Controlling Young Women

On preventing rape:

When we rely on “safety tips,” it is impossible to do everything right. So, my spring break safety guide consists of this: Don’t fucking rape people. If you have sex with a chick who is too drunk to say no, you are not “scoring,” you are not “getting lucky”: you are a rapist. If you use alcohol in order to get people to do things you think they might not do if they were sober, you are not cool or slick or clever: You are a rapist. If you don’t bother to get consent, but you figure this person would “totally want it anyway” because you are hot or an athlete or in law school or whatever, then you’re a rapist. And you suck.

When I got to college I got a speech about not going anywhere with anyone I didn’t know, not walking alone after dark, not drinking too much, not leaving my friends alone at parties, generally not behaving in any way like a person might expect to be able to behave if she, for example, was a college fellow.

The end result of which is that I felt like I was entirely responsible for the behavior of others toward me. I’m not an idiot, okay, I live in the city and I lock my doors at night, but the responsibility for committing a crime lies with the criminal, and until we settle that the rest of this is useless.

We say around here all the time that nobody’s safe until everybody is, that our fate is your fate, and this illustrates that very neatly: If the streets are not safe for me, my staying inside only protects me. If the streets are not safe for me, and I stay inside, what about you? Or you? Or you? Are we all supposed to stay inside? It gets dark at 4:30 p.m. around here six months out of the year. Should we hibernate until spring?

If the streets are not safe for me, then the streets are not safe for anyone. If a party isn’t safe for me, then a party isn’t safe for you. If enough drinks to make me silly aren’t safe for me, then they’re not safe for everyone. And so I can control my own behavior, I can wall myself up in a tower and refuse to let down my guard, but all that has changed is that I am limited in how I can live in the world. The world hasn’t changed one bit.

I don’t know if there was another seminar, in college, for the boys. I don’t know if they got a little play-house demonstration of what enthusiastic consent looks like, of what it looks like when someone wants you versus lets you, of power versus pleasure. I don’t know how many people get the lesson that it’s not okay to take advantage; looking at our politics, I think very few of them do. I don’t know what we’re teaching young men these days, about walking home alone, about drinking too much, about watching out for their friends.

I do know I walked home from a bar one night with a man who I’d met two hours before. I know I’d had more to drink than I strictly should have, kissed him, and got a distinct feeling at that moment that this was a bad idea, so when we reached my door I thanked him for walking me home and told him this was as far as he’d get. I know he said he liked me and asked me (politely) to reconsider, but left when I told him to go.

I know that by all contemporary standards I should feel lucky he left, which is insane. I should feel lucky that he didn’t force his way inside, or turn violent. I should feel lucky the worst thing he did was tell his pal the next day that I was a frigid little virgin. I should feel lucky that I wasn’t assaulted, but mostly I should feel lucky because I put myself in a situation that could have been dangerous, but wasn’t.

How crazy is that, that I should feel lucky I engaged in behavior that involved going out, having a few beers, meeting someone, being attracted, considering the option, declining it upon further thought, and going to bed? Where is he, in all of that considering of my own actions? What was his responsibility? He behaved at the time exactly as a person should behave: he made an overture and accepted that I did not reciprocate.

Does he deserve a cookie for not being a rapist? Do I deserve a lecture for risking my virtue or my life?

This doesn’t work at all until we place responsibility for the crime upon the criminal, and have a bunch of posters that say, “if she is too drunk to be awake, she is not saying yes” or “if she is not saying yes, she is not saying yes” or “drug someone to get them to fuck you and you will go to jail, you fucking cretin” or whatever.

I don’t know what kind of program you make up that teaches young men that making an offer does not convey the right to acceptance nor justify resentment at rejection, but I do know it’s got to be better than putting young women in smaller and smaller boxes of risk, such that eventually they can’t leave their four walls. Eventually they can’t put enough locks on the doors.


37 thoughts on “Controlling Young Women

  1. Soon the mansplainers will arrive. Until then, enjoy the comments, and everyone say thanks to Ms. A for yet another wonderful post.
    Also, who’s up for betting on how many comments get posted before we get some shithead rape apologist telling us that we’re all wrong for thinking that people have the right NOT to have unwanted penises inside them?

