men about rape; it's not a reason not to continue to include messaging in drunk driving campaigns about what constitutes drunk driving, either. In your initial objection, you didn't like it because you saw it as defined too narrowly, but then it might be no good because it's too broadly defined.
posted by rtha at 10:48 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


when I search "personal responsibility" here it doesn't show up. Surprise.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 11:09 PM on November 27, 2014


when I search "personal responsibility" here it doesn't show up. Surprise.

Rapists aren't big on responsibility, though I agree with you that admonishing men to act responsibly and not rape is a great idea. It would definitely help lift the burden of avoiding rape from their victims.

What are your ideas on how we go about that? My personal take on it would be to have authority figures, like university presidents (as a random example), directly message potential rapists. This could include

* discussion about how being inebriated isn't an excuse for rape (or any crime, for that matter)
* definitions of consent and coercion
* how the organization the authority figure oversees will take all reports of rape seriously--that, if anything, due to the trauma associated with reporting a rape, rapes are under-reported, and therefore investigations will start from the assumption that the victim is telling the truth
* there are serious criminal consequences to rape, and the organization will do everything in its power to prosecute rapists

And that's just the beginning. This is going to be so great! When do we start?
posted by maxwelton at 12:14 AM on November 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


There are some fantastic comments here, and some truly fucking dumb ones too (the "uncharitable" comment is loathsome beyond belief), but when we brought this issue up tonight with our 16-year old son -- I'm an Eckerd graduate -- the issue of rap lyrics came up. This was brought up by my wife, who has repeatedly had issues with the music he's played in her presence (I can't listen to it). It's therefore surprising to me this hasn't popped up here because one of the issues she's had with what she's heard is the repeated dehumanization of women in these songs. I know it's all to easy, and often unfair, to demonize rap, but there's no question many of the lyrics reduce women to nothing more than sexual outlets. Not as equals, or as humans, but as outlets for sexual aggression. Combine this cultural sensibility with alcohol, and you have a dangerous brew indeed. And considering that young white males consume this music with passion (and mucho dollars) -- you hear it in frat houses and locker rooms all over America -- I think it's worth considering how such a powerful cultural influence affects these young men's understanding of women. Obviously I'm NOT saying rap directly causes rape, but lyrics that dehumanize women repeatedly obviously isn't healthy either.
posted by littlemanclan at 12:35 AM on November 28, 2014


Obviously I'm NOT saying rap directly causes rape, but lyrics that dehumanize women repeatedly obviously isn't healthy either.

The Beatles and the Stones, among countless others, laid the modern foundation for rap, if this is the case (...building on centuries of tradition). There are deeply uncomfortable messages in a lot of popular music--I doubt rap is any worse than any popular genre in this regard. (To properly assess this, you would need to account for dog whistles and allusions as well as plain, vulgar statements.)

I imagine "Frat Top 40" has always had as its backbone songs with messages that justify their chosen lifestyle (or seem to, much like how wingnuts latched onto "Born in the USA" without actually listening to it).

What the songs you're concerned about might do is provide justification or prime the pump for someone who wants to rape, or is already likely to rape. I highly doubt they change someone who views women as human beings into a opportunity-rapist. This doesn't make the songs non-problematic, but concentrating on the role of the music is pointing a squirt gun at a forest fire.
posted by maxwelton at 1:02 AM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's a good point, Max. But modern rap lyrics that repeatedly dehumanize women -- and one is simply a Google search away from the worst of it -- can hardly be put in the same league as Beatles' and Stones' lyrics. That's not to say they didn't send their own mixed (inappropriate) messages about women, but the stuff being piped into young men's ears today is far more aggressive and disturbing. I'm suggesting those lyrics, and the music's heavy cultural influence on college campuses today, might be a possible contributor to the problem. Is there a solution to that? Beyond parents talking to their sons directly about it, I don't think so. Complaining about the crudity of rap is like complaining about death and taxes.
posted by littlemanclan at 1:23 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


(The music thing is a derail, and not particularly pertinent here, but to explain: to me, the difference between other popular music and rap with ugly content is like someone saying "f-word" versus saying "fuck". Everyone knows what was said with the substitution of "f-word"; their mind fills in "fuck". But the person saying it usually gets a free pass for not actually saying the word. That somehow makes it OK. Magic. Also see the media and their love of "the n-word".

A lot of the Beatles catalog (not to call them out in particular, but, whatever) treats women as nothing more than possessions, without agency. I'm convinced that "polite" dehumanization is as bad, and maybe even worse, than "shocking" dehumanization. Folks can hand-wave away the former (The Beatles' No Reply, for example, is a creepy song, but it's also presented in the "polite" way our society expects that creepiness to be presented). It's a lot easier to say "it's just music, why do you have to be a killjoy" when the gross stuff is all the equivalent of "f-word".)

posted by maxwelton at 3:38 AM on November 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


1. I don't see how a message of "don't rape" is defining rape as only violent stranger rape.

I clearly didn't make my point well. I fully and 100 percent agree with you, but I think it is clear that as a society we have for many years defined "rape" in very limited ways that excluded things like forced sex in relationships and a bunch of forms of what is now called date rape. That was a straightforward bonus for a lot of men who were able to have coercive sex with no repercussions, and terrible for anyone at the receiving end.

Given that violent stranger rape is a tiny fraction of the total sexual assaults, a normalization and enforcement of better norms around consent (just as has happened with drunk driving) is absolutely needed -- but because it is stigmatizing and criminalizing what has been for many decades behavior that was at least tacitly tolerated and often officially condoned, it's of course going to continue to get some quite intense pushback.

Again, I agree with what you are saying and if my comments sounded like disagreement then I'll take that blame. (And if I'm communicating poorly, that's a good reason to at this point step away from the thread.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:35 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Holy fuck that is incredibly uncharitable. That might well be the least charitable thing I've ever read here.

It would be nice to think that, of all the men who've ever raped someone, none of them are now in positions of power where they can perpetuate the systems that allow rape to flourish. But you don't actually believe that, do you?

To be clear, I'm not saying "this man specifically is a rapist." I'm saying I can't help wondering, of the legions of powerful men who seem hellbent on protecting rapists over rape victims, how many of them have ever raped? I'd bet every penny I ever earn that it isn't 0%.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:58 AM on November 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


To blame rap and not rock or other types of music is to taste many glasses of salty water and insist that only one of them is salty. Can we not have this turn into a covertly-racist derail? I seriously doubt that people are committing rape because they listen to certain types of music. And now I'm going to go listen to De La Soul's "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa" and my entire Queen Latifah discography.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:11 AM on November 28, 2014 [6 favorites]


To be clear, I'm not saying "this man specifically is a rapist."

Oh. I must have read your words incorrectly. I'm sor....

...I wonder how many women the speaker raped in college.

Nope. You totally did call him a rapist. What bothered me at first was that this comment was allowed to stand. What now bothers me is the amount of people who are favoriting it like it was some awesome comment.

