More things that will get you raped: Being an unpleasant drunk

Apparently being an asshole when you’re drinking is especially problematic for young women because it gets you raped. That’s what I’m pretty sure Prudie is saying here, anyway:

Q. Drunk Friend Drama: My friend Carly gets insanely drunk whenever we’re around alcohol. She gets loud, pushy, and oftentimes mean-spirited. Most of our friends laugh off her antics, because they have more experience with drinking than I do. We’re all freshmen in college, and I don’t want to come off as a killjoy. But three times now, when I’ve been with an inebriated Carly, she’s almost gotten in a fight or has said really hurtful things to me. Is ignoring the comments and behavior of your drunken friends something adults learn to do over time? I don’t think Carly would react kindly to me talking to her about her drinking habits. When she’s sober, which is the majority of the time, Carly is a wonderful person.

A: The most salient fact here is that you’re all freshmen in college, and unless all of you are later-in-life students, your drinking is illegal. Your teenage friends who have “more experience” with alcohol do not sound like people who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner; it’s just that they’ve had more adventures puking and blacking out. Carly is young, and I don’t know where her drinking will end up, but right now she has a problem. Hers is the kind of behavior that leads to young women finding themselves waking up next to young men they didn’t intend to have sex with. She also sounds like a mean drunk, and while your friends find her “antics” funny, they’re not. When she’s sober, go out for coffee with her and tell her that you’re concerned about her alcohol intake. You can say she’s probably not even aware of her personality changes when she drinks, but she has said some truly nasty things to you. Add that you’re concerned about her safety when she drinks, because she doesn’t seem in control of herself. If she blows you off, but keeps drinking, report her to the resident adviser.

If someone’s a total jerk while they’re drinking and they say or do things they would never do sober, that’s a problem and it needs to be addressed. But it’s a problem because getting so inebriated you don’t know what you’re doing is a problem, not because bad drunken behavior means that you’re going to wake up with someone you “didn’t intend to have sex with” (is that a new version of “surprise sex”? Or is it just plain rape, instead of rape-rape?).

Stepping in and speaking to someone about how their behavior is hurting you is good. Continuously using the pervasive threat of rape as a “warning” to women who do just about anything is very not good.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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42 Responses to More things that will get you raped: Being an unpleasant drunk

  1. EG says:

    Hmm. It reads to me as “someone you didn’t intend to have sex with when you went out, but alcohol lowers your inhibitions and messes up your judgment, so you did.”

    My problem with the response is the prim focus on the illegality of the drinking. Why shouldn’t 18-year-olds drink? The US’s drinking age is stupid, and I see no reason to finger-wag a bunch of young adults for having a drink. And I’m not sure where Prudie is getting the idea that the friend has a drinking problem (“I’m concerned about your alcohol intake”) rather than a problem with being a mean drunk (“you’re an asshole when you’re drunk, and I don’t want to be around you when you’re drinking”). Because the first implies that the woman is abusing alcohol or an alcoholic, and I’m not seeing the evidence for that.

    Also…report her to the RA? For being a mean drunk at 18?

    • NC73 says:

      Agree with everything you just said. I read this more as “having regrets you slept with someone” than “waking up after having been raped.”

      And seriously, not getting the point of the “don’t you be breaking the law” vibe. College freshmen, drinking? The horror! It’s also a very America-centric view. Prudie has no idea where this person is writing in from. In several provinces in Canada, the drinking age is 18, which is also the age at which Canadians tend to enter college.

      • Ens says:

        “Freshmen” isn’t a very common term in Canada, though. Though it’s not like people don’t see it on American media.

      • NC73 says:

        True, but that was just an example – the LW could be European, Australian, pretty much from anywhere.

    • Jill says:

      See, I read it as “get so drunk you don’t know what you’re doing,” which would mean you can’t meaningfully consent to sex, which would mean rape. But I can see how readings might differ. Either way, seems odd to focus on sex as the one negative consequence instead, you know, losing all of your friends because you’re acting like an asshole.

      • EG says:

        I see that reading, and if it’s not threatening rape as a consequence, it is slut-shaming, and either way, it is completely gratuitous nonsense.

      • TomSims says:

        I completely agree with this statement.

