Do You Know How Scary This Is?

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.

Do You Know How Scary This Is?

40 thoughts on “Do You Know How Scary This Is?

  1. 2

    “fidgeting”. Yes. I have seen tons of that in the past two years. The people who are all in agreement with what Watson did, but….; or with equal rights, but…..; or that rape is wrong, but……
    Makes it damn hard to decide who is the ally and who is the enemy sometimes.

  2. 3

    Except for some bad movies, I don’t know where this paranoia that some men have about false rape accusations comes from. Let me give these guys some advice.

    1) Don’t ply a woman with alcohol in the hope of getting her into bed. (i.e. don’t rape)

    2) Don’t have sex with anyone you don’t, at least moderately, trust. (i.e. one night stands with strangers are a bad idea)

    3) If you really are a decent person and act decently, you have nothing to worry about, so stop giving cover to rapists.

  3. 4

    On the guy side it is very, very easy. Is she actively engaged in the sex? Is she physically and VERBALLY responsive? Then you are “safe” from “false” accusations.

    Are you uncertain? Is she quiet and not talking? The fucking don’t. Never had the problem, as a guy, or even come close to misunderstanding because I err on the side of caution.

    As for mixed drinks, having been a pro bartender at some point I made an effort to always be the bartender at house parties and private get togethers. I had noticed too many over-pouring, whether deliberately or not, and decided it was safer for someone who could make perfect portion drinks drunk to do the mixing.

    The fidgeting just means that even well meaning guys still accept the ingrained cultural idea that women “accept” sex rather than participate in sex. From what I can tell that is the deeper issue behind the misunderstanding that silence is consent.

  4. 5

    I’m going to say the same thing here that I said over on Greta’s blog earlier today. To all the guys complaining: TOUGH. If your main concern when faced with the facts about rape is “What about me? Can’t we talk about men and our problems?” then you’re kind of an asshole… especially since rape and sexual assault is a real, legitimate, statistically-likely problem for women, while false accusations against men are so rare as to barely merit a response. So for men to have issue with anything that will help prevent rapes because there’s some tiny increase in their risks pertaining to a statistically-insignificant problem like false rape accusations?


    *I’m not even going to get into how many “false rape accusations” are entirely accurate accusations that are rejected by authorities.

  5. 6

    No. I don’t. Really. I have no notion of how scary it is. It has never entered my mind that I might be raped. What concerns me, in what I imagine is a far smaller manner, is that I might lean on some outdated social structure and end up with someone closer to me than they want to be. What does it cost me to actively try and avoid that? Who is served by fidgeting against doing so?

  6. 7

    Rape is not a result of being confused about consent. Rapists deliberately attack drunk women because they know they can claim later they were confused. Shocking, I know! Who knew criminals lie about their behaviors to avoid consequences?

    I mean, don’t fuck someone without being sure they’re consenting. But what of asshole gets off on a partner that’s not engaging, unless they’re a rapist?

  7. 10

    There’s something terribly wrong with this post – the blatant sexism. I just can’t even indulge in the content of a sexistashell post. It should be just as bad when it happens to men, yet some go out of their way to specifically talk about when it happens to women. It’s as annoying as when people bring up “sluts” and “whores” and of corse a flurry of complaints about WOMEN doing things with their own bodies follows. Then they want to act like they’re not sexist. This is also sexist against women as well, in a way. Sexist against both. It’s only a step down to only giving a crap when women are raped sober & not men.

  8. 11

    Ah, moderation. Of course my last comment will not be published, a punishment for pointing out an obvious upsetting observation. I’ll just comment on it elsewhere. I always expose sexism. I tricked someone into further exposing their sexism against women when it comes to slut shaming, and I’ll frame this bullshit as well. I’m freezing this page.

  9. 12

    I am a guy. I support all of the anti-rape efforts I have read on FTB.
    I am not scared of a woman claiming rape after sex. I won’t have sex without enthusiastic consent. It would not be as enjoyable without enthusiastic consent.
    I don’t believe I would enjoy sex with a woman so drunk she could not consent. I certainly have never tried it.
    Hey, if she didn’t consent before getting drunk, don’t have sex with her. Wait until she is sober. It isn’t that tough.

    I have never allowed the men around me to have sex without consent. I realize I may not have realized it however, and that makes me sad.

    Whatever makes women feel safer is fine by me.

    Let’s hear it for enthusiastic consent!

