Dear Prudence: Let's Just Keep Blaming Women For Their Rapes, I Guess

Trigger warnings for rape and victim blaming!
Publish date:
October 17, 2013
rape, feminism, drinking, rape culture, victim blaming, dear prudence, bad advice

Y'all, I am drunk right now as I type this. It's a Wednesday night and I'm such a total lightweight when it comes to alcohol. I had dinner with Ed and then we met up with a friend at a local bar and had some very fine beverage.

I'm home safe, where I belong, sitting on my couch and writing on my laptop because desk top computers are just way too confining for me and my free spirit or whatever.

You know what didn't happen to me tonight even though I drank three highly alcoholic beverages? I did not get raped!

That's because neither Ed nor my friend is a rapist. They're pretty awesome dudes that way.

Because they are not rapists, the only consequence of my drinking is going to be both of them making fun of my ridiculous accent at some point. Because that's what they do.

I was going to say I am fortunate to know dudes who are not rapists because I have been not so lucky to know other dudes who are. But then I just couldn't bring myself to tell you that because knowing someone who isn't a horrible person should not actually be "luck." Knowing a guy who doesn't rape people should really be a pretty run of the mill occurrence.

Unfortunately, we do not live in that world -- we live in the world where statistics statistics statistics. How many times have we talked about those statistics? Not just here but on just about every lady blog site ever as well as in every lady mag magazine ever. We do actually live in a world where one in four women experience sexual assault.

And even more unfortunately, we continue to act and educate as though women alone can solve the problem of rape. The most recent example of this? Dear Prudence, the agony aunt for Slate seems to think she is edgy and forward thinking -- she is concerned that people are so scared of blaming the victim that no one is telling college girls not to get drunk because it might lead to them being raped!

I have to be honest with you: my first response to this column by Prudence -- who is most certainly not "dear" at all to me right now -- was not so much coherent. It was more of a wet raspberry sound followed by a deep and hoarse braying laugh. I think I probably sounded a little like an angry donkey. I mean, talk about conflating correlation with causation. Her logic really and truly seems to be that some drunk girls get raped (because feminism tells them it's OK to drink) so the problem is that girls are drinking.

You know what's missing from that equation? You know who doesn't seem to be bearing any of the responsibility for preventing rape?

Dudes who rape people.

I mean, this is a wild and crazy idea that has come up in conversation here before but, you know, what if we started telling men, as a focused educational campaign, to not to rape people? What if we started talking to men and boys about what rape IS (like fucking a woman who is passed out drunk) and why they shouldn't do it (because it's rape)? Since most rapes are committed by men, it just makes sense to me, logically speaking, that men should be the ones held responsible for telling each other that, hey, rape is a bad thing and they shouldn't do it.

It's Thursday morning now, and it's early enough that it's still dark outside. I'm a little cold, because it's finally Florida fall -- and I'm also sober, having slept deeply and delightfully. And I am more saddened and resigned than I am angry.

Because I didn't drink in college. At all. I didn't do (and have never done) recreational drugs. I hung out with people I trusted. I went to fucking CHURCH.

And I was still raped.

Prudence talks about the link between women being drunk and women being sexually assaulted -- and I am sure Prudence, like so many other people confronted by something awful, wants to find some way to prevent these terrible things from happening, wants to protect people who have been targeted as vulnerable, as victims.

We preach, in America, about personal responsibility like it's some kind of religion -- but because we do not actually live in the magical unicorn land of equality where no one is oppressed, that sense of personal responsibility gets applied unfairly. It becomes the job of women to prevent their own sexual assault, their own rape. It becomes the job of women to teach other women these protective things we are supposed to do -- as though they are talismans against the darkest parts of the human psyche.

And then, when someone is raped, that personal responsibility gets applied again.

What were you wearing? Did you kiss him? Were you drinking? Did you have sex with other people at any point in your life up until that point?

On the first hand, on the before side of events, people justify victim blaming as an effort to educate women, as an effort to teach people how to protect themselves. And, you know, I'm all for people learning self-defense. I am in favor of telling young women that they don't have to drink a lot (or even a little because everyone has different tolerances) to have a good time or fit in.

But I will never be in favor of pretending like telling women that drunk frat boys are dangerous is meant to be effective rape prevention education. I mean, really. We've heard that. We keep hearing that. The very best outcome involves women circumscribing their lives out of fear while the perpetrators of sexual assault and rape find new ways to victimize people.

I feel like putting all the responsibility on the shoulders of people to prevent their own rape creates and sustains the environment that comes after a rape as well. Because if women could prevent rape by just not going drinking at a college party, well, then logic actually dictates that their own rape is their own fault.

And that's repulsive and I want to throw up just having typed it out. That's as clear as I can be on it though -- if we continue to talk about rape prevention in terms of what women should and should not do then we ourselves sustain the culture of blame that rape victims get hit with after their assaults.

I won't be part of that. If you were raped, it is not your fault. It is 100% the fault of the person who chose to rape you. I don't care about your gender identification or presentation -- nothing you do or are is forcing another person to rape you. I don't care if you were naked and passed out drunk at a frat party -- the person responsibly for your rape is the person who raped you.

And until we talk about rape prevention with the people who can actually prevent rape by NOT RAPING FOLKS, we won't get anywhere. Blaming the victim isn't new or edgy. And it certainly isn't effective. And in that circumstance, I think it's far more prudent to put the blame where it actually belongs.