        “If someone’s a total jerk while they’re drinking and they say or do things they would never do sober, that’s a problem and it needs to be addressed. But it’s a problem because getting so inebriated you don’t know what you’re doing is a problem, “

    • Jadey says:

      My problem with the response is the prim focus on the illegality of the drinking.

      Yeah, I was super confused by this sentence:

      The most salient fact here is that you’re all freshmen in college, and unless all of you are later-in-life students, your drinking is illegal.

      Until I remembered that the US has a stupid age limit on drinking. I mean, teens in high school who still live at home are going to find a way to drink, and adults who live away from home are DEFINITELY going to find a way to drink. Especially because given the plateauing trajectory of physical development after puberty, it’s usually easier for a 19-year-old to pass themselves off as 21 than a 16-year-old to pass themselves off as 18 (or a 14-year-old as 16, if we’re in Quebec :P). And I say this as a teetotaler who detests alcohol – I just can’t stand organizational stupidity!

      Anyway, I interpreted the comment the same way that EG did, but I agree that it was completely unnecessary slut-shaming at the very least. Because “drinking = horrible sexual consequences for women” is a meme that needs desperately to vanish from our collective memory.

      • Patu says:

        Yeah, ffs. Prudey seems to imply that any kind of drinking other than half a glass of wine with dinner is the first step on the path to alcoholism.

        Sure, if your friend is an arsehole when drunk, that’s not good. But honestly, the odd bender every once in a while isn’t the problem – the bad behaviour is, and that’s where Prudie should be focusing.

      • K says:

        The part I had issue with is that if you have drug charges against you (like with underage drinking), you can’t recieve financial aid which Carly is probably recieving at least some. So reporting her to the authorities for drinking could very well lead to her losing her scholarships and ruining her life.

      • TomSims says:

        “Until I remembered that the US has a stupid age limit on drinking. I mean, teens in high school who still live at home are going to find a way to drink, and adults who live away from home are DEFINITELY going to find a way to drink. Especially because given the plateauing trajectory of physical development after puberty, it’s usually easier for a 19-year-old to pass themselves off as 21 than a 16-year-old to pass themselves off as 18 (or a 14-year-old as 16, if we’re in Quebec :P). And I say this as a teetotaler who detests alcohol – I just can’t stand organizational stupidity!”

        Actually each of the 50 states set their drinking age limits. There used to be states that had 18 the legal standard but were pressured by the insurance lobby to raise them to 21.

        When I was in the Navy in the mid 60s you could drink on base but not in civilian bars unless you were 21.

    • Anon21 says:

      Prudie is basically just anti-alcohol. That’s not even really an interpretation; she’s said a few times that drinking to the point where you’re drunk is a bad thing, even if you don’t drive or get in a fight or sully your precious virtue. So I wasn’t too surprised to see her jump down the LW’s throat over legal restrictions that every sensible person knows are widely flouted by college kids.

  2. matlun says:

    I don’t actually see this as referring to rape (?)

    I am sure that waking up next to someone you would not have had sex with if sober is something that happens. It does not have to mean that it was rape. It could just be due to poor decision making while drunk.

    Focusing on that does seem quite suspect, though. When illustrating the poor decisions made while drunk, why focus on the sex? Surely there is more than a little bit of slut shaming attitude implicit in Prudie’s answer?

  3. Andie says:

    That’s a lot of assumptions Prudie is making there. Mainly the assumption the friend is getting black-out drunk like ALL. THE. TIME. and falling into bed with random strangers (which I find doubtful if this friend is as much of a drunk asshole as she sounds).

    I agree with EG, that all that needs to be said is “You’re kind of a jerk when you drink. Knock it off or I’m not going to drink with you, asshole.” or “One of these days you’re going to get your ass kicked by mouthing off to the wrong person and if you think I’m going to jump in, you’re kidding yourself.”

  4. Daniel says:

    What if the genders were reversed? I’ve seen a joke birthday card in bookstores, with a verse about a man waking up to a horrifying sight — there are several lines of buildup. It ends “…for what he saw…” and you open the card and there’s a cartoon of a woman asleep next to him, and the line is “…Was what he’d shagged the night before.” Is this man a rape victim, or is the card an ugly little piece of misogyny? I’d argue the latter. I think the distinction has to be drawn very carefully between “I got drunk and made a decision I now regret” and “I was so drunk I was unable to make decisions at all, and someone took advantage of me”.

