Blaming the victim? Emily Yoffe’s sexual assault prevention advice

Protection shouldn’t be a dirty word

Who should teach our teenagers about drinking at university?

Dave Chidley/CP

This week Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe incurred the wrath of Twitter with her ambitiously titled column, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk”. Yoffe’s argument? College women should refrain from getting blotto because a lot of sexual assaults on campus involve alcohol; women who don’t imbibe excessively may be less susceptible to sexual assault. She writes:

“Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. 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.”

To say that this theory ticked off a lot of people would be a gross understatement. Many pointed out the hypocrisy of Yoffe’s thesis: why target drinking among campus women and not men? But most, including Alexander Abad-Santos at The Atlantic Wire, made clear that they object to telling would-be victims—as opposed to would-be rapists—anything at all when it comes to sexual assault prevention. Abad-Santos’advice is here: “What about teaching men not to rape?

(Yes and while we’re at it, we’ll teach terrorists not to terrorize, dictators not to dictate, hit men not to hit men and con men not to con them.)

I am no fonder of Yoffe’s argument than Abad-Santos is, but I’m equally wary of this creeping norm that casts any and all sexual assault prevention geared towards women as “victim blaming.” And I’m doubly wary of the notion that rape is a purely learned crime, something that more social programming and less Robin Thicke will one day eradicate.

To view rape, and by extension evil, as an inevitability in this world is not to placate it. Of course we should do what we can to “teach men not to rape” if such a thing is possible. We should also—for enhanced protection, in the likely event that such tutelage proves ineffective—teach women how to protect themselves. Don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t get blackout drunk at a frat party without a loyal female friend in situ, and yes, as vague Police Officer X is wont to say: “be mindful of your surroundings.”

Writers like Abad-Santos, and feminist writer Jessica Valenti—who had a near melt down on Twitter after Yoffe’s column went up—are under the impression that any preventative attention paid to a potential victim of sexual assault (as opposed to the potential rapist) is misplaced. It’s one of the most common sexual political occurrences today: The well-meaning protectorate says something practical if not profoundly obvious (the most common being “be mindful of your surroundings”) and the well-meaning activist takes offense, projecting onto the practical, a veiled, misogynist agenda.

Yes, rapists are responsible for rape, not low-cut tops, or unattended Smirnoff Ice. But that doesn’t mean rapists’ would-be victims should take zero measures to protect themselves—or that we shouldn’t help them do so. We don’t tell cops to throw away their bulletproof vests because the problem is guns. We don’t tell cyclists to go without helmets because the problem is cars. And we don’t abstain from telling children not to take candy from strangers because the problem is pedophilia—not child naïveté. So when it comes to issues of sexual assault, why do we treat women like children who are too delicate to know the truth; being female is and will always be more dangerous than being male. There is no use pretending otherwise.

Victim-blaming is alive and well. I am not suggesting it isn’t. But suggesting that women be “mindful of their surroundings,” go dangerous places chaperoned, and yes— drink less among obliterated fraternity brothers—is not a covert and sexist way of saying “some men just can’t help themselves.” It’s an honest way of saying some men won’t.


Blaming the victim? Emily Yoffe’s sexual assault prevention advice

  1. The equality of women is a new thing in the world….one that comes after a couple of thousand years of subjugation…so it’s going to take awhile to learn how to handle it, and deal with it on a daily basis.

    Hell, it’s taken a long time for men to learn how to deal with being equal to each other…..instead of the lower classes moving up, we have the lower classes getting lower and some of the upper ones joining them. Prince Harry staggering out of bars for example.

    It’ll all even out in the end, and hopefully everyone will upscale….but first we apparently have to go through Harry and his Vegas moments….and Miley Cyrus and her dogging ones.

  2. Bang on Emma. If you put yourself in dangerous situations, bad things are more likely to happen to you. It’s really not rocket science, and you’d think at a place of “higher learning” like a college, it might be obvious on it’s face to most people.

    But the problem with those who are so easily offended is that they’re not thinking about protecting women, they’re simply trying to be politically and socially fashionable. How can you be a popular feminist among your peers if you point out that there were obvious ways a victim may have avoided her fate? It simply will not do with the radical feminist crowd, who seem to make less and less sense each and every day.

    • Rick, the reason feminists don’t go around explaining to “victims” all the “obvious ways” that they could have avoided their “fate” (interesting word choice) is because (1) they were raped and (2) doing so does nothing to address the core issue of rape, which is perpetrated by rapists as part of a male-dominated culture that tacitly excuses rape. (I’m a dude by the way.) The thing about feminism, and any fight for equality, is that it’s not about giving paternalistic advice to the probable victims of inequality – it’s about pointing out the source of the imbalance and fighting to eliminate it.