  10. EEB

    My brother said something similar to me. He said he was scared to go to bars or clubs because what if he met a girl, assumed she was over 18 because she was in a bar, drinking, took her home, and then was arrested and convicted because she was 14 and had a fake ID, and then he’d be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life! All said with an attitude of a) those laws are so unfair and wrong, and you shouldn’t punish the guy because the girl lied, and b) you can’t understand how scary it is.

    Now, he knows that I was raped. He was actually the first person in my family to know, he was the only person at home the morning the police brought me back from the hospital. While I was pretty much catatonic and smoked an entire pack of ciggarettes, he talked to the police, he started trying to track down my folks, he called an older female friend to come sit with me and make sure I was OK (I was pissed at him for interfering at the time, but he may well have saved my life, so). And still, he thought there was no way I could understand his fear (and he’s right, in a sense…I have no fear of “accidentally” raping someone, or that someone could ever falsely accuse me of rape), that I would sympathize with how this unfair treatment was harshing his fun.

    Uh-huh. I reminded him that I can’t even go to events where there are a lot of men in an enclosed space, never mind clubs are bars. I reminded him that sometimes the PTSD means I can’t even leave my bedroom. I reminded him that I still can’t go down to the mailbox around the corner, even in broad daylight, after I was raped in the neighboorhood. He quickly realized that I was not at all sympathetic, and did the blush/look away/scuff his toe “yeah yeah” thing.

    I also reminded him that he has a very simple remedy for his fear: don’t have a one-night stand with a girl you barely know. A little conversation, a couple dates, and you’ll know if the girl is over 18. Same thing applies for the whole “what if she’s drunk and ‘cries rape'” fear: don’t sleep with drunk girls. Don’t sleep with people you don’t know, and if there’s at all a question in your mind about her mental stability or her willingness to accuse you falsely, don’t sleep with her. It’s an awful lot harder to mitigate my fear…pretty much “don’t leave the house while female” or “never, ever be alone” is all I can come up with.

    I’m sorry, I don’t have a lot of sympathy. There’s no universal right to easy, NSA sex with hot young girls. I really don’t care if guys are bummed that they have to take the step of communicating with and getting to know a girl before fucking her. I’m a lot more angry that my universal right to leave my house without being raped isn’t guarenteed, and that there are so many women who have experienced that violation first-hand. I can’t work up much passion for such a grave injustice. sorry.

    (And here’s where I get told what a horrible misandrist I am.)

  11. 14

    What is scaring these fidgety guys is that it’s finally dawning on them that they HAVE raped, and if these “Don’t Rape” campaigns get off the ground, then everyone else will also recognize them as rapists, and people might think poorly of them. Boo fucking hoo.

  12. 15

    The manufacturing of this “controversy” on the other side is ridiculous, even taking her one “problem” tweet it is pretty obvious she is talking about a rule of thumb from which there may be some exceptions. But the second tweet within the same minute makes it totally unambiguous –

    If you “took advantage” of someone who is unable to consent, it is rape. End of story.

    So to take her first tweet and totally ignore the second which is clearly part of the same thread of thought is egregious quote mining. Then all the idiots line up to try and “prove” her wrong by finding exceptions… There are NO exceptions to the entirety of her point on this. For me as a person mostly blind to the issue at hand it is annoying to see people be so stupid, for someone directly affected by it… Well I cannot imagine the range of emotions it must evoke.

  13. 16

    I don’t get it… I mean, if you’re worried that the person you’re thinking about having sex with a going to lie about it to “cry rape” later, what difference does it make what the actual circumstances are, or what specific lie she’s going to use? She’s going to lie – if lie A won’t do the job, there are plenty of others.

    Basically what this boils down to is the fear that if we don’t always automatically assume that every woman who claims to have been raped is lying, then someone who is lying might be believed. Well, duh. Welcome to the real fucking world, where people lie and we don’t always have perfect knowledge. Live with it. What about all the women who have been raped by guys who then lie about it? Oh, sorry, I forgot, they don’t count…

    Here’s a crazy fucking thought – how about you don’t have sex with anyone that you don’t trust sufficiently not to try and stitch you up on a false accusation later? Or stab you in your sleep, for that matter…

    Lauren’s right – the line of thinking is “But if that really is rape, then I’m probably a rapist. I don’t like to think of myself as a rapist! Therefore that can’t be rape.” Boo fucking hoo indeed.

  14. 17

    Sometimes I get the impression that all the objections pretty much come down to “but if I would do that, I would risk passing up on opportunities for nookie”.

