Welp, here it is. I used to be a lawyer at a big law firm, where the ratio of socially inept to normal humans was unnaturally high. I checked your column regularly because it gave me hope that the great big world out there was full of rational, sane beings. Alas, Prudie, ALAS.
The subheading of your article claims that “we’re reluctant to tell women to stop binge drinking.” I don’t know who the almighty ‘we’ is, but let’s just assume it’s society at large. I don’t know where you get this: who has hesitated to tell women to stop binge drinking, or to stop walking home alone at night, or to stop wearing miniskirts.
You even quote your own daughter as saying “I hear you! Stop!” in response to what you suppose is your motherly entreaty to “take steps to protect herself.” But she’s responding to much more than her mother — she’s responding to the almighty ‘we,’ to society at large.
As Kate McDonough of Salon points out in her response to you:
"[M]ost young women can easily recall the day they got “the talk” or otherwise learned about protecting themselves in a dangerous world. Women are taught early and often that their basic biology makes them a target."
And that’s exactly what the Miniskirt is all about. Girls are taught that wearing clothing that reveals that they are, in fact, girls — skirts, dresses, low-cut anything — puts them at risk and can “send the wrong message.” Girls have internalized that where they’ve failed to “take steps to protect [themselves],” they’re to blame for the crimes perpetrated against them.
You nonetheless think your article, reinforcing the message that if a girl drinks too much, she’s accepted the risk of rape by failing to “take steps to protect herself,” is revolutionary. To quote, educators are reluctant to “tell women to stop getting so wasted” due to:
"… a 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."
You quote the Department of Justice’s 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study and describe the following finding as “somewhat plaintive”:
“Students may also be unaware of the image of vulnerability projected by a visibly intoxicated individual.”
Plaintive indeed. As a woman, you must be aware of your vulnerability daily: not as a visibly intoxicated individual (you confess to only three hangovers in your entire life), but as a woman that looks like a woman.
Cat-calls, stares, boys that just won’t let it go — that’s an every day part of every woman’s life. I, at least, would love to be unaware of the image of vulnerability I project, drunk or sober. So again, no, Pru dear, it’s not that girls are unaware of their vulnerability.
As a survivor of two sexual assaults, I find your account of one young woman’s story chilling. The young woman was raped while drunk on her college campus. Until her friends told her that she had been visibly intoxicated and shoeless, and the perpetrator completely sober, she thought that she was to blame, that she was in a “deep, dark hole.”
Don’t you realize that your article, far from liberating girls like that young woman, is confining them further to the “deep, dark hole”? That you’re telling girls that if they mess up, if they drink too much at a party, then they failed to take measures to protect themselves or to acknowledge their vulnerability? That their rape is a result of their failure?
Where in all this, Prudence, is the fault of the rapist? I don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that rape is a crime; drinking too much is not. Society deemed rape punishable by criminalizing it, and yet here you are, describing visible intoxication as rape’s equally punishable precursor.
But let’s get to the point. You outed yourself when you described what you would say to your hypothetical son about drinking on campus:
"It’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate."
Finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate? What about “It’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who rapes a classmate”?
Whatever; fine. The purpose of your article is to protect your hypothetical son. That’s the only plausible reason to blame women that are raped while intoxicated for their failure to “take responsibility” for themselves.
But what I can’t figure out is why you’re so interested in this hypothetical son. I mean, what about your real-life 18-year-old daughter? But for the following words, she’s nowhere to be found:
"I hear you! Stop!"