Anna Merlan at Jezebel doesn’t like Christina Hoff Sommers and “The Factual Feminist” any more than I do.
A conservative think tank has embarked upon a quest to convince us all that women worry way too much about getting drugged and raped. This is an interesting hill to die on.
According to a new video from Caroline Kitchens at the American Enterprise Institute, we foolishly live in “constant fear” of being roofied by strangers in bars, when in fact women should just… the alternative here isn’t quite clear. Not watch our drinks at bar? Assume that nobody’s going to mess with our beverage, so maybe wander off for a little bit and do some other things?
Oh, go ahead and watch your drinks at the bar, but shut up about it. That’s what women should just. To talk about it is to be a “professional victim” and let down the side, while to shut up about it is to be a strong take-charge woman who punches her way through all the obstacles while never talking about them.
But how does that make her strong, you may ask? And how does it not make her self-centered and indifferent to the broader good? And why should women have to punch their way through obstacles that don’t need to be there in the first place?
Ask the libertarians, because I don’t know.
This inspiring message, which resonates with precisely nobody, is the latest in a series called The Factual Feminist, a weekly dose of bummer usually hosted by Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the think tank. (Sommers is one of a small army of Gamergate defenders who have decided to back the Gamergaters in a fight with some writers over at our brother site Gawker. The Gamergaters call Sommers “mom,” a Freudian field day we’ll have to leave for another time.)
I wish she hadn’t put it off. I too think that’s gross, though not primarily for reasons to do with Freud. I hate the whole half-jokey custom of nicknaming people granny or uncle or Mom merely because they’re older than the people doing the nicknaming. It’s stupid and usually condescending. Imagine the fanboiz calling Dawkins “Grandpa” and I think you’ll see what I mean.
Mardan transcribes some of what Kitchens said:
“A reality check is in order,” Kitchens intones. “Our fear of being drugged and sexually assaulted by a predatory stranger in a bar is not grounded in reality.” She suggests that the whole “process” of being drugged and raped sounds just ridiculous to her: “Just think about it: it requires a stranger to find the drugs, slip them into a woman’s drink undetected, manage to take the victim away from her friends without anyone noticing and then reliably erase her memory of the experience.”
Oh they don’t need to bother with the last part; the rapist can rely on everyone to ignore her if she reports it. But the first three? Yes, and? Those are all too difficult to be real? No.
Kitchens veers solidly into awfulness when she suggests that the real problem is Dumb Bitches Getting Too Drunk. Or, as she puts it, “Most commonly, victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault are severely intoxicated, often of their own volition.”
To start, the presence of alcohol and other drugs in rape cases is trickier than Kitchens makes it out to be. She doesn’t mention this very large 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, which estimated that nearly three million women in the U.S. have been victims of drug-facilitated rape at some point in their lifetime. As with the study that Kitchens looked at, Rohypnol (roofies) were very, very uncommon: the DOJ researchers estimate they’re only used in about two percent of drug-faciliated rape. In the vast majority of cases, they found, alcohol was the primary drug. (When a second drug was present, it was usually marijuana.) But there are also over 100 other benzodiazepines, and it’s not at all clear that they’re all tested for in incidents of suspected drug-facilitated rape.
In the cases where alcohol alone is suspected, how did said alcohol get consumed by the victim? Again, here, Kitchens isn’t entirely wrong: in a lot of cases, yes, the assaulted people drank alcohol voluntarily; in some, they were plied with alcohol by their assailants, given drinks that were stronger than they realized, or a host of other scenarios. The end result is the same: a person was raped or sexually assaulted after they became too impaired to consent to sex or fight off their attackers. Rape doesn’t become less of a crime if the victim is voluntarily drunk.
You’d think that would be obvious, wouldn’t you.
But Kitchens’ conclusion isn’t even that it’s not a bad idea to watch your drink; she allows that’s still probably a reasonable thing to do. But, the implication here is simple, and it’s nasty: if you think you got roofied, you probably didn’t. So why bother mentioning that suspicion to the police, right? Why even report your rape at all? It’s probably somehow, at some level, your fault. It’s the same vicious old argument, in other words — don’t get too drunk, girls, if you don’t want to wind up raped! — buried under a new, laughably thin layer of purported “feminism.”
“Feminists should be concerned that women are modifying their behavior on their girls night’s out in order to protect themselves from some vague improbable threat,” Kitchens tells us, somewhere near the end of this exhausting slog. But what she doesn’t acknowledge — or even seem aware of — is that women feel forced to modify their behavior in ways large and small to stay safe all the time. It sucks, and we hate it, but we still do it. Watching your drink at a bar is what we might call harm reduction, a strategy to mitigate, in some small way, the effects of living in a toxic culture where rape is pervasive. Awareness of date rape drugs is one of the things in the shitty, depressing bag of tools we’ve all developed to try to stay safe. It’s not “constant fear,” as Kitchens suggests. It’s just reasonable caution and concern.
And when that bag of tools fails and someone is raped or sexually assaulted, whose fault is it? Oh, right: the person committing the rape. Always. Every single time. Whether the victim was drunk, high, stone-sober or any combination thereof. And the more we argue over Rohypnol or idiotic roofie-detecting nail polish or just how often someone might be spiking our drinks, the more we veer further and further away from the real issue: the people who think it’s fine and acceptable to commit rape, very often against someone they know, someone who trusts them. Any other discussion at this point it starting to feel deliberately evasive, a way to avoid shining the light where it truly belongs.
Because that’s exactly what it is.