  15. 18

    Well, what if that woman you’re having sex with turns out to be a succubus?
    Isn’t that scary?
    Well, it should be about exactly as scary as a woman with whom you had consensual sex crying “rape” afterwards*, because it is about as likely (well, I admit a bit less likely, the succubis thingy, but somewhere in that ballpark).

    Oh, any forgive me guys for not shedding a crocodile’s tear for your horrible fear of being falsely accused of rape when I got it hammered into my had that I have to be scared of drinks, dark streets, strangers, friends, car parks, open streets and the last one was my own front door.

    *AFAIK that is a (very small) danger if the woman would face some very serious consequences if she were found to have had consensual sex. Protip: If having sex with her brings her into great danger, don’t do it. That fuck isn’t that important.

  16. 19

    Here’s a crazy fucking thought – how about you don’t have sex with anyone that you don’t trust sufficiently not to try and stitch you up on a false accusation later? Or stab you in your sleep, for that matter…

    Yeah, that seems like the reasonable approach. Don’t go home with someone you don’t trust not to axe-murder you. Don’t go home with some you don’t trust not to try and ruin your life with false accusations.

    As for the alcohol and sex stuff.. I don’t really see how this is much of a dilemma. For me, if she’s enthusiastically and actively involved, beginning at a party/bar, all the way through to the bedroom, it’s consensual sex.

  17. 20

    It is a little scary that so many think significant numbers of people are just itching to lie about rape. I spent about as much time worrying about false rape accusations as I do getting struck by lightning; and comparing the survival rate for lighting strikes with the conviction rates for rapes I think I’d be better off falsely accused of rape than getting struck by lightning.

  18. 22

    eucliwood, you’ve been in moderation because I haven’t approved a comment from you yet. You’re going to stay in moderation because you’re an obsessive slime pit member who doesn’t seem to have anything to contribute but demands for attention.

    For example, this start of this post mentions “guys”. It also explains why. Most of the rest of the post is explicitly about me. Where I talk about victims of sexual assault, they are not gendered, and that’s deliberate.

    Now take your illusion that your lack of reading comprehension has any greater meaning and go away.

  19. 23

    EEB, I think that even that caution is unnecessary. False accusations of rape are like being hit by lightening. Someone has to be completely off-their-rockers crazy to think it’s a good idea to get drunk with a guy, fuck him, and then call the cops in the morning. That will NOT work out well for her. There are a thousand other things that could go wrong from drinking before you “accidentally” rape someone.

    The myth that rapists accidentally rape is the result of rapists claiming they thought they had consent but didn’t. Why we take the word of rapists as gold is beyond me, however.

    Lauren, I doubt men who are opposed to rape are accidentally raping anyone. These concerns are being expressed mainly by dudes who have made the mistake of taking rapists at their word when they say they thought they had consent. Again, the real question here is why do we think rapists are telling the truth? Skepticism should be heightened when we’re listening to the story of someone who has already gone far enough to admit he can’t understand why he shouldn’t fuck women who are out of it. Such a person is already a creep, and the chance that they are lying rapist has gone up exponentially.

  20. 24

    Yes, eucliwood
    Whenever somebody points out the bad things that happen to women without walking an extra mile to think about the men, it’s sexism.
    Whenever we talk about women at all, it’s blatant sexism.
    Talk about FGM without actually talking much more about male circumcision: misandry!
    Seriously, what about the menz?
    In case you didn’t notice, this was about straight dudes being upset about the practically non-existent chance that a woman mightfalsely accuse them of rape.
    But, well, you wouldn’t have realized that and just ignored it to bullshit.

  21. 25


    These concerns are being expressed mainly by dudes who have made the mistake of taking rapists at their word when they say they thought they had consent.

    I see your point. Like the Steubenville rapists, these guys (rapists) are entitled. Sports heroes, BMOCs, hotshots. If you are a regular guy outside that charmed circle, these are the men the culture conditions you to admire. You don’t want your heroes to have feet of clay, so you go out of your way to give them the benefit of the doubt on their predatory behavior.

  22. 26

    @Lauren and Dunc – a surprising number of men are willing to admit to rape, as long as the actual word ‘rape’ isn’t uttered.

    ” researchers David Lesak and Paul M. Miller asked 1882 college students the following questions:

    1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
    2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
    3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
    4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?”