  5. ASH says:

    So, I would agree with her.

    IF.

    One – Her friend even mentions sexual behavior that seems like her friend has expressed regret over it. The LW doesn’t even mention sex acts of any kind.

    She also were to say to men in regards to the same behavior, “His is the kind of behavior that leads to young men finding themselves waking up next to young women they didn’t intend to have sex with.”

  6. Partial Human says:

    18/19 year olds drinking alcohol?

    Oh, must… try to reach… my fainting couch…

    Ah-merica. Where you can be sent to Iraq and have your legs blown off by an IED, but you can’t have a stiff drink to drown your sorrows with.

    Way to make booze seem exciting, taboo, and “adult”.

    Serious question now for legal beagles – are there separate laws related to buying alcohol and drinking it?

    For example, here in. the UK it is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18. Actually drinking the stuff is a different matter.

    if they’re somewhere that serves food, and they’re 16+ and with an adult, they can have wine with their meal.

    At home under adult supervision? Brace yourselves Americans, the legal age to drink is five. Yes, 5.

    Kids that grow up with alcohol as a part of socialising and dining, where it isn’t taboo and forbidden, and can even have a taste for themselves (then spit it out and ask for Ribena), tend to grow up with a more sensible attitude toward drinking.

    Children raised to see booze as a prohibited, glamorous, grownup thing, who never see sensible drinking, or learn about pacing and moderation, often get to 18 and spend the next three years permanently pissed, puking, and penniless.

    Uni freshers had an obvious split down the middle. One group had apparently been exposed to the good and bad sides of using alcohol, and allowed certain social freedoms, and the responsibilities that come with them. Things like drinking, going out with friends, driving, dating, watching the house for two weeks while mum and dad were on holiday, having a part time job and being responsible for their own money etc.

    Then there were the others, who’d apparently been reined in, not allowed to do “bad” things, not trusted to take responsibility for their siblings, the house, or themselves. The kind that are accompanied by their parents on uni open/orientation days.

    Then suddenly, they’re. on their own. They’ve never been on their own. They have grant or loan money. They’ve never had anything more than pocket money or birthday money! Ooh, and a shiny new Student Union card that says. they’re 18.

    Watching that second group was, I’m sad to say, like watching a David Attenborough nature documentary.

    The first month of their university lives seemed like a parade of vomit, positive pregnancy tests, crying on the payphones in the halls of residence, selling back their shiny new textbooks so they could buy food, and more vomit.

    16/18/21 aren’t magic ages. All social learning needs to start from birth. Forming relationships, learning how to socialise responsibly, handling money, dealing with conflict, budgeting time. Otherwise, you get young adults like those in the letter.

    Oh, and fuck Emily Yoffe and her finger-wagging.

    • William says:

      Something to keep in mind about any legal question in the US is that it will always depend. The lower the level of offense the lower the level of government will generally be involved in dealing with it, meaning you’ll have a patchwork of responses and laws. Different cities and counties will have different regulations on the books and different levels of enforcement. I know that where I live, underage drinking is basically in the same category as a traffic ticket but that the likelihood of police actually enforcing the law is basically nil unless you’re obnoxious or black. Buying alcohol for a minor is a slightly more serious offense but, again, nobody is really going to be seriously enforcing the law unless you make a scene or are unlucky enough to be caught up in one of the periodic “lets make an example of someone to shut up the nannys” camera shows. Go over the border into the suburbs where the cops have more time on their hand and clucking people like Prudie have more influence, though, and the local jackboots might actually being trying to catch kids to give them tickets and tossing adults into jail for the night to face misdemeanor charges.

      • Nicole says:

        It isn’t as nice as that makes it seem though. I am in Canada, but I have cousins in the States, and a couple of years ago, one of them discovered the hard way that underage drinking was now a felony. He got charged with a felony because he was caught on his way home (walking) from a friend’s house. Not fighting, not in a bar. His parents managed to get him off, but it is ridiculous to think that teenagers could get a permanent record for drinking! It isn’t ridiculous to think people enforce the law- it is the LAW. If it shouldn’t be enforced on a regular basis, it shouldn’t be the law.

        Keeping the legal drinking age at 21 is practically like looking for excuses to arrest college kids.

