A new PSA from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has come under fire in the past couple of days for seeming to blame not only rape victims, but the friends of rape victims, for crimes committed by rapists. Are you offended by it?
I am, and here’s why. First of all, it shows a shapely pair of legs on a bathroom floor with underwear around the (faceless) person’s ankles. I’m not sure you could come up with a more stereotypically rapey (but still kinda sexy!) image if you tried. Even if they weren’t trying to sexualize rape, why the fuck would we want to see that? It seems pretty irresponsible to put such a potentially triggering image out into the world.
The text reads:
She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no.
When your friends drink, they can end up making bad decisions, like going home with someone they don’t know very well.
Decisions like that leave them vulnerable to dangers like date rape. Help your friends stay in control and stay safe.
You know what’s a worse decision than going home with a handsome stranger? Raping somebody. Saying “drinking leads girls to make bad decisions that lead to their victimization” is putting the onus on the victim to keep the rapist from raping them, when in fact, it’s the rapist’s responsibility to make better decisions. “She was drunk” has been used as a successful way to “discredit” the victim in too many rape trials to count, and that’s partly because people still think it’s solely a woman’s responsibility to guard against sexual assault. (I realize men get raped too, but I’m using “woman” here for the sake of grammatical convenience.)
And as for the victim’s friends, it’s true that being drunk can sap your ability to stop a crime from being committed. But is this a good enough reason to stop getting drunk? Following this logic, none of us should ever get drunk because we might happen upon an in-progress robbery or car jacking lacking the necessary coordination to stop it, hence making it kind of our fault. Wait, what? Exactly.
Drinking too much is certainly terrible for you, and that’s a good enough reason to get most women to pay attention without having to threaten them with rape. I realize that alcohol is a risk factor in rape, as it is in robbery, getting run down by a car, or any other crime that requires physical evasion. But is that a compelling or fair reason to have to completely change one’s habits? That’s up to each individual, of course. Some people never leave their houses for fear of being messed with, while others live their lives exactly how they want to without fear. Personally, I would like to see more ads focusing on the importance of enthusiastic consent, as well as this little nugget that’s buried deep within the Control Tonight website:
Tip #3: Make sure your friend knows that “NO” means “NO”.
Just because someone is drinking and seems less inhibited doesn’t mean that “No” means “Yes” or “Maybe”. Be aware that taking advantage of someone who is under the influence can still be considered rape under the law.