Tag Archives: rape

More Morality Scenarios

I floated a few Trolley-problem-type hypotheticals yesterday that highlighted some difficult choices that sometimes have to be made when it comes to punishing wrongdoers. Specifically, what to do in cases when rewarding (say, via gentle punishment that is actually desirable, or via outright rewards) a wrongdoer turns out to be better for society at large than punishing that wrongdoer. The example I gave was the bailout of banks in the recent financial crisis, which could have limited damage to the economy but would have rewarded those who helped cause the crisis.

Expanding on this, there are related questions worth pondering (if you have nothing better to do):

1. In the bailout scenario, what if helping the banks only improves the odds of helping the economy by 90%, and the bailout money is not recoverable? 75%? 50%? 20%?
2. In the bailout scenario, what if helping the banks can help the economy, but also increases the risk of future crises by 10%? 100%? 1000%?
3. In the context of a financial crisis caused by criminal wrongdoing, what if maintaining confidence in the banking system requires a bailout and non-prosecution of criminal wrongdoing?
4. In the context of a financial crisis caused by criminal wrongdoing, what if maintaining confidence in the banking system requires a bailout actively enriching those who caused the crisis – basically, paying them to undo what they did?

Let’s make it more difficult and go from income statements to more graphic situations, and go in different directions. Imagine for now that the analysis below can only be done after the fact, not before.

5. A genetic analysis determines that criminals with a certain gene variant who commit sexual assault do not commit any other crimes for the rest of their lives if they aren’t punished. If they are punished, their recidivism rates are the same as for all other rapists. Do you punish them for their first rape, if you catch them, or do you let them go?
6. A genetic analysis determines that criminals with a certain gene variant who commit sexual assault commit crimes at a half the rate than average citizens if they get away with their first crime, but if punished, their recidivism rates are the same as for all other rapists. Do you punish them? What if the rate is the same as for average citizens but lower than other criminals?
7. A genetic analysis determines that criminals with a certain gene variant who commit sexual assault are completely rehabilitated and commit no crimes again if they spend 17 years in prison, which is much longer than such criminals usually spend in prison. Do you keep them in prison for the longer term?
8. Imagine a scenario combining 1 and 6, where two 18-year-olds commit the same crime, perhaps even together. Can you justify letting one go and imprisoning one for 17 years, if their gene variants differ?

These are hard questions, I think, in part because they run counter to some very strong innate instincts of fairness and justice. However, we’re bound to encounter issues of this kind, and it’s worth thinking about them. Obviously there are serious real-world complications to consider: for example, knowing your own gene variant in the latter scenarios can affect your behavior. If you know you have the gene in #5, you basically get a freebie if you want to commit sexual assault. This is clearly a terrible incentive, but look at the alternative, in which a punish assailant is punished, goes free, and then likely offends again (recidivism rates are high). These scenarios don’t present good options, and I hope we don’t have to confront their analogues in the real world. Chances are, however, that we’ll have to.

I don’t have any answers here, but feel free to share your instincts.

Time Editorials On Rape Culture

Time Magazine featured dueling editorials regarding rape culture last week, by Caroline Kitchens and Jessica Valenti. Kitchens reports on a major anti-rape network will no longer emphasize the idea of rape culture and shows some facts that support their decision; Valenti retorts to show that rape culture is a real phenomenon. They’re both worth reading in full if you care about the topic, but I want to highlight two things that got my attention in particular.

The Substance

First, the substance. Valenti polls Twitter for people’s definitions of rape culture:

Rape culture is when women who come forward are questioned about what they were wearing.
Rape culture is when survivors who come forward are asked, “Were you drinking?”
Rape culture is when people say, “she was asking for it.”
Rape culture is when we teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.*

My personal experience is perhaps best described by Cracked’s David Wong: “Hey, how many males reading this had to, in the last year, Google the phrase “rape culture” because you were accused of being part of it, yet had no idea what it was?” That’s roughly where I fall on the spectrum. I’ve never thought of rape as something to be minimized or dismissed, and I don’t know anyone who does. I’ve encountered it in my social circle far too often, but I’ve never seen anyone ask if the victim had been drinking or dressed in a particular way.  I have spoken to people, however, whose experiences have been very different – they have heard these questions asked, and victims reluctant to come forward because they’d have to explain themselves. (I’m on the record as stating that a victim bears no responsibility for being attacked, even if they could have reduced the risk to themselves by acting differently, but I can see why someone would feel reluctant to come forward if they had to answer such questions.)

*”Rape culture is when we teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.” I find this statement silly, and if you don’t, try substituting another crime. Teaching people to lock their car doors or avoid dark alleys isn’t creating a grand theft auto culture and a robbery culture, it’s just common sense. Perhaps there is more education of men needed – probably is, especially when alcohol is involved – but this is a nonsensical argument for the existence of rape culture.

The gulf between the two camps represented above is wide, and it’s not surprising that considering how different people could have different experiences. What’s surprising is how little they’re willing to concede to the other side: you’d think anti-rape activists like Valenti would be glad to know that rape culture isn’t as widespread as they feared, for example**. What’s at play is another tyranny of the dichotomous mind, where the only alternative to one extreme is the other extreme, and shades of grey are ignored. It’s a shame, considering how important this issue is. More on this below.