  2. Thanks Ms. A for a wonderful post. 😀
    And Jude, I think we’ll get the “men get raped too” people in here first.

  3. This! I never wanted to live in a box. Why would I want my daughters to do so?

  4. I’m putting the “Let’s look at this from the guy’s perspective…” comment line at +/- eight comments, not counting this one.
    If women should be “responsible” for not putting themselves in a situation in which they can get raped (which, apparently, is anywhere a renegade penis might be), maybe the boys should have gotten the “responsibility” lecture in terms of not putting themselves in positions TO rape people.
    If you “drink too much” and it’s a “risky behavior” that could lead to your rape as a woman, why isn’t it something that we tell the guys at some point that THEY shouldn’t drink too much to risk losing track of their own penis and raping someone? Damned weird logic…
    To answer your earlier question, A, yes, we did get the “other” lecture, but it was about how to wash your “boy parts” as to not smell like a pile of dog shit and how to prevent the aftermath of a wet dream from staining your sheets. I don’t remember the “Keep your pecker to yourself” portion of the lecture.

  5. not gonna stop the really hateful ones intent on doing it anyways.
    but attack the problem from both sides better.

  6. Hobbes,
    “And Jude, I think we’ll get the “men get raped too” people in here first.”
    I just realized I have never seen anyone chime in that men get raped too on these advice columns. I’ve never once seen “And, boys, just remember, men get raped too, so all these rules apply to you, too!” Not once.
    In theory, though, the “don’t rape people” campaign should solve the problem regardless of what sex the victim was, wouldn’t it? I mean, instead of separating the class by gender and berating the girls for dressing like sluts, why don’t we leave the class together and discuss what is and isn’t acceptable in sexual interactions? You know, like we’re all adults and equal human beings?
    Oh, right. Never mind.

  7. Perhaps the discussion needs to be taken a step further back and look at the problem that alcohol (and other inebriators) do that gets people into trouble. While it is often true that smaller sized people get drunk quicker than larger sized people, that is not an absolute.
    It is silly to suggest that only one of the couple is going to get sloshed and then expect the other whom is partying right along with the inebriated one to somehow maintain their total awareness of the situation. I am not making escuses for any kind of rape or forcing unwanted attentions. Not in the slightest bit. But expecting one to be what the other cannot is not right either.

  8. This might be unfair, but fuck it.
    It is silly to suggest that only one of the couple is going to get sloshed and then expect the other whom is partying right along with the inebriated one to somehow maintain their total awareness of the situation. I am not making escuses for any kind of rape or forcing unwanted attentions.
    It is in no way “silly” to expect that drunk people not rape other people, drunk or not. When you commit crimes while under the influence of alcohol, you are still responsible for your crimes. Criminal activity doesn’t get magically absolved ’cause you’ve been doing shot-and-a-beers for two hours.
    Can we really not see the difference between “unwise yet legal” and “fucking criminal” actions? Really?

  9. “When I got to college I got a speech about not going anywhere with anyone I didn’t know”
    Yes, you did, because people who go to college are adults, and thus can and should take primary responsibility for their own safety. Generally speaking, other people are busy worrying about their own lives, so it’s up to each individual to be their primary source of safety. That goes for identity theft, home break-ins, and rape.
    “the responsibility for committing a crime lies with the criminal”
    Obviously. That’s why society puts criminals in prison. But the responsibility for protecting oneself lies with each individual. Telling criminals not to commit crimes and hoping that works is a poor strategy, because criminals–rapists especially–don’t really care what is right or wrong.
    Believe it or not, it is a good thing that you can take steps to make yourself safer. It would be a miserable world if we all drifted helplessly according to the whims of fate.
    “it’s got to be better than putting young women in smaller and smaller boxes of risk, such that eventually they can’t leave their four walls”
    That is a ludicrous exaggeration.

  10. So if a woman has a few drinks and says yes, but the next day says “oh, I wouldn’t have said yes,” then it’s rape?
    Fine. Woman aren’t allowed to drink, then.

