If She Was Drunk, Did She Rape Herself?

drinkingIt’s almost universal that gang rape victims are intoxicated, and for some reason when alcohol gets involved, a drunk woman did it to herself.

That’s what Mary Koss, a professor specializing in sexual violence at the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, told the San Jose Mercury News.

Koss was explaining why so few women report rape, as she discussed the sexual assault of a teen by members of a local college baseball team.

When the case went to trial, the defense implied that the victim had brought the rape on herself, stating,

People told you you were flirtatious when you drink alcohol? People told you that you were touchy-feely when you drink alcohol? You knew the risks of drinking?

Interestingly, no one asked the accused men why they invited a teen who was known to flirt outrageously when she drank. Perhaps so they could blame her for the rape?

More typically, alcohol doesn’t bring on flirtatious behavior so much as weaken judgment and ability to respond. And for this, the victim is blamed. “She should have known better than to drink,” it’s said.

At the same time, drinking gets men off the hook: “Well he was drunk, so he didn’t know what he was doing. That’s not a crime,” the storyline goes.

No one blames men for not realizing that alcohol can lead to a loss in their judgment.

And it’s not uncommon to purposely get women drunk with the intent of facilitating rape. Yet young men may balk at the accusation.

Why do we so often focus on women’s drinking instead of rapists’ raping? Blaming the victim instead of blaming the perpetrator. And so it goes on…

A rerun — I’m out of town.

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She Drinks, She Flirts, She Passes Out … Is It Rape?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 6, 2016, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. Sabrina Gill

    Reading this post made me think about one of the major problems back in India. Because of rape being so prevalent in my country, women are scared to go out at night now. Women are scared to wear clothes that reveal their legs or other parts of their body because of the unsafe surroundings.
    Talking about girls getting drunk and then being victims of rape. It’s an obvious fact that alcohol can impair one’s judgment to a really bad extent and this has been proven scientifically. When one knows that alcohol can screw one’s mind, then one should be drinking in limits knowing that if drank beyond the limit, one’s life is in jeopardy and not only at a high risk to get molested but also for getting abducted or killed.
    An adult should know what’s right, what’s wrong, and the consequences before putting oneself in the situation.

    • It’s not uncommon for the rate of rape to go up when a society is transitioning out of patriarchy. Women are getting more power and patriarchal men are reacting by putting women down. Over time as women gain more equality the rate should go way down. Because there is also a correlation such that the more gender equal a society the less women are raped and battered.

  2. There should be strict rules for rapist like they should be hang to death!
    Why would anyone drink more than they can handle? People should be allowed to drink but they should also be mindful where they are and how much should they drink. Teenagers are not allowed to drink alcohol so people who provide alcohol to them should be taken in action. Females should learn to say NO!
    No to alcohol and no to allowing people to touch her body. If incidents happens female should not try to hide it she must fight for the criminals to get punishment. Females should not be scared what the society will think if she tells anyone she was raped because that will means she is allowing it to happen again. Understood people are not in their sense when they drink that is why they should know how much alcohol they can handle.

  3. The biggest problem I see with the mentality described in this post is that the victims genuinely aren’t to blame even though they are blamed. There’s no sufficient amount of education or preparation with which we can arm potential victims because they aren’t at fault and they aren’t in control in the instance of their rape or assault. However there is an untapped potential for education and preparation for potential rapists. It’s much easier (and I suspect would result in less instances of rape) to teach people “don’t rape” rather than “here is how to do your best to avoid being the victim of rape” the same way it’s easier (and would result in much fewer injuries) to take the bullets out of a gun rather than to shoot at a bullet proof vest. While it is true that victims of rape may be responsible for putting themselves in dangerous situations (like drinking) it is the fault of the rapists for those situations being dangerous to begin with, so they are the only ones to blame for any resulting assaults.

