Emily Yoffe, more widely known as Slate’s Dear Prudence, published a piece today that is shaking my foundation. It’s called “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk” and I promise you, it’s just as infuriatingly misogynistic and victim-blamey as you can possibly imagine.
Yoffe argues that “misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young women that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves in potential peril.”
So, here I am again. Shaking, terrified, angry. Doubting myself. Questioning whether all of that momentum, support, and strength I felt after coming out publicly in March as a survivor was authentic.
Think about that: I had to “come out” as a survivor. Doesn’t that strike you as just the oddest thing?
I had to “come out” to every guy I dated and to every close friend I’ve made over the last 10 years (lest I be inauthentic). I had to fret over how I would say it, when I would say it, and how I would play it. How would I answer the questions and deflect the sorrowful eyes? And how would I restore things to normal after? All of this fell on me.
Plus the long nights. The nightmares I can only stave off with a THC-induced haze. The never quite feeling safe.
The terror of being in a cabin alone in the woods, where there is nothing but darkness; the lifetime of fear that comes in the aftermath of having my autonomy metaphorically spat on. Or rather lied upon.
The clinking of my deadbolt, just this one time, when I decide I’ve heard a few too many noises in my building. Even while knowing there is a doorman downstairs, and that my lock has never failed me. Nor would anyone try to break in.
Flashbacks, depression, medical complications, triggers, residual sensitivities.
A decade of healthy dating and sexuality stolen from me.
Speaking of “stolen”: my medical records. Gone from the hospital, leaving me vulnerable to identity theft, not to mention without legal recourse.
And having to defend myself and my honor to people, nay WOMEN, like Emily Yoffe, Poppy Harlow, the nurse who checked me into the rape unit at the hospital, and countless internet commenters who just don’t seem to get it.
I live with all of this. Every day. This is my reality. Long after I publish my swan song and draw my line in the sand, I will still suffer. We all do. Do not let our image-crafting, or our public strength fool you. We survivors still live with the memories, the insecurities, and the burdens. And we feel them keenly.
I drank the night I was raped. I drank a lot. Probably more than I should have. And if you must know, I regret it. I spent years beating myself up and blaming myself. I thought, if I had just stayed where it was safe, or not flirted, or said no to those shots, or tried to scratch his fucking eyes out at the first sign of fear, maybe…
Maybe what? It wouldn’t have happened. I would have been safe. I could have avoided being a victim — and less victims, isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what Yoffe is telling us she wants?
If only I had been more responsible, there would be one less assault. One less rape kit. One less story to make Emily Yoffe tsk-tsk.
But then I remember that HE raped me. That HE didn’t take “no” for an answer. HE took steps to cover up what he did — by dumping my unconscious body in the bathtub and turning the water on and then feigning “black out” in the morning.
And I also must remind myself that none of these facts are of consequence, because no matter how stupid, irresponsible, or DRUNK I was at 18, I didn’t deserve to be raped, or violated in any way. I didn’t ask for it, and I sure as hell didn’t earn it.
I said “no.” Is there anything else?
To be afraid in our own world, is that not its own form of victimization? To be told we must conduct ourselves in “pure” ways — to never dress sexy, or have more than two drinks, or hang out with certain kinds of people, or walk on certain streets at night, or “lead men on” or twerk in nude undergarments is to be told that we are not full humans, with full autonomy.
We are second-class citizens, relegated to the safe places and the safe activities. Our movements and behaviors are policed so we can avoid riling up the sexual desires of men. And yet the fact remains that none of this victim-blaming, slut-shaming or purity-pushing changes anything or makes us safer — women were raped long before they showed up in droves to frat houses in mini-skirts.
If anything, we are less safe, because men are getting the idea that drunk women are up for grabs — that we’re asking for it, or at the very least, should shoulder the burden of preventing it. Our faculties are decidedly dull, and therefore the lines of consent are blurred.
“If I had a son,” Yoffe writes, “I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.”
Here’s a thought: You COULD teach your boy how to read in between those so-called blurred lines by implementing what I call the “contract rule”: if she’s too inebriated to legally sign a contract, she’s too inebriated to meaningfully consent. I’m going to go so far as to say that not taking advantage of drunk women is a super easy way to not be accused of rape.
Perhaps it is time, instead, to teach our boys and girls about meaningful consent and the respect of others.
We can kid ourselves into thinking that pervasive drinking culture, unruly/slutty women, or frat parties are the problem. Or we can confront the real issues: RAPE. Entitlement. Control. Violence.
First and foremost, let’s teach our boys to stop raping.
Let us not shelter our daughters. They deserve to drink and dance and wear whatever outfits they deem fit and make their mistakes, too. This problem will not be solved by hiding our girls, silencing the “bellyaching” of feminists, or less drinking. Instead, let’s continue to educate all of our children on meaningful consent, and work towards clearing up all of these really-not-so-blurred lines, so we can effectively eliminate the rampant rape culture that pervades our college campuses.
Now THAT’S something I think we can all drink to.