Way to go. I think this dude has some problems, but calling him out as a rapist because you don't believe in his outdated views is kinda bullshit.

Also, its sad that this thing has now devolved into 'well not all guys...just the guys that listen to music predominantly made by african americans'.

Awesome.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:11 AM on November 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


"Racist derail"? You've got to be kidding me. What I said -- and it was more of a question, really -- was that rap music (not all of it, obviously), which many white youth purchase and listen to, unquestionably talks about women as simple objects, with a heavy emphasis on sexual aggressiveness.

All I did, and I hardly pointed a finger at it authoritatively as a direct cause, was to ask the question if whether those lyrics contribute to a college-aged male culture that views women as nothing more than a sexual outlet, especially in one fueled by heavy drinking. I certainly don't think it can be considered healthy. (But as I said, even if it was, I don't really know what the solution would be.)

There's no denying music and lyrics have a strong cultural pull, especially within generations, so I think it's a reasonable question to ask. Of course, having someone see a racial overtone to it is probably why no one else brought it up as a potential subject within this discussion. Then again, getting called a "racist" for a ridiculous and shallow misread of my comments is far better than being accused of being a "rapist," as President Eastman was.

Jesus.
posted by littlemanclan at 10:49 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nope. You totally did call him a rapist.

No. "I wonder how many" does not imply "but I KNOW it's DEFINITELY at LEAST ONE." I certainly wonder if it was more than zero, though. Because - again - it is literally inconceivable that NO powerful men are rapists. And I wonder which ones they are. Often.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:57 AM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


was to ask the question if whether those lyrics contribute to a college-aged male culture that views women as nothing more than a sexual outlet,

That culture existed long before rap was popular. Rap was in its infancy in terms of popularity when I started college and there was plenty of objectification of women, plenty of sexism, plenty of rape.
posted by rtha at 11:15 AM on November 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


rap music (not all of it, obviously), which many white youth purchase and listen to, unquestionably talks about women as simple objects, with a heavy emphasis on sexual aggressiveness.

Rap music is very, very much not the only genre with lyrics like the ones you describe. That's a popular belief, but even the most casual analysis will disprove it.
posted by KathrynT at 11:18 AM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is also neglecting to mention the rampant dehumanizations of women in video games - up to and including games that allow the player to rape with impunity.

Amazing how the first thing brought up is rap, something still associated with people of color, and not all of these other common cultural conduits of sexism. It's almost like there's some other prejudice contributing to the focus on rap...
posted by Deoridhe at 11:42 AM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


jfuller, if your son went to a party, got drunker than he intended, and ended up being raped by another man at the party, would you place the blame on his alcohol consumption or on the man who raped him?

Unless any attempt to mitigate a risk implies an acceptance of responsibility for the risk, jfuller's advice doesn't address blame or responsibility to anyone who's assaulted, son or daughter.

It's also independent of whether there should be campaigns for cultural changes reinforcing consent as a standard.
posted by weston at 1:03 PM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


GenjiProust: conflating [rape culture and drunkenness culture] is a mistake. They have different root causes and different effects.

I'm not sure what you mean by conflating them. But there are very close links between the two. Alcohol is marketed as a tool for men to get sex from women, blatantly, even on mainstream television, and a number of rapists clearly use alcohol as a slow-acting date rape drug.

Besides, at some point, students will need to be able to drink responsibly, since (whether you imbibe or not) alcohol is an integral part of most human societies, so young people need to learn to navigate alcohol.

There is literally nothing about campus binge drinking culture that teaches students how to navigate alcohol responsibly. It teaches and normalizes the worst kind of drinking (drinking as an event, or as entertainment, disconnected from meals; drinking games, crowds chanting encouragement to drink shots, peer group pressure to compete for highest consumption). Most alcoholics I know simply continued their college drinking pattern after school ended; many healthy drinkers I know took years afterwards to unlearn those patterns.

I work on a campus, and I think that less drinking among the students would be a good idea, but I don't think young women should be brutalized for wanting to go to a party (whether I approve of that party or not).

No one is suggesting they should. Frankly that's ridiculous. If I wanted to stoop to that level of rhetoric, I could say "Rohypnol doesn't rape women, rapists rape women. So by your logic we should allow and encourage date rape drugs to be freely avaiable, and just send the message DON'T RAPE."
posted by msalt at 1:21 PM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


To bring this around what Mr College President said, it seemed clear to me that he was going for plausible deniability of victim-blaming, given the generality of his remarks. Piously naive remarks to be sure. Taken literally, if directed at the prospective rapists, espousing "taking relationships more seriously" as a way to prevent rape is the equivalent of enjoining burglars to take property more seriously. Sure if everyone absolutely respected property there would be no burglaries -- problem solved!

Except of course that hearing unrealistic nonsense like that from a bloody college president is to me just as problematic as hearing him blame the victims of sexual assault. Colleges, I hear, have honor codes and actually expel students for breaching them, in a way that's much more light-weight and subject to much lower evidentiary standards as a court of law. So set a strong example and actually kick out assailants once you have corroborating evidence. Don't waffle about how the world would be better if people just never behaved badly. Say what you'll do and then do it. (Not instead of prosecution -- but criminal investigations are slow and may or may not go through even when there is good corroboration. Just like an exam cheater can be expelled and be prosecuted, if applicable, for fraud.)
posted by tamarack and fireweed at 2:09 PM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's really weird that some people think saying "we should focus our education on rapists, not their victims" means saying "Hey ladies, drop your guard and get shitfaced and naked around random people, whoo!" Because no one is saying that. What they are saying is that, if you do something foolish or embarrassing like getting shitfaced around strangers, rape is not an appropriate punishment for it, nor an acceptable outcome. You might deserve to feel stupid and hungover the next day, but not to have been physically violated.

I would also like to point out that not every college student who goes to a frat party goes in intending to drink heavily. Indeed, many rape victims were not so much drinking a lot as being given harder drinks (and possibly drugs) than they realized by people who were intending to rape them.

Going to a party and having a drink should not a be a dangerous thing to do. Drinking and socializing are normal human activities. Even if the woman doing it is legally too young to do it, that doesn't change the fact that it should not be a dangerous thing to do. Women should be able to have a social life, flirt, have a drink without being violated. Wanting those things does not make you irresponsible.
posted by emjaybee at 2:25 PM on November 28, 2014 [16 favorites]


I think it's really weird that you get defensive about criticism of binge drinking on college campuses and attack anyone uncomfortable with that level of drinking as a rape apologist. it's entirely possible to be entirely against rape culture and entirely against the culture of binge drinking on campus.

Your rhetoric about "rape being an appropriate punishment for drunkenness" -- why are you doing that? What are you hoping to accomplish, if not silencing criticism of excessive drinking?

You paint a picture of a sophisticated adult "having a social life, flirting, having a drink." At which campus is this a picture of reality? Sherry before dinner at Oxford?
posted by msalt at 3:51 PM on November 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what you mean by conflating them. But there are very close links between the two.

