There are productive ways to discuss the ill effects of alcohol, especially within the context of American colleges. Unfortunately, a now-deleted page on Stanford University’s website called “Female Bodies and Alcohol” illustrates the wrong way to address such issues.
While it’s unquestionably important to educate young women about alcohol, it’s just as important to educate young men about those same things.
The “Female Bodies and Alcohol” page was replaced with a new page titled “Alcohol Metabolism: An Update from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism” after The Huffington Post reached out to the university for comment on Wednesday morning.
The original page wasn’t all bad. It began by pointing out that women and men are biologically different and, therefore, women run a higher risk of getting alcohol poisoning, getting drunk at a quicker rate, and developing “alcohol-related organ damage at lower levels of alcohol” than men. Other parts of the section educated students on how to keep track of their alcohol intake, to eat before drinking and how to “space and pace” your drinks.
All true. All important information. But then you got to the section subtitled “alcohol affects both sexual intent and aggression.”
This section of the page was actually removed back in June, according to Mic, and can be found only in a cached version of the Stanford website. But in the wake of the Brock Turner case and Stanford’s subsequent changes in alcohol policy, all of the university’s targeted alcohol-related resources are receiving renewed attention and scrutiny.
“That alcohol makes it easier for some to meet and talk to new people is seen as a positive by most people who drink alcohol,” the now-removed section reads. “The downside is that, by some accounts, alcohol is involved in as many as 75 percent of sexual assaults on a college campus.”
The reader is repeatedly reminded of what drinking does to a woman and how it negatively affects her safety, with little-to-no mention of men and drinking.
Read the now-deleted section in full below:
Here’s a quick break down of a few of the more problematic sentences from the above section:
Research tells us that women who are seen drinking alcohol are perceived to be more sexually available than they may actually be. Therefore, women can be targeted with unwanted attentions due to that misperception.
Implication: Ladies, it’s your responsibility to avoid “unwanted attentions” by avoiding alcohol, which could confuse men into thinking you “want it.”
One study found that, for women, the odds of experiencing sexual aggression were 9 times higher on days of heavy drinking compared to days when the women did not drink. Individuals who are even a little intoxicated are more likely to be victimized than those who are not drinking.
Implication: Ladies, if you drink alcohol you are more likely to be victimized. Again, preventing that is on you.
It’s important to take action to protect friends and others from potential assault or other regretted behavior as a result of drinking.
Implication: Ladies, protect one another from men because they can’t control their behavior. And if you are assaulted, that assault might later be seen simply as “regretted behavior.”
The ultimate problem with how this information is framed, is that it implies that women ― not men ― are responsible for safe drinking habits. By talking about alcohol as a precursor to sexual assault, Stanford implies that alcohol is to blame for causing sexual assault ― not the people who sexually assault, who overwhelmingly tend to be men.
“We have far too much ‘here’s how you protect yourself’ [programs], when it’s not women’s job and not their fault,” Tal Peretz, an assistant professor of sociology at Auburn University in Alabama, told LiveScience back in July. “That whole way of talking about it really places the blame on women, when it should be on the rapists.”
Throughout the entire “alcohol affects both sexual intent and aggression” Stanford barely mentions men’s behavior and actions, which not only does a disservice to Stanford’s female students, but also its male ones. (And, not for nothing, the entire section lacks any direct links back to the research and studies the university cites.)
“At Stanford, women make up the vast majority of our emergency medical transports related to alcohol,” Associate Vice President of Stanford Communications, Lisa Lapin, told The Huffington Post. “This has been posted for years as part of our alcohol education efforts to generate more awareness and to reduce the incidents of emergency medical calls.”
Lapin added that the page has “no relation” to the recent alcohol policy updates earlier this week that banned drinking hard liquor at registered undergraduate student parties.
Although Lapin did not comment on the section that had been removed in June she did note that the University is “evaluating the language” of the rest of the section and “may consider posting revised information in the near future.”