**While I’m hardly an expert on the issue, I believe Valenti et al are making a big strategic mistake. Instead of matching their words to reality and saying “there’s a problem, we’re making progress, and it needs to be eradicated,” the insistence on a national culture war will alienate many reasonable people whose experiences don’t match theirs. Once someone proclaims the existence of a pervasive national culture, those who don’t see the world that way will tune them out. Considering how important the issue is, this is just sad.

The Words

Second, since I’ve been discussing how attaching different meanings to words leads to unproductive discussions, I thought I should point out a particularly glaring instance between these two editorials.  First, Kitchens:

In January, the White House asserted that we need to combat campus rape by “[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.”

Tolerance for rape? Rape is a horrific crime, and rapists are despised. We have strict laws that Americans want to see enforced. Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm.

Replied Valenti:

Is 1 in 5 American women surviving rape or attempted rape considered a cultural norm? Is 1 in 6 men being abused before the age of 18 a cultural norm?

Here we have two people talking past each other using the same words. “Cultural norm” is a fuzzy concept, and each writer seems to be thinking of it in a different way. For Kitchens, a cultural norm seems to be something generally approved by society at large, like drinking alcohol. In her experience (and in mine), most people don’t condone sexual assault or dismiss victims as having asked for it. Thus, it couldn’t possibly be a cultural norm. For Valenti, it seems to be something that happens frequently in a society, like driving under the influence. (The numbers are, as always, disputed, but read the articles if you want more on that.) Something that happens so frequently must, at some level, be approved by society at large – surely there are ways to bring these numbers down.

Thus we come to the unproductive conversation I warn about: they’re both right in some way, and thus convinced that it’s not worth listening to the other person. It’s especially sad when the topic is so important and common ground isn’t far away.

Alcohol And Sexual Aggression

Apparently alcohol doesn’t make you sexually aggressive, at least in public:

When researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Washington observed young people’s behavior in bars, they found that the man’s aggressiveness didn’t match his level of intoxication. There was no relationship.

Instead, men targeted women who were intoxicated.

The researchers hired and trained 140 young adults to go into bars in the Toronto area and note every incident of aggression they saw. They found that 25 percent of all incidents involved sexual aggression. And 90 percent of the victims of sexual aggression were women being harassed by men.

No surprises so far, although the methodology is obviously suspect: judging what is sexually aggressive is pretty subjective, so take these results with some grains of salt. What we shouldn’t do is make sweeping conclusions from this study.

Cue someone making sweeping conclusions from this study:

A new study backs up what feminists have been saying for approximately ever about the relationship between drinking and rape. Namely, that alcohol–despite its impressive powers–neither magically turns well-meaning kids into sexual aggressors nor makes everything so topsy turvy that nobody has any clue what consent is and if they have it or gave it. Instead, sexual predators deliberately target intoxicated victims. …

The reason this is so important is that the way we understand these dynamics has real-world consequences for how we approach preventing sexual violence. The myth that drunk victims gave off “mixed signals” underpins some of the worst victim blaming and outright rape denialism we see regularly. And, as we’ve discussed extensively on this blog, since predators knowingly look for the most vulnerable-seeming potential victims, “rape prevention” efforts that focuses on telling individual women how to decrease their personal risk are inadequate. As Alexandra’s said before, “Until we create real systemic change, anyone’s individual efforts to not be [the drunkest person in the room] don’t actually reduce rates of violence.”

Well, a lot to unpack here, starting with the”alcohol is a tool not a root cause.” I don’t know anyone who argues that alcohol makes people violent, but it’s universally agreed that it lowers inhibitions. The effect of alcohol on the victim is clear, but the effect on a person who didn’t intend to go out and commit a crime exists, too. It doesn’t make him more violent, but it nudges him closer (using Bill James’ excellent rooms metaphor) to doing something he previously would not have considered.

This is why the presupposition that there is one kind of predator and one kind of process that leads to rape is wrong and ultimately destructive to the cause of reducing violence. There are obviously sexual predators out there, and they do target the most vulnerable potential victims. Contrary to the assertion above, however, individual efforts to avoid being vulnerable do reduce rates of violence. This has been shown in other areas: more secure cars have led to an overall drop in car thefts, even though thieves do go after the most vulnerable cars. Similarly, reducing ones own vulnerability reduces the potential victim pool by at least one. Yes, this places that burden on the potential victim, but it’s silly to say the method doesn’t work because it won’t instantly solve the problem for everyone. You can advise ladies to watch where they go and what they drink while condemning those who would otherwise take advantage of them and taking steps to stop such predators.