The links aren't, I think, as strong and secure as you think. Not all student drinking is binge drinking, not all drinking leads to rape, not all rape occurs as part of drinking culture or even drunkenness culture. You might as well say that a culture of campus athletics is equivalent to rape culture.

There is literally nothing about campus binge drinking culture that teaches students how to navigate alcohol responsibly.

Ah, maybe this is where we are parting ways, I think. I read your comment to suggest that all campus drinking was "drunkenness culture," but I think you might be using that term more narrowly. Which, if so, may be true, but my experience is that the vast majority of alcohol consumed on or around college campuses is done in much smaller amounts -- the large scale parties get most of the attention because that is where police are called and reports are made.

And, as to your final comment, conflating drinking on campus and rape on campus is pretty much saying that "students rape because of alcohol" rather than "alcohol is a tool used by rapists for rape." Rapists will use all sorts of tools and stratagems to rape, and focusing on the tool (just like focusing on the tactics women can use to protect themselves) removes the rapist from the equation -- which is a major step in letting rapists off the hook. We place the blame everywhere but where it belongs -- on the men who rape (and, at a remove, the systems and concepts that protect them).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:52 PM on November 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


I doubt many people get ticked off by criticism of binge drinking on campus. People are irritated about the constant hijacking of conversations about how to end rape by people whose primary goal is to reduce binge drinking. This is obnoxious because (1) it's easy for these conversations to slide into victim-blaming, as has been pointed out repeatedly above and (2) it's not at all clear that reducing binge drinking is even going to be particularly effective at ending rape.

If your goal is to combat binge drinking on campus, why don't you focus on the ills that, unlike rape, are clearly attributable to binge drinking, like student injuries and deaths suffered in drunken accidents?
posted by burden at 4:30 PM on November 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


Hijacking? This is a topic about a university president who called for less drinking on campus in reply to rape. I agree that his comments were tone deaf and misguided, but its weird to call discussion of drinking in this topic "hijacking."

At UVA, Rugby Row is a popular destination because the university has granted the fraternities a de facto monopoly for on-campus underage drinking. Pressure to drink lots of alcohol, and drinks doctored with other drugs are present in pretty much every one of the rapes recently described, and it's pretty clear that rapists are using these as a primary weapon -- not just to incapacitate victims, but to discourage people who might intervene, and to weaken the testimony of all potential witnesses (including victims).

Personally, I'd ban fraternities altogether at UVA, but if that's not possible, at a minimum they should face the same restrictions on underage drinking that any bar or restaurant would, including being shut down for violations. We are literally talking about frats with weekly service to underage drinkers and multiple sexual assaults involving date rape drugs. No bar would be allowed to stay open with that record.

If your goal is to combat rape, why do you insist on letting fraternities continue to use alcohol as a tool of rape and coercive sex? You will concede, I'm sure, that frat boys deliberately try to get freshman girls very drunk in order to more easily have sex with them. How is that not rapey? What is your plan that would help more -- "education of rapists"?
posted by msalt at 8:03 PM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


The hijacking I'm talking about was primarily Donald Eastman's. He wrote that everyone could do their part to reduce sexual assault by limiting their alcohol consumption. It's possible this would help at the margins, but sober people can rape and be raped. For instance, Jackie, whose horrific story was the centerpiece of the UVA article, was sober.

It's not all that helpful for Eastman to lead off his article ostensibly about reducing sexual assault with advice that doesn't really get to the heart of the problem. One might fairly think that Eastman's primary goal in giving this advice is reducing drinking rather than reducing rape. And it's fine for university presidents to make reducing drinking a goal. But it's obnoxious when they use rape as a rhetorical cover to advance a goal that's, at best, tangentially related to ending rape, since ending rape is a serious goal that demands an approach devised to actually achieve it.
posted by burden at 7:31 AM on November 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well, as I said above I think Eastman was way off base and in the wrong century, but that fact shouldn't be used to either justify the toxic drinking culture on many college campuses, or deny the fact that heavy drinking is a big part of rape culture on campus.

The article about Jackie, which you cite, starts by quoting a rapey drinking song and then: "Sipping from a plastic cup, Jackie grimaced, then discreetly spilled her spiked punch onto the sludgy fraternity-house floor."
posted by msalt at 10:37 AM on November 29, 2014


It's just, like - if anyone out there thinks women haven't gotten the message that if they don't do items 1-100, they ought to expect to get raped. This is not new information. What WOULD be new information, and would be extremely amazing, is if, in addition to the laundry list of things women are expected to do, anyone ever, ever spoke to men about, like, not raping women. Wouldn't that be novel?

In addition to knowing that girls who drink get raped more, we know that girls who have sex get pregnant more, but would anyone here say "well, just don't have sex then!" as if this was some sort of crazy revelation no one had ever thought of before? No. Because we know that mitigating the risks in a reality-based way is a more sensible approach than puritanical finger-wagging.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Donald Eastman's second point is just ugly moralizing against casual sex, which is completely ridiculous because casual sex is not analogous to sexual assault or rape. Conflating the two suggests that having sex outside of a committed relationship is akin to being a rapist or being a rape victim. Once you start stigmatizing NSA sex and aligning it with criminal acts, you go down the road of blaming people for being the sexual beings they are. We hear, way too often, that men are afraid women will falsely accuse them of rape, though we know the likelihood of that actually happening is very small. When you make women who have sex with men outside of a committed relationship into the enemy, this is the kind of thinking that results. Making women feel ashamed for having casual consensual sex helps no one. Making men paranoid about casual consensual sex turning into a false allegation helps no one. Casual sex is a red herring.

It's a shame that his moralizing undercuts Eastman's first point, which is a valid one. He is a college president. In college sexual assault and rape cases, alcohol is absolutely a factor, overwhelmingly so. The most extensive study done on campus assaults showed that in 97% of the sexual assaults, either the perpetrator or victim or both of them had been drinking. 97%! (Source)

Going to a party and having a drink should not a be a dangerous thing to do. Drinking and socializing are normal human activities. Even if the woman doing it is legally too young to do it, that doesn't change the fact that it should not be a dangerous thing to do.

I get that some people like to drink and some here in this thread maybe drank when they were legally under aged, but this is apologist rationalizing for drunk culture and needs to be called out. First, nowhere have I seen anyone, including Eastman, say no one should ever have "one drink". That's disingenuous. I do see a call for moderation in drinking, and that should not be a controversial thing to endorse, especially given the context. More on that in a moment, but let's be clear that the your pushback was actually against a comment saying drinking to excess and a tolerance for drunk culture on college campuses is a bad thing, not one drink.

Underage people drinking to excess is inherently dangerous, full stop. We have learned a lot about how the adolescent brain is actually wired differently, and peer pressure, impulsivity and a sense of invulnerability are directly linked to those differences. Studies suggest that the brain is not fully mature, in fact, until well after the legal drinking age. This is significant because these differences make young people more vulnerable to drunk culture in particular.

