Why Feminists Don’t Get Drunk

feminist photoby Amy Gutman

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.

 

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A Key Ally in Stopping Sexual Predators: The Bartender

Bartenders serve up so much more to their customers than just booze: therapy, jokes, stories, simple companionship, matchmaking, moderation management. Why not offer protection?

Beyond the Bar, a new program in York, PA, trains bartenders and servers to recognize potential sexual abuse situations and prevent them from happening. Who better to look out for sexual predators than the eyes and ears of a restaurant or bar?

“Alcohol is implicated in sexual violence more than any other drug,” according to Kristen Sechrist, who works at the YWCA to help men and women recover from the aftereffects of date rape.

“People are taught to watch for predators in their workplace, school and neighborhood,” Sechrist said, “but who is looking out for them when their guard is down and they’re enjoying a night out?”

The program, led by York County Victim Services, ACCESS-York and Planned Parenthood, includes a free 30-minute training program. Bars are then given informative coasters and consent packets for their customers, filled with a condom, breath mint and tips for how to ask for consent.

But bartenders and servers still play the most important role: they are taught to be proactive and look out for certain warning signals, like a man sipping one drink all night while he buys a woman multiple shots. They can also watch for unattended drinks, offering to refresh or change the drink if they suspect the use of a drug.

The most striking element of this program is that bartenders are expected to actually step in and take action: discussing the situation with patrons and making sure they feel safe, asking patrons if they need a taxi or help calling a friend, walking them out of the restaurant or bar and even offering them a ride home.

This sounds like an amazing program to me, with one caveat: offering a drunk patron a ride home could lead to big trouble for the bartender, and stopping a sexual predator in his or her tracks could be potentially dangerous, so I’d hope there are safety measures put in place.

The key factor here, though, is the effort to counteract the bystander culture so common in bars, the “It’s not my problem” mentality. That, to me, is a great thing. What do you think, readers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Women, Drinking, College & Sex: It’s Back to the Stone Age

fratshirtJust in time for my visit to my hometown: controversy! Over women and drinking! Alex Knepper, a 20-year-old student reporter at American University wrote the following in the school newspaper, the Eagle:

“Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?…To cry ‘date rape’ after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.”

The grim statistics: According to the Department of Justice, in more than three-quarters of all college rapes, the offender, the victim or both had been drinking.

But the reality is: Many college women, and men, drink. A lot. Five cups of “jungle juice” is not all that uncommon for a college student. And college students are horny.  Since when is wanting to fool around with someone the same as wanting to have sex? Are men who drink uncontrollable beasts? Well, then it’s up to the man to regulate his drinking so he keeps his wits about him.

I agree with Mr. Knepper on one count: college women who drink do have to be extra careful. But so do men. As Mr. Knepper points out, some of these fraternities are notorious for “hardcore parties…If you do not accept the risk, things go awry…While it’s not a woman’s fault, it’s incredibly stupid behavior to go to that party,” he said. “Knowing what you are getting yourself into is what being an adult is, knowing the risks and the signals beforehand.”

It seems sad to call going to a party “incredibly stupid behavior.” For the most part, that’s what many college students do on weekends. Go to parties. Do I wish I had stayed home reading Nietzche? Sometimes. But again, what about the men? Shouldn’t they know their limits, and how much they can or can’t drink before they lose self-control?

Of course, you’d want your own daughter to know the risks inherent in stepping foot into a fraternity party. Believe me. I went to Cornell, where fraternity parties were a large part of the social scene. I wasn’t even in a sorority, and I still found myself at those damnable frat parties. Drinking. Too much. Mostly, I stayed in a group, but sometimes, I met a guy I was attracted to, and sometimes–yes–we went to his room and fooled around. Without having sex.

Was I a lucky fool? Maybe, but I think it’s both men’s and women’s loss if women have to run scared and take all the responsibility–loss of sexual energy, freedom and trust.

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In The Annals of Strange But (Sadly) Useful Inventions: Coasters That Test Cocktails for Date-Rape Drugs

coastersHaving a drink at a bar ain’t what it used to be…Apparently, the use of date-rape drugs is on the rise. To combat the problem, a company called Drink Safe USA has developed a new coaster that tests cocktails for the presence of date-rape drugs. Fantastic invention–or a strange and sad reflection of our times?

The coasters, which test for two of the most popular date-rape drugs (GHB and ketamine) are distributed at bars. Unlike regular coasters, they feature colored dots at their corners. You place a drop of your drink on the dots, and they will change color if the drink has been contaminated with a foreign substance.

Bars using the coasters, which cost .40 a piece, will display signs in their front windows informing patrons of that fact, which they believe may deter would-be criminals from spiking drinks.

If you shell out a dollar, you can buy an AlcoTop, a bottle cap designed to keep your beer safe from predators.

Of course, there’s always the option of taking your drink with you wherever you go. So much for dancing.

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