      • Yoffe is addressing women who are not victims yet. Your emphasis on the later actually says a lot about why the ‘feminist’ blogosphere so wilfully misunderstands, and worse, misrepresents her. You are having the argument you want to have, not the one germane to her actual comment.

        Further the entire problem in your worldview, one shared by many on the ‘social justice’ left, is the polarised attitude between advice you deride as “paternalistic” and the “imbalance” you are oh-so certain you can fight. How for example will feminist theory redress biological sex differences in the metabolism of alcohol?

  3. I completely agree that that suggesting that women be mindful of their surroundings and keep themselves safe is not victim-blaming. However, victim-blaming is SO alive and well, that presenting that advice without also noting that there is a huge issue with men not being taught about consent and how not to get *themselves* in this type of situation, as Emily Yoffe did, is problematic. I especially had an issue with her mention that while she would tell her daughter not to drink, she would tell her son “not to find himself accused of rape,” a disturbingly passive piece of “advice” that does not impart much responsibility. I totally get where you are coming from Emma and I am also frustrated with people who have made the argument that telling women to protect themselves at all is victim-blaming, I’m just trying to speak for myself and others I know who were offended by the article but not for that simple black and white reason.

    • What about when a man has consent but the woman changes her mind the next day?

      • That sounds like a different, and very specific situation to me. I see your comment below so I will respond to that – there are terrible people in this world, including men who take advantage of women and women who take advantage of men. I am not arguing for “equality only when convenient.” Of course women should be held accountable for their actions. All I am saying is that the action of drinking does not mean a woman is accountable if she is then sexually assaulted while drunk. When sexual assault does occur, your scenario of the girl just “changing her mind” the next day and “calling it rape” is all too often *assumed* to be the case, before any investigation is done. This is borne out in situations like Steubenville and appears to now be the case in Maryville though it’s hard to tell yet. I’m sorry that you feel slighted and think women have it easier than men and use rape as a tool to hurt them. I won’t say that never happens, but I will say the extent to which teachers, principals, coaches, police officers and judges assume it does is horrifying.

        • There is a big problem with the he said/she said date-rape cases – how to determine the truth in those circumstances can be very difficult – and you’re right that too often people assume the woman is merely regretting her actions. I tend to lean toward believing the woman, despite the “innocent until proven guilty” bit, because the justice system makes it so hard to see things through that a woman has to be pretty determined to take it to trial (though a woman with a mean streak seeking to wreak havoc could be just as determined, I suppose).

          There are two things (speaking from a male perspective) that bother me about the justice system’s treatment of males accused of rape though:

          (1) why is it that when a woman is intoxicated the law says she is incapable of giving consent, regardless of her actual actions at the time – yet intoxication is not a defense for the male?

          (2) Given society’s treatment of sex offenders, why isn’t the accused granted the same anonymity as the victim until such time as a conviction is entered? If a person is wrongly accused (say, it becomes evident that a wrong identification was made), there is no way to undo the damage to reputation – esp. these days, with everything on the net. People remember the accusation, and many will assume a Not Guilty verdict simply means he got away with it. (Once convicted, however, the anonymity should be lifted unless needed to protect the victim’s identity.)

    • If a woman is in a place and situation and is raped, all the fuss and bother on twitter, even any judicial action and justice being done is immaterial. She was raped and has to deal with the ugly consequences. Fault is immaterial as well. She was raped, she was hurt.

      So the solution is for anyone to act in a way that lessens the possibility of nasty things happening to them. I harass the fellows working for me so that they don’t get into situations where they could be injured. Again blame and justice and all those things are meaningless if they are hurt or killed.

      Prevention is the best medicine. If a situation or group or place is dangerous, don’t go there. If you do, you are placing yourself in a dangerous situation. Right or wrong. Meaningless.

      I’m sure that women who are raped want to seek justice, fine. Many many don’t, a large proportion of rape victims don’t report it because they don’t want more hurt. But I’m very sure that they would have preferred to not have been raped. If there are suggestions that could help before it occurs, great. It seems that the very idea of suggesting things to avoid difficulties is somehow offensive. Pure nonsense.