This is why msalt is right about drunk culture being relevant here. No one would argue, I think, that hazing is a potentially dangerous practice. To say we should put a stop to hazing is not very controversial. Saying we should put a stop to the drunk culture that led to hazing being an accepted practice in the first place gets people who like to drink riled up. Yet hazing would not be nearly so dangerous if alcohol was not influencing the thinking and behavior of both the perpetrators and the victims of hazing. Alcohol is a pivotal contributory factor.

There are analogies between the hazing example and college sexual assaults. We have had posts here before about entire frat cultures built around taking advantage of drunk culture and the vulnerability of young women in particular. Yet young men's drinking is at the center of this as well.

College aged men report, in studies on sexual assault, to feeling that alcohol makes them more confident, assertive and sexually appealing. Their behavior patterns back this up; men who have been drinking are more likely to expect women to have sex with them. Remember that these men are at an age when peer pressure is a contributing factor to their behavior. So a culture that encourages drinking to excess reinforces this expectation. Predators use this rationalization as an excuse--that because they were drunk, they assumed the woman was into them.

Women are not stupid. We do look out for each other and we do look out for signs that a man might be a potential danger to us. Those same studies that show alcohol is a factor in campus sexual assault show that many young, college-aged women underestimate the effect alcohol consumption has on their ability to make those assessments. Women may know, logically, that rapes happen on college campuses full of smart people, that rapists don't give IQ tests, and brilliant women do get raped. Yet in actual practice, these young women believe that because they are smart, they are invulnerable to rape (again, this sense of invulnerability is correlated with age). As a result, they indulge in risky and even reckless behavior, like drinking to excess that increases the likelihood of their being raped. Thus, assuming they are too smart to be a victim becomes a vulnerability that a predator can, and will, exploit. It is no accident that predators seek out freshmen women and try to get them drunk.

None of the above offers any excuses for rape. No one ever "deserves to be raped". Telling men not to rape is of course the obvious thing to do, and should be the first line of attack in decreasing sexual assault. We can know this and yet also know that is simplistic to suggest that men who rape do so because no one ever told them it was wrong.

Rapists are predators. While many acts of rape are crimes of opportunity, they nonetheless occur when a predator exploited a vulnerability. Serial rapists try to cultivate an environment where these vulnerabilities are consistently created and exploited. Hence those frat parties targeting underage women.

We can, and should, go after rapists with every tool at our disposal. That means warning women about how potential rapists operate, and how they can protect themselves, should be part of the discussion. And drunk culture is part of the modus operandi in which rapists flourish.

Yeah, Eastman's statement is a mess, but an informed response should at least acknowledge that alcohol consumption on college campuses is a valid concern.
posted by misha at 11:53 AM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


The concern, though, isn't "women who choose to get drunk are choosing to make themselves more vulnerable to rape" or even "when people get drunk, rape just kind of happens." The concern is "Rapists target women who are drunk, either by identifying women who are already intoxicated or by deliberately intoxicating women, not because their inhibitions are lowered but because their ability to resist is significantly impaired."
posted by KathrynT at 1:00 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes?
posted by misha at 1:02 PM on November 29, 2014


Yes. So the instruction to not participate in "drunk culture" is pretty useless if the modus operandi of the rapists is to get their targets drunk without their knowledge or consent. Unless you're going to tell women to avoid the campus social scene entirely, which has troubling implications and repercussions of its own.
posted by KathrynT at 1:07 PM on November 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think part of the controversy here is assuming that criticizing binge drinking culture is the same as "telling women to avoid the campus social scene."

The primary target should be the rapey men who are using alcohol (and drug-laced drinks) as a tool of rape. It's not about "telling women not to drink", it's about shutting down fraternities (and individuals) that push binge drinking on underage students (for any number of reasons, from fights to car accidents to alcohol poisoning and even garbage in addition to rapes).

It's also about pushing the message that a drunk person can not consent. Right now, rapists avoid prosecution by arguing that the woman consented and is just too drunk to remember, or that she is not a competent witness to her own rape because she was drunk. There is no lack of education or penalties against rape; the problem is that rapists define coerced drunken sex as not rape, and use the haze of alcohol as a tool to create "reasonable doubt" in he-said, she-said testimony.

Perhaps the better solution is a new crime, perhaps with lower penalties and a lower standard of evidence. Perhaps something like statutory rape for underage drunken individuals, if they feel coerced? That way, today's excuse (she was drunk when we had sex and doesn't remember) becomes proof of guilt instead of an alibi.

Also, possession of rohypnol or GHB (without a valid prescription) should be a felony and a sex crime, by itself, like possession of burglar tools.
posted by msalt at 2:08 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's also about pushing the message that a drunk person can not consent

Then we'd better push that consistently, right? And not be mixed about it.

I still don't get the resistance to teaching people that it is risky to be around people who are drinking heavily. It's not like rape is the only outcome in such situations; assaults of the physical variety are very common when young male drinkers are involved. This is not uncommon *at all* in frat environments and it's worth noting that the potential (male) victims tend to opt out of frat parties for their own safety.
posted by rr at 2:15 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is sexual assault prevention primarily a matter of messaging? Why is the messaging aimed at the students? Why is there so much emphasis on what we say and not on things campus police and administrators can DO?

Like, maybe instead of telling women to drink less, campuses could station police officers at frat houses where binge drinking occurs. (On campus frats aren't private property, but the campus cops could be instructed to ignore infractions unrelated to women's safety.)

It just seems weird to me that women are being GODDAMNED RAPED and the most anyone seems to want to do about it is argue about how strongly to word the president's strongly-worded letter.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:59 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


The most extensive study done on campus assaults showed that in 97% of the sexual assaults, either the perpetrator or victim or both of them had been drinking.

I think this misstates what is said in that report, misha. It looks to me like around half the assaults involved drinking; of those involving drinking, 97% involved both partners drinking.

I agree with the rest of your comment, though. And I think the distinction between messaging on campuses and messaging in general is a valid one. College women definitely do not all have the experience or awareness that women in general have; it's extremely important for them to be informed about protecting themselves (RAINN places this concern, as well as peer awareness and involvement, above messaging to men in terms of effectiveness in reducing assault).

This has to be done carefully in order to ensure that women who are assaulted (whether they followed wise practices or not) do not blame themselves after the fact.
posted by torticat at 3:14 PM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


maybe instead of telling women to drink less, campuses could station police officers at frat houses where binge drinking occurs

Underage drinking is illegal. The cops are supposed to ignore this?
posted by rr at 3:22 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Underage drinking is illegal. The cops are supposed to ignore this?

Yeah, I can't remember if this opinion piece has been discussed here on mefi (or even upthread!)... I definitely don't agree with everything the writer says, but one of his suggestions is lowering the drinking age so that parties could be minimally monitored at least.

