What Does Drinking Have to do with Feminism?

Well, for most feminist bloggers, the answer seems to be absolutely nothing.

An article at the Frisky called Why Being Drunk is a Feminist Issue is causing quite a stir in the blogosphere. The article makes an argument that I have attempted to make numerous times–although rape is always the fault of the rapist and not the person who’s being raped, no matter what that person was wearing or doing or drinking at the time, the unfortunate reality is that we live in a world where rape still happens–and alcohol makes rape more likely. The Frisky article puts it like this:

In an ideal world, rape wouldn’t exist. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t matter how much a woman had to drink, what she was wearing, or what overtures she had given—no man would ever consider sex without explicit consent and would recognize that anyone who is deeply intoxicated is unable to give consent. But we don’t live in that world. Unfortunately, short of some Herculean sensitivity raising effort, we do not have control over what men, drunk or sober, will do when presented with our drunkeness. What we do have control over is our side of the equation—how much we drink.

Of course, this suggestion always has the effect of immediately infuriating virtually all feminists. How dare they suggest that there are things women can do to prevent themselves from getting raped? We should be able to walk alone down a street at 4 AM wearing nothing but stilettos!

Yes. Yes, you should. I absolutely agree. I will wholeheartedly support any initiative that aims to stop rapists from being rapists. And I absolutely agree that rapists should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law regardless of how the victim was acting, what she (or he) was wearing, or how much she (or he) had had to drink.

But the truth is that, as the Frisky article says, you can’t control what other people do. You can only control what you do.

However, I’ll set that entire argument aside for a moment, because I know I really can’t win this one. The feminist blogs have slapped it with the label “victim blaming,” from which there is no coming back. (Which, incidentally, really pisses me off, because the writer says numerous times throughout the post that she does not think it’s a woman’s fault if she’s drunk and gets raped, and that she fully blames the man and that he should be prosecuted. Yet all the responses to this I’ve read insist on claiming that the author blames the victim. People. You cannot respond intelligently to a blog post if you refuse to even take the original blogger at his/her word. That’s just intellectually dishonest. Respond to what’s written, not to what you feel should be written there based on other things the author says. There are nuances, for heaven’s sake.)

Anyway, there is another reason why drinking (by which I mean, drinking to the point that you’re intoxicated) might not be compatible with feminism, and it involves the concept of choice.

To me, feminism has always been all about choice. Feminism is a philosophy that empowers women to choose–choose what job to have, whether to date/marry/have kids, and what to wear, for instance. It follows that choosing who to sleep with is a power that women should also have.

But getting very drunk takes choice away from you. It can make you do things that you wouldn’t do while sober, and that you regret later. It makes you more agreeable, less likely to fight back, less likely to speak up. Sure, a drunk person legally can’t give consent, but who draws the line between can and can’t? Where is that line? What happens when you consent to something that you later realize you shouldn’t have consented to?

Furthermore, it’s a well-known fact that some men actively try to use alcohol as a weapon. Fraternities reserve the “good stuff” for the most attractive girls, and who hasn’t seen a man in a bar enthusiastically buying more and more drinks for a woman he wants to get with?

Not all of these men are rapists. But they know that being drunk can induce someone to think they want something that, deep down, they don’t really want. If alcohol makes you consent to sex that you wouldn’t consent to otherwise, that’s a problem. If being drunk takes the power of choice away from women, then yes, being drunk is absolutely a feminist issue.

What Does Drinking Have to do with Feminism?

10 thoughts on “What Does Drinking Have to do with Feminism?

  1. 1

    What bothers me about the discourse around alcohol and sexual assault is that warnings not to drink too much to avoid being assaulted are somehow always addressed to women. There are many men who had too much to drink and then found themselves in sexual situations that they never wanted nor asked for with both men and women.

  2. 2

    It is kind of difficult to draw the line between can and can’t, but Dirk Nowitzki certainly drew a line tonight as he faced down flu issues to take down the Heat in the closing seconds of Game 4 in the NBA finals.

  3. 3

    First, TOTALLY A BOSS. Second, if i use alcohol as a weapon against my bros to get them more drunk does that mean that I’m homosexual… I mean i think i like clams?

  4. 4

    In terms of drawing the line between can and can’t, I agree with you Van. When women are intoxicated though, they’re ability to draw that line is crippled. Kind of like how Dirk Nowitzi’s play should have been crippled because of his fever of 102 degrees. Except it wasn’t, and as a result the mavs are up 4-2.