      • Well the idea that suggesting things to avoid difficulties is offensive isn’t true for me, or any of my feminist friends. We agree that prevention is very important. I/we just think it’s important to include in a discussion like this the idea that men (generalizing, since it is usually men who rape women, but it really applies to anyone capable of raping) also have a responsibility for prevention. It just felt like Yoffe ignored that aspect altogether, and put the onus on women. It might be hard to see it that way if you aren’t bombarded all the time with admonitions to “be careful” because there are bad people out there who might rape you. After many years of that, a lot of us are just ready to focus more on how we might prevent it from happening to anyone at all, not just on how we can protect ourselves. I just think it’s more helpful to discuss it all together — women need to protect themselves and we also need to discuss consent more with men. There are some great suggestions for the latter at and

        • Again, immaterial. Today, tomorrow, next week a woman will be going about her business. No discussion, no societal effort, no law will protect her. It is up to her. A newspaper, the G&M I think had an article about rape, and the changes in law etc. done when my daughter was a baby. She is now a woman going about her life and these wonderful great ideas have made no difference or at best a minor difference for her. It is up to her to act in a way so that she is not vulnerable.

          I’m not suggesting that what you say is not a good idea, but the best way for a woman not to be raped is to not be alone in situations where she is vulnerable to rape. An acquaintance was raped in a community college going to her locker. It should not have happened, but it did. Someone figured that it was a good place to find vulnerable young women. I hope he was caught, but I don’t think so.

          The situations that elicited the original commentary are parties designed to break down inhibitions and judgement. That is what alcohol or drug consumption does. If a woman gets raped in that situation, or a man gets accused of rape in that situation, all I can say is what did you think would happen? It shouldn’t happen, but lots of things shouldn’t happen. But they do, from what we understand, quite frequently. So obviously for sensible young men and women to avoid the real nastiness that can occur, don’t be there.

          This isn’t about blame. Blame is immaterial. It is about taking responsibility for your own safety as much as possible.

          • My point is that while a woman is responsible for her safety, the tendency to point to that as the only way to prevent rape takes all sense of responsibility off of men. That coupled with rape jokes and other elements of culture that brush off sexual assault plus the general prevailing attitude of “well what did you expect” amounts to women feeling like we are to blame if anything bad happens to us. That is where blame comes in, because we as women feel it immensely. That is why so many women do not report sexual assault, because they have been made to feel like it was their fault because of what they were wearing or the fact that they were drinking, and rape prevention tactics that focus solely on women needing to avoid “putting themselves in a dangerous position” perpetuate this. I’m not saying I shouldn’t have to protect myself, I’m saying I shouldn’t be made to feel like if I drink at a party, and a man rapes me, I shouldn’t be surprised. That equals blame. And while you may be lucky enough to find blame immaterial, most rape victims are not.

          • The situations that elicited the original commentary are parties
            designed to break down inhibitions and judgement. That is what alcohol
            or drug consumption does. If a woman gets raped in that situation, or a
            man gets accused of rape in that situation, all I can say is what did
            you think would happen?”

            What does anyone think will happen? Relaxation, socialization, spending time with another person because humans do require social contact and campus/high school parties are a culturally prevalent forum for that. Rape is not an automatic consequence of intoxication. Nobody wants to think the worst of people; in reality, most people don’t automatically assume that ‘lowered inhibitions’ will unleash a capacity for rape. Perhaps you can understand that much at least about why people get into such situations. Also, to assume that rape is automatic in this situation may be realistic, but it’s also demeaning to everyone involved. Why should women have to live in such a culture of fear, and why should all men be suspected when not all men rape?

            You are right to point out that a woman may avoid being raped by avoiding being in situations where she is vulnerable. That doesn’t mean that we should accept that it’s ok for people to take advantage of vulnerability with transgressions such as rape. Being vulnerable isn’t solely a fault of a victim’s judgment – it’s also the consequence of an aggressor’s actions.

  4. I’m still waiting for the day when women will be held equally accountable for their actions as men. If a man has 20 beers he’s still accountable for his decisions but if a woman has 1 beer she isn’t held accountable for hers. A woman can have a beer and invite a man home for a night of passion but she can change her mind the next day and call it rape. Why? If both were drinking, both should be held equally accountable. I don’t believe in equality only when convenient. When it comes to equality it’s all or nothing. I vote for all.

    • Yes I am sure Andrew Luster and his ilk are often unfairly targeted after a night of “mutual passion”. That happens when you give your date a roofie and although she has little recollection of “the passion”, she does have flashbacks of you filming her without her consent. Poor misunderstood deviants….how’s a guy supposed to get a break?! I am sure once female deviants start dropping roofies into guys drinks, the whole thing equality thing will catch up.

