Since Rebecca tweeted about drunkeness and rape, I’ve been seeing a response from generally well-meaning guys. (Yes, I do mean guys.) These are guys who “support” anti-rape efforts in that they are happy to stand up and tell anyone who will listen that rape is bad.
They don’t exactly support the idea that we need to be making the same strong statements about rape and intoxication, though. They’re not quite fighting it either, but they’re…fidgeting. In comment sections, on Twitter and Facebook, they’re trying to figure out what they want to say without saying anything “bad”.
A few of them, here and there, are even talking. They’re saying they’re uncomfortable. One or two will even tell you they’re scared. “She could just say she was drunk, and then I’d be facing rape charges. Do you know how scary that is?”
There are those who are waving the “bitches lie” flag, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the guys who think, “I know women don’t lie about this stuff, not really, but what if one of them did? It would only take one.”
So far I’ve resisted answering the question. I get tired of talk of rape that treats cultural shifts as more onerous than, well, rape itself. I also can’t answer the question effectively without providing the empathy these guys have set aside while they worry about themselves, and I rarely want to go there. [Update: And this is why.]
Still, until it’s answered, the question hangs out there. “Do you know how scary this is?”
Yeah, I think I know scary.
For about a decade after I was sexually assaulted, I didn’t let one person who wasn’t a professional bartender–on duty–mix me a drink. The last person who had was the man who assaulted me. His drinks left me far more drunk than I wanted to be. They left me unable to advocate for myself.
For that decade, every time I contemplated a mixed drink, even those that came from the bartenders, I saw the possible rape on the other side of it. Every single time.
I learned to like beer instead. I still like beer decently well. I like mixed drinks better.
I still don’t care much for rum, though. I don’t remember whether I liked it before the rum and cokes and coercion, but I don’t now. Give me brandy or whiskey or tequila or vodka–gin still tastes like Pine Sol. Just don’t give me rum.
That’s assuming I know you well enough to let you give me a drink at all. If you’re not a bartender on duty, you’d still best be a good friend. I don’t always see rape on the other side of a glass, but I know it’s still there. I’ve just developed an adulthood of habits that hold it further at bay.
So, yes, I think I know how scary it is to think about alcohol and rape in a very personal sense. I’ve done it for more than two decades now.
It’s scary, sure. It’s scarier when it’s fresh. It’s scariest when you know, first hand, what the worst case actually is.
So what do you do? You live with it. You develop ways to cope, to avoid the trouble you can without giving up your whole life or sex or drinking. Then you get used to it, just like the thousands of people who have had their rapes and assaults facilitated by alcohol.
Is it scary? Yes. However, the alternative is leaving things the way they are, with the rapists always given the upper hand. And that is far, far scarier.