To Understand Rape Prevention We Must Protect Both Men and Women Equally

To Understand Rape We Must Protect Both Men and Women Equally
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Stanford University updated its student alcohol policy and many on the left have interpreted this as an attack on women. The policy is designed to limit the quantity and access of ‘hard liquor’ on campus and at undergraduate parties. As such the policy is understood to mean:

A student 21 years of age or older can possess, store and consume hard alcohol as long as it is in compliance with the container policy – original bottles and containers smaller than 750 mL.

On the surface this seems to be a perfectly reasonable policy. The problem is that according to many feminists, it somehow imposes responsibility on female rape victims. Alex Zielinski, Health Reporter for ThinkProgress wrote an article titled Stanford’s New Alcohol Policy Protects Campus Rapists in response. She opens her article by stating:

In an attempt to address recent concerns over campus rape, Stanford University has introduced a new policy that will protect students who decide to rape in the future.

She links to an article also found on Stanford’s page titled: Female Bodies and Alcohol which she quotes. The article discusses the different effects of alcohol between men and women, primarily indicating women become drunk faster. She argues that Stanford’s policy blames the victim by telling women to be careful about how they might be ‘perceived’ by men if they drink.

She includes the recent criminal case of Brock Turner quoting a female friend of Turner’s:

“I am so sick of hearing these young men are monsters when really, you are throwing barely 20-sometimes into these camp-like university environments,” she wrote. “These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink…and having clouded judgement.”

I engaged with Alex on twitter, challenging her as to why men are held to a different level of responsibility than women.

The reason I asked this is due to the implications behind her and other common feminist concerns surrounding intoxication and rape. The underlying understanding is sex without consent is rape and women cannot consent to sex if intoxicated. The argument I and others have is that if this is true men cannot be held accountable for their sexual behavior when intoxicated either.

Drunk young men are expected to be fully aware of and in charge of their decision-making capabilities while women are assumed to no longer have that same influence. To legally punish men for acting while intoxicated but exempting women from the same standard is legal discrimination.

Alex did clarify that if a drunk woman were to rape a sober man she would be held accountable. But this begs the question of how she is capable of choosing to rape but incapable of choosing to have sex in the same state.

Feminists often default to assumptions like ‘She didn’t ask to be raped when she chose to drink!’ They often assume critical questioning of both the male and female point of view is ‘rape apology’ and they base their worldview on the assumption of a standing ‘rape culture’ in America. But in doing so they ignore several key components.

Rape is Not Rape is Not Rape

I am a rape survivor. Nearly a decade ago I met a man I did not know at a hotel room with the expectation of going out to dinner and a movie. The man overpowered me and raped me. He planned the assault, lured me to the location and committed the crime. This is what most people understand as ‘rape.’ When a man forces himself onto another person with the intention of penetrating them against their will we know exactly what that is. Is it true women can rape both men and women but it is understood differently in our culture and lacks the same aggression and force we associate with men.

There is a second category in which the Brock Turner case falls into where the victim is unconscious or drugged and is incapacitated. The perpetrator sees the victim in the helpless state, causes the state or is also intoxicated and may not appreciate the state and penetrates the victim.

Then there is the category often cited by feminists regarding campus rape where both parties are intoxicated and the female victim later reports she did not consent to sex.

Everyone is in agreement on the first category and no one argues against harsh punishment for a person convicted of this crime. The second category is also nearly universally understood to be predatory and deserving of a harsh punishment. No one argues in defense of men who drug dates and then assault them for example. However, once the variable of mutual intoxication is introduced, the opinion begins to split. Feminists insist all three categories are equally criminal and the opposition argues that mutual intoxication creates a different scenario.

Feminists take this position because of past situations in which intentional rape was dismissed by either blaming the woman for being sexually suggestive or intoxicated. They genuinely hope to protect women from being vulnerable to predators while simultaneously fighting a social worldview that stigmatizes sexually active or risk-taking women. This is where the ‘victim blaming’ aspect comes into play.

The problem is that in their absolutism they allow and often demand the lives of young men be destroyed for the sake of the larger cause. Young men are already automatically labeled rapists and assumed to hold anti-women views simply for engaging in openly sexual behaviors. It is assumed a man holds malicious intention to begin with. A man is presumed guilty regardless of the details surrounding the situation. Even when the accusation is proven false the feminist movement will still demonize the man and defend the woman.

The reality is that an intoxicated 20 year old boy could be sexually engaging with a girl who is so intoxicated she passes out during the experience and neither of them understand the situation. When waking she may realize sex happened and he may regret it but she will be told she was raped. The boy could pass out as well, but if he penetrated her at all he will be declared a rapist on the same scale as mine would be considered.