    6% answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of those questions. Of the men that admitted doing it more than once, they’d committed an average of 5.8 assaults. 4% of the men were responsible for 400 rapes and attempted rapes, and admit that without hesitation. How many, I wonder, realised what was being asked. and were too ashamed to. admit it?

    So I think you’re both spot on. A lot of the fidgeting could well be “Oh shit, that means…”

    Info from “Meet the Predators” at the amazing Yes Means Yes blog.

  23. 27

    I will preface what I’m about to say with the following: false rape accusations are so rare and infrequent, that they have absolutely no relevance to discussions about the epidemic problem of abuse (mostly with women as victims, and, statistically speaking, always with men as the assailant, whether the victim is male or female). There are plenty of false reports of theft and damage to property, insurance fraud, but those aren’t brought up every time there’s a discussion about making buildings and dwellings safer: “The police need to respond more quickly to house break-ins, they’re letting criminals get away.” “Yeah, but what about the people who say their building was robbed, but they just wanted an insurance check?” It’s an incoherent response.

    That being said, I deal with false accusations of assault and abuse (mental, physical, and sexual) so frequently that I’ve become jaded and cynical. The number of women willing to go through the insane drama of a criminal rape trial based on a false accusation is basically nil. The number of women (and men) who take advantage of domestic court forums and emergency protection orders to accuse their spouse or significant other of horrible actions is limitless.

    To be clear, this is not a problem of women falsely accusing men, this is a problem of people involved in relationships trying to destroy each other — 99% of my female clients are drunk, drug-abusing sluts, and 99% of my male clients are abusive sexual deviants, according to the other side.

    Here is an example of a phenomenon I deal with regularly: one-side accuses the other of something particularly horrific and claims they should have sole custody of the children with the other side needing psychological evaluations before they can see the kids again. As this claim is being made in court, the accusing party will call (and often text…there is a frighteningly large percentage of the population that doesn’t understand the concept of phone records and digital memory) and say, “I’ll let you have visitation with the kids if you give me the car, stereo, bedroom-set (this one always comes up, which I find weird)…etc.” Does that mean it was all a lie? Well, not necessarily, but it makes it very difficult to evaluate seriously.

    In addition to what Amanda said about rapists lying about their confusion, I think another dynamic that underlies much of this MRA nonsense is that they have a buddy who went through a nasty divorce or custody battle where those sorts of allegations were tossed around, and they infer from that level of court activity to “false accusations of rape” in a criminal context, which I have yet to encounter. And, of course, the opposite occurs almost perpetually: women afraid to move forward with legitimate accusations for the obvious 10,000 reasons.

    Having worked in that system, folks taking advantage of emergency protection orders is a big problem, but it’s a DIFFERENT problem than consent and rape and abuse and the stigma our society still places on victims. Ironically, the attempt to bring up that issue in the context of rape discussions ends up being counterproductive as there is no symmetry, one problem is way worse than the other, and folks who would likely be sympathetic to a discussion of court reform now view every instance of that topic being introduced as a means to undercut another conversation, not as a worthy topic in its own right.

  24. 29

    It’s really an Occam’s Razor issue. What’s more likely, that women are feigning consent but not actually consenting and then pointing the finger after sex, or that men who enjoy raping women pretend afterwards to have been confused to avoid consequences? Only one of those behaviors makes sense.

  25. 30


    “Except for some bad movies, I don’t know where this paranoia that some men have about false rape accusations comes from. Let me give these guys some advice.

    1) Don’t ply a woman with alcohol in the hope of getting her into bed. (i.e. don’t rape)

    2) Don’t have sex with anyone you don’t, at least moderately, trust. (i.e. one night stands with strangers are a bad idea)

    3) If you really are a decent person and act decently, you have nothing to worry about, so stop giving cover to rapists.”

    First of all, I think your three pieces of advice are really great, and I agree with the article as well. The status quo is absolutely terrifying, especially for women.

    I would like to share an anecdote (ANECDOTE, I am NOT saying this is a trend or something that happens a lot) from my own friend of circles, however, to explain why I might be guilty of sometimes fidgeting (even though I know what the right thing is, it is sometimes hard to look past your own fears. I am only human.)

    In 2009 I was studying Mandarin in Beijing, and I hung out a lot with American exchange students. Both of those things were pretty cool experiences, in terms of learning about other cultures (I am Swedish). I think you really learn something valuable about a culture when you see it interact within another culture.

