Drinking while in the possession of a vagina

Yet another case of invisible rapists. Rape is something that just “happens” to women who “leave themselves vulnerable”. Male violence is to be considered a ubiquitous, inevitable force; the only way the world can combat it is to put the responsibility on women to not be victims. The flipside of women being responsible for rape prevention is that women are responsible for rape; it’s the usual expressway to victim-blaming.

The Beeb says: “Rape warning over binge drinking”, sub-headlined “Binge drinking woman are leaving themselves vulnerable to rape”

Women in Northern Ireland are leaving themselves vulnerable to rape or serious sexual assault because of their binge drinking, according to a report.

The University of Ulster research examined attacks between 1999 to 2005. It failed to find any trace of specific date rape drugs – GHB, Rohypnol or ketamine – in any case examined.

But researcher Janet Hall said their findings showed alcohol levels of the alleged victims were on average almost three times the drink-driving limit.

Three times over the drink-driving limit? How dare they! What irresponsible women, being drunk and in the presence of men! OK, it isn’t quite a crime yet, but the blokes are taking care of the negative reinforcement side of things, so it doesn’t really need to be in the criminal code.

“This research confirms the findings of other studies in the UK, US and Australia – that alcohol is a major contributor to vulnerability to sexual assault in social situations and acquaintance rape,” Dr Hall said.

“Given the very high levels of alcohol consumption by some alleged victims, the findings also raise the question of what constitutes valid consent to sexual activity. “The capacity to give informed consent at these levels of alcohol consumption is very questionable.”

And yet, somehow the perpetrators remain completely absent from the article. This isn’t simply a matter of lazy journalism and crappy “science”; these last two paragraphs smack of dogged contortions in order to invisiblise the rapists and keep the women in the centre of the frame.

And, as a non-core critique: What was the case definition? All reported rapes? Women who presented for drug testing, thinking that they may have been the victims of drink spiking as well as rape? All rapes which were reported immediately and in which the investigating officer believed the victim to be intoxicated? We don’t know. A more detailed writeup of the same research here at the University of Ulster Student Union site seems to make it quite clear that samples weren’t taken in all cases of reported rape:

The study found that the number of cases where toxicology samples were taken rose from 30 in 1999 to 51 in 2005 and the percentage of samples which contained alcohol, drugs or both increased from 66% to 78% over the same period.

What’s the denominator? Who decided to take tox samples and what were their criteria for doings o? Quite aside from the responsibility issue – these numbers, as presented, are meaningless. Just noise being leveraged for moralistic victim-blaming, with an undercurrent of slut-shaming. The UUSU page sternly lectures us:

This research once again has highlighted the need for a clear message to be given to all regarding the importance of responsible drinking.

How’s about we start getting the message out about the importance of not raping people? How about focusing on drinking while in charge of a penis, instead of blaming women for the reckless ingestion of alcohol while in the possession of a vagina?

And – would it be snide of me to note that the photo of the researcher on the UUSU page shows that she has not one, not two, not three, but four whole strings of pearls to clutch?

~~
Edited 13 Oct 2007:

baroquestar says in comments:

What’s the bet that if They did do an awareness campaign aimed at men about alcohol and consent, it would be something like “binge drinking can leave you vulnerable to accusations of sexual assault”, i.e., couched in terms that retained female responsibility for rape.

Or am I just getting cynical in my old age?

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen something like this very recently, possibly out of the USA. Does this ring a bell to anyone?



Categories: gender & feminism, Science, violence

Tags: , , , , ,

21 replies

  1. Long incoherent comment deleted. Will try and come up with something cogent, but this stuff just infuriates me.
    Another draft deleted. Here goes:
    Part of the cultural acceptance of rape seems to be a deeply held belief that men who are required to control aggressive behaviours within their own society will not be capable of being aggressive warriors against other societies, and that the need to have naturally aggressive men on tap in case of conflict is paramount over the idea that women deserve to be free from assault. “Boys will be boys” really means that “boys will be useful cannon fodder (and we can’t let women get in the way of that)”.
    To me such beliefs smack of magical thinking. Human beings are naturally aggressive and have to be strongly socialised against expressing aggression in the case of women, for example. Yet women in the military have no difficulty in unleashing aggression against the enemy when required, so it is a fallacy to think that men trained against committing aggression against women would be unable to commit aggression against the enemy.
    I need to unpack this thinking more, although it’s largely in response to some stuff that Violet has been writing lately.

  2. OMG. That link you provided left me cold, tigtog. It speaks the truth, and it’s something I’ve been thinking of for quite some time: that the true victims of war are mostly innocent civilians, not brave soldiers… That collateral damage isn’t worth it, not at all. What could anyone possibly be after that would justify all that suffering?