  4. This rape culture is something that I truly struggle to understand. Why is it so hard for society to understand that consent needs to be given for intercourse to occur? If a woman is too intoxicated to give consent, that means that you do not have permission to have sex with her. It is pretty simple. There is a video by the British Police Department that uses tea to explain the concept of consent, and it is pretty entertaining. They compare asking someone to have tea to asking someone if they would like to have sex. If the answer to tea is no, you cannot force the tea down the other person’s throat. The same way if the answer is no to sex, you cannot force it on the other person. Again, if the person is unconscious or cannot answer the question if they would like tea, you cannot make them drink tea. The same applies to sex. When you simplify getting consent down to this level, the idea of rape is completely illogical and ridiculous. No means no. The problem here is that society is stuck in this mindset that protects the man in the situation and constantly blames the victim. By saying that every woman in revealing clothing who flirts is asking to be raped is insinuating that all men have absolutely no self-control. It implies that men are complete animals, who are incapable of rational thought, and have to have sex with anything that gives them any attention or arouses them. Women have no control over how a man responds to their appearance, nor should they care or be responsible for that response. Men should be held accountable for their own actions. If a man rapes a woman, it is because he chose to ignore the fact that he did not get consent, and he decided that he had the right to do whatever he wanted. A woman is never to blame for a man’s actions.

  5. I find the whole “she should have known better than to drink” argument extremely flawed and weak. If the argument is going to be used that a female should not drink so much that their judgement is impaired and it is their fault on what happens from that point on, why does this not apply to the males who drank and did the actual crime? This is a double standard that favors the males in the situation. It is okay for them to lose all judgement when drinking and it is not their fault due to being impaired, but if a female drinks, then anything that happens she brought on herself. A have read arguments saying things like “well when she was drinking she consented, but the next day she changed her mind”. Even if it were true that she consented while being intoxicated, that doesn’t change the fact that it was rape. Getting consent with someone who is so intoxicated they cannot tell what is going on, should not even be taken as true consent. If a person is so intoxicated they can barely function, they likely are not thinking straight. A male might argue that a heavily intoxicated female consented, but who is to say she actually did. When people drink heavily it numbs judgement and response time. In this case the male is taking advantage of the female’s intoxication by putting her in a “she can’t say no” type of situation. The focus that “women should know better than to drink heavily” is also flawed, men should know better than to take sexual advantage of an intoxicated female. In place of trying to teach young girls don’t drink or someone might take advantage of you, why don’t we teach young boys to treat women with respect and that rape is not okay under any circumstances.

  6. I find it interesting that a woman in this situation is getting accused. On one note though, If she knew how she got then why did she drink to begin with. I think it has to do a lot with responsibility because in all honesty you know what your intentions are from the start. You know you’re going to drink so why not watch out for yourself to begin with. On the other hand, I have been proved that guys do get a little out of control when it comes to drinking, I see it happen all the time and unfortunately to someone I knew. Both knew each other also but when it came to drinking, it was the guy who took advantage of the girl just because she was “drinking”. I don’t think women should be punished for trying to have a good time and some can’t handle their liquor.

    • It’s always wise to know your limits. But the problem comes when we shift the blame to the woman for rape that a man commits. And you seem to recognize that.

  7. This topic always kind of angers me; from girls asking to be raped because of their clothing to now it being her fault because she shouldn’t have been drinking. Women should be free to do whatever they please, without the fear of being taken advantage of. Men can get away with anything because I always feel like they have the upper hand and always a dumb excuse to get away with their actions. Women are never “asking” for it and i don’t get how some people think that it’s okay to do things like this just because of the way some women dress and act when drunk. Even if the women flirt with some men, they do not necessarily want to have sex with them. It’s not that difficult to get consent before doing anything, instead of raping someone because their judgements are skewed at that particular moment in time. It just really doesn’t make sense to me and the points made about the woman asking for it are just not acceptable excuses.

