Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the loquacious president emeritus of George Washington University, is facing widespread criticism for his comments about how female students’ drinking might contribute to their becoming victims of sexual assault.
During a panel discussion Tuesday on the nationally syndicated Diane Rehm Show, Trachtenberg said that female students “have to be trained not to drink in excess.”
The remarks came in the context of a broader discussion about fraternities and sororities. Trachtenberg said, in part, “They go to the parties at the fraternities. So it's not as if the women aren't drinking. They are, in fact, without taking -- without making the victims are responsible for what happens. One of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much. And there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children on that -- in that regard.”
After a break, his comments became a topic of conversation for others on the radio panel. Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for The Atlantic who spent a year investigating the unseemly side of fraternity life, said she took a “slight exception or maybe a real exception to what Dr. Trachtenberg is saying about how if young women are sober they have a better chance of protecting themselves from rape by being able to punch the guy in the nose. That's not a realistic strategy for protecting ourselves from rape.”
Trachtenberg said he was “astonished that somebody would attack me for suggesting sobriety” was a good formula for preventing sexual assaults.
Rehm, the host, said "a 120-pound woman is not in a position to deal with a group who may be gang raping."
Trachtenberg replied, "I didn't anticipate being taken quite so literally.”