Cognition & Reality

Friday, 4 March 2011

Drinking, Double Standards, And “Date Rape Drugs”

Filed under: Medical Morality,Propaganda,Psychomyths,Sex & Love,Urban Myths — drtone @ 11:39 am

Since time literally immemorial, men have being “having their way” with women by getting them drunk first. For most of human history, no respectable woman would obtain her own alcohol, nor would she, without male escort, enter an establishment where alcohol is served. That was in the the olden daze, not so long ago, when women were the property of their men.

In a world in which a woman is free to come and go as she pleases, however, she is in a position to get herself drunk with no male assistance and thereby assumes some of the responsibility for the consequences of doing so. If she leaves the bar and is broadsided by another driver who has run a red light, she is still guilty of drunk driving, regardless of whether she was technically at fault, and may bear some legal responsibility for the accident on account of her negligence in driving drunk. It is, moreover, reasonable to assume that she would have been more likely to arrive home safely had she not been as intoxicated as she was. In the same way, if she makes herself an easy target by getting drunk and dropping her guard, she is partly responsibly if she is raped.

This is not the same thing as saying that, because she was three sheets to the wind, it was morally or legally acceptable for Jack to rape Jenny. It is saying that women are responsible for the consequences of their own behavior in every sphere of action, just as men are. Otherwise, we would simply be reinventing a world of double standards in which women are protected because they have no minds of their own.

As I thought about this topic in connection with my interest in society’s fantasy about “date rape drugs,” I realized that it gets us pretty fast into some pretty murky territory. Because women are typically smaller and weaker than men, they are more vulnerable to attack. To own that fully, however, leads directly into regarding women as “the weaker sex,” a designation our society has attempted to leave behind. We are thus confronted with two opposing images of woman: the tough, smart free agent, in every way the equal of men, who must and will make her own way; and the dependent, vulnerable bearer of children, constantly in danger from a hostile society and the men in it. As much as we might want to endorse the former as the real truth about women, men and women both know that there is some truth to the latter, as well.

If we allow women the full freedom of men, which we are legally and morally bound to do, we allow them to enter situations that are potentially more dangerous for a woman than for a man. At a bar, people get drunk. Women are people. Therefore, they get drunk at bars. In that frame, a woman is the exact equal of a man, with the exact same right to get shitfaced and to act shitfaced, which could include interacting with the other patrons at the bar. A man does that, gets drunk and talks to the other bar patrons, and the chance that he is attacked, sexually or otherwise, is very low, unless he directly or indirectly provokes such an attack. That is where the “same situation” is actually a different situation for a woman. Whether it is a matter of social convention or biology, what counts as “provocative” for a woman is simply not the same as for a man. A woman who does not recognize that is being foolish. For a variety of reasons, the same rules do not apply to her as would apply to a man walking into the a bar alone. That is a matter of fact directly contradicting the completely understandable and also true claim that, as a bar patron, she is the moral and legal equal of a man. Wow! What a problem.

One way out of this conundrum would be to invent an evil genie that is not an accepted part of the a-woman-walks-into-a-bar scenario. The right evil genie would transform the situation into one in which it is permissible, within the framework of laws and beliefs specifying that men and women are equal, to see them as unequal nevertheless. One bottle of beer is the same as another, and men and women have an equal right to buy one. What if, however, one of the bottles, the one the woman buys, is surreptitiously spiked, after it is opened, with a chemical that will incapacitate her, rendering her an easy rape victim? In that way, it stays cool that men and women can come into bars and buy beers for themselves, but there’s an evil force emanating from outside that cool situation magically changing it into one in which women are under greater threat then are men.

That evil force would be the “date rape drug,” such as Rohypnol or GHB, recognized pharmaceutical preparations that are far less familiar to most people than is alcohol. That unfamiliarity makes the demonic powers ascribed to them seem plausible, at absurd variance from reality as they may be. It is an established fact, that such drugs are rarely, if ever, used in the context assigned to them as “date rape drugs.” Studies have confirmed that women who believe they were “roofied” and raped, with the tiniest number of exceptions, did not receive any other drug besides the alcohol they chose to drink (and occasionally other drugs they chose to consume). As we saw, however, that reality does not square with the nice picture of men and women as equals in the cozy atmosphere of the local tavern, safely drinking together. It hardly needs be said that it does not square with the nice picture that, say, Anheuser-Busch would want to promote, nor with the picture that women have of themselves as free agents in society, able to go anywhere and do anything. The hugely exaggerated fear of “date rape drugs” therefore acts as a kind of de-equalizer operating outside the prevailing social equality of the sexes, readjusting the focus and keeping everyone happy in their legal, friendly alcoholic haze.

One need only look at the rules one is supposed to apply in order to protect against the use of “date rape drugs” to understand the implicit assumption behind them is that alcohol by itself is safe, something every child knows to be false. These rules were formulated within the context of  a society in which alcohol consumption is a factor in at least half of all auto accidents and homicides–and in many rapes, of course. They are further evidence that the “date rape drug” is part of an urban mythology the function of which is to preserve the status quo.

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3 Comments »

  1. Great paper. Women cannot drink beer for beer with men because women metabolize alcohol differently, i.e. slower. I agree the is a double standard. Throughout history, societies have imposed prohibitions and different rules on the use of alcohol for women, associating inebriation with promiscuity. Women still have to protect themselves from sexual predators, especially in public places that serve alcohol. That’s just fact. Alcohol is not safe in all situations because it impairs judgment. Young women are naive to think they can go anywhere and do anything that men do because women are less likely to be able to physically protect themselves from harm. Add to that the sexual component in a drinking atmosphere and the equality ratio degrades further. Both men and omen need to keep their heads and be aware of the possibility that something bad could happen to them or because of them. Over drinking is not feminine or masculine. It’s just stupid.

    Comment by Dana Hopkins — Sunday, 6 March 2011 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

  2. Great paper. Women cannot drink beer for beer with men because women metabolize alcohol differently, i.e. slower. I agree there is a double standard. Throughout history, societies have imposed prohibitions and different rules on the use of alcohol for women, associating inebriation with promiscuity. Women still have to protect themselves from sexual predators, especially in public places that serve alcohol. That’s just fact. Alcohol is not safe in all situations because it impairs judgment. Young women are naive to think they can go anywhere and do anything that men do because women are less likely to be able to physically protect themselves from harm. Add to that the sexual component in a drinking atmosphere and the equality ratio degrades further. Both men and women need to keep their heads and be aware of the possibility that something bad could happen to them or because of them. Over drinking is not feminine or masculine. It’s just stupid.

    Comment by Dana Hopkins — Sunday, 6 March 2011 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

    • The concept of the “date rape drug” is about a lot of things, perhaps chief among them distracting attention from the stupidity of drinking oneself into a state of incapacity. Society would rather not deal with the immense dangers of alcohol. Add to that the widespread conflicted feelings about women and their role in society. The response is bound to stink of hypocrisy. The “date rape drug” fantasy is the tip of an ugly iceberg.

      Comment by drtone — Sunday, 6 March 2011 @ 8:47 pm | Reply


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