That's probably a non-starter on both ends (legally and socially). But it's true the current situation seems untenable, considering the volatile age group we're talking about. misha's point:
We have learned a lot about how the adolescent brain is actually wired differently, and peer pressure, impulsivity and a sense of invulnerability are directly linked to those differences

is very well-taken in this respect.
posted by torticat at 3:46 PM on November 29, 2014


> Unless you're going to tell women to avoid the campus social scene entirely, which has troubling implications and repercussions of its own.

I am here to tell you it can be done, KT, whatever the repercussions. I attended UVa and pledged a fraternity. When two of the actual brothers told me (separately and independently) that the UVa honor code--no lying, cheating, or stealing, no tolerating any student who lies, cheats, or steals--"doesn't apply to what you say to girls" I said WTF, depledged, and lived without the Greek system.

(I grant you I did not live that way too long. I will date myself by mentioning that UVa was not then co-ed, and I left after year 1 and found a co-ed school. I also grant that I am a bit of a loner, entirely comfortable by myself, and indeed quite uncomfortable if denied a decent ration of solitude. But still, WTF?)
posted by jfuller at 5:06 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


It can be done, but to suggest it as a wholesale remedy for the problem as opposed to a choice an individual can make (and good for you for making it) isn't a workable solution.
posted by KathrynT at 7:25 PM on November 29, 2014


What wholesale remedies do you have in mind?

It seems to me that campus rape is an immediate and ongoing problem, and that it's important to take whatever immediate, tangible steps we can to change the situation. I guess that's why looking at alcohol consumption makes sense to me as a place to start, because it's clearly at the very least a major part of the toxic culture that protects rapists today. There are also existing alcohol laws that are being currently violated and can be enforced, including a whole enforcement mechanism.

I would love to hear other immediate, practical steps that can be taken. Actual changes in consent laws? Different standards of proof or evidence? Newly defined crimes that might be more easy to get convictions on? Clarification of the roles between campus and city police? Perhaps a specific law making it illegal to discourage reporting of rape crimes, as a form of witness tampering?

At the very least, I think colleges should be required to notify state and federal police of any reported assaults, even where the student decides not to press charges, including the location and name of perpetrators where known. it would be a minimal step toward eliminating the passive aggressive discouragement of reporting at a place like UVa, by removing the school's incentive to discourage reporting.

But I see a lot of people pronouncing that we should "hold rapists accountable" or "educate rapists." I have no idea what that would mean in practice, and if colleges want to keep sweeping this problem under the rug, vagueness like that is precisely what they would like. Talk is cheap.
posted by msalt at 10:21 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


"educate rapists."

Cmd-f: 1 result. Yours.

Me, upthread, I talked about campaigns that are less "don't get raped, ladies, here's how!" and more "hey guys, don't rape!" Is that what you read as "educate rapists"? Because that's not the same. There should be broader education about what rape is - it's not just stranger leaping out of bushes, it's also not taking no for an answer from someone you know. Is that what you're referring to? Should we not do that? I don't think you mean that, right?

I don't think we should do those things and only those things. But we should be doing them. We've been doing "don't get raped, ladies, here's how!" and "too much alcohol is bad for the following reasons" campaigns since long before I was in college (in the 80s) and there's obviously a limit to what they and they alone can accomplish.
posted by rtha at 11:33 PM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that campus rape is an immediate and ongoing problem, and that it's important to take whatever immediate, tangible steps we can to change the situation. I guess that's why looking at alcohol consumption makes sense to me as a place to start, because it's clearly at the very least a major part of the toxic culture that protects rapists today. There are also existing alcohol laws that are being currently violated and can be enforced, including a whole enforcement mechanism.
That's a joke, right? The powers that be on my campus are a lot more concerned about curbing drinking than about stopping rape, and underage binge drinking has proven extremely difficult to combat. My town absolutely does enforce drinking laws, and one of the main results of our stepped-up enforcement has been that undergrads now drink on private property, like frat houses and off-campus apartments, rather than in public places like bars where the cops can easily enter. That has made students more vulnerable to rape. I think that our drinking culture is really out of control, and I think it complicates efforts to fight rape on campus, but it's just silly to think that preventing alcohol abuse is an easy, immediate thing that campuses can do. We have no idea how to get students to stop binge drinking, and I promise you that the administration would take whatever steps they could if they thought they had the magic bullet to cut down on drinking.

When it comes to preventing rape, my campus is really focused on bystander intervention. The idea is that it isn't going to help to tell rapists to stop raping. Rape isn't a mistake that rapists make because they lack proper education about consent. Most students know not to rape anyone, and most campus rapes are committed by a small number of serial offenders who know what they're doing. Where you can intervene is in helping other students identify potentially predatory behavior, and you can convince them that it's their responsibility not just to refuse to participate but also to intervene to protect victims. This message is aimed at everyone, of all genders. I have no idea whether it's working, but it seems better than focusing on potential victims.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:37 AM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


We can, and should, go after rapists with every tool at our disposal. That means warning women about how potential rapists operate, and how they can protect themselves, should be part of the discussion. And drunk culture is part of the modus operandi in which rapists flourish.

Well, you should be quite pleased, then, that we already DO warn women about how potential rapiats operate. The problem is, we warn women about how rapists operate to the exclusion of telling those rapiats NOT to rape, and that is itself the source of our complaining.

You don't need to worry about women being informed about how rapists operate because most of us have already been getting that damn memo sent to us by campus police (and mothers and aunts in email forwards and articles and Facebook posts and everything else).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:40 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've listed several practical steps, from mandatory reporting by campuses of even anonymous reports of sexual assaults to re-defining legal consent standards and/or creating new sexual offenses that would be easier to prove and harder to cast doubt on (like statutory rape, where "she wanted it" is not a defense). I'd love to hear your ideas or reactions or alternatives.

"TELL BOYS NOT TO RAPE" is not a real solution. It's a fine applause line for politicians because it means precisely nothing. "Don't rape" is very well understood and educated, but it's undercut by attitudes like "well she/he/they were shitfaced so who knows what really went on?" I tend to favor hard (legal, institutional) changes over soft (let's educate) changes because people like to avoid the thought of people they know raping, so soft changes get ignored.

And it's not education that we need, it's redefining cultural standards. The campaign against drunk driving wasn't education, it was changing the social consensus on what is acceptable. This absolutely needs to happen around rape and sexual assault, and a lot of the change revolves around alcohol. A lot of people still think it's OK or normal to ply a naive person with drinks as a strategy to get sex. (Hell, Animal House is still beloved despite that horrible scene where the underage rape victim is dropped at her parents' house in a shopping cart unconscious.)

Affirmative consent would be an exciting direction to go in, but there is clearly not a consensus for it yet, and I'm not sure it could be enforced as a law. I think a good intermediate step is "don't have sex with someone for the first time if (both of you) are not sober."