  5. “…being female is and will always be more dangerous than being male. ” Except for this statement, I agree completely. Women are much more likely to be raped than men, but for every other crime of violence (unless domestic violence is placed in a separate category), the victim is more likely to be male than female – shootings, knifings, beatings, whatever – at least in North America. We should all refrain from violence and refrain from getting in situations where we are more likely to be victimized, but to ignore the fact that most violent acts have male victims is to wear feminist blinders.

  6. I’d also say that this is different than that police officer telling women not to dress like sluts. At least inebriation is correlated with being sexually assaulted. There’s not much evidence that dress has much to do with your chances of being assaulted.

  7. “(Yes and while we’re at it, we’ll teach terrorists not to terrorize,
    dictators not to dictate, hit men not to hit men and con men not to con
    them.)” is a false equivalence to the goal of “teaching men not to rape.” While you’re right that rape is inevitable in the same sense that evil and violence are inevitable, that doesn’t mean the status quo is unalterable. If it’s possible to teach that it’s necessary to take precautions against being raped, why is it any less possible to teach that it’s necessary to avoid raping?

    • Because the victim doesn’t want to be raped but the rapist is less motivated to change?
      Education and societal pressure may turn the odd predator to better choices, but it is less likely to succeed than teaching potential victims some practical safety precautions simply because of the difference in motivation to change.

      • Well having women change their behaviour isn’t working at all as you would suggest. Despite the women who do get heavily intoxicated I could point to 5 who do take all the pre-cautions we throw at them and what difference is it making? I’ve heard stats like 1 in 6 women have survived an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, surely some of these women have taking precautions, and where has it gotten them? Oh right, no where! Obviously telling women to protect themselves is not working, there needs to be something else, that is why so many point to education and societal pressure, which I think you are underestimating. If rape was taking as seriously as it should be, potential rapists should stick out like a sore thumb

        • What you must understand is that rape isn’t a “taught” behavior but a “deviant tendency” that has nothing to do with sex but with control and violence. The Kingston prison in Canada has a renown sexual assault rehabilitation program and according to their clinic, “there is no cure for this deviant tendency”, only therapy to try to stop the person from acting on their uncontrollable urge to commit the act. So if you believe that these people with this deviant tendency are going to respond to an editorial telling them “don’t rape”, you might be mistaken. That would be like believing a grizzly bear is going to listen to an admonishment not to attack a jogger on a trail in the woods. The rapist and the grizzly are predators. Women and joggers have to do everything they can to protect themselves because neither rapists nor grizzlies have a conscience. It isn’t about blame but about survival. Giving women tips to be less of target for predators is a good thing. It does not absolve the predator from blame.

          • you are wrong you know, rape is taught in the high schools with the football team or basket ball team being hailed as heroes who deserve whatever they want, including sex from an unwilling girl. it is taught in church every time any of the wars in the bible are mentioned, to the victors go the spoils. being women and children to rape and torture. and that women must subjugate themselves to men. It is taught in the mosque when muslim men are told women are second class citizens and non muslim women are not even equivalent to human.

          • Oh judy, give it a rest. The kids on the basketball team, the kids in church and those in the mosque have PARENTS. It is the job of parents to teach their children right from wrong and any kid who has reached high school who doesn’t know it isn’t right to rape another person OR cry rape when there has been no rape was failed by their parents. Stop trying to blame societal institutions for the unacceptable behavior of what is a very small minority of its members. Rape is not taught but entitlement certainly is and if you have a child who feels entitled to take what is not offered or destroy another person`s life through lying, than look to your own parenting because that is likely what was lacking. A parent`s time would be better spent setting personal boundaries instead of blaming all and sundry on the bible and schools.

          • have you even seen the news lately? high school kids raping young girls, sports players thrown in jail for rape politicians showing their genitals to women and demanding responses the women don’t want. I’m just glad you aren’t at Sheldon Chumer. since that is where they send the rape victims in Calgary.

          • So you think your rebuttal that rape is occurring proves that “rape is taught” by societal institutions?
            Further you think my doubting that rape is taught by society makes me a nurse who would not be sympathetic to a rape victim. Judy, you are drawing conclusions that aren’t warranted by your commentary.
            I will chalk that up to a lack of education, just as I did with your fear of being cared for by a person wearing a turban.

          • I suppose, if you are talking about violent, serial rapists, it may be true that rehabilitation is not going to work as well. However, I’m focusing more on the “I didn’t know what I did was rape types,” like the entitled athlete, the “good” guy, the spouse with not one ounce of respect for his partner. These people can be taught a different behaviour, but we first must stop condoning their behaviour as ‘boys being boys.’ Also, I would suspect, as I said earlier, if we did have zero tolerance for this type of behaviour, the serial rapists should be more visible, just by virtue of people being more aware of warning signs.

