Alcohol and rape. Alcohol and rape. Any drug, but especially drinking. You hear those phrases tossed around a lot: the numbers vary, but there’s a general consensus that a large proportion of rape victims experienced their assault while under the influence of something.
When did it become A Thing to excuse this?
First of all, there’s the language. When people talk about a rape that occurred under the influence, there’s a damn good chance they are not going to call it “rape”. They are going to look disapproving and a little surprised, and say in hushed tones that they heard that ze took advantage of hir.
TOOK. ADVANTAGE. What the fuck. This is not a game of chess. This is not about opportunism. This is about rape. Rape, rape, rape, rape, rape – I am going to keep saying it until you repeat after me. R-A-P-E. If you’re calling rape “taking advantage of someone”, you might as well call armed robbery “incentivizing lending with an indefinite repayment schedule”. Oh, except, wait, I already established a long time ago that theft is not an adequate analogy for sexual assault.
My point stands. Calling rape anything except what it really is does nothing but lend further validation to the perpetrator. Call a spade a spade, and don’t bother with the pretty euphemisms that just perpetuate the mythology.
Second of all, there’s the way that people will use but Rapist was drunk/high/etc too, so it’s not Rapist’s fault.
Let me put this as concisely as possible:
Here’s the fun thing about alcohol: it’s a fucking depressant, and it has serious effects on your coordination, ability to perceive your surroundings, reflexes, and reaction time. People seem to like to pretend that it has more serious effects on your judgment/personality than it really does at low doses (there have actually been studies showing how our cultural perception of drunkenness leads to a placebo effect*).
Let me repeat that: it has serious effects on your coordination, ability to perceive your surroundings, reflexes, and reaction time.
Oh, and there’s also that slightly important aspect of being extremely drunk: the inability to achieve an erection. Alcohol does not make you uncontrollably horny. It is not an aphrodisiac. It makes you sleepy, clumsy, unable to perform sexually, and disoriented. Male or female, regardless of the gender of your partner: if you’re able to successfully and purposefully locate another person’s sexual organs, you are NOT “too drunk to know better”.
So, let’s recap what we’ve learned here: if you are sober enough to be able to actually perform a sexual act, you are fucking sober enough to know whether or not you are raping your partner. “But I was drunk!” does not hold as an excuse for ignoring lack of consent. End. Of. Story. If you had the capacity to understand the difference between “yes” and “no” at eight months old, you can sure as fucking hell understand it after a Jägerbomb.
Third of all, there’s the (in my opinion) extremely perplexing way that people dismiss the victim’s side of the story even if the rapist does not claim to have been too drunk to know what s/he was doing.
I guess that, in large part, this is part of the big, fat culture of victim blaming and shaming. SHORTSKIRTDRUNKSLUT, to borrow a phrase once again from Fugitivus.**
It’s part of that whole culture that tells women that they should perpetually be prepared for an attempted rape, and any act of letting your guard down automatically means that you were somehow Asking For It. It’s that culture that says that Men Will Rape and Women Should Know This And Take Precautions. And if they don’t? Well, Gee, That’s Regrettable, But What Was She Thinking?
Men – people in general – are capable of self-control. Despite our cultural addiction to violent movies, we do not excuse vehicular homicide because the person “just wanted some excitement – it’s natural – and couldn’t help him/herself”. Despite the general knowledge that raising children is frustrating, we do not excuse child abuse because “well, it’s human nature to be selfish and just want them to shut up sometimes”. Why should we excuse raping someone who is incapacitated because “people want sex, it’s a biological drive”? We should not. That is the answer.
This is why there are laws*** saying that, legally, consent cannot be given under the influence. This is common knowledge. I can think of very few people who do not know that you cannot, under the law, have consensual sex with someone who is drunk.
So, wait. If you already know that another person is drunk and you are not, and you know that what you are doing is legally considered rape, but you do it anyway, what does that make you?
Oh, yeah, a rapist.
There is no excuse for rape. Intoxication level is immaterial. There is no She Should Have Known Better. There is nothing but a victim and a rapist, and the clear message that his/her drunkenness was not an excuse to make him/her do anything sexual**** that he or she did not want to do.
And here’s the other thing: in my experience, men who rape drunkenly, or rape the drunk, are also men who rape sober, and rape the sober.
Both of my rapists are repeat offenders. Both of them have committed both drunken and sober rapes. In the case of my first rapist, he raped me sober, and raped my pretty china-doll-faced friend after sharing a box of wine with her. In the case of my second rapist, he raped me both drunk and sober, and went on to carry out another drunk rape which it is not my place to discuss.
Do not make excuses for rapists who rape drunkenly, or rape the drunk. Do not play would-have-could-have-should-have with the victim of a rape where alcohol, or any other drug, was involved.
A rapist is a rapist is a rapist.
A rape is a rape is a rape.
And it’s fucked up and wrong that society insists on trying to weasel around or amend that.
*If anyone’s interested, there’s actually a pretty cool BBC article out there on this.
**http://www.fugitivus.net/. I cannot link to this lovely lady enough.
***Of course, this is not universal – I’m sure there are places in the world where this does not hold, but I don’t actually have a list handy.
****On a rather humorous note, I added the “sexual” as an afterthought, after remembering that more than once a friend has needed to bully/badger me into drinking water when I’m drunk, so that I don’t get sick. So I guess that’s a good thing for them to make me do, despite my aversion to it.