  5. 5

    RE: “Sure, a drunk person legally can’t give consent, but who draws the line between can and can’t? Where is that line? What happens when you consent to something that you later realize you shouldn’t have consented to?”

    Expecting a guy (who is probably also drunk) to draw that line in an appropriate place is like asking a dog to guard your sandwich. It’s simply good logic to maintain your own ability to draw the line where you want it drawn. Not that I’m opposed to your walking down the street in stilettos idea, just agree that the sane person deals with the reality on the ground. When we get to a perfect world we can deal with it some other way.

    Great article btw. You’re allowed to ramble a little, keeps it interesting. 🙂

  6. Tim

    So two people are sitting at a bar getting drunk. How can either of them consent, male or female?

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand that rape happens and when it does it’s 0 not the fault of the person being raped, but when someone makes the choice to sit down at the bar with someone else, they make the choice to drink however much they drink, they choose to go home with someone, and they choose to sleep with them, that isn’t rape unless someone can explain to me how it is that two people can be raping each other. At no point is force or coercion in play; it’s just two people having a good time.

    Then it’s the next morning and she regrets what she chose to do; in what way does this equate to him having raped her? Does it mean women in relationships should be able to go out drinking and have a free pass to sleep with whoever they want because they “weren’t in their right mind” and she “regretted it in the morning” and “would never do that sort of thing sober”? Uh, no.

    Allowing the blanket argument: drunk != consenting, criminalizes a large area of normal, ethical human interaction. I’m aware it’s current law. That doesn’t make it right.

    When someone is drugged they should not be held accountable for all of their actions, but when someone makes the choice to consume mind altering substances they are still responsible for the actions they take, whether it’s sleeping with someone, putting a crowbar through an ex’s windshield, or actively stopping an attempted rape. It’s all the same, either people as a whole should be held accountable or they shouldn’t, no ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’.

    1. 6.1

      You know, to be completely honest, I’m not sure where this comes from. The legal definition of consent includes the condition that the person giving consent is not intoxicated. I think they defined it this way because a drunk person may not say “yes,” but they may not say “no” either. In fact, they could practically be unconscious. But yes, what you’re referring to is a huge problem, because few average people seriously think that having sex with a drunk person who seems to be consenting is rape. If that were the case, I’d say that most instances of casual sex would be rape, because for it not to be, the two people would have to agree BEFORE they got drunk that they were going to have sex. That never happens.

      But this, again, is the problem with alcohol–it’s a well-known phenomenon that certain (usually male) people have to “get someone drunk” before said person will have sex with them.

      1. Tim

        The problem is that there’s no area where sobriety being a pre-requisite of giving consent protects anyone in need of protecting. If a person is drunk to the point they can’t say “yes” and/or participate in a manner that makes it clear they’re happy with what’s happening, then they wouldn’t be considered to have given consent anyways.

        I agree completely that drunk people are more likely to have sex with strangers, but that doesn’t absolve them or responsibility.

        You say it’s a well known phenomena that men will get women drunk so they sleep with them. How exactly do they do that? Slip something in their iced tea? A new type of chloroform? The truth is that they get themselves drunk by deliberately drinking alcohol, the men you’re coming down on just facilitate it.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending something I’ve done or have any intention of doing; that sort of “relationship” isn’t exactly my style. It just annoys me that it’s one more area where it’s instantly the big bad horny (oh, and klutzy. And stupid.) man’s fault and all the poor innocent women are doing is trying to do is sing some karaoke.

        If you still don’t see what I’m saying, look back at what you said in passing, without even thinking about it: (I paraphrase since my phone doesn’t copy/paste) If most average people thought of casual sex involving alcohol between otherwise consenting adults as unacceptable, then you’d be inclined to consider it rape.

        I ask you again: rape of whom?

      2. Well, rape of whomever ISN’T initiating it. Even for a drunk person, there’s a HUGE difference between actively pursuing sex from somebody and passively coercing or not fighting back when someone attempts to have sex with you. If a drunk woman forces herself on a drunk man, then I’d say that it’s the man who’s been raped. The fact that this coercion usually happens to women rather than men doesn’t mean it can’t also work the other way, but I think you’d have to agree with me that it’s usually men pursuing women in this sort of setting.

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