Bystander education is excellent, and that IS something that could work now, because it's based on the bystander's gut feeling of something being wrong, which is a lot easier to talk about and it avoids a lot of arguments against.
posted by msalt at 5:21 PM on November 30, 2014


"TELL BOYS NOT TO RAPE" is not a real solution. It's a fine applause line for politicians because it means precisely nothing. "Don't rape" is very well understood and educated, but it's undercut by attitudes like "well she/he/they were shitfaced so who knows what really went on?" I tend to favor hard (legal, institutional) changes over soft (let's educate) changes because people like to avoid the thought of people they know raping, so soft changes get ignored.

Well, yeah, that's kind of what the "tell boys not to rape" actually means - it's a shorter way of saying "put the onus of preventing the crime on the perpetrators as opposed to putting it on the victims even though 5000 years of patriarchal attitudes is leading you to blame the victim in this particular crime", which wouldn't fit on a poster.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 PM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


And the crowd cheers, but that's another tremendous slogan that makes no sense. Perpetrators aren't going to take on the onus of preventing their own crime, they intend to commit the crime. That's what makes them perpetrators.

How do you suggest making that happen in real life?
posted by msalt at 7:11 PM on November 30, 2014


"TELL BOYS NOT TO RAPE" is not a real solution.

No one here has proposed that this be the sole thing around which to build rape-prevention campaigns. Is there a particular objection you have to making it part of the campaigns on campuses?

If someone gets hit by a drunk driver, we don't have a whole culture built around asking if the victim should have been out driving at that time, or why they weren't vigilant about avoiding erratic drivers. We put the blame where it belongs - on the drunk drivers - and combine that with campaigns about what drunk driving is, and not to do it.

Bystander campaigns, better education about drugs and alcohol, better education about consent and assault, and more of a push to recognize that the blame for assault goes on the perpetrators: none of these are mutually exclusive.
posted by rtha at 8:12 PM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Underage drinking is illegal. The cops are supposed to ignore this?

The term d'art is "harm reduction" and it's the response to harmful behaviors that seems to have the best response. In terms of drug use (like drinking) the focus is on mitigating harmful results - fights, drug-associated diseases, crime, etc... - and offering support to not use the drugs in question when the person asks for it. Low penalties for "falling off the wagon" as that's a recognized part of any sobriety program. Loving, warm, supportive, non-judgemental, clear responses to encourage people to engage with the support offered.

Most of the focus of these programs have been on injectable drugs because those have the greatest harm to life, but honestly I think we'd be a lot more effective if we dropped the punative responses to alcohol use in particular and focused instead of harm reduction, education, and easy resources for recovery.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:17 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perpetrators aren't going to take on the onus of preventing their own crime, they intend to commit the crime. That's what makes them perpetrators.

While many rapists (especially serial rapists) are sociopathic predators who are likely immune to any deterrent save getting caught, others are made by a society which constantly undervalues women, denies them existence outside service to men, and makes it easy to rape them without consequence. If we focused on changing that, we wouldn't eliminate all rape, but we would reduce the toxic environment that produces and enables rapists. If groups of young men did not feel comfortable stroking each others' grievances, working each other up, and covering for each other, there would be less room for rapists to maneuver and, as a result, fewer rapes.

It's not the only tool in the toolbox, but it at least directly addresses the problem. Similar tools would include limiting the amount of discretion administrators have in processing reports -- most administrators should have the responsibility to pass the report to a central body with the training and authority to levy actual punishment rather than the assaulted woman having to run a gauntlet of untrained and distracted administrators with a vested interest in shutting down discussion rather than addressing the problem.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


limiting the amount of discretion administrators have in processing reports -- most administrators should have the responsibility to pass the report to a central body with the training and authority to levy actual punishment rather than the assaulted woman having to run a gauntlet of untrained and distracted administrators with a vested interest in shutting down discussion rather than addressing the problem.

10 comments ago, in this thread, I suggested mandatory reporting to state and federal authorities by colleges of any reported sexual assault, even if the victim is listed as "anonymous" or "chose not to state." You mean like that?

I suspect this would have a disproportionately large impact on college campuses, because the university's incentives would be reversed. Discouraging victims for pursuing a complaint -- as happened at UVA for example -- would have no advantage to the school, because the statistic would still be there. The only way to improve their public image would be to reduce the actual amount of sexual assaults.

(I'm assuming that the current push to punish schools for violating the Clery Act and other similar provisions continues, so that schools can't actively punish or discourage reports in the first place.)

Right now, colleges don't want rape statistics, so their clear incentive is to make reporting as difficult and painful as possible.
posted by msalt at 11:38 AM on December 1, 2014


rtha: I discussed education around sexual assault at length 8 comments ago and don't want to repeat myself. Maybe you missed it.
Short answer; of course I don't object to teaching "not to rape" but it's already done; redefining social consensus is needed, not education. Do you object to addressing the role of alcohol in sexual assault?

Deoridhe: The term d'art is "harm reduction" and it's the response to harmful behaviors that seems to have the best response.

Interesting. One difference, though, is that harm reduction is used with adult narcotics addicts, who are notoriously incorrigible and hard to get clean and sober.

On college campuses, you are dealing with entirely naive drinkers actively being taught addictive/bingeing behavior for the first time through semi-official institutions (fraternities and sororities). There is strong reason to think that a lot of problem drinking begins on campuses, and that if it were not taught there, it might never get going. How often do you see drinking games and kegs off campus, hosted by non-college-grads?
posted by msalt at 11:55 AM on December 1, 2014


Do you object to addressing the role of alcohol in sexual assault?

No, and it's also already done. It was done when I started college in the mid-80s. It isn't new or untried; every damn term I was in college there was at least one major, public alcohol-related event (harassment, property damage, hazing, etc.) that required editorials, meetings with faculty and class deans and so on.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oops, hit post instead of preview.

I believe a campaign focusing on telling men and boys not to rape, and emphasizing that rape is something that doesn't happen just to sluts and isn't committed just by weirdos in the bushes will help shift the social consensus you talk about, by shifting the way we talk about who is responsible for rape.
posted by rtha at 12:06 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


msalt: "One difference, though, is that harm reduction is used with adult narcotics addicts, who are notoriously incorrigible and hard to get clean and sober."

Harm reduction is used by a lot of different people for a lot of different things.
posted by Lexica at 12:53 PM on December 1, 2014


Harm reduction is actually a bit of a buzz-phrase when it comes to alcohol on campus. Basically what that means is that students are required to participate in some alcohol education activities that assume that they will probably drink and attempt to give them information that will allow them to drink without endangering themselves. There's also been an attempt to educate students about alcohol poisoning and other potentially-lethal effects of alcohol and to make it easier for students to get medical help for themselves or their friends without facing punishment for possessing alcohol or other illegal substances. But I don't think there's much of a chance that university employees are going to supervise illegal activities like underage drinking, if for no other reason than that it's a liability nightmare. My hunch is that if you polled university administrators, a lot of them would say that they wish the drinking age could be lowered to 18, so we could do real harm-reduction stuff with alcohol without worrying about legal consequences.
There is strong reason to think that a lot of problem drinking begins on campuses, and that if it were not taught there, it might never get going. How often do you see drinking games and kegs off campus, hosted by non-college-grads?
I think the current research suggests that being a problem drinker in college doesn't usually mean that one will have a drinking problem later in life. A lot of people binge drink their way through college and then settle down and don't drink to excess after they graduate.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:33 PM on December 1, 2014


being a problem drinker in college doesn't usually mean that one will have a drinking problem later in life

Sure, because the problem drinker rate would be 50% or more in the general college-educated population if it did.