  8. Trang-Thuy Mai

    Rape is one of the topics that I’m very sensitive about towards, because I’ve read, hear and know of some of my friends that have had this event happen to them when they are at a house party. It happens too many times and very often at these sort of gathering because of the high amount of alcohol. However having alcohol also gives guys the advantage to slip in a sedative or drug that can cause the girl to loss consciousness. It’s definitely unfair and certainly not right for the blame to be placed on the women or girl because she wants to have a fun time without having to worry about being rape or drugged.

  9. Brian Neumann

    I am confused at why this double standard goes unnoticed in so many cases? It is obvious, so why do so many men get the benefit of this double standard? Women should have the right to go out and drink without worrying about men taking advantage of them. “People told you were flirtatious when you drink alcohol? People told you that you were touchy-feely when you drink alcohol? You knew the risks of drinking?” What are the risks of drinking? Since when do we live in a society where drinking for women correlates with rape victimization? Alcohol does not enable one to do things they would have otherwise not done in a sober state of mind — it impairs judgment. So, alcohol cannot make you want to rape someone unless the justification for such is premeditated (or in any other way justified.) It becomes evident that we need to look at the masculine culture because it is the culprit that instills such thinking into men. Continuously scrutinizing women for provoking rape, or teaching them how to avoid rape victimization only perpetuates rape culture. If we are serious about preventing such crime, we need to change the way we raise boys and men.

    • When you have internalized a culture it can be difficult to see the contradictions. When it is all you have heard from the time your little, and when everyone else seems to see things the same way, it all starts to seem natural and normal. But once you are outside The box it can look very strange, indeed.

  10. This is absolutely atrocious to me. If she was drunk, she did not rape herself. The answer is that simple to me. It does not matter how promiscuous or flirty she is when she is drunk. If she is too drunk to be able to consent, then she is not consenting. If he is unable to determine if she’s too drunk, then he should just NOT have sex with her! Especially in this case that they are speaking about in particular. She was comatose and in vomit — she did not rape herself. She drank, she acted the way that she is allowed to act, and they took advantage of her state without proper consent. Women are afraid to come forward because of victim blamers that can even be found in this comment section. Why would anybody want to make up a sexual assault to have suffer an entire trial, having to re-live all of the events and be ridiculed and blamed publicly? Of course no one wants to go through that — it only goes to show how strong she is for going through it.

  11. Isabella Nieto

    It is very unfortunate when we hear about women who get raped and don’t report it to the authorities. But we may asked ourselves why? This blog does an awesome job explaining it. Women bring their cases to the court and they find themselves being blamed for being raped because they were under the influence of alcohol. Yet men who rape women and are under the influence of alcohol aren’t blamed but seen more as a victim. It disgusts me to know that this is going on because men should be punished for what they do to women. Rape is something that is very serious. Rape isn’t something anyone can get over in a day, it haunts you for the rest of your life. When there is a party or a social gathering there is bound to be alcohol, anyone can drink if they want. Just because a woman is flirtacious or touchy when she is drunk doesn’t mean she wants to have sex (or be raped). Due to a society of patriarchy, men have more power in getting away with rape and that is not okay. We should have more equality in society with genders. If a man or woman gets raped the one who is to blame for need to receive punishment. I may sound angry because it really upsets me to hear young woman being raped and being blamed because they drank and they were “asking” for it. No woman asks to get raped if she is drinking or not and it shouldn’t be okay to touch them if they aren’t aware of what they are doing. The court system should straighten itself up more and start defending the right person and stop blaming women and alcohol for being raped.

