Stanford Bans Hard Alcohol at Parties, Avoiding the Real Causes of Sexual Assault


As a new school year begins, it’s the perfect time for colleges to adopt better sexual assault policies and preventative programs. Stanford University especially needed to take action considering a former student, Brock Turner, was convicted earlier this year for sexually assaulting a woman after a party. However, instead of actually addressing the root causes of sexual assault, Stanford simply banned hard liquor for undergraduates.

On Monday, the school updated its alcohol policy to forbid “high-volume distilled liquor containers” (i.e. bottles of liquor) in undergrad housing and on-campus parties “in an effort to reduce the availability and accessibility of hard alcohol,” according to a university memo. The announcement made clear that the ban also applies to mixed drinks, so students are only allowed to drink beer and wine.

Since the majority of undergrad students are under 21 any way, this step won’t have much impact (not to mention the fact that college students are really good at finding ways to drink without getting caught). Although the school didn’t advertise the new rule as a response to Turner’s case or rape on campus, it has that implication nevertheless, especially since theschool hasn’t implemented any new policies or strategies for combatting sexual assault.

Just after the announcement, a page titled “Female Bodies and Alcohol” appeared on the school’s website that explains in detail how women are more affected by drinking than men. “We like to think men and women are equal in all things, right? When it comes to most of the A-words (like academics, athletics, arts), women and men are equal. Not so with alcohol,” the page says.

The patronizing page’s timely release, along with the new hard alcohol ban, not only reeks of victim blaming, but also seems to tell female students, “We’re not only protecting you from men, but also from yourselves.” How To Drink Responsibly is definitely a lesson new college students need, but they also need seminars on What Is Consent and How To Not Sexually Assault Others.

Focusing on alcohol is the entirely wrong approach. Yes, Turner happened to assault a woman after they had both been drinking at a party, but just as a woman’s drinking doesn’t dictate that she somehow caused her own assault, drinking doesn’t automatically turn men into rapists. The causes of sexual assault have much deeper roots in how men are raised to view women and sex, and addressing those beliefs and explaining to young men what is and isn’t consent is the only way to really combat sexual assault on campuses.

Banning hard liquor is like putting a Band-Aid on a concussion — it’s not going to help the nationwide campus sexual assault problem, but it does give a faint impression of trying. Schools like Stanford need to address what actually causes women to be victimized and students to rape and stop skirting around the issue and putting the blame and responsibility on women.

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