It’s been a month since Slate’s Emily Yoffe sparked an Internet firestorm with her essay “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk,” which urged female students to protect themselves from sexual assault by not getting wasted at parties. That’s an eon in cyber-time, but the furor has yet to die down — a testament to the strength of the passions Yoffe tapped into.
In the eyes of her critics (and they are legion) Yoffe’s warnings are dangerously regressive, placing the focus on female behavior when it should be on rapists and perhaps even offering rapists license to operate. “Warning women about heavy drinking places the burden of not being sexually assaulted squarely on the shoulders of the victims,” is how one writer put it.
There is a world of difference between saying: ‘Don’t get drunk because men will look at you and see a vulnerable woman,’ as Yoffe repeatedly suggests, and ‘Don’t drink because it strips you of agency — the power to think and act on your own behalf.’
I see it differently — perhaps because, 30 years ago, I was one of these young women.
The rest of this essay can be found, and originally appeared, on the website Cognoscenti.
Amy Gutman is a senior writer at Harvard School of Public Health and a facilitator for the OpEd Project. In a previous life, she practiced law. She blogs here.