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Alcohol and Assault: Who’s to Blame? – A Response



Why not to read 40 pages in a book and think it qualifies you to theorise about sexual assault

This article has been written by Anonymous. The cover illustration is also by them.

Trigger Warning: Mentions of sexual assault.

I’m your average run-of-the-mill feminist who is kind of tired of reading dumb shit on the internet, so I don’t usually bother responding. But sometimes, you read something that really ignites your inner feminazi, you know?

In a previous Quirk articled titled “Alcohol and Assault: Who’s to Blame?”, the author establishes a positive relation between hypersexuality, alcohol, and sexual assault on campus. While conceding that alcohol is not the sole cause of sexual assault, the author says that alcohol causes short-sightedness and puts you at the “mercy of your environment” (whatever the hell that means).

I am going to tell you three reasons why painting alcohol even as one of the reasons for sexual assault detrimentally impacts our understanding of the same. Then I will tell you why this idea of hypersexuality is just a dumbass way of patrolling sex lives.

First, let us break down why causation is so important. Sexual assault is a very specific form of gendered violence that uses sex and sexual acts as a way of reinforcing the power of one gender over the others. Like we learnt from the many readings in the History II course, (I’d suggest the author of the article I’m responding to take time to go through those again) inequality is what is sexual. The fact that a man, at any point, can feel the urge to touch a woman against her will and then act on that urge is not random. It’s based on years of understanding women as property and women as merely existing for the sexual gratification of men.

However, most of you already know this. The reason it is so wrong to associate sexual assault with alcohol is that it shifts the blame away from this patriarchal structure and onto a seemingly frivolous shot of vodka. In other words, blaming alcohol erases the systematic nature of sexual assault. It reduces it to a mistake that happens when you’re drunk. Sexual assault does not happen because people get drunk. It happens because people had those misogynistic ideas before they got drunk.

Second, let us tackle this idea about whether people in college understand consent just because they are in law school, because the author answers this in the positive. The author, in musing whether “lack of understanding of informed consent” has a role to play in sexual assault, opines that we have a good understanding of consent. Now, let us consider this point against the backdrop of sexual assaults on campus. When you superimpose this idea that people understand consent, and that sexual assault happens a lot while people are drunk, it leads you to this ludicrous pro-harasser stance that says people generally understand consent, and that alcohol just results in short-sightedness and lack of control.

All sexual assault is because of a lack of understanding of consent. Saying alcohol leads to short-sightedness and lack of control is justificatory behaviour that takes away from the fact that sexual assault is a function of lack of consent. This is no different from the typical “Oh, he just didn’t know what he was doing” BS that women hear every day.

Third, let us understand how the article in question, whether knowingly or unknowingly, has created a framework that blames the victim for assault. You will notice that everywhere in the article, the author says “here is what causes sexual assault”, not “here is why men sexually assault”.*

Know that there is a subtle difference between the phrasing. But my point is, that even when he is talking about short-sightedness and one’s acts being dictated by the environment, he never points this at the harasser, because the truth is that alcohol causes everyone to be let their guards down. And this is where the article blurs the line of “whose fault is sexual assault?”. This is because, the premise of the article appears to be that if you are choosing to drink, or be around people who drink, you run the risk of being sexually assaulted. So, if you make that choice, the consequences are something you need to be ready for. Not just that, it really fucks up the idea of continuing consent. For instance, if a woman and a man are drunk and the woman consents only to making out with a man, but he wants to have sex, the author really, really cannot say that that they were both short-sighted, and around people who were hooking up and that is what caused the assault. By doing this, the author makes the victim seem complicit in the crime that was committed against her just because she was also part of an environment that was consuming alcohol.

Finally, let us try to understand this word “hypersexuality” that was thrown around a lot but never really explained right. Hypersexuality is defined as a “dysfunctional preoccupation with sexual fantasy”.

While I don’t really think the author used the right word, I understand the essence of what he’s saying. College kids just wanna bang all the time (guilty). And in wanting to engage in intercourse/fuck/make love/ do the deed I don’t know whatever you want to call it, we’ve put sex on a pedestal and that is problematic. I get his point – sex should not have to be viewed as the end-all, and such a view often leads to environments where women feel pressured to oblige.

Here’s the thing though. There is a difference between saying that putting sex on a pedestal causes sexual assault, versus saying that physical expressions of sexuality lead to sexual assault. This is something a friend told me after reading the article – “It seems as if the article seeks to blame sexual environments for sexual assault”. To put it really simply I could be at an orgy, and if I say no to sex that counts as a valid choice. Anything after that is assault.

At the end of the day, this is only really impacting women’s desire to be or act or dress sexy, right? Women should be able to twerk, grind, #freethenipple or whatever it is that they want to do (without harming anyone else of course), without the fear that their expression of sexuality will lead to them getting assaulted. Otherwise, this is just moral policing.

Anyway, this is my two cents as a woman who has read slightly more than 40 pages. Dear Author, to clarify, I do not think your article had any malicious intent. It was just poorly researched and badly worded.

Sexual assault on campus is far more complex than just being a function of kids getting drunk. We need to take responsibility and identify the right issues. Without that, we’re never going to get anywhere with making campus safer for women and sexual minorities.

*Yes, men also get sexually assaulted and women sexually assault, please do not come @ me for being a fAke FeMiniSt.

Quirk Team Note: Other responses to “Alcohol and Assault: Who’s to Blame? can be found in the comments section of the original piece. We’d encourage readers to read those as well.

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