That doesn't mean that college binge drinking isn't a source of later problem drinking, though. In my personal experience, roughly 10% of men who were big college drinkers don't outgrow it, and they are a much larger proportion of problem drinkers in adult life.

I don't think that education is particuarly the solution here, and I don't think lowering the drinking age would fix it. The drinking age WAS 18 through the mid-1970s, when Animal House was filmed, and college drinking did not appear to be any more under control. Legal bars in many states still promote binge drinking heavily, for obvious financial reasons, and even today right around college campuses.

I think that police enforcement of underage drinking -- along with increased legal liability and perhaps new criminal violations for fraternities as well private home owners, apartment building owners and bars where minors are served (and sexual assaults, fights, etc. occur) would be more effective.
posted by msalt at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2014


Hey, here's a thought: how about college presidents address binge drinking as its own problem, independent from and unrelated to the issue of sexual assault on campuses?

Because those of you who are speaking about underage drinking absolutely have a point. However, it is a separate point, and should be treated as such, is all. Connecting the two is just muddying the waters and casting dispersion on the victims of sexual assault, and giving the perpetrators an easy out rather than actually getting them the help they need.

At least, that's just an idea I had.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:56 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


10 comments ago, in this thread, I suggested mandatory reporting to state and federal authorities by colleges of any reported sexual assault, even if the victim is listed as "anonymous" or "chose not to state." You mean like that?

Not precisely. There are, I am pretty sure (it may vary state by state), already requirements to report to external authorities if an accusation goes beyond a certain point. The external authorities, of course, are not necessarily going to do anything because, you know, rape culture.

I am thinking internally. Most university personnel are not trained to address issues of rape, and they haven't the first idea how to proceed. University faculty and staff need to understand how to get students who come forward to an office which can proceed as quickly and effectively to address the situation, with the fewest number of places where "personal discretion" can play a role. If a university administrator is going to make a judgement call in situations like these, I would prefer that administrator is trained and ready to make those decisions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:24 PM on December 1, 2014


There might be kind of a chicken-and-egg problem there. I'm assuming that in many cases, the university simply does not want a formal, public complaint to be made because that would show up on their statistics. As the UVA dean said, "No one wants to send their daughter to the rape school." They want victims to "decide" not to pursue a complaint, and will do whatever possible to maximize the likelihood of that choice.

If they have to report to a central federal authority, whether or not the accusation "goes beyond a certain point" -- under penalty of losing federal money, and prosecution for impeding a criminal investigation -- then their incentives change. A victim choosing not to prosecute, for whatever reason, should not whitewash the university's record.
posted by msalt at 4:46 PM on December 1, 2014


EmpressCallipygos: Connecting the two [binge drinking and sexual assault] is just muddying the waters and casting dispersion on the victims of sexual assault, and giving the perpetrators an easy out rather than actually getting them the help they need.

I see the exact opposite. Drinking itself is the easy out that many perpetrators use, to lure and incapacitate victims, disguise rape drugs, and attack the credibility of any witnesses -- victims or bystanders -- if it gets to a trial or disciplinary hearing.

On some campuses, such as UVA, fraternities have an effective and university-sanctioned monopoly on underage drinking. They are also the source of a disproportionate number of sexual assaults. I don't think this is a coincidence.
posted by msalt at 4:58 PM on December 1, 2014


To be clear, I absolutely agree that drinking should not be used attack rape victims any more than prior sexual history (which is now illegal to raise as a defense in most states). The practical reality though is that drunkenness does reduce the credibility of any witness, no matter what the crime is. That's one reason drinking and sexual assault can't really be separated.

I do think it would be better to focus on the use of alcohol (and obviously, rape drugs such as rohypnol) as a tool of predators. Perhaps the exemption to statutory rape laws if the perpetrator is within 3 years of the victim's age should not apply if the perp provides them with alcohol or drugs? Something like that.
posted by msalt at 5:05 PM on December 1, 2014


I am thinking internally. Most university personnel are not trained to address issues of rape, and they haven't the first idea how to proceed. University faculty and staff need to understand how to get students who come forward to an office which can proceed as quickly and effectively to address the situation, with the fewest number of places where "personal discretion" can play a role. If a university administrator is going to make a judgement call in situations like these, I would prefer that administrator is trained and ready to make those decisions.
I have no idea how this works at most universities, but I don't have any personal discretion at all, and I think that's true of all administrators at my university, although not of most faculty. (I'm not an administrator, but I'm a category of staff that falls under mandatory reporting rules.) If a student reveals to me that he or she or someone else has been a victim of sexual assault, I am obligated to call the university's sexual assault coordinator. In most cases, she's obligated to report to the police. I think I've said before that I have very, very mixed feelings about this system: in some ways, I would really prefer for victims to have more say in whether and how the police got involved. But it exists for good reasons. And I did receive some training on this, although I'm not sure that I could ever get enough training to feel like I was in any way equipped to handle those situations.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:34 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


On some campuses, such as UVA, fraternities have an effective and university-sanctioned monopoly on underage drinking. They are also the source of a disproportionate number of sexual assaults. I don't think this is a coincidence.

So how do you explain the cases where neither rapist nor victim were drinking?

The practical reality though is that drunkenness does reduce the credibility of any witness, no matter what the crime is. That's one reason drinking and sexual assault can't really be separated.

I note that you mention how drunkenness reduces the credibility of a witness, but you say nothing about the credibility of the defendant claiming he didn't do anything. Can you explain why you made that omission?

I do think it would be better to focus on the use of alcohol (and obviously, rape drugs such as rohypnol) as a tool of predators. Perhaps the exemption to statutory rape laws if the perpetrator is within 3 years of the victim's age should not apply if the perp provides them with alcohol or drugs?

How about we focus on the abuse of alcohol as being a generally bad thing to do no matter what, even if the worst thing that happens to you is a super-bad hangover that makes you miss an exam, so we can start treating rape like the crime it actually is rather than being "just a possible side effect of a frat party" like you're trying to make it out to be?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:57 PM on December 1, 2014


So how do you explain the cases where neither rapist nor victim were drinking?

By the difference between the words most and all? I'm looking for practical ways to reduce rape as soon as possible. There are a million scenarios, and no solution fits all of them.

I note that you mention how drunkenness reduces the credibility of a witness, but you say nothing about the credibility of the defendant claiming he didn't do anything. Can you explain why you made that omission?