This young man could be accused in public, forced to go before a school tribunal or be kicked out of school without a chance to defend himself and he will be labeled a rapist. If he is legally charged and convicted he will spend the rest of his life as a registered sex offender. If he is found innocent he will be forever accused of holding privilege that allowed him to escape punishment. To pretend there is no opposition to or consequence for rape is absurdity.

But why are we holding him to such a drastic level of responsibility and criminality? Because if we do not do so feminists will demand we are allowing women to be raped.

There are important degrees to consider. If the young intoxicated man comes upon a woman passed out next to a dumpster, as did Brock Turner, and engages sexually it is vastly different than the scenario I just described. Neither compare to two intoxicated people engaging in sex. Has the young man behaved this way in the past? Does it compare to a man luring a person for a planned assault?

These are important, vital questions we should be asking and they do not hold any implications towards the victims. No one is saying it is ‘ok’ to sexually assault an unconscious girl. No one is apologizing for rape. No one is saying girls cannot enjoy themselves in public or that they are ‘asking for’ assault. But we must also consider that we are dealing with people, not blanket male predators and female victims.

Asking for it

Alex points out that the Stanford materials implicate women by arguing men can become confused by the behavior of intoxicated women. She genuinely wants to protect young women from what she views as a predatory environment that places the blame on them alone.This plays along with the idea that women deserve to be victimized if they behave in certain ways. The problem however is that behavior does matter. We have created an impossible scenario for young men and in the process have created more shame and fear around female sexuality.

If a woman sexually engages with a man and they are both intoxicated, or even if the man is sober, how is he alone supposed to know she is either not really consenting or incapable of doing so? Feminists argue for active and continual consent yet it is entirely up to the woman involved to interpret if consent occurred. If she flirts, is sexually suggestive, kisses, brings him to a quiet dark location and engages in sexual activity while intoxicated how is a man supposed to know when she no longer feels she is consenting?

We assume people are in a clear state of mind at the time and can clearing and affirmatively determine and state consent. The truth is anyone who has ever had sex knows the brain cannot think in such dry and clear-cut ways at that time. Certainly a ‘No’ or ‘Stop’ is understood, but feminists argue the feelings she has afterwards are all that matter. If both parties are intoxicated how can any subjective line be clearly drawn?

Furthermore, asserting women alone cannot consent while intoxicated greatly undermines the concept of female sexual independence. We treat women like children when we demand they can choose to intoxicate themselves but cannot choose any action afterwards when it comes to sexuality. Men cannot be expected to hold both authority roles while equally intoxicated.

Genuine Solutions

Women are not fragile little beings at the mercy of all they encounter and they are not objects to be used. But we cannot ignore context. The reality is there are predators and individuals need to be aware of surroundings and understand risk. Blame is not involved, but responsibility is. When I was raped I chose an extremely risky situation to put myself in. I agreed to meet someone I did not know, I did not tell anyone, I did not meet in a public place. I did not deserve to be raped or infected with HIV but I could have made better decisions that would have prevented it.

We have to understand that sexually active, intoxicated, young adults are a unique situation and both must understand the consequences of actions. Why is it so terrible to ask young women to understand that sexual acts they engaged in while intoxicated will not destroy their lives? Why are we willing to destroy the lives of young men who are not fully aware of or in control of their actions? No one should feel out of control in sex, but is to too much to ask to expect some level of responsibility in the behaviors leading up to it? I admit I am offended as a survivor of a violent predatory rape when I see girls assert life-long debilitating trauma from realizing they had drunken sex they may not have chosen if sober.

We can assign legal consequences to cases like Brock Turner’s that are in-between ‘mutual drunken sex’ and ‘predator who lured victim and violently attacked them.’

‘Teaching men not to rape’ absurdly assumes men are comfortable with raping and this is simply not the case. Feminists must be willing to let go of this bigotry in order for any of us to move forward. Everyone, not just women, needs to appreciate the consequences of becoming intoxicated in public. We also need to clearly understand that while drunken mistakes are not excuses for avoiding legal consequences, there has to be a reasonable evaluation of the context before conviction, either in the public eye or in the courtroom.

Women must be given their sexual liberation back and we must stop treating them as helpless children. We also must stop reacting towards a regretted night of drunken sex as we do a violent predatory rapist. We must stop pretending ‘rape culture’ exists in the United States and we must stop accusing anyone who argues for reason as a ‘rape apologist.’

No one supports rape. But we, as a society, must learn to appreciate what it means and stop appropriating it for social or political agendas, forever traumatizing young women with irrational fears and utterly destroying young men’s lives.

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