          • You are right. I was talking about serial rapists who can also be `the entitled athlete, the so-called nice-guy or the spouse`. It seems that those who would take sex by force (when the partner has said no) do have deviant tendencies. Likely if people looked at their dating history, these tendencies have been repeated in many encounters (ie: they are not isolated incidents). People don`t normally talk about date-rape and so who is know if the behavior is a one time occurrence or not. My guess is that most are not.

          • you just called me an idiot for saying the same damned thing, you moron.

          • First, I never called you an ‘idiot” but rather an ill-informed bigot and second, you and I did NOT say the same thing. I maintain that rape is a deviant tendency. You insist it is taught by our treatment of men related to mores of schooling and religion. Now if you cannot grasp these differences in our stances on the subject, I will also have to say that you are having literacy issues as well.

  8. It beats me why anybody, male or female, would want to go to one of these parties or bars where every third guy looks and acts like a potential rapist. When those parties vanish, along with those types of guy, then you’ll know we’re making progress.

    • Here here. I used to go to nightclubs regularly. What a stupid, pathetic waste of money and youth that was. I can’t get that time back, nor can I get my damaged hearing back (from the insanely loud music), let alone the money I spent on over-priced drinks, cover charges and coat check fees. Worst of all, most clubs are run by organized crime who use them to launder money. As a largely cash business, they are ideal for the purpose.

    • Oh come on. These are young people having a good time…many are as young as 18 years old and they go out in very big groups and all dance together.

      • Ah yes, the cult of “having a good time” — while dancing badly to crappy music, drinking incredibly foul beer or tasteless coolers, luxuriating in peer pressure and anxiety, etc.

        • Gee Frank, makes it sound like your youth sucked.

          • I hung out with people who liked to talk about interesting things, listen to music chosen by themselves not club owners, smoke dope, and drop acid. It was a lot more fun than being fleeced (not to mention the violence) because you lack the will to self-define. Oh and the girls didn’t get raped and the boys didn’t get beaten up.

          • Frank, you are generalizing that the young people who go to a club and dance and have drinks aren’t doing other things as well like talking about interesting things, listening to music they chose, etc. The ones I know are.

          • You’re damn right I am. And I seriously doubt the bona fides of anyone into clubbing who claims to like to talk.

          • “into clubbing”….Frank, people who go out to a club aren’t necessarily “into clubbing”. In Calgary we have western bars where you go and two-step and there aren’t guys who like rapists but rather “cowboys” who are very polite and more like traditional gentlemen. It can be a very nice time for young women….or older women….hahaha!

          • I lost an eloquent reply to this, but just to say that I am fully in favour or people going to bars to sidle up to gentlemanly cowboys, or to Greek tavernas, or to fifty other interesting places of that general type. But these parties and bars and clubs where young women are targeted have nothing to do with that.

          • actually, the men who think they deserve sex as payment for a drink are at every party and bar

          • That’s a bit exaggerated, though I take your point that nowhere is 100% safe. Still, they really are thick on the ground in some places, which not coincidentally are also the places a sensible person would avoid even if those men didn’t flock to them.

          • and then that gentleman turn into a potential rapist because of that cowboy attitude. even those gentlemen think that if they buy you a drink you didn’t ask for, they deserve something in payment. My daughter and a few of her friends had to call the friend’s father to come get them because some guy wouldn’t leave them alone, going so far as to follow them to the car of the designated driver. and they were out in a group celebrating a 30th birthday

      • I was once one of those. And if I was an idiot, they are now idiots.

  9. Very insightful article, Emma. It might not seem “fair” to some people that cyclists and women have to be careful of their surroundings but when we look at the big picture, those who pay attention and take precautions, end up safe. Those who don’t unfortunately, tend to pay a big price. It might not be fair but who said life was fair?

  10. Ugh. All I can say is the point has been missed entirely. The problem here is the fact that if people were to do exactly as every victim-blaming article told them to do to protect themselves from rape, people would still get raped. The point is to address the underlying causes of rape rather than put the onus on the people who have to live in constant fear, who are already doing so much. So many people I know, it wouldn’t have mattered if they altered their behavior, it still would have happened, whereas if you wear a helmet while cycling you may actually help prevent further harm if you are in an accident….(I can’t believe I even had to type this)! What is so hard about showing a little compassion? About teaching people to respect each other?

