Say, ladies! Are you a fan of drinking? And NOT a fan of sexual assault? I can totally sympathize! It’s true that drinking alcoholic beverages – IN MODERATION – can be a delightful way to pass the time. And it’s also true that the world is a scary place. Never more scary than when, after a study finding that “date rape drugs” were less common than rapes that happened after the lady in question had been drinking, folks were like, oh, WHEW, must have been those drunk ladies’ fault for getting all raped then! PROBLEM SOLVED. Witness: “Date-rape drugs are largely an urban myth used as an excuse by women who booze themselves into a stupor,” from the Daily Mail.
Oh, but wait: if somebody gets raped while they are drunk, and not while intoxicated with Date Rape Drugs, isn’t the rape still… bad???
DAMN IT. We’re going to have to start this whole conversation over. With the help of Amanda Hess of The Sexist, and her excellent piece on the matter, and my enduring love of the booze!
SADY: hello! good evening! it is time to discuss date rape drugging, or so i hear!
AMANDA: it is that allotted time!
SADY: first of all, i have to say that your take on the whole scenario was (AS USUAL!) highly impressive and nuanced.
AMANDA: well—some issues were perhaps underrepresented there. there are A LOT OF ISSUES with this ISSUE
SADY: well, this whole report – that date rapes involving date rape drugs are less rare than date rapes involving date drinking – is kind of set to be a highly polarizing thing. like, some people have been like, “see? the floozies are just out getting drunk! and making up accounts of druggedness!” and others are like, “there are, too, date rape drugs!” and what impressed me about your take was that you didn’t (a) minimize assault, or (b) discount that date rape drugs might in fact be less common than acquaintance rape without that factor involved.
AMANDA: I saw that Broadsheet had already written a pretty thought out post that discussed why some women might report being drugged when that was not necessarily the case—and obviously, i read the Daily Mail’s amazingly stupid take on it which suggested that women are big drunk liars—so i thought i’d focus on what the media’s focus on date rape drugs. which is so interesting, because even calling them “date rape drugs” is misleading—the narrative really suggests that when this does happen, it’s mostly strangers swooping in with these drugs, and not “dates” per se.
SADY: yeah, exactly. and this is a terminology flaw which i myself have fallen victim to: using “date rape” to mean “rape that was not the stranger-jumps-from-bushes-with-gun” sort of rape, rather than “rape by one’s date,” which is what it should (and does) mean. i mean: i have to tell you. i don’t doubt that date rape drugs are used. a friend of mine just told me a story about how she suspects she may have been drugged, and although she was not assaulted, all the details line up.
AMANDA: oh! that is a point that i realized after i wrote my piece! it’s possible that druggings are more common than they appear in these studies, but they do not lead to assaults. and that can skew the data, and getting drugged is still an awful thing to have happen to you, even if it doesn’t end in assault
SADY: right, it’s still a violation.
AMANDA: but the whole issue of rape is an issue of skewed data, because reports are so infrequent. but i would THINK—and i dont know this—that reports of drug-assisted rapes are higher than those that don’t involve drugs. because the media is pretty clear about reviling dudes who drug women, and less clear about reviling men who rape women who are drunk.
SADY: yeah. exactly. like, if you’re drunk, it just means you’re a big old mess and/or tramp anyway, and probably you were just drunk enough to “have sex” and “regret it” and etc.
AMANDA: and i think that “reporting” difference is true anecdotally as well—they may not even tell their friends or their boyfriends or what have you, or they will tell them and they’ll be discounted. Etc.
SADY: whereas if you were DRUGGED, you can clearly point to an outside agency in getting you to the point where you could not give informed consent.
AMANDA: right. there’s a degree of “proof” that society accepts with those rapes.
SADY: yeah, and, i mean, i have to tell you: i like to drink. i’m having a drink as we speak! and i am a lady who’s pretty smart about listening to my body, drinks-wise, and not having more than i can handle. but there have been occasions – whether i didn’t have enough sleep the night before, or forgot to eat lunch, or whatever – where A Normal Number of Drinks magically became, for that night, One Too Many Drinks, and i ended up in a messy state. and I was always surrounded by people who cared enough for me to point out that i was a mess, and call me a taxi, and whatever. but HOW SHITTY WOULD IT HAVE BEEN, STILL for someone to assault me in that state? i mean, why the fuck are Drinks considered an extra culpability on your part?
AMANDA: i too love drinking! and perhaps that should be disclosed whenever i defend ladies who like to drink against charges of flooziness! so, FULL DISCLOSURE, drinking! but so: the researchers note that drinking can be sometimes unpredictable, and if your diet or sleep or mood is different it can affect how alcohol affects you. so when, a couple weeks ago, my boyfriend told me he “felt like he had been drugged” because his level of hangover way outstripped the number of drinks he had, i thought it was kind of interesting. but i didn’t actually think he HAD BEEN DRUGGED. though i suppose that’s possible. but i feel like, perhaps, when women are unexpectedly slammed with alcohol—and particularly if they are assaulted while in this state—they may be told over and over again that these experiences are a result of being drugged. i’m not sure if that actually ever happens. but i DO know that if a woman was ever considered unreliable because she reported she was drugged and raped, and it turned out she wasn’t actually drugged, then that would be very sad.