      • Computer Soldier Porygon says:

        Where in the US is underage drinking a felony? I was under the impression that it is a misdemeanor / petty misdemeanor everywhere.

      • William says:

        I’m also curious as to where underage drinking is a felony. Even simple possession of marijuana isn’t generally a felony and there are still a fair number of jurisdictions where a first DUI offense is a misdemeanor. I could see a particularly aggressive jurisdiction having a misdemeanor as opposed to a civil infraction (which is what underage drinking generally is) for underage possession of alcohol, but a felony seems fishy. Even then you’d need to prove possession instead of simply being intoxicated as I have never heard of a jurisdiction in which public intoxication is anything more than a misdemeanor. I have a lot of trouble believing that the courts would allow the disenfranchisement that comes with a felony conviction to stand for underage drinking.

    • Henry says:

      Serious question now for legal beagles – are there separate laws related to buying alcohol and drinking it?

      Those under 21 may not possess alcohol absent certain exclusions which vary state by state (religous services, parental allowance). So yeah basically it’s illegal to even hold a shot of whiskey before deploying to a war zone, unless mom or dad are there to buy it for you.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Serious question now for legal beagles – are there separate laws related to buying alcohol and drinking it?

      Here in the U.S.? It depends on the state and municipality, but the short answer is yes.

      For example, the state of Wisconsin prohibits the purchasing of alcohol by minors but permits minors to be served alcohol if they are with a parent/guardian who is of legal drinking age (21). Minors may also be in possession of alcohol in Wisconsin if it is part of their employment.

      There are other states that also separate out illegality of purchasing, possessing and consuming alcohol. Here in Illinois it is a Class C Misdemeanor to consume alcohol and a Class B Misdemeanor to possess it in a public space. I’ll spare everyone the additional play by play of how it works everywhere else, but suffice it to say it’s regional.

    • John says:

      Well said.
      EY has previously had a go at the UK – apparently we are a nation of bingeing, gutter-vomiting drunks. Just because we don’t largely share the puritannical hang-ups of the USA.
      Seriously, why does the USA have such a bizarre attitude to booze?

    • LandnotL says:

      Fun fact: in Wisconsin you can drink in a bar at age 16 if one of your parents buys you your drinks. Having been settled mostly by Irish and Germans, the neighborhood pub is seen more as a family/community gathering place than a den of sin (Wisconsin also has the most liquor licenses per capita of any state in the Union). Prudie would be horrified, I’m sure, but she’s notoriously unreasonable on this issue.

  7. OR says:

    So, yes the drinking age laws in the US are stupid. But, they are still the law… In the town where I went to undergrad, a drinking ticket was $300. That’s over half a months wages for the part time job I had in undergrad, that’s more then what a person will spend on food in a month, that’s a lot of money. I had a friend who had to do community service. I had another friend who got caught in a dorm room with people drinking and had that on his record with university housing. Even if it’s a stupid law, underage drinking can still have legal consequences and 18-20 yr old college students should know that. (I’m not trying to say that college students are unaware of the law, but its easy to forget when it seems like everyone around you is doing it. My first year of college was filled with many reminders that buying alcohol is illegal until you’re 21)

    • William says:

      Two observations:

      First, you’re conflating legal consequences (like a $300 fine or slave labor community service) with illusory and purely social consequences (“this is going on your permanent record!”). That serves to tie the legal consequences of drinking, which you have already admitted are unjust, with the methods of oppression that are used to create anxiety about more severe forms of punishment. How can we be expected to effectively critique, let alone resist, injustice when the bottom of the argument becomes “grin and bear it, even if the consequences are toothless”?

      Second, the discussion about the law is just as much a dodge and derail here as it was in Prudie’s comments. What is at issue here is not the feelings of authority about personal behavior but how to call out a friend who is behaving unacceptably. Talking about the law is no more relevant than using rape to scare someone into doing what you’d like them to do. Its gross, its unproductive, its fundamentally insulting both to the maturity of the person seeking advice and to the agency of the friend they seek to confront, and its ultimately just playing into the same kinds of asinine authority games that lead to people letting loose when they feel they’re no longer under the aggressive gaze of disciplinary power. Talking about the law here not only fails to be productive on every conceivable level but it does active harm by not addressing the actual issue and propping up the same oppressive power structures that lead to the problematic behavior in the first place.

