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Once and for all, quit blaming the victims

OPINION

  • A rally for justice for all victims of sexual assault was held, October 22, 2013, on the square in Maryville, Missouri. Tammy Smith (from left) of Tarkio, Shana Curry of Maryville, Tasha Hale of Essex, Iowa, and Shana's husband, Scott Curry waited for the rally to start. (Keith Myers/Kansas City Star/MCT)
A rally for justice for all victims of sexual assault was held, October 22,… (David Eulitt / MCT )
October 27, 2013|By Niki Fritz, @fritzfrack | For RedEye

I feel like I've written nothing lately but columns about how much rape culture sucks. Honestly it's depressing as all heck, and I really wish there was nothing left to say on the matter. But unfortunately, people keep getting rapey, and then media commentary flares up with some blame-the-victim bull, and, well, here we are talking about rape again.

This time it is Maryville, Mo., the uglier version of Steubenville, Ohio, if that is even possible. The (alleged) narrative is becoming common in America: high schoolers, drinking, raping, video taping, dumping the girls and then pretending it was consensual sex. Two years after the alleged rape, Internet vigilantes are calling for an investigation. And while two girls and their families wait for justice, everyone seems to have an opinion about how to stop such ugliness in the future. The "newest" advice from a Slate columnist: "College women: Stop getting drunk."

Of course I get it. Incidents like Maryville are horrifying and everyone wants it to stop. Drinking seems to be at heart of matter, so I understand wanting to address it particularly, as it is clearly influencing those making the poor decisions and doing the rapey stuff.

Thus, logic would follow: tell boys to stop drinking and then they'll stop raping!

But of course that is silly. Boys will be boys. They drink, rape, play video games and leave the toilet seat up because that is, like, biology. (Note: This is extreme sarcasm. Men should be appalled that society doesn't think they have enough self-control to not rape.)

So if men biologically can't stop drinking and raping, then of course we should be instructing women to stop drinking and putting themselves at "risk." This is not new sexist advice.

It is often explained like this: You wouldn't get really drunk and then walk down the middle of a street with a sign that says, "Hey robbers! I've got $1,000 in singles stuffed in my pants!" So why would you be a teenage girl walking, well, anywhere? Of course the truly insulting part of this analogy is that it suggests a woman's body is the equivalent of $1,000, something that can be stolen. Simply owning a vagina means you are advertising your own rape-ability.

But not only is this advice insulting, it just doesn't work. Young women are still getting drunk. But on an even more basic level, it doesn't work because a girl getting drunk with a dude never thinks, "Oh, he has a penis—he's probably trying to get me drunk so he can force himself onto my passed-out body." Because that penis is actually her friend, her crush, her co-worker, her lab partner; it is probably someone she likes enough to drink with, and trusts enough to not worry about guarding herself at all times.

When we talk about the "drunk rape victim," we make that survivor an "other," someone different from us. "She was drunk and stupid. That couldn't be me." Or, "My guy friends would never do that." We blame the woman and her drinking partially to make ourselves feel like that couldn't happen to us. But these young women aren't that different from you and me. They just have less luck.

I'm not saying we all shouldn't drink less. (No one ever needs to do a Malort shot ever again.) But drinking less will not solve our rape issue. Only when we address why young men are raping can we move on and talk about more pleasant things, like the best pop-culture Halloween costumes for 2013. I call dibs on Grumpy Cat!

Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.

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