SADY: yeah, exactly. and that’s the thing: while saying you were drugged can be pointed to as an example of how you didn’t exercise agency in the matter (which is important for rape survivors, because as we all know making Bad Decisions means you totally shouldn’t have the right to pursue a criminal sentence for someone who had sex with you against your will) it is also a wedge that can be used to destroy your credibility. which is why women i’ve known who came to the conclusion that there must have been some drugging involved in their assaults have been hesitant to come forward, because they’re afraid that would be used against them. which, in that case, what was your crime? having too many drinks? FALLING ASLEEP????? not to be a big old spoiler, but dudes get to have too many drinks and fall asleep all the time! i mean, a gentleman of my personal acquaintance had too many drinks and was wandering around and got – apparently – randomly beaten up by some dudes in his neighborhood, and as far as i know the police did not tsk-tsk him for wandering around all drunk and beatable.
AMANDA: i know. dudes get to have SO MUCH PASSING OUT without the consequences! and young dudes still binge drink a lot more than women do, not that you would realize that given the media attention given to the matter. male drinking tends to be a bit invisible, i think—it’s just something men do, so there’s no excessive fear about it. even though men are more likely to be victims of violent crime than women are. i mean, there are fears about men drinking, but they are fears about literally drinking too much and dying from drinking too much. not fears about drinking too much and getting raped, or even drinking too much and raping another person.
SADY: which maybe SHOULD be a fear. i think this is an important point: these studies which say women who have been raped frequently have also been drinking? they maybe miss the point that women have been drinking while in an environment where everyone – dudes included – is also drinking. and i genuinely think that, if ladies have these regimens over watching their ladyfriends’ drink consumption and making sure they are safe, dudes should also have people watching them to make sure that they don’t get to the point where they are legitimately too drunk to even get what consent MEANS.
AMANDA: yeah. and, i mean, it would help if kids knew what consent means before they knew what “body shots” means. i think it should be on the driving test, personally.
SADY: yeah. that’s a worrisome statement i just made, because it seems to remove some culpability from the rapist. but i suspect that (a) assholes who drink become bigger assholes, and (b) since we all recognize that a drunk asshole is liable to get in a bar fight or whatever, we should also recognize that a drunk asshole might be an asshole who is even more inclined to rape than he was previously.
AMANDA: yeah. it seems that while society’s prescriptions for female drinking include “drinking correctly”—covering your glass, going with friends—male drinking is just defined by “drinking more.” which—again—i like drinking. and if my drinking becomes a personal problem, that will be bad for me. but if my drinking becomes a problem for other people—like i end up raping women or hitting my kids when i’m drunk—then that’s something that REALLY needs to be addressed by society.
SADY: yeah, precisely. and the reason i think this relates to date rape drugs (ha, remember those? HI, date rape drugs!) is that, you know, they exist. and even if they exist less than rapes which occur while the rapist and/or the victim were drinking, that’s still a problem. one incident of someone drugging a person in order to rape them is too many, i would estimate. but the fact that rape occurs more often in proximity to alcohol – well: first of all, i can recall being pressured to drink A Bit Too Much by certain dates, so i think it’s reasonable to state that alcohol can also be an agent of coercion. and, (b) people drink. Specifically young people who want to socialize. As an extremely shy person who is far less shy after drinking, I get the reasons for this. And the fact is that if alcohol coincides with rape, this DOES NOT MAGICALLY REMOVE THE FACT THAT RAPE IS BAD from the equation!
AMANDA: exactly. and i think a lot of it comes down to ladies drinking, because drinking is a dude thing, and when ladies drink it means they’re, horror of horrors, ACTING LIKE MEN, or taking away dude-time, or revealing that drinking does not actually make you more masculine and / or awesome. but sorry, dudes, i’m not going to stop drinking!
SADY: yeah! i mean: i think the Horror of Drinking is the Horror of Unladylikeness, presented in vaguely medical terms. fact is: yep, when ladies drink a bit, they let down their various guards and DO NOT always behave in the manner in which society has accustomed us to expect from ladies. they get loud. they get a bit rude or wacky, at times. they EVEN make out with people that they would otherwise be constrained from making out with! (and oh, how I know that feeling.) BUT, with all the loud and wacky and unladylike behavior they are engaging in, GUESS WHAT? you still don’t get to assault them! because we are not in Ye Medieval Tymes any more, and rape is not just something that happens to Virtuous Women of Goode Renowne. it can happen to ladies who are acting up, too. and, miraculously, it is still a crime. just like you don’t get to rob somebody because you think he is a jerk.
AMANDA: yeah. ok, do you wanna break? i think i’m going to go buy some beer
SADY: do it, lady! ENJOY YOUR BEERS. YOUR BEERS OF FREEDOM.