What do you take from this sentence?
Smoking cigarettes will dramatically increase your risk of lung cancer.
That’s right. If you smoke, you are more likely to develop lung cancer. Hence, if you develop lung cancer and you smoke, you have directly contributed to your own illness.
Now read this:
Getting drunk when you go out puts you at a greater risk of danger (from sexual assault).
Semantically, the sentence is the same. If you get drunk when you go out, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted. Hence, if you are sexually assaulted while you are drunk, you have directly contributed to your own rape.
Now, I do not believe this for one minute. But it appeared, virtually word for word, on website Mamamia. And while its author, Mia Freedman, stressed that she was not ‘victim blaming’, by any reasonable analysis that is exactly what she is doing.
If you are implying a causal relationship, then you are implying responsibility. But a woman can never be responsible for her own rape. She is not responsible for being raped if she is drunk. She is not responsible for rape if she is sober. She is not responsible for rape if she kisses and fondles a man and then decides she wants to stop but he doesn’t.
Rape, by definition, is non-consensual. And if there is no consent, there is no causation. End of story.
Mia Freedman argued that her advice is simply common sense for women. But it is not. It is dangerous. Because when you start implying a causal link – any causal link – it leads down a very slippery slope to restrictions. One minute we are helpfully ‘advising’ women not to get drunk in public to keep safe, next thing we are encouraging them not to wear skimpy clothes. Or to go out alone. Or to go out in public at all.
But alcohol doesn’t cause rape. Clothing doesn’t cause rape. Rapists cause rape. Fullstop.
When we are trying to ‘help’ women to ‘protect’ themselves, we are being naïve. Because we cannot protect ourselves from rape. Perpetrating the myth that we can protect ourselves – from rape, from assault, from any kind of misfortune – is our desperate attempt to make sense of the world. But in doing so, we simply instil fear into ourselves and our kids. We curtail our freedoms ourselves, rather than living fully and risking someone else curtailing it.
We have to resist. We have to resist living in fear, and living with self-blame. We have to be brave enough to accept that life is uncontrollable, and have the courage to live our lives fully.
That, to me, is being a feminist. That, to me, is being a woman.
And if my daughter wants to go out and get drunk, then I will discourage her, because she will be loud and obnoxious and feel mighty sick the next day.
But she will do it anyway, because that’s what kids do. And whatever her choice, I will support her, and not instil fear. I will never, ever link ‘alcohol’ and ‘rape’.
And the only thing she will be responsible for is her hangover.
Click here to read this piece by Andie Fox: The perpetrators of crime are responsible for crime.