  11. “It is in no way “silly” to expect that drunk people not rape other people, drunk or not.”
    Of course it is silly. Being drunk degrades a person’s decision-making like few other activities. People get drunk to evade, not enhance, responsibility and rationality.
    “If women should be “responsible” for not putting themselves in a situation in which they can get raped, maybe the boys should have gotten the “responsibility” lecture in terms of not putting themselves in positions TO rape people.”
    Men do get that lecture, of course. The only problem is that it must work as intended upon every single man who hears it in order for it to make a woman safe. However, a woman who takes steps to increase her own safety is made more safe from everyone who is a threat, whether there is just one of them or a hundred.

  12. I think we can manage to discuss BOTH telling dudes not to rape ladies who aren’t actively saying “yes” AND how to deal with situations where the lines might be legitimately gray, Jake.

  13. But has anybody told them not to wear hoodies?
    Men do get that lecture, of course.
    Lol, no we don’t

  14. So tell me, Blank, is it silly to expect that drunk people don’t drive cars? Why don’t we warn pedestrians to stay indoors after five p.m., because drunk drivers who can’t make good decisions might just run them down?
    I trust you see that the argument there is precisely the same as the one you’re making.
    Actually, I don’t trust you’ll see that at all.

  15. Jude you are missing the point.
    No mean no regardless.
    Alcohol and other inebriators change things. If persons M and N get sloshed, their inihibitions are diminished. Our US society celebrates movies like “Knocked Up”, “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids” which glorify drunken behavior (not to mention the behaviors seen in the “Girls Gone Wild” stuff). When inhibtions are gone, alcohol makes people do stupid stuff that they would not do sober. And the next day, …
    Saying ‘no’ whikle drunk is still no and crossing the line is just that. But saying that the person was too drunk to have said ‘yes’ is nothing more than sophistry, person M maybe should have said ‘no’ (with person N going along with that) but person M saying ‘yes’ and person N also drunk is putting the burden on only one when it should be on both. If person M had gotten behind the wheel of a car and then kiled someone, as you rightly point out, they would have committed a crime.
    Like it or not, taking that drink changes things and puts the drinker into danger regardless. If you walk down the middle of a lane of a fast road in the dark of night, in most states you have the right of way, but that does not mean you will survive being run over. “Man takes a drink, drink takes a drink, drink takes a man — Chinese Proverb”

  16. What is the evidence that many–or even any–rapists are also drunk and have diminished capacity for decisionmaking? I’m not seeing any evidence, and have never seen any evidence except anecdote, that drunken men are more likely to rape women than sober men. And, of course, a desire to have sex with women might be a forgiveable side effect of getting drunk but violently assaulting, threatening, or coercing another person (of any sex) is not in fact considered a forgiveable sin. Being drunk may result in assaulting (lots of) people but it isn’t actually much of a defense against committing a crime. “I totally shot that dude, your honor, but in my defense I’d had a couple of drinks and he was totally asking for it.”

  17. I don’t see the controversy here. Rape is rape is rape. And it’s illegal. And wrong. Why would someone want to make excuses for rapists (best one from college: she claimed rape so that she could get alimony for her baby and get revenge on the dude who knocked her up. The U didn’t buy it and shut down the frat where the rape took place). We don’t make excuses for drunk drivers. I am fully capable of drinking and not raping, as I imagine most of the people most of the time are (like Athenae’s date was in her anecdote). Why is it so hard to understand that forced sex under any circumstances is wrong, and it’s the reason why it’s illegal?

  18. “I think we can manage to discuss BOTH telling dudes not to rape ladies who aren’t actively saying “yes” AND how to deal with situations where the lines might be legitimately gray, Jake.”
    But if you say a woman can’t say yes if she’s been drinking, you’re patronizing women, IMO. “Sorry, sweetie. Maybe you can have sex tomorrow when you don’t have any alcohol in your system.”

  19. I don’t think anyone on this thread is trying to say that being drunk excuses violent rape, the ‘splainin’ men are talking about a girl who says yes when she’s very drunk and an equally drunk boy who sleeps with her, when she would say no if she was sober and he would consider her too drunk to responsibly sleep with if he was sober.
    If the rad fems consider that rape, then the splainers have a point, if no-one considers that to be rape, then not so much.

  20. If you want to see a case where all of this is still operative, follow the link I’ve provided. If you really want to see it, read the frightening comments.