  12. Jonathan Castellanos

    Personally, I feel the defense of saying “She should have known better than to drink” it a load of bull. If this were the case, then all women are once again prohibited to do something males can do without restrictions. Unfortunately, this topic may become rather confusing for me to discuss about. However, this is the exact same reason why I chose to respond to this article! Clarification. If both members were drunk and both gave consent (at the time) to having sex, would it be wrong to then have a person accuse the other of rape after a given amount of time? Let’s say that B, whom is female, claims that she was raped by A. Is it possible to have a legitimate defense? This is the type of situation that I don’t have a well constructed answer. I would assume the charging member would be at loss…
    But based on this article, it would seem like only 1 member was intoxicated. Specifically, the female. It’s rather odd to allow the rapist (or person who took advantage of a woman while she was drunk) to construct a well built defense. I think it really sucks that this is allowed in our court system. For this case, it’s basically who can poke through the laws the best between the two. In a case of humanity, indeed I would say the person who took advantage of another is the guilty member. We all know that alcohol impairs our thought process. It’s seen everywhere around the world. Someone who is intoxicated cannot make proper choices that perhaps they would usually do. How can we show this to the courts in addition to what is currently defined as rape? If a person is able to give or not give consent, what would that be considered as in the eyes of our society’s “justice” system? Maybe it’s about time we create a form of deterrent against people taking sexual advantage(s) towards another person whom is intoxicated…

    • The law actually says that sex with an intoxicated person who cannot give consent is rape. But the popular imagination doesn’t always see it that way, So it can be difficult to get convictions in court.

      Thanks for thoughts on this.

  13. Iliana Revuelta

    Why does the law treat both men and women driving under the influence of alcohol the same but is fast to blame the women for getting to drunk and getting rapped.It is disappointing to know that after going through the trauma of getting rapped the law will also blame you. Going out to clubs and bars and seeing drunk girls falling over and a bunch of guys always being super “helpful” and caring them out of there is very disturbing. Almost feels like being in the jungle and the lions are waiting on their pray. As a women it is very sad to see this because we all know what the “helpful” guys are up to. Taking advantage of girls while intoxicated is discussing and should be treated like any other crime and doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. The law should punish men for committing such a horrible crime. Laws are hard to change especially when the people in power are mostly male but that doesn’t mean we as women can’t stick together and help to prevent these unfortunate situations. When me and my girls go out we always stick together and no matter what happens one of us is always sober enough to make sure we all get home safe. We also look out for other girls around us that seem helpless because they had to much to drink. We shoud all stick togather and help each other out. For me it would be better for this situations to not even happen because going out and getting drunk is meant to be something fun not waking up in a unfamiliar place.

  14. This issue as a whole of females being raped, is an issue that is not only close to my heart but I’ve taken the time to learn a lot more about. This particular of topic of females choice to drink or even men to, altering the outcome of rape angers me to no extent. What the definition of rape is, is whether not sexual consent of both parties was given. With alcohol someone can still say no just as easily or yes. I don’t see how women choosing to have alcohol at party like a normal human being should be punished when she is raped for that choice. Rape is pretty black and white to me if we hold it to its definition. I don’t understand how men or women can say alcohol changes that definition. Its as simple as yes or no, and if you can still say yes or no or even unconscious (which by the way is still no), then we can still define what is rape. When I first started drinking as a teenager, my dad used to tell me alcohol was a weapon created by men for women. What he meant by that is men by women drinks so they will flirt and have a higher chance of coming home with them. I feel as if men are using this weapon as weapon to convict women of the crime men did. As young women, I can definitely say alcohol is a complete double bind in our society for women.

  15. The root reason behind this is our patriarchal society. Men have been idolized and it’s only natural for them to have the upper hand in these situations. The girl could’ve not drank and avoided the whole thing, but did those guys have to take advantage of her? In the current state of being drunk, people are more likely to do things they would not normally do sober. Saying that I feel that both sides are to blame not just one. Those guys should know better than to abuse an intoxicated teen, but the brutish thoughts and behaviors they had clouded their better judgement. You can’t fully blame the girl for drinking and acting the way she does because consuming alcohol is going to happen. It’s what people do after that matters, and what those boys did wasn’t right.