      • OR says:

        Fair enough. My point at including the university record stuff was that it could affect your life in college, for example if you wanted to become a RA in a dorm (free food and housing and a small monthly allowance at my university), a disciplinary record could negatively affect your chances. So there can be consequences, albeit short term ones.
        The discussion of the law is derailing from the letter writer’s problem, but I felt that’s it’s unfair to criticize or to call Prudie ‘prim’ for bringing up that drinking is illegal for 18-20 year olds in the US. There may have been other problems with her answer, but reminding the LW about the law isn’t one of them (in my opinion)

      • William says:

        Except that the reminder assumes that the writer is somehow ignorant of the fact that drinking is (marginally) illegal and ignores her actual question in favor of paternalistic clucking.

      • EG says:

        I felt that’s it’s unfair to criticize or to call Prudie ‘prim’ for bringing up that drinking is illegal for 18-20 year olds in the US. There may have been other problems with her answer, but reminding the LW about the law isn’t one of them (in my opinion)

        Why? Do you think the letter-writer may have forgotten the drinking age? I have yet to meet someone under 21 drinking in the US who isn’t aware that they’re doing something illegal. It’s a pointless, unnecessary mention of authority that completely avoids the letter-writer’s actual question, which is how she should deal with a friend who’s being a jackass. If the two women in question were 22, would the friend being a mean drunk be less of a problem? No. So what does it have to do with the question?

    • EG says:

      Meh. I started drinking when I was 16 and never ran into a problem with the law. Neither did anybody else I knew. The only problem I had with the police was when sleazy cops tried to buy me drinks.

      • William says:

        When I was in college I was involved in a large house party. Pretty much everyone was underage, everyone was drinking, we’d charged a door fee for the kegs, we were running a cash bar for shots, and we probably had 100 more people in the place then the fire code allowed. The neighbors called the cops. The cops showed up. One was a large, African-American gentleman in his late twenties who said nothing but glared a lot. The other was an older white guy with a North Side accent and FTO stripes who talked a lot about how the part was probably illegal but didn’t seem to be doing anything about it and kept making sideways comments about “an understanding.” $250 dollars later we weren’t worried about the cops anymore. The biggest problem we ran into was that, from that day forward, anytime we had a party at that house the local boys in blue came calling with their hands out.

  8. Bagelsan says:

    Binge drinking isn’t very good for your liver, and being an asshole drunk isn’t very good for your relationships. Knowing these two things do as you will because you’re a damn adult. Enough said? :p

  9. Isn’t it about time for an “Emily Yoffe is the Worst” tag at Feministe?

  10. Kitty says:

    I’m sorry…at first, I mistook the title to read, “More things that will make you rape…being an unpleasant drunk…#rapeculture

  11. Fat Steve says:

    Back in my youth I was occasionally lectured about my drinking when it seemed to get out of hand. However, I was never warned against being raped. Coincidence or gender?

  12. Her response is exactly why rape culture is a problem. Why is the focus on victim blaming instead of holding rapists accountable? I agree that this girl should be addressed on the issue of drinking to an unhealthy level, but is never a survivors fault, blackout drunk or not.

    • Stella says:

      Again nowhere did she mention rape. She just said if you drink you might give a consent to sex you regret all sobered up.

  13. DouglasG says:

    Colour me not at all surprised that anyone who would run the Twincest Letter blind without privately checking in first would miss rape by a mile.

  14. roro80 says:

    There are so many awesome people to get drunk with — people who will have amazing conversations with you, be silly with you, have marathon card games or dance parties with you, and commiserate with you the next day as you eat ice cream and lie on the couch nursing your hangover. Life’s too short to spend it getting trashed with people who are abusive or cruel or do dangerous things or get grabby or get in their car every time they’re around booze. If you’re a regular lush, you will definitely end up interacting with some of these people from time to time. Bad drunks can be great coffee klachers, pedicure partners, and movie-seeing friends. Do not get in the habit of making plans to drink with them.

  15. Stella says:

    She wrote drinking impairs your judgment in when it comes to giving consent, not that it gets you raped.

    I am all for giving good advice, but suggesting a friend should report a friend sounds a bit patronizing.

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