Thursday, October 17, 2013

Who would ask for personal advice from a rape apologist like Emily Yoffe?

There have been several excellent critiques of Emily Yoffe's blame-the-rape-victim piece in Slate.

From Salon:
There is, of course, a lot to be said about Yoffe’s “this is not rape apologia” rape apologia, but let’s start with this: Our culture is not, and has never been, “reluctant” to tell women to stop doing things. In fact, people build entire careers around it. 
And yet this false idea, that women’s behavior is the real reason they are victimized — and that we live in a society that does a poor job of policing such behavior — is regularly used to blame sexual violence on the “problem” of young women today. 
Richard Cohen and Concerned Women for America have both cited Miley Cyrus’ recent embrace of tongue-wagging and half-shirts as a reason that teenage football players rape unconscious 16-year-olds. A judge in Montana declared a 14-year-old rape victim “older than her chronological age” and said she was ”as much in control” of the crime committed against her as her 49-year-old rapist. A 14-year-old cheerleader in Missouri is allegedly raped and abandoned outside by her alleged rapist, wearing only a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt on a freezing morning, and Yoffe points to the girl’s consumption of a “big glass of clear liquid” as the real problem in need of addressing. 
This is the very definition of rape culture. And it is so completely tired.
In The Nation
Yesterday, it was Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who argues that if girls want to avoid rape they shouldn’t drink so much. (Yoffe seems to think this is a novel and brave position, despite it’s being the central message young American women receive around sexual assault.) I agree there should be a conversation about the relationship between rape and drinking: We need to discuss the way that rapists use alcohol as a weapon to attack, and then discredit, their victims. But focusing on rapists is not nearly as popular as scolding young women. 
Refusing to emphasize rapists’ role in rape is telling. Yoffe writes of a girl who “ends up being raped”—as if she tripped and fell into it. (Even more illuminating is the lesson she wants to pass on to her son is not to be the boy “who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.”) It reminds me of a headline from years ago that read, “More Rapes Linked to Young Women on Drinking Binges.” Why not, “Rapists Attack Drunk Women”? This centering of women’s behavior is what allows rape culture to flourish. 
When we make victims’ choices the focus of rape prevention, we make the world a safer place for rapists. It gives attackers what Thomas Macaulay Millar calls—in his excellent piece ‘Meet the Predators’—social licence to operate. You know why rapists attack rape women? Because they know the victim’s community and law enforcement will be less likely to believe them. When you tell a rape joke? A rapist thinks that you’re on their side! In ways big and small, we are making this easy on them.
Even from Newsweek
Yoffe cites a study that claims more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol, but fails to address the drunken perpetrators themselves, a bizarre strategy considering a U.S. Department of Justice study found that the perpetrator was intoxicated in 1 in 3 sexual assaults. Although Yoffe notes that studies show men sometimes use drinking to justify rape, the only advice she has for men is for her hypothetical falsely incriminated son: “I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate." Her non-hypothetical daughter, on the other hand, gets lectures on “her responsibility to take steps to protect herself.”
My favorite so far is this: College Men: Stop Getting Drunk
Let's be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let men know that when they drink their decision-making skills into oblivion, they can do terrible things. Young men are getting a distorted message that their right to match each other drink for drink is proof of their masculinity. The real masculine message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will become the kind of person who, shall we say, doesn't have others' best interests at heart. That's not saying all men are rapists; that's trying to prevent more rapes. 
The Campus Sexual Assault Study of 2007, undertaken for the Department of Justice, found the popular belief that many young rape victims have been slipped "date rape" drugs is false. "Most sexual assaults occur after voluntary consumption of alcohol by the victim and assailant," the report states. But this crucial point is not being articulated to young and naïve men: "Despite the link between substance abuse and sexual assault it appears that few sexual assault and/or risk reduction programs address the relationship between substance use and sexual assault." And despite decades of efforts aimed at making women responsible for their own safety — from distributing rape whistles to holding Take Back the Night marches to publicizing sexual-assault hotlines — rates of sexual assault have not declined over the last five decades.
As far as I'm concerned, in spite of the de rigueur protestation that she is not blaming the victim, Yoffe gives her true beliefs completely away with this last paragraph of the piece:
Lake says that it is unrealistic to expect colleges will ever be great at catching and punishing sexual predators; that’s simply not their core mission. Colleges are supposed to be places where young people learn to be responsible for themselves. Lake says, “The biggest change in going to college is that you have to understand safety begins with you. For better or worse, fair or not, just or not, the consequences will fall on your head.” I’ll drink (one drink) to that.
So it's "unrealistic" to do anything about rapists who attend colleges. And so the onus is entirely on women - if only women "learn to be responsible for themselves" by never getting drunk the college rapist problem would just go away.

I read Yoffe's column Dear Prudie a few times years ago but stopped because I began to sense a real underlying bitterness in Yoffe's online persona, and wondered "who would ask this nasty person for personal advice?"

Guess I made a good call there.