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Is Alcohol the New Short Skirt?

Attitudes about women’s alcohol consumption haven’t changed much. Women who drink are still perceived as being “promiscuous,” “easy,” or more sexually available.

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The “hookup” culture of young people is where the newest rape myth, “gray rape,” is most insidious. Gray rape promotes the idea that it is hard to identify what constitutes consent or non-consent and that many situations described as rape, especially when alcohol is added to the mix, are confusing or simply unknowable.  Legally, a person who is drunk cannot consent to sex and having sex without consent is rape. But alcohol consumption doesn't completely diminish the ability to consent to or decline sex. It is only in situations where the person is unconscious (blacked out) that consent isn’t possible.  

Studies have shown that in a large percentage of acquaintance rapes the rapist understands that he does not have consent and he uses alcohol to facilitate the rape. A study conducted by the Naval Health Research Center showed that men who committed multiple rapes knew that they didn’t have consent and they used substances to incapacitate their victims in order to complete the rape. And another study by David Lisak and Paul Miller came to similar conclusions: that men intend to rape and in a majority of the rapes, 80.8 percent, women were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.   

These sexual predators target women who drink because they know it’s easier to physically overpower them. Many women who have been raped report that their attacker bought them numerous drinks and encouraged them to keep drinking for several hours before the attack. According to an article on rape and alcohol by Antonia Abbey in the Journal of American College Health, 75 percent of rapists said that they sometimes got women drunk in order to force sex on them. Another study showed that 40 percent of men said it was acceptable to force sex on a woman who was drunk.  

Alcohol-facilitated rape isn’t an accident. And the gray rape ideas that are currently popular, that assert rape is the result of miscommunication, confusion or intoxication, are not only wrong, they let the rapist off the hook and blame the victim once again. 

Dr. Abbey explained the sexist double-standard  of drinking:

“Women who were drunk when raped are often viewed by others as partially responsible for what happened. Interviews with a group of college students showed that the male attacker was held less responsible for the rape when he was intoxicated than he was when he was reported as being sober. In contrast, the female victim was held more responsible when she was intoxicated than when she was reported as being sober. Thus, in terms of how others will perceive their behavior, the costs of intoxication are higher for college women than for college men.”

Alcohol-facilitated rape doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Sex crimes occur in a society where women are unequal to men in every arena of life and in a culture that degrades and commodifies women’s bodies and sexuality.  

Advertisements for alcohol are among the most overtly sexist and misogynist. They often depict large-breasted, bikini-clad women draped over bottles of booze while being stared at by groups of men. For men, these ads reinforce the idea that drinking alcohol makes them powerful and that women are passive objects attracted to men who drink. Check out the Thirsty For Beer commercial on YouTube.

Raunch culture is ubiquitous, is often paired with binge drinking, and reinforces women’s status as sex objects who never say no to men. The Girls Gone Wild and B ooty Slap Day videos, gentleman’s strip clubs, the TV show The Girls Next Door -- also known as The Girls of the Playboy Mansion -- restaurant chains Hooters and Tilted Kilt that lure customers with the promise of half-naked female servers, cause no societal outrage. In fact, some, including feminists, argue it shows that women are sexually liberated.  

 
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