If You Think Alcohol Causes Rape, You’ve Just Bought Into The Victim-Blaming Narrative


By Liz Greene

It’s an old article, I know, but I can’t help but be pissed off every time it shows up in my search results. “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk” was written by Emily Yoffe for Slate nearly three years ago, but its horrific message is still spreading like a virus through American culture.

If you don’t want to read through the whole article, I’ll sum it up for you with a single quote: “The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.”

Yoffe erroneously concludes that telling women not to get drunk is not a form of victim blaming, but it is.

Blaming the Victim

When women are taught they can avoid sexual assault by not drinking, flirting, wearing revealing clothing, or walking home alone at night, they’re not only being conditioned to believe that rape is preventable based on their actions, they’re also being given the message that they are to blame for any violence committed against them.


This conditioning often leads survivors to blame themselves for their assault. Guilt, shame, and self doubt take over resulting in two out of three rapes going unreported. What’s more, prevention tips such as the ones Yoffe shares reinforce the societal idea that if a woman “doesn’t do enough to prevent sexual assault,” she “had it coming.”

Drunkenness Does Not Cause Rape

To put it simply, prevention techniques don’t challenge the base cause of sexual violence — it’s a crime of opportunity and rapists will use whatever means they can to justify their entitlement. Alcohol is not the reason for rape, it’s simply one of many tools at a rapist’s’ disposal.

A study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism put it succinctly: “Although alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur, this phenomenon does not prove that alcohol use causes sexual assault.

Need further proof? There are many cultures where alcohol is not permitted — yet, sober assailants still assault sober victims. This clearly demonstrates that sexual violence is based on power and control over others, not on inhibitions.

It’s time to stop blaming victims and start destroying the culture that protects their attackers.


A Patriarchal Power Structure

Blaming women for being raped puts restrictions on their lives that, frankly, don’t apply to men. A man walking home alone at night, wearing clothing that emphasized his body would not be blamed or placed under excessive scrutiny if he were to become the victim of crime. He would be believed, even if he were drunk.

A woman in an identical situation would not be afforded the same level of respect.

In a New York Times article, Alexandra Brodsky, editor of Feministing,pointed out, “The common advice we hear about “how not to get raped” — stay sober, use a buddy system — isn’t just ineffective. It also preserves the power structures that perpetuate violence.”

And believe me, no matter how many people insist it does not exist, rape culture is real. One needs to look no further than the media’s tone-deaf reporting of the Steubenville trial, wherein it was lamented that the young men’s “promising futures” were ruined, but the victim of their horrific crimes was given little thought or sympathy.

There are many factors at play when it comes to alcohol and rape. The fact is, alcohol affects womens’ bodies differently than men, but that doesn’t mean they are inherently weaker, or that inebriation is a failure on their part to prevent rape. Every woman and man, whether they be cis or transgendered deserves to be able to enjoy a drink (or many) with friends without worrying about being assaulted.

Alcohol is never to blame for rape. Rapists are.





Liz Greene is a makeup enthusiast, rabid feminist, and an anxiety-ridden realist from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can follow her latest misadventures on her blog, Instant Lo.

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