    • You are missing the point. Addressing the underlying causes of rape will not eliminate it entirely. Preventative steps to avoid becoming a victim are always valid, however imperfect. And that holds whether we’re talking about rape or robbery or murder, or just crossing the street safely. When someone reminds us to lock our doors, do we get angry and tell them they’re “missing the point”? That we should be addressing the causes of break-ins and home invasions instead of “blaming the victims” and telling people to lock up? Of course we don’t. By all means, address the causes, but in the mean time, it doesn’t hurt to remind people to lock up! This isn’t blaming the victim, it’s addressing reality with practical advice. But when we politicize an issue, practical advice is villified as blaming the victim. Some people will lock their doors and still suffer a violent home invasion. Does advising people to lock their doors and take other precautions then become beside the point? I think not.

      • Well, the funny thing is, when someone is robbed they generally don’t get blamed if they didn’t lock their doors. That is the problem here, that no matter what we do, we are never believed, we are always blamed, we are always at fault, we are always asking for it….it is no wonder people have had enough of that BS!

        • I got my car stolen and the first thing the police wanted to know was if the doors were locked. Of course there is blame when you don’t lock the doors. Of course people determined to break in don’t care if the doors are locked. No one is saying that a rapist isn’t going to rape someone if they are determined to do so. They will however, go for the low hanging fruit and somethings make people low hanging fruit…an easier target. The police teach how to make yourself less of a target. One of the things is not to put your drink down in a bar. Is that patronizing or victim-blaming? You will have to decide.

        • Actually, people do get scolded for not locking up. It’s more common than not. They also get scolded for carrying large quantities of cash with them, for leaving valuables in their car. Mugging victims often get admonished for walking in “that neighbourhood that time of night”. If anything, robbery victims are more likely to get blamed for their misfortune than rape victims are, if they’ve failed to take basic precautions. If you’re saying that an intoxicated woman isn’t always taken seriously, that is likely very true. A person who was intoxicated at the time of a crime makes for a very difficult court case. Defense lawyers can and will rip them to shreds over their state of intoxication and the reliability of their testimony. I’m not sure how we can get around that. This is one more reason why Yoffe is advising against extreme intoxication.

          • I suppose the reason I feel so strongly about this is that I don’t see news stories where someone who was robbed is later ostracized from their school, their jobs, their towns and their “friends”. There is a difference to me between the scolding people get for leaving their doors unlocked and the absolute misery someone experiences after being raped/assaulted and not believed (Stubenville, Maryville, Cole Harbour, to name a few).

            An another note, I personally feel that binge drinking is a problem, and should be addressed, I have no issue with that. However, I feel telling women that they are the ones responsible for not being assaulted doesn’t fly with me. There is no reason to put your hands on a drunk person without explicit [enthusiastic, informed…] consent.

          • It isn’t about them being responsible. The perp is unquestionably the one responsible. This is about making it less likely that a given individual will become a victim, by taking sensible precautions that will make that individual a less tempting target to predators.

          • I will point out what I said above: having women change their behavior isn’t working.. I’ve heard stats like 1 in 6 women have survived an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, surely some of these women have taking precautions, and where has it gotten them? No where. Obviously telling women to protect themselves is not working, there needs to be something else, that is why so many point to education and societal pressure, especially toward the main perpetrators, men! Tell men to change the behavior, if not, have other people call them out before anything happens. These parties that everyone is talking about where people are raped, why did no one step in when the man was leading away the obviously intoxicated people? There are warning signs, but we all turn a blinds eye because we accept this as normal behavior, when it should never be.

          • Sounds like those precautions have helped 5 in 6 women.

          • Please. What a false statistic. Stop trying to make a point with ill-considered arguments. If you are suggesting that without women taking precautions that every woman IN THE WORLD would be raped, you are just making things up. And the fact that one in six…over a billion people have suffered this humiliation, should be enough for you to take this seriously. Stop trying to win a debate and actually have some empathy for people. And I would just like to say, that when a group of women are telling you, and pleading with you to understand that this type of victim-blaming narrative is harmful, why won’t you believe them? So many of us know first hand the harm it will do, and you should really step back and listen to those who have everything to lose if the state of things gets any worse.

          • news flash, a rape victim will always be ripped to shreds in court. and by the public. My rapist broke into my house and attacked me in my bed with my CHILDREN sleeping beside me. and I was blamed and threatened with purgury because I did not just drop the charges. I was accused of enticing the pervert simply because I had talked to him the day before. It doesn’t matter HOW intoxicated a woman is, a rapist will use any excuse he can find to justify what he is doing. They ALL say she wanted it.

