Trigger warning for rape and sexual assault
Emily Yoffe wrote a dumb-shit essay where she told college women to stop drinking in order to prevent sexual assaults and rapes. Yawn Yawn snooze zzzzzzzz! Where have I heard that before? Everywhere and all the time. That schtick is so old, played out and misogynstic, but it just won’t seem to DIE! DIIIIEEEEEEE TROPE! DIE! And as long as people like Emily Yoffee keeps putting out the message that women can prevent crimes against them if they just simply perform X,Y, or Z activity, the trope never will die and rape culture will live on and on and on.
But since people do read shit like Yoffe’s piece, and because some of the people reading that shit are probably victims, pieces like the one you’re reading right now need to be written to let victims and survivors know it’s not their fault if they were raped. And because some of the people reading that shit are rapists, and because pieces like Yoffe’s affirm for them that they are not solely responsible for the crimes they commit, pieces like mine need to be written to let them know “WE SEE YOU. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE!”
In her goldmine of useful wisdom and totally not-at-all-regurgitated-always-existing-party line, Yoffee states, “As soon as the school year begins, so do reports of female students sexually assaulted by their male classmates. A common denominator in these cases is alcohol.” Yo, Yoffe! I’m gonna let you finish, but I wanna say that another common denominator in rape is rapists! I know it’s sometimes easy to overlook that tiny little tidbit, especially when you’re trying to pretend that women will magically stop being raped if they stop drinkin,g but the WEIRD thing is (this is gonna sound outrageous, but stay with me here) is that if every woman in America stops drinking, that won’t make rapists stop existing.
“WHAAAAAA?” you’re probably saying right now. I know, but it’s true. Did you know there are places in the world where alcohol is not available and women have curfews and stay covered from head to toe, and they still get raped? What the shit? It’s almost like rapists are gonna rape no matter what women do, particularly when we keep pushing the agenda that women can prevent their own rapes by doing magical things like not drinking or by covering their bodies. A better start to a solution MIGHT be, oh, I don’t know, working toward a cultural change that doesn’t value white male heterosexual dominance, often demonstrated by treating women as sexual conquests and objects to be used for male gratification, above all else.
And here’s another wacky idea: What if there was any or better sex education in schools? It might seem just sooooo silly, but perhaps if we could get past the puritanical grossed out butt-puckering feeling some people get when talking about sex ed in schools, we could have better programs. Not just so that kids can grow into adults with a basic understanding of human anatomy and family planning/prevention, but also with information about appropriate ways to handle their sexual urges, how to set up, enforce and respect each others boundaries, how to give and how to seek out enthusiastic consent. It’s almost like the problem isn’t women drinking and more a problem with how women are devalued and men are let off the hook in a rape culture, a culture which Yoffe is perpetuating.
She also gets pissy with a straw feminist she sets up when she mistakenly says, “Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.”
What the shit is she on about? The feminist message isn’t that women should have the right to match men drink for drink. That’s some seriously stupid shit right there. I really don’t know any feminist out there declaring that a 5′ tall 120 pound woman should be able to match a 6’2″ tall 225 pound man drink for drink; that’s about alcohol tolerance and metabolization. The feminist argument is that women should be able to drink, to walk, to dance, to sleep, to be out at night without being raped. The feminist message is that while it’s perfectly fine to teach women and girls personal safety, it is not fine to keep perpetuating rape culture, to keep making women responsible for the crimes committed against them, and to keep letting men off the hook by saying women wouldn’t get raped if only they hadn’t been drunk or wearing that outfit.
She has some super-great advice on parenting: “If I had a son, 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.” Neat. Ever consider teaching him how to not be a rapist rather than how to avoid being accused of rape? She then makes the brilliant assertion that if “female college students start moderating their drinking as a way of looking out for their own self-interest—and looking out for your own self-interest should be a primary feminist principle—I hope their restraint trickles down to the men.” That’s cool and all, but perhaps if we urged men to seek out enthusiastic consent and to treat their partners with respect, to pay attention to their verbal and physical cues, to look at the faces of their partners when they are having sex, more men would stop raping and the effects of that would trickle down to potential victims. Ya know. Because there would be fewer men raping.
Yoffee is saying nothing new, nothing original, nothing that girls and women don’t largely hear already. Nothing is being said that isn’t already told to us by school officials, the media, police officers, nurses, doctors, social workers, family and friends when we get raped. Oh no. We’ve heard all this before. We’ve been told not to drink. We’ve been told not to show our arms, legs, stomachs, cleavage, elbows, hair. We’ve been told not to walk alone, not to be out at night, not to wear our hair in a ponytail when we go running, to know where the exits in every room are, to watch our drinks, to lock our doors, to not be alone with a man, to not sit in the front seat of a cab, to not seem older than our biological age, We’ve been told, over and over again what we can do to prevent ourselves from being raped. We’ve been told.
And frequently, after being raped, we are told what we SHOULD have done to prevent our own rape. Were you drunk? Shouldn’t have been drinking. What were you wearing? Shouldn’t have had on that skirt. Were you making out? You shouldn’t have expected him to stop. Were you out alone at night? Should have been with a friend. But what I don’t hear, what I’m sick of not hearing, is “That man should not have raped you. This was his fault. He was the perpetrator and the sole person responsible for committing this crime because he is the only one that committed a crime.”
No matter a woman does, there is no excuse to rape her. The default state of being for a woman is not consent; consent must be obtained. And when we continuously focus the discussion on what women can do to not get raped, we neglect to teach boys and men what they can do to not be rapists. So, without further ado, in a compact and easy to follow listicle, here is what men can do to not be rapists!
1. Don’t have sex with drunk people. Drunk people cannot give consent.
2. Do not give people drugs or alcohol in an effort to lower their boundaries to get them to have sex with you. That’s rape.
3. Do not have sex with people under the age of consent.
4. Ask your partner/one nighter/FWB, whatever, for consent. If consent is given, pay attention to them. Are they crying? Are they just lying there while you do sex to them rather than them having sex with you? Are they avoiding eye contact or tensed up? Are you looking at their face because you care enough about them on a basic human level to even glance at their face during sex? If so, you should be able to see if they are doing any of the things listed here. If they are, stop what you are doing. That person does not want to have sex with you. They may have felt pressured, afraid or scared to say no.
5. Don’t have sex with people who are incoherent.
6. Don’t have sex with people who are unconscious.
7. Don’t have sex with people who say “no” or any other negating word or phrase.
8. Don’t have sex with people who keep trying to push you away or off of them.
9. Do not have sex with somebody who is sleeping.
10. Do not assume that somebody dancing with/holding hands with/talking with or making out with means they want to have sex with you. Always get consent. Think seeking out consent isn’t sexy? Well, neither is being a rapist, so get consent.
Not raping people is actually pretty easy. All ya gotta do is not rape, and that’s typically as easy as following the steps above, seeking out enthusiastic consent, and visually and verbally checking in with your partner to see if they’re engaged and interested. Because really, having sex with somebody should be more of a priority than doing sex to them.
And as for Emily Yoffe? She’s been spreading her rape apologia for years. While she somehow seems able to find empathy and lack of blame for children who have been assaulted or abused, she somehow fails to recognize that adults who have been assaulted or abused are also victims deserving of sympathy and support, not to be blamed for the crimes committed against them.