    Anyhow, one night when we are all out drinking a guy and girl went home together. The girl was Asian American, from a very very very very conservative Christian family, and she had liked this guy for some time. We’re a pretty enlightened group (and more than half were women, with a group of very enlightened feminists among them) and we let them go home together. They had both had a bit to drink, but not very much. No one there thought that either party was beyond tipsy and into the terrority of rape-drunk.

    After the sex, the girl told the guy to go home – university policy didn’t allow the opposite sex in your room – and the girl had a room mate.

    Then the next morning the girl had a breakdown. She had lost her virginity. Had sex before marriage. Her life was over. Jesus fuck. She confided in her room mate that she regretted what she had done, and a few hours later she reported the guy to the Chinese police – and the guy was sent to jail without further ceremony.

    The problem was that the girl had also confided to the room mate that the sex had been consensual – she just regretted it afterwards. She had made a bad decision – but she fully took responsibility for taking it. So why did she report the guy for rape? Because to her, the social stigma of being raped was less than having had sex before marriage. She has since then AGAIN admitted to her room mate that she was not raped – she just “hates the guy for taking her virginity”.

    Either way, she is a victim. She should be allowed to sleep with whoever she wants without fearing judgement. But she is also a disturbed individual who has, since then, pretended to be pregnant to trick a guy for abortion money (spent on clothes) and other hysterical things. This is a woman with issues. She is not representative of women at large.

    But the guy didn’t know that.

    The guy is a victim here too. They had both been drinking, but only one of them was raped. Only one of them went to CHINESE prison.

    The guy hadn’t plied her with drinks. He got hit on by a girl he liked (she had been drinking on her own), he had been drinking, and he went home with her. Maybe HE WOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT if he wasn’t drinking.

    He didn’t have a chance to say he was raped. He went to prison. CHINESE prison.

    Having been close to that experience has scared me sufficiently to NEVER EVER have sex with someone who has had more than one drink. I don’t care if she is still sober enough to drive home. I am not taking the risk. But it has also resulted in me not drinking in the company of women.

    I fidget sometimes because I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish I could feel comfortable drinking around strangers of the opposite sex. I wish I wasn’t afraid of being hit on.

    I am NOT saying I wish I could fuck drunk girls. I am just saying I wish I wasn’t uncomfortable.

    But yeah, the status quo is obviously worse. Stephanie Zvan is 100% right about this.

  26. 31

    Also, my above anecdote would obviously never happen in America that has a more function justice system. This guy in China was in jail within hours of the accusation. It didn’t help that he had Japanese blood…

  27. 33

    If I may quote myself:

    *AFAIK that is a (very small) danger if the woman would face some very serious consequences if she were found to have had consensual sex. Protip: If having sex with her brings her into great danger, don’t do it. That fuck isn’t that important.

  28. 34

    Giliell, I reject the notion that he is responsible for her parents’ possible reaction. She is a grown woman, and if she wants to have consensual sex she should take the possible consequences that might have with her parents.

    The guy should not have been sent to Chinese prison because her parents are Christian. It doesn’t matter how important or not that fuck was. It doesn’t matter if a better strategy would be to not have sex with her – at some point you have to give women agency and responsibility and not universally dress in the role of victims.

    Both parties in the anecdote I shared with you were potentially subjected to sexual assault by the legal definition in my own country (can’t speak for Chinese law). Only one of them is in jail.

    I think your quote reeks of internalized misogyny.

  29. 36

    The guy should not have been sent to Chinese prison because her parents are Christian.

    Who said he should? Stop reading stuff into what people write and read what they actually write. Probably not even actual criminals should be sent to Chinese prisons.
    The argument is a moral one, one about being careful and caring.
    Why on earth would you want to fuck somebody who will think of it as “the worst thing I ever did”?
    You know, enthusiastic consent, making sure your partner is actually as much into this as you are and not causing accidential damage.

  30. 37

    Still sounds like victim blaming, Giliell. “Maybe he wouldn’t be in prison if he was sober enough to appreciate the nuances of her enthusiastic “I am taking you back to my place now to fuck you””.

  31. 38

    I have the impression that you don’t understand what that actually means.
    To spell it out: If everything was according to your tale he should not have been convicted.
    I haven’t actually mentioned alcohol, or being sober, that’s you putting words into my mouth again.
    I have talked about making sure that your partner actually really is into this as much as you are. Partner. Gender neutral. I start to suspect that you’re actually not arguing in good faith.
    If you’re unable to understand that a moral argument s different from a legal one that’s your problem.

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