  21. i was taught to keep my head on a swivel when walking down a dark street, listen to footsteps behind me, and never to make eye contact with any individual or group i wasn’t sure i could take, and even then some people have knives. i was also taught to put a wall behind me if ganged up on and running was not an option, to grab a stick if one was available, and that most people weren’t expecting a direct blow to the face even if they attacked you. all this, considering i am a reasonably gigantic male, and have been for some time.
    the streets are not safe for you. they are not safe for anyone. they will never be so. whether they are especially unsafe for women and whether how you dress matters, i do not know. they are certainly less safe for smaller people, and people who don’t run fast.

  22. If I get drunk and walk down the street flashing money, some might say that I helped set up the situation. I might have been stupid but would that excuse the robber? Fill in your favorite crime.
    Specific to Maryvillian, a 17 YO provided alcohol to himself and others including a 13 YO (already minor in possession and providing to a minor; likely implying intent and a well thought out plan very possibly collaborating with the others) and I haven’t gotten to the physical acts yet (including underage sex giving two reasons the girls couldn’t give consent). I sure hope there are some reasons that haven’t been reported. I might suggest that the parents should consider civil action against the owner of the house and any other people involved in providing either the alcohol or the location.

  23. Of course, all of the focus on rapists-in-dark-alleys misses the point that women are more likely to be raped by someone they know (a friend, family member or acquaintance) than a complete stranger. Which kinda throws all of that “be watchful, don’t go anywhere where you can be cornered, avoid groups of people you don’t know, etc.” advice out the window.
    Unless women should take the default position that any man, anywhere, could rape them if given the opportunity. Such an attitude would never be misconstrued as “man-hating” or “misandrist” or being a frigid/sexless/psycho bitch, would it?
    Which brings us back to putting the responsibility for the crime on the perpetrators, not the victims. Y’know, the way a healthy society should.

  24. If only someone would explain to me what the messages I get all day every day about the way I dress and where I go and what I drink and who I talk to MEAN to me. Because they’re just so terribly unclear otherwise.
    Look. I said it right up there: I lock my doors at night. I am not talking about sensible risk aversion. I am talking about the constant drumbeat of information directed at women, in many cases reinforced by other women, that says explicitly: DO EVERYTHING RIGHT SO THAT IF YOU ARE RAPED YOU WON’T BE TO BLAME.
    Which fucking implies that somebody who WAS raped did something wrong.

  25. A.
    The person that was raped did nothing wrong.
    It is because our society is not class-free (class-less?). Until it is, power over others will be used and abused.

  26. Just wondering if I can make an inference between women who “deserved” and “asking for it” as an excuse for rape and Trayvon Martin who should have known better than to be walking / wearing a hoodie / etc. as described on the conservative boards (and looking at the unexplainable defense of the shooter on Tommy T’s thread).
    We’ve got to keep people in their place in the pecking order?

  27. Jake,
    If you are going into random bars and picking up drunk women than I have little to no sympathy for you when you get slapped with a rape charge.
    Women aren’t pieces of meat. If there are consequences when you choose to ignore things besides their bodies (like perhaps their mental state) don’t pin that on the rest of the female race.
    Frankly, I find it interesting that men figure that sexcapades without strings can come conseqeuence free for them just because they don’t bear the burden of carrying another generation. Surprise! If you don’t bother to know who exactly you are sleeping with you might end up sorry(just like my half of the gender.)

  28. Allison,
    I pointed this out on your post on FDL, this is a great post and don’t let the “bros before hos” crowd tell you otherwise. For far to long women have had their behavior dissected as if somehow it was okay to rape a girl if she a) had sexual relations before b) had alcohol in her system c) dressed a certain way, or d) one or more of the above. It is positively imperative our half of the species push back. It is NOT okay to have sex with someone without their consent and if their consent is in doubt(because you decided that you were going to ply someone with alcohol to ensure your “luck”) then perhaps you ought to not be engaging in intercourse.