          • No one wants men to rape women. It’s a brutal assault. Who ever if you walk into the wrong night club or party drunk and unaware of your surroundings something may happen to you. Men and women are more likely to get the living s***t beat out of them. raped, stabbed or worse hanging out in the hood, bar or night club. We can all be victims if we don’t use the sense God gave us.
            I mean really if one of your friends is put in hospital for ignoring where he is or getting too drunk or stoned. And yes he may not have caused the situation, but he or she may not have thought it through. Men and women need to take some responsibility for bad choices.

        • Well, to start, your insurance company may very well reject your claim…

    • Yes, people will still be raped, but the reality is, rape will never be entirely eliminated. The point of the article is that people do have the power to reduce their individual chances of being raped. It is NOT “victim-blaming”, it’s common sense. If you are about to cross the road & see a speeding car coming & step out on the road anyway & get hit, who is at fault? Obviously the speeding driver, but you are the one who suffers the pain of your injuries & if you hadn’t started to cross the road, maybe you wouldn’t have been injured. It’s called taking responsibility for yourself.

      • Yes, well, you can readily see when a speeding car is coming your way….a rapist? Not so easy to spot.

      • Maybe not the best analogy; if you see the car coming and still step out into its path, you are at least 50% responsible for the collision – and yes, you should therefore be blamed for your stupidity in that instance. But I otherwise agree with the point you are trying to make.

      • the ones who should be taking responsibility for their actions are those speeding drivers or the men who think they have the right to rape

  11. When we recommend that people lock their doors at night, are we “blaming the victims” of home invasions? When we tell people not to leave valuables in their vehicles, are we blaming the victims of car robberies? Of course not. Nor is Yoffe’s advice blaming rape victims – she wants them to avoid becoming victims by making themselves less vulnerable. Bad people exist. Rapists exist. They always will. We therefore need to encourage women to make themselves less vulnerable. But in the age of “Slut Walks”, this line of reasoning is considered heresy. What an awful disservice we are doing to all women by infantalizing the issue and villifying those who wish to prevent this violence from occuring in the first place.

    • Perhaps a more apropos anology might be that, in the national parks, tourists are warned to travel in groups and encouraged to carry bear spray. I’ve yet to hear anyone suggest that such practical advice is “demeaning to tourists”.
      Our grandmothers (most of them anyway) knew enough to be suspicious of mens’ motives and had enough common sense not to get pissed while surrounded by drunk men, The epidemic of rape within a society at peace is a modern phenomenon

  12. This analogy is totally wrong:

    “What about teaching men not to rape?”

    (Yes and while we’re at it, we’ll teach terrorists not to terrorize, dictators not to dictate, hit men not to hit men and con men not to con them.)

    The thing is, while all terrorists terrorize (which is why this is tautological), all *men* are not rapists. We can and should teach boys and men (and women and girls for that matter) not to rape. Our sex education should explore the notion of consent in a meaningful and practical way, especially in an era when teens and pre-teens are learning about the plain mechanics of sex via porn, it is the psychological and ethical dilemmas that need to be taught instead. To suggest that such as thing is “not possible” is not only defeatist but really dangerous.

    • I totally agree. But this is a discourse, and until the problem of rapists raping goes away, there will be a necessary tension between well-meaning people who want to give paternalistic advice to probable victims and those who believe that such advice, when distributed on the scale of a Slate editorial and couched as common sense, will lead the unsettled public down a slippery slope toward victim blaming and will take the focus off of important systemic issues.

      • What is missing here is the fact that many of the young women who are out in drinking establishments in Canada getting very inebriated are only 18 years old and unfortunately perhaps their parents have not warned them of the problems inherent in getting completely drunk with no one along who is sober that they can trust to keep them safe. Obviously, Natalie Holloway’s (the girl who was raped and murdered in Aruba) parents did not impress that information sufficiently upon her. What is common sense to those of us who know better, isn’t always the case with very young adults perhaps for the first time living away from home. It might be a “paternalistic” attitude but given that it is coming from another woman, maybe it should be seen as thoughtful advice.
        It isn’t as though rape is the only danger that exists when someone gets completely inebriated without a sober friend. We had one young person hit and killed while wondering down the middle of the road in our neighborhood.

        • Right. And what was perhaps not obvious from my comment is that I think those paternalistic instincts are good. It’s the tension between those instincts and the more complicated sexual-political issues that I was trying to put my finger on. The point being that this tension is something that will exist and cause controversy until we make some headway on the issues of both alcohol abuse and the ingrained culture of sexual violence. Pointing out that alcohol abuse makes women more vulnerable AND men more aggressive/impulsive/violent is probably a good way to explain things without the suspicion that one might be blaming the victims.