  16. It is absolutely ridiculous what constitutes as rape and what is often disregarded as the victim’s fault. Sex or sexual acts without proper and informed consent is rape. People need to realize that rape is not just a sex crime, it is a violence crime. It is about the power play of forcing someone to do something without their consent. If someone is intoxicated or asleep, they do not have the mental capacity to agree to sex. If both parties are drunk, then it could be argued that neither of them had the mental capacity to agree to the act. In this case, the victim was underage which constitutes as statutory rape regardless of the situation.
    People seem to be more concerned with “rape culture plots” than with protecting people who are affected by rape. The fact is we live in a society where rape culture is prevalent because rather than finding out what happened and making sure we are protecting people, the first question is usually ,”What was s/he wearing? How do you know s/he wasn’t asking for it?”
    This is toxic as it applies that someone’s choice to adorn their body justifies what other people choose to inflict upon it. People need to realize that as a species, we need to raise the standards we hold ourselves to. Just because someone finds someone else sexually attractive, that does not excuse them from self control.

    • And people who complain about talking about rape culture don’t get that things will be worse for men if we don’t talk about it and solve the problem.

  17. Kyra Enright-jose

    This reminds me of an episode of one of my favorite shows, Switched At Birth. One of the main characters gets drunk and ends up getting raped by a guy at a party. Both of them were drunk and couldn’t remember if the girl said no. Instead of the girl getting blamed like in this situation, the guy got kicked out of the school and everything. However, the girl was bullied and knows campus wide as the girl who got the guy kicked out for having drunk sex with him. Either way, the girl loses because if she is not blamed for having sex with him, she is blamed for getting the guy in trouble- it’s a double bind. This is wrong and just like everything else, women are not taken seriously and get blamed for doing anything that they do, even if it is the right thing to do.

  18. It’s not a question of been able to handle sex. It’s a question of rape. Rape doesn’t include consent and doesn’t care about the victims pleasure or pain. Men are raped too, and they don’t like it, either. Whether you are a man or a woman rape is damaging.”

    But women are more likely to see it as rape or feel they were raped when drunk, unlike men.

    • I don’t know if that’s true.

      • It has to be, you talk about the rapes in college, which some are probably from the girl being drunk and not able to consent. But knowing college and parties, often the guy is more often just as likely to have been drunk during these encounters too. Yet, you never hear about the guy saying he was raped. If that was the case, you’d probably hear more guys say they were raped from being drunk as they are often probably drunk as the girl was and sometimes girls initiate it when drunk or horny.

      • But that could be because in our culture we expect men to initiate, And so he is almost always the one who is initiating. If she were drunk and initiating sex, and he couldn’t say no because he was so drunk that he couldn’t consent, but wanted to say no, then he would certainly experience that as rape.

  19. happy mother’s day

  20. He would be the victim if she forced sex on him when he was drunk without his consent. Although that’s my opinion and I can’t say that a jury would necessarily agree. I’m not clear on what the law is in that case.”

    Except he wouldn’t be looked that way and the jury probably wouldn’t agree. And a man often enough wouldn’t see it as rape, but just a drunken night of sex. Sure some of it is culture where men hide this emotion or feel they can’t be victims and suppress it. But I think a man isn’t hiding it, but men less likely to feel “violated” and shrug it off or see it as sex and maybe because guys want it so much or more than women. They are less likely to feel raped.

    • Juries are another story. They often judge things in ways that I wouldn’t. The key to this issue is how the person feels. If the person truly isn’t bothered even though they were drunk then they shouldn’t press charges. But there’s a chance that they will be harmed by the experience and that’s why it’s important to make sure that everyone is consenting. It’s not worth the risk given the harm that is risked.

      • “The key to this issue is how the person feels. If the person truly isn’t bothered even though they were drunk then they shouldn’t press charges. But there’s a chance that they will be harmed by the experience.”

        Yet, guy’s are often to not be bothered even though they were drunk, but women more likely so. There’s a chance that person will be harmed by the experience most likely if it’s a woman, and not a man. What does that say? Are men less vulnerable emotionally,physically? I don’t like going in this direction, but why can’t women handle sex like men if equal. Not saying want, but having drunk sex should or could be a bad experience and not saying it should happen.