  3. If it was women losing their handbags while intoxicated I could understand the tone of the article. But being raped while intoxicated isn’t something you can do by yourself. What happened to teaching and expecting men to control themselves when someone is unable to make coherent decisions for themselves? What happened to seeing them safely home? Maybe these guys think they couldn’t get laid if the girl was sober?

  4. “How’s about we start getting the message out about the importance of not raping people? How about focusing on drinking while in charge of a penis, instead of blaming women for the reckless ingestion of alcohol while in the possession of a vagina?”
    What’s the bet that if They did do an awareness campaign aimed at men about alcohol and consent, it would be something like “binge drinking can leave you vulnerable to accusations of sexual assault”, i.e., couched in terms that retained female responsibility for rape.
    Or am I just getting cynical in my old age?

  5. I’m waiting for some conservative to propose chastity belts as a solution.

  6. @Batocchio:Chastity belts?How are we gonna get all the men to wear chastiy belts?/snark/

  7. The article reminds me of the warnings given to residents and tourists in areas where predators are loose — when boating on the piranha-laden Amazon, don’t trail your fingers in the water; wildcats have been seen hereabouts, keep children and pets inside and watch your own back; there are gators/crocs in the neighborhood, remember these steps for your own safety — all such warnings are meant to help people protect themselves and their loved ones, because there’s just not much point in scolding predators.
    Honestly, would you denounce an article on how to make your home harder to burglarize… because it didn’t devote column-inches to admonishing burglars that theft is wrong?

  8. Pyre,
    Everybody knows that theft is wrong.
    Rape, not so much.
    -I was burglarized!
    * Oh my, did you leave the door open?
    -Um no, the door was locked and
    * Well, you must have left SOMEthing open.
    -No, I really didn’t. The window was broken and
    * Maybe it was all the expensive stuff in the house that caused it. Maybe you invited the burglar on a previous occasion. Maybe it is someone you know and knows your house. Are you sure something is gone?
    – Yes, there’s some money gone and some other st..
    * You didn’t do it yourself did you? Steal it?
    -What?
    *Steal it. Want some attention. Wanna blame someone else for it?
    -No! I never would”¦
    *…
    This shit just does not happen.

  9. final repose, That actually sounds a bit like part of the conversation with my renter’s insurance agency when my policy was cancelled, after I moved from one place (which had been burglarized) to another (which then got burglarized). As the lease required my having renter’s insurance, I had to get a more expensive policy with another agency in order not to be evicted. Apparently the second time you’re burglarized is the triggering event, never mind that in this case it was a new place with no modifications installed yet.

  10. final repose, More to the point:
    I think thieves know “theft is wrong” (at least in other people’s eyes), but they don’t really care about that as long as they get what they want and don’t get caught. The excuses and blame-passing are only for if and when they DO get caught.
    I think the situation with rapists is parallel.
    One problem is that there’s no way of knowing, just from looking at anyone, whether they’d be willing to commit theft or rape. Some surely would, some never would, and some might waver (and be influenced by the actions or attitudes of those around them). Looks don’t tell.
    Getting drunk in company, like leaving your keys and other valuables on the table while you visit the restroom, is an act of trust in the present company. It’s best to have at least one person there you absolutely CAN trust to defend your interests. Otherwise any predators around will take advantage of the opportunity.

  11. Pyre, please stop comparing rape and property crimes and claiming you can’t tell the difference. It’s starting to get both tiresome and offensive.

  12. It always amazes me, what can be done with the passive voice. “Women are raped”, never “men rape women”. All the statistics are couched that way too. Why do we never see “Men were responsible for x sexual assaults this year”, or even “Rapists perpetrated y sex crimes”?

  13. Lauredhel, I never “claimed I can’t tell the difference” between rape and property crimes, and kindly don’t pretend I did.
    But in both cases the potential victims have an immediate natural motive to prevent the crime; the potential criminals don’t.
    So “getting the message out” to potential criminals “about the importance of not [committing crimes]” may not help much.
    Giving the potential victims the best information available to protect themselves and their loved ones is more likely to keep them from becoming victims.
    It would also help if third parties (the police, the courts, society at large) could be relied upon to react swiftly and surely against actual criminals after the fact, as that might deter potential criminals, “getting the message out” in a way that gets their attention.
    Which is to say that this ruling (rape downgraded to “theft of services”) didn’t help.
    If anyone “can’t tell the difference between rape and property crimes”, that would be Judge Teresa Carr Deni, not me.

  14. It would also help if third parties (the police, the courts, society at large) could be relied upon to react swiftly and surely against actual criminals after the fact, as that might deter potential criminals,

    If you think that this outcome is being promoted by keeping the focus on women’s behaviour instead of perpetrators’ crimes, you’re a shoo-in for the Missing The Point award of the week.
    The Point, which you are somehow repeatedly missing what with being busy bolstering the analogy between rape and nabbing someone’s car keys, is that women don’t turn themselves into victims, and that this sort of language around rape is unequivocally antifeminist.
    Breath-sniffing scolds aren’t doing women any favours.