My concern is with rapists and their ability to avoid prosecution for rape. Frankly, I am not especially concerned about drunk alleged rapists whose alibi is undercut by their drunkenness. In principle, sure, but despite the frequent claims of MRAs and right-wing publications, I have seen no credible evidence of poor male college students being railroaded for rape. I have seen many examples of perps using the cover of a drunken night to avoid responsibility.

How about we focus on the abuse of alcohol as being a generally bad thing to do no matter what, even if the worst thing that happens to you is a super-bad hangover that makes you miss an exam, so we can start treating rape like the crime it actually is rather than being "just a possible side effect of a frat party" like you're trying to make it out to be?

Now you're slipping into full-on "interrogating the witness" mode, and I'm going to object to this question. It's leading, argumentative and misses the point.

I'm talking about specific ways to make prosecutions of rape -- for the crime it is -- more likely and more successful. I'm proposing new, easier-to-prove criminal statutes, increased penalties for other existing ones, and changes in reporting and financial responsibility laws to undercut rape cutlure.

Why are you fighting me? And where are your practical suggestions?
posted by msalt at 11:40 PM on December 1, 2014


Washington Post: In September, Wesleyan University officials told the school’s all-male Greek organizations that they had three years to become co-educational. Today, school officials went a step further and banned the Psi Upsilon fraternity from holding social events until the end of 2015, according to a statement from Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth. The move came after two members of the fraternity were dismissed from the Connecticut school following sexual assaults in 2011 and 2013, the statement noted.

U.Va's enternched fraternity culture at a tipping point

Why Colleges Haven't Stopped Binge Drinking
posted by msalt at 12:21 AM on December 2, 2014


Women need to do what they can to protect themselves from rape.

The trick is that this has an implicit but powerful qualifier: "Women need to do what they can to protect themselves from rape - as long as it doesn't inconvenience, insult, embarrass, or annoy men. Or any man ever."

I can think of lots of things women could do to protect ourselves from rape. Like, always believe another woman when she names a name, and stay away from that person. Like, warn other women when a man has displayed behaviors that indicate carelessness about consent, and welcome those warnings from other women. Like, amplify those warnings and those names. Like, be willing to suspect that a man's opinions about things like rape and underage drinking might indeed reflect on his willingness to perpetrate rape, and treat treat him as suspect rapist, even if he is an elderly university president.

But that would be 'bad faith." So haha.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm talking about specific ways to make prosecutions of rape -- for the crime it is -- more likely and more successful. I'm proposing new, easier-to-prove criminal statutes, increased penalties for other existing ones, and changes in reporting and financial responsibility laws to undercut rape cutlure.

I understand the logic you are assuming is behind your point - I'm assuming you've got a scenario in mind where a defense attorney could say something like, "your honor, how can we be sure what really happened if the alleged victim was drunk?" But continuing to link drinking and rape does not negate that effect - rather, it reinforces the misconception that a woman who has a few drinks is in some way complicit in her own rape.

Why are you fighting me? And where are your practical suggestions?

I'm not fighting you, I'm fighting the notion that underage drinking and on-campus rape are linked problems. And my practical suggestion would be, as I have said before, to treat them as separate problems.

And frankly, treating them as separate problems should make it even easier for the authorities to rectify, shouldn't it, since the question of "was she raped, yes or no" is no longer connected to the filter of "wait, was anyone drinking at the time?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on December 2, 2014


I don't "have a scenario." I am reacting to the facts of hundreds of actual rape cases, including all of the most recent prominent rape cases, from Steubenville to UVA to the Wesleyan rapes to the previous UVA case years ago.

Drunkenness will always make prosecution of campus rape more difficult, because the perpetrator can simply say "she consented and she was drunk." The consent claim neutralizes physical evidence, and drunkenness makes the victim's testimony less reliable.

This is not the fault of people who observe the very real connection between binge drinking and rape culture. It's true for every crime in every situation, being drunk undermines credibility. Pretending that alcohol is not a factor will not eliminate this as a defense tactic.

And I'm not saying that drinking must end or anything like that. I"m proposing specific changes in laws that might eliminate the ability of perpetrators to use alcohol (and spiking agents) as a tool of rape and legal defense. Perhaps having sex with an intoxicated minor should be by itself a crime, along the lines of statutory rape, which eliminates consent as a defense. Certainly, possession of rohypnol or GHB should be a felony and a sex crime. Liability for hosts of parties that serve to minors and where sexual assaults occur should be strengthened -- let the homeowners, landlords and frats pay if they harbor rapists. Etc.

President Obama could declare in a national address tonight that "drinking and rape have no connection whatsoever." How would that stop any assaults, or make prosecution any easier?
posted by msalt at 2:55 PM on December 2, 2014


And I'm not saying that drinking must end or anything like that. I"m proposing specific changes in laws that might eliminate the ability of perpetrators to use alcohol (and spiking agents) as a tool of rape and legal defense.

And I'm asking why not propose changes to those laws for their own sake, instead of making it sound like the only reason you think drinking is bad is because raping can sometimes be a side effect? That way it sounds like "getting raped" and "throwing up" are equivalent fates.

I'm also asking why not strengthen the enforcement of already existing laws against rape, rather than tying it unnecessarily to laws about drinking? That way people who don't drink also benefit.

President Obama could declare in a national address tonight that "drinking and rape have no connection whatsoever." How would that stop any assaults, or make prosecution any easier?

I bet it would increase the likelihood of victims to not second-guess themselves about "maybe I shoudn't report this because I was dumb and went to that frat party and got drunk and they're just going to think this was my fault". Prosecution can't happen if the victim doesn't come forward.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Obviously we differ. I think that if rapists couldn't use frat parties and alcohol as cover/alibis/weapons against victims -- if more than 25% of reported rapes actually resulted in criminal charges -- that would encourage victims to come forward a lot more than choosing our words carefully not to imply that alcohol was a factor, when it obviously was. The attacks of defense attorneys are a lot more intimidating than any potential second-guessing by victims based on unspoken messages.

strengthen the enforcement of already existing laws against rape?

In what specific way? I'm all ears. I've already listed several suggestions for strengthening the laws and removing barriers to conviction, which you continue to ignore. One suggestion was to make having sex with an underage drunk person to whom you provided alcohol a crime in and of itself. This would turn the victim's drunkenness from an excuse into proof of guilt.

why not propose changes to those laws for their own sake, instead of making it sound like the only reason you think drinking is bad is because raping can sometimes be a side effect?

I don't think drinking is bad per se. I think using alcohol as a date rape drug, and semi-official encouragement of binge drinking through particular techniques common at frats is bad.

E.G. fruit punches mixed to mask the actual level of booze (and sometimes to mask rape drugs). No one on earth drinks alcoholic punch, except young college coeds that guys are trying to get drunk. The guys themselves don't drink the punch. The intent is not subtle.
posted by msalt at 10:10 PM on December 2, 2014


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