  13. How long will it take women to figure out that want men want from women more than anything is to have sex. Not only that but men have shown that when it comes to sex sooner or later they become pigs about it. Who to put it mildly created the porn industry and who is it for? Men. Now what make women loose their inhibitions? Liquor. Who like to buys liquor and give it to women? Men. Now what is a good punishment for men who rape women? Take the men’s availability to see womem. (IE their eyes) If women want men not the rape them, the punishment should be such that they are never able to do it again. What women need is to do is pass laws that it make it impossible for men to re do the crime of rape because in most case men will do it again. Not only that but pass laws that will not cost society much money. Taking away the ability for men to see again is a good way. Sure it may sound harsh but men can decide for themselves if they want to loose their eyes by committing rape.

  14. “being female is and will always be more dangerous than being male”
    Well that’s not true. Men are far more likely to die of violent causes, violent accidents, to face assault, and to commit suicide.

    • Yeah I know, I’ve made this point myself many times. Most women lead a protected life relative to men.

      That said, there is an unstandable difference that women can point out: while men may suffer more violence generally, rape is such a constant concern for women and affects their daily decisions so much, that they’re essentially living with it all the time.

      I don’t know about you, but I never worry about going anywhere alone and any time of day.

      I don’t know any women who would say the same.

      • I dunno, Phil. There’s certain areas of town I wouldn’t like to be wandering at night, and there’s walking shortcuts behind plazas and through parks I’ll take in daylight hours only. And I’m 6’4″, 200lb.

        But agreed that the voilation of rape isn’t something I worry about. And while we can point to the numbers of male victims of all crimes potentially exceeding that of women, I’m betting if we controlled for purposeful involvement in risky/dangerous activities (joining a gang, for example) the numbers might ultimately show women have more to fear than wimpy dudes like me.

        I wonder if the very extreme fear and loathing we culturally assign to rape (as opposed to getting beat up during a mugging, for example) lends it some of the potency that makes it such an appealing power play to some men. I’m not suggesting we shrug off rape as a minor assault, but at the same time I think we have a cultural complex that treats a woman’s sexuality as a personal currency, which makes the aftermath of such assaults far worse for victims than it ought to be.

  15. Good article. It’s nice to see someone with a lick of common sense discussing the issue in a realistic fashion.

    The fact of the matter is that there isn’t a single guy in our society who doesn’t know that rape is both illegal and highly immoral–they just don’t care.

    By coming together as a society we may be able to limit some of this (especially in young impressionable males who are often complete idiots), but at the end of the day there are people out there who don’t care about hurting others, and rape is just another “fun thing to do” for them. A lot of them get off on violence and terror. These are the same types of guys who think picking a fight at a bar is a “fun thing to do” or that joy riding a stolen car at 280KM/Hr is a “fun thing to do”, or home invasions, joining the mafia etc etc etc.

    Against those types we have only one protective strategy: avoid them until you can call the cops. That’s it, that’s all, and keeping this from women, or worse, telling them to ignore that advice as slut shaming, is pure and utter foolishness.

  16. I’d see rape as but one of the risks inherent in youngsters getting stupid drunk. Here in Waterloo, there’s been several instances of young male students staggering home from the bar at night getting mugged. When I was younger and stupider, there were a few times I drunkenly accepted a ride home with a friend who was in no shape to drive (not proud of that, but I’m betting it’s not screamingly uncommon). It’s certainly not something I would have done closer to sobriety. Add to that the risks of fights, injuries (I have one friend who badly disfigured his face one night after a tumble down concrete stairs), cultivating alcohol addiction, damage to one’s reputation, and plain old drowning in one’s vomit after passing out, and I think we can safely say it’s good counsel for anyone to avoid extreme intoxication. Particularly when young and stupid. It’s certainly the advice I’ll be passing on to my own kids as they get closer to the partying age…

  17. Thats about as well written as I’ve ever heard on this topic or any similar. We’ll said.

  18. Well put. The ‘feminist’ blogosphere treating women like children on certain issues is deeply ironic, since the view of us as emotionally-fragile beings drawn squarely from patriarchal norms. I particularly love eating disorders get the ‘trigger warning’ treatment but not murder, miscarriage, etc.

    Further their attitudes on rape almost have this patriarchal ‘lost virtue’ ethos that leaves one in a perpetual victim state, which sadly is what I think these ‘feminists’ want. Their politics require a sustained sense of grievance coupled with embattlement. Someone liek Yoffe* who introduces nuance into complex problems becomes an enemy who must be torn down.

    *Yoffe does not write her headlines, as is true of most non-blogger journalists, so criticising that is off-base.

  19. One of the most rational, enlightened perspectives on this issue that I’ve read as of yet. Well done, Emma!