        But men seem more immune to feeling violated from drunk sex than women. Maybe women and men are equal, but different in some ways? Some things men can handle that women can’t and vice versa? I just find the difference with the two interesting. If drunk sex is bad, than men should feel violated or raped just as much as women, but they don’t. A decent number of these are probably where the guy is drunk too with the girl, yet it’s the girl who feels raped, even if she might have been the one to initiate in the first place and be the sexual aggressor there.

      • It’s not a question of been able to handle sex. It’s a question of rape. Rape doesn’t include consent and doesn’t care about the victims pleasure or pain. Men are raped too, and they don’t like it, either. Whether you are a man or a woman rape is damaging.

  21. Yeah but um, if you read the story, the men claim she agreed to it, and she now claims she can’t remember half the story. If she did agree, but forgot because she was blind drunk, or didn’t understand what she was saying ( bearing in mind the men were drunk and unable to make nuances like what the “quality” of her consent is, then that seems like a reasonable defence. Now we might be sceptical about this story and reject it, which is fine if we don’t believe the men, but let’s get back to reality that not everything is some kind of “rape culture plot”.

    • It isn’t sex unless everyone is enjoying it.

      If one person is using another person’s unconscious body, That is rape.

      If one person is using another person’s body when she–usually–cannot respond and make good judgments, that is rape.

      These behaviors are not only disrespectful, but traumatizing when a woman becomes conscious and learns that she has been used.

      And being sexually assaulted leaves women disinterested in sex and finding it traumatizing. That’s not good for any of her potential future male partners, either.

      In fact, when girls grow up in rape culture and start to associate sexual behavior with violence and fear, young women can begin to subconsciously associate sex with something negative. There are many reasons why nearly half of women experience sexual dysfunction. Rape/rape culture is one.

      No one should have sex with another person unless that person is enjoying it, too.

      • What if she was enjoying it and horny from being drunk. You said drunk takes away intent or whatever and doesn’t make one more flirtatious or wanting something more. I don’t know, some girls sure seem “horny” or hornier when drunk and it must have an effect with libido or girls more likely to want sex, because inhibitions a girl might have because of society and culture and being slut shamed or wanting a relationship. When you’re drunk, you’re more likely to be more daring and say screw it and be more impulsive.

        I don’t think you should try to get a girl drunk or have sex with a girl that’s sloshed. But isn’t it sexist when some of these times if it’s a man and woman and they are both drunk, that’s she’s the victim and not him? Women are supposed to be equals to men, then why are women more likely to feel violated than men are from drunk sex? Does it mean women are more easily bothered than men? I think of it this way too. A girl at age 16, probably already had sex with a boy from school. But she has sex with a 28 year old male teacher. I obviously think that’s messed up, but she is most likely going to feel a victim right? Yet a male student age 16 with a 28 year old female teacher is most likely not going to feel like a victim and would be happy and proud of it.

      • With statutory rape the underaged kids are victims regardless of gender, and regardless of whether some people might make a gender distinction.

        It also doesn’t matter whether she is horny when she is drunk. She can’t make a clear decision. At the least it is risky. So if you guess the wrong way what happens? She really would like sex and the guy doesn’t try anything, what’s the outcome? He didn’t get sex, and neither did she, but it’s not a huge deal. What if she didn’t want sex and he guessed wrong – it’s not a choice she would have made if she were clearheaded. Possible outcomes are that she could experience it as rape, which can lead to long-term anxiety, depression, not trusting men, and disinterest in sex. And he could be charged with rape.

        She would be the victim if he forced sex on her when she was drunk without her consent. He would be the victim if she forced sex on him when he was drunk without his consent. Although that’s my opinion and I can’t say that a jury would necessarily agree. I’m not clear on what the law is in that case.

  1. Pingback: If She Was Drunk, Did She Rape Herself? – Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world

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