  15. It always amazes me, what can be done with the passive voice. “Women are raped”, never “men rape women”.

    Allie: absolutely. We discussed this a fair bit back here, and the point bears repeating frequently.

  16. Judge Deni did precisely what we’ve pointed to as the problem all along: she based her ruling on the victim’s actions and responses before, during and after the rape. In every other crime it is the perpetrators intent and actions which are the primary focus of examination (part of the problem with the passive voice construction is how it shapes the discourse even in the courts of law).
    That woman was coerced into unprotected sex at gunpoint with multiple partners. To twist that around into “not rape” just because she was a sex worker strips the word of all meaning.
    The rapist’s intent was to use his weapon to force a woman to have sex with him and his accomplices. He did so. That is rape.

  17. Lauredhel: The Point, which you are somehow repeatedly missing what with being busy bolstering the analogy between rape and nabbing someone’s car keys, is that women don’t turn themselves into victims, and that this sort of language around rape is unequivocally antifeminist.
    Neither did the victims of burglary, purse-snatching, or other “property crimes” turn themselves into victims, and how could anyone reasonably suggest they did?
    In each case the criminal committed the crime, did the wrong, and is to blame.
    The Point is that, if there’s any way for the potential victims to protect themselves and their loved ones, or at least reduce their risk, then giving them that information is a good thing, empowering them, increasing their control over the outcome of events, and should not be denounced as though it were Blaming The Victim.
    Articles like this and this don’t blame women for the criminals’ actions; the blame remains with the criminals. Offering tips on how to frustrate those criminals’ goals isn’t anti-victim, anti-woman, anti-any-innocent-citizen, or anti-feminist as I understand it.

  18. The wikihow “how not to get raped” link? For a start, it assumes that rapes are stranger rapes outside the home.
    I’m happy to say I’ve broken pretty much every rule, and continue to break several of them on a daily basis. I walk to school pickup with both a ponytail and an iPod! Without a dog! *gasp* I talk on my cellphone in public *horror* I don’t carry a weapon! *eek* I let my friends buy me drinks! *faint* I’ve been to places where there is loud music! *blush* I’ve used my name on the Internet! Repeatedly! *argh* I travelled around the world not only meeting internet friends, but staying in their houses, and had an absolute whale of a time! *c’mon, you must think I’m fibbing by now* I’m female! *can’t realistically fix that* I drink booze! In PUBLIC! *scolds self* Sometimes I walk as though I’m not self-confident, because I’m having a bad pain day! *makes note to lock self up on those days*
    Seriously. Seriously. I think the _only_ thing I’ve done that resembles anything on that list is taken a lot of judo and karate classes, though I did that for sport and fun, not self defence.
    If you look at the times I actually have been exposed to, frotted, stalked, or sexually assaulted, the prevention list would look like this:
    – Don’t travel on buses or trains.
    – Don’t walk around a university campus in broad daylight.
    – Don’t have sex with a long-time friend, well-respected in the community, with whom the relationship slowly deepened.
    – Don’t go to quietish bars with a large group of your friends.
    – Don’t go on a date with a friend of a friend who seems for all the world like a nice guy, and comes recommended.
    And for most sexual assaults and rapes? The rules would look something like this:
    – Avoid acquaintances, friends, lovers and spouses.
    – Be on your guard at all times when you’re at home.
    I’m going to continue to live my life, not a life packed from waking to bedtime with constant fear and obsessive vigilance. If you want to live like that, and you’re got the energy for it, whatever. Evangelising compulsory femterror here? No thanks.

  19. Lauredhel: I’m happy to say I’ve broken pretty much every rule, and continue to break several of them on a daily basis. … I talk on my cellphone in public *horror* …
    That isn’t “breaking a rule”; the article doesn’t set “rules”, and certainly doesn’t suggest that talking on the cellphone increases the risk of “stranger rapes outside the home”.
    The article actually recommends talking on a cellphone, to reduce such a risk: by having (or even pretending to have) someone on the other end — who could hear an attack and send help — you might deter a potential attacker.

  20. Pyre, the full quote is:

    Stay aware. Do not jog with your iPod because attackers are looking for easy, distracted prey. The same can be said for talking on your cell phone. On the other hand, if you feel someone is following you, it can help to pull out your cell phone and pretend to be talking to someone because your “conversation partner” would be aware of an attack.

    But right now? This has devolved into a nitpicking back-and-forth concern-troll derailment. If you’ve got nothing feminist to say about the original post that adds to or extends my point, it’s time to wind it up. Bye.

Trackbacks

  1. Abyss2Hope
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,013 other followers

%d bloggers like this: