Should We Define “Fault,” Or Prevent Rapes?


This week Slate’s Emily Yoffe, better known as “Dear Prudence,” stepped out of her comfort zone of giving advice to  incestuous gay twins, which is a shame because literally every one loves incestuous gay twin advice even though it is only relevant to literally two people in the entire world.

Instead Yoffe attempted to reach a broader audience by advising women that avoiding binge drinking is the best way to prevent being sexually assaulted:


As soon as the school year begins, so do reports of female students sexually assaulted by their male classmates. A common denominator in these cases is alcohol, often copious amounts, enough to render the young woman incapacitated. But a misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young women that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves in potential peril.

Yoffe cited that 80% of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol.  She did her very best to explain she was only trying to prevent rapes, and in no way was blaming the victim:

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.

But who really gives a shit about what she said? Sanity has no place on the internet. It doesn’t matter how carefully you word your critique. Even if you say you support capital punishment for any man who ever thought of even thinking about possibly considering rape – Game of Thrones Style – putting his head up on a spike outside the town wall, you’re still “punishing the victim.” As Jezebel posted, in their Jezebel snark defeats logic style:

Yoffe makes an effort to state, multiple times, that it’s not a victim’s fault for getting raped but it sort of kind of is the victim’s fault for being a drunky mcdrunkpants, and does nothing to explain the role of alcohol in the lowering of inhibitions of rapists.

This is followed up by Jezebel’s unique attempt at using logic, which basically goes as poorly as anyone trying to use a concept completely foreign to them, like a middle aged white guy being forced to dance the Hula at a corporate retreat:

To re-applly Yoffe-ian logic to another fact about rape: know what else plays a role in many sexual assaults? Men who women know. Maybe if women stopped having male acquaintances then they wouldn’t get raped so much.

Yeah Jezebel, its just as easy to avoid “knowing men” as it is to not get slammered in the basement of Beta house. In fact, the real problem here isn’t rapists, or alcohol, or knowing men, it’s molecules. If we could just prevent atoms from bonding, we’d prevent rape entirely! We’d just be a bunch of free floating elements chilling next to each other without the capacity to even understand what sexual assault is.

Only on the internet is logic defined as conflating an achievable prevention method with a ridiculous one. In its analogy, Jezebel seems to be ceding that if less women binge drank, there would be less sexual assaults – which seems to be Yoffe’s central thesis. Why then is there so much tension around her rape prevention piece?

The crux of the matter is the interpretation of the world fault. Fault is just a word, it is not a thing. Everyone certainly has a right in the US to walk wherever they want on public property. If I walk through a bad neighborhood late at night, I certainly know there is a huge risk of being mugged. If I do get mugged walking alone at 3 am in a bad neighborhood, is it then my fault that I got mugged?

Some would say it is my fault, some would say it isn’t my fault. But that is just semantics.  We should instead focus on what we agree on. No one thinks walking through a neighborhood late at night makes me a bad person. The mugger is the bad person. And everyone agrees walking through a bad  neighborhood alone is risky – at the very least riskier than doing so during the daytime or in a group.

Binge drinking at a frat party does not make a girl a bad person. But it does put her at much, much, much greater risk of sexual assault. It also makes it harder to punish the actual rapist. All of this is fact. God forbid anyone actually use these facts to formulate advice and further “rape culture.” But it may be in people’s best interest to acknowledge these facts, and do with them what they wish.

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