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Dear Emily Yoffe: I Don’t Need Your Advice. Please Stop, Seriously.

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October 22, 2013

Lots of you may have already seen Slate’s recent article “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk.” For those of you who haven’t, Emily Yoffe, the author of Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column, argues that because sexual assault in college is seriously linked to alcohol consumption (and I agree) college-aged women need to stop drinking so much, which will in turn make them responsible for their actions and their safety and apparently reduce the amount of sexual assault.  Yoffe also says that this doesn’t mean you don’t get to have fun in college because she herself has only been hungover three times and had a lot of stupid fun as a young person. Where drunk college women are irresponsible and blame things like alcohol and rapists for what happens to them, Yoffe “always knew that I was responsible for my behavior, not the alcohol.”

There have already been several very effective responses published, including a fantastic gender swap article but as a current college woman who drinks from time to time, I think I’m uniquely qualified to respond to this incredibly offensive and damaging article with my own two cents.

First of all, as any good member of the reproductive justice movement could tell you, rape is never the victim’s fault.  Literally never.  Not once.  Never.  Nope. Stop saying it.  Stop thinking it.  Rape is always the rapist’s fault.  100% of the time. That fact is non-negotiable.  Implying that women should change their behavior in order to avoid rape implicitly places the blame for the assault on their actions, not on the rapist.  So let’s stop doing that, Prudence.

Secondly, I guarantee that there is NO woman, college-aged or otherwise, who is not nearly constantly aware of the threat of violence against her.  When we grow up as women we learn to hold keys in between our fingers on the walk to our car, to never set down our drink in a bar, to walk in groups, to be wary of strangers.  Those lessons and warnings don’t simply disappear when we go out with our friends or when we participate in college drinking culture.

So trust me on this, we already know that drinking makes us more vulnerable. We’re told that from our freshman orientation until our graduation day. We don’t need more well-meaning, patronizing people to remind us that men can hurt us and that lots of men hurt women when they’re drinking.  This is not a new message and it’s getting redundant, not to mention completely unhelpful.

College-aged women don’t need to stop drinking, we need a campus and culture that actively cares about our well-being and our ability to live however we choose without being raped or assaulted.  We need an end to rape culture in frat houses and at parties, better education about consent, and a society that raises us with the knowledge that it is okay to say No. Those are the things that I need.

What I do not need is basic, victim-blaming, repetitive and unhelpful “advice” from women who think their personal history with alcohol makes them morally superior to me and entitled to tell me how to best live my life.  So if we could just stop with that and move on to real conversations about actually helpful things, that’d be great, thanks.

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