The fine people I follow on Twitter have been up in arms today about Emily Yoffee’s (aka Dear Prudence aka Prudie) latest piece of bad advice: teach young women not to binge drink and they won’t get raped. Now, we all know why this is bad advice: it blames the victim, it makes young women responsible for men’s actions, it’s illogical. But I’m not trying to make an argument about rape culture or Yoffee’s claim that our “fear of blaming the victim” is misplaced (though this scathing retort to/parody of Prudie’s piece shows just how absurd and awful the narrative is). Instead, I want to have a little chat about Prudie’s obsession with drinking.
Confession time. I have spent many, many hours in the last five years reading Prudie’s advice. Here’s why: when you’re a PhD student who has to read somewhere around 1000 pages a week of dense, difficult material, you must find a way to scrub your brain every now and then. Once of the ways I do this is by reading advice columns. There are three that get most of my attention: Dear Prudence, Savage Love (nsfw), and Dear Sugar. I read the last two because the authors are bright, compassionate, and funny. I read the first because it’s infuriating and sad–just the kind of thing a disgruntled grad student needs after a long study session (plus, it’s published twice a week).
Back to Prudie. If you read a few of her columns, you’re bound to discover that she thinks drinking is evil. Forgive my lazy faux-journalism; I don’t have time to scour the archives just to provide evidence for my little rant. Instead, trust me when I say that the article everyone is talking about is just one of many sermons on the turpitude of people who like to get drunk. Okay, okay. I’m getting over zealous. I even vaguely remember Prudie explaining that she herself has a glass of wine every now and then. She doesn’t demonize people who drink…but she does blame a lot of her readers’ problems on their drinking habits, and, in my humble, non-expert opinion, she does so erroneously.
Here’s the thing. It was irresponsible and just plain shitty of Prudie to write an article telling girls that drunkenness leads to rape because it’s faulty cause & effect logic. If Prudie (or anyone else) wants to tell young women to drink less, she ought to talk about the things women do all by themselves, of their own volition that make binge drinking a bad idea.
Since I met and fell madly in love with a recovering alcoholic, my drinking habits have changed drastically (let me tell you this: waking up with a hangover next to a morning person with no hangover is a special kind of hell) but I used to be a girl who drank to excess on a semi-regular basis (nb: I haven’t quit drinking totally. In fact, I’m drinking a beer right now). So, ladies, here are 10 reasons you should not drink beer for beer or shot for shot with your dudes (or your girls) at the bar, the frat party, or anywhere else for that matter, and NONE of them has to do with rape.
- You might pay your cab fare twice.
- You might get tacos in your hair.
- You might cry in front of inappropriate people (more than usual).
- You might say something unkind to your friend (or to a stranger).
- You might make out with a guy who is six inches shorter than you and doesn’t speak English.
- You might repeat mistakes sober you swore to never make again.
- You might spend your rent money on deep fried Twinkies.
- You might throw up in front of your crush.
- You might fall and break your face.
- You might believe you can speak Spanish and say unintentionally vulgar things to people who actually can speak Spanish.
This is, of course, a completely fictional list. It is also, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. So, ladies, take it from me (not Prudie): binge drinking is scary, stupid business. But it’s never your fault if you get raped.