• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


What About Binge Drinking?

Alcohol abuse matters, but rape culture still matters.

August 10, 2014

A few commenters have pointed to binge drinking as a contributor to sexual assaults on campus. I agree that overconsumption of alcohol is a big problem that can lead to other even worse problems, such as serious illness and injury, academic failure, and all kinds of bad decisions, including sexual ones.

I think it is important, though, to separate the issues as far as it is possible to do so. Alcohol can help enable rape culture, but it doesn't cause it.

Look. My father was a lovely man — charming, funny, kind and responsible — except when he was drunk, which got to be most evenings of my childhood. Then he would call me horrible names and beat my brother within an inch of his life. Once he imagined that I had slighted him and hit me in the mouth, drawing blood, right after my braces had been tightened.

He was contrite and loving when he sobered up. I don't know how many times I heard, "It was the booze talking." But, not to get all NRA about this, alcohol doesn't talk. It doesn't insult people and beat them up. It mutes the part of us that might otherwise recognize a bad idea, but really, if it wasn't my dad abusing us, then who was it?

I doubt that I am alone in admitting that I did some very stupid alcohol-fueled things in college. So did several of my friends. None of us raped or assaulted anyone, though. All the damage we did, we did to ourselves. Just like the young women who drink too much and find themselves in dangerous situations. And I hope and believe that if any of us ever had hurt another person, or an animal, in a drunken rage, we would have been overwhelmed with remorse, done anything we could to make amends, and sworn off the stuff.

If you get drunk and run someone over, you are still responsible for what you did. This is true even if your victim was also intoxicated and couldn't run away from your car. Because it wasn't the "booze" that was driving the car, it was you.

This is leaving aside all of the other elements of rape culture, including sexual objectification and general fraternity horribleness, not to mention the non-responsiveness of administrations to reports of sexual assault.

Binge drinking on campus is definitely a bad thing, but it is a bad thing that affects women and men differently, because of rape culture.


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