  29. When it comes to this topic, these are the two best “splainin’ men” I know…

  30. The main problem I have with these discussions is the absolutist view that any time a man and woman have sex where liquor is involved, it’s only acceptable if the girl is ok with it in the morning. Obviously, a man forcing himself on someone at any time is unacceptable. However, if a “No” isn’t clearly stated can a drunk person be coherent and aware enough to discern their partner’s intent 100% of the time? In your example, A, you clearly and emphatically said no. Had the guy ignored that he’d be a rapist. Unfortunately, your case is not what happens every time.
    Passed out, falling down drunk, slurred speech? Probably a good indicator that someone’s had a little too much. Don’t have sex with them. Dancing around, speaking clearly, flirting like mad? If a “no” isn’t said, is it wrong to have sex?
    Attacking another person with the intent to rape is wrong in any situation. Two adults at a party getting drunk and making a decision they wouldn’t normally, not so much. If you can prove one party had the intent to have sex no matter what (IE roofies in the drink), ok you have a point. Barring that however, it shouldn’t be called rape.
    As kind of a joke solution to the “Is it rape if we’re both drunk,” conundrum, perhaps there should be sexless bars and party events where it’s understood that no-one attending is going to have sex no matter how drunk they get. Unfortunately, I don’t know that such events would be attended very heavily. It’s worth a try though I think. People thought smoking bans would empty the bars and clubs of NYC and it had the opposite effect.
    (PS- I’ve never met a woman who could be plied with liquor. Anyone who can be convinced to do something they wouldn’t normally for booze probably shouldn’t be let out of their home alone.)

  31. “Dancing around, speaking clearly, flirting like mad? If a “no” isn’t said, is it wrong to have sex?”
    Answer: if “yes” isn’t said, then it is wrong to have sex. Seriously, this isn’t just an abstract discussion: if you are having casual sex, it is super important that you follow this rule, for your own good and everybody else’s.
    Of course, most guys have trouble with this concept – because we were never taught it! We desperately need to improve “sex education.”
    Also, that was classy how the mod just deleted my last comment without warning or notice.

  32. “Of course, most guys have trouble with this concept – because we were never taught it! We desperately need to improve “sex education.”
    Indeed. It’s crazy to me that we don’t teach anything like this in sex ed classes.
    When I was in high school my youth minister (yep – my youth minister was a cool lady) held a discussion in my youth council about the Antioch rules. This was before they had become a punch line and interestingly the reaction to them (especially among the girls) was quite positive. The discussion basically convinced me (I was just beginning to get involved with physical sexuality at that time) that it was a good idea to make sure of clear consent whenever going to “the next level” in a sexual encounter.
    People like to object that this “kills the mood.” It actually doesn’t. When you proceed this way (which in practice looks like this – hand goes under the shirt – “Is this OK?” etc.) The reactions you get basically fall into three categories. The overwhelming majority of the time you get an enthusiastic nod or an “oh yes” accompanied by sparkling eye contact, which does not, I assure you, kill the mood.
    Rarely you’ll get a “no.” “No” is not exactly sexy, but it sure beats the alternative, which is doing something to someone’s body that they are not OK with as they wrestle with whether to try to stop you. Not sexy! And actually, getting “no” when you asked (as opposed to “no” when you didn’t ask) is a lot less awkward and the encounter is far more likely to continue at the previous level of intimacy.
    Of course, occasionally you’ll get a “For the love of god, you pantywaist, shut up and touch me like a man.” This happened to me once with a very dominant girl that I dated very briefly. Maybe for some guys this would be a turn-off, but for me it was actually quite hot.
    Anyway, point being, my experience with a very cautious approach during first sexual encounters (obviously I don’t do this with my wife of eleventy-billion years, but it’s not at all rare for me to say “is this OK?” during sex even now) is that it has no real drawbacks and lots and lots of benefits.

  33. When I got accepted into college, I had to take this “alcohol safety” thing. One section it had was a “tips for boys and girls” section. The girls section was rather in-line with what was described here, the boys section could be summed up as “don’t rape people.”
    I thought it was rather stupid. You can’t make a rapist stop raping people by giving him a few quick tips on consent. The safety advice is at least somewhat useful, when it’s not being used as rape apology.

  34. Certainly rape is a bad thing. But if you go into a bad neighborhood, like frathouse row at the UW, after bar time, male or female, you’re asking for trouble. If you’re a woman you’re going to be raped. If you’re man, you’re going to be beaten or killed. Just stay away from the Young Republicans. It’s good advice.

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