The biggest disservice done to the cause of rape prevention in the above “analysis” is the lumping in together of two stock characters in the debate around sexual assault: the predator who goes out with the intention of committing a crime, and the drunken college kid who hooks up with an equally drunk college kid. The latter is irresponsible in many ways, and is a crime in states that consider a person who is drunk to be unable to give consent and sex with such persons rape. (Many have correctly pointed out that this often results in “mutual rape” among two drunk but otherwise willing people.) Lumping both of those together is counter-productive for two reasons:

  • It invites strong opposition from those who want to protect the second group from being treated like the first group. If you don’t want college students who make mistakes (again, different from actual predators) to be treated like violent criminals, you’re going to oppose strong punishment for them, and if they’re grouped together with a group you consider to be violent sexual predators, then the predators will benefit from this. Splitting these up will reduce opposition.
  • It implies the same solution for two separate problems. Sexual predators can be fought only with prevention and punishment. In other cases, education is more powerful (as I argued before). Using the same solution for different problems means the problem isn’t reduced as much as it could be

In any case, I assume the study above will be written off by those who don’t like what it says, and considered gospel by those who like it. Either way, people on both sides are going to be unwilling to unpack the actual issues involved, at the risk of seeming to concede. Meanwhile, crime that could be prevent will continue to happen.

Be proud, everyone.

The Slippery Slope And Moral Education

I haven’t followed the Jameis Winston rape allegations very closely, because I hate how the media handles high profile cases. (For a fun example, watch this video of Nancy Grace murdering puppies.) Basically, a woman is accusing FSU quarterback and Heisman candidate Jameis Winston of raping her in an off-campus apartment in 2012 (she reported the alleged assault immediately). There are emerging irregularities on how the matter has been handled, but I have no particular comment on the matter except to say that, as always, I root for the truth to come out and proper punishments to be applied to guilty parties (the rapist or the wrongful accuser, as the case may be).

This has made me think about a different issue, however: why would a budding superstar get himself in a situation that has such obvious risks for him?* Winston has a lot to lose from being caught in a rape allegation (truthful or not), and you’d expect someone like that to avoid any potentially risky situations. The same goes for the many professional athletes involved in accusations and illegal activities. The same involves Clinton with Lewinski, Rob Ford and his crack pipe, and any of the other criminal or personal indiscretions by men in power. (Yes, this mostly applies to men.)

How do men with so much to lose decide to enter a situation that presents such obvious risks?

*Yes, I know why. Men do things for sex that don’t make sense when you’re not a horny man.

One possible and persuasive answer – they don’t – comes from the patron saint of baseball analysis, Bill James:

It is not as if we walk through one doorway and decide that murder is acceptable. You have to walk through many doorways. The first doorway leads to a party, where people are doing drugs and having fun. The second doorway leads to more partying. It’s a long, long series of doorways, until you end up in a room where a terrible thing happens. So the question is, “How many doorways away are you?” It’s not a question about a person’s capacity to commit a murder. It’s a question of how many doorways we keep between ourselves and that situation.

The slippery slope makes sense. I’d be surprised if someone, Winston included, decided to go out to commit a rape (sociopaths excluded), but it makes sense that someone would decide to go to a party, decide to have drinks, decide to take a girl home, decide to fool around with her. After that, it’s not a leap for someone like that to go further and use force – it’s a small step from what the situation already is. Rob Ford probably didn’t wake up and plan to smoke crack, but he wanted to go out, he wanted to have a drink, and a second, and a seventh, and then it wasn’t a leap to do illegal drugs.

When you look at the situation in the sober light of day – like when you’re reading this blog post – it seems that these guys must have been phenomenally stupid to get themselves in these situations, but I think the truth is trickier. I think the slippery slope rears its ugly head when a series of decisions has to be made, especially if the decision maker’s judgment becomes compromised by alcohol or drugs or hormones. One of the more insightful pieces on this is the Legend of Murder Gandhi:

suppose we offered Gandhi $1 million to take a … pill: one which would decrease his reluctance to murder by 1%. This sounds like a pretty good deal. Even a person with 1% less reluctance to murder than Gandhi is still pretty pacifist and not likely to go killing anybody. And he could donate the money to his favorite charity and perhaps save some lives. Gandhi accepts the offer. Now we iterate the process: every time Gandhi takes the 1%-more-likely-to-murder-pill, we offer him another $1 million to take the same pill again.

Maybe original Gandhi, upon sober contemplation, would decide to accept $5 million to become 5% less reluctant to murder. Maybe 95% of his original pacifism is the only level at which he can be absolutely sure that he will still pursue his pacifist ideals.

Unfortunately, original Gandhi isn’t the one making the choice of whether or not to take the 6th pill. 95%-Gandhi is. And 95% Gandhi doesn’t care quite as much about pacifism as original Gandhi did. He still doesn’t want to become a murderer, but it wouldn’t be a disaster if he were just 90% as reluctant as original Gandhi, that stuck-up goody-goody.

What if there were a general principle that each Gandhi was comfortable with Gandhis 5% more murderous than himself, but no more? Original Gandhi would start taking the pills, hoping to get down to 95%, but 95%-Gandhi would start taking five more, hoping to get down to 90%, and so on until he’s rampaging through the streets of Delhi, killing everything in sight.

This illustrates the principle above: sober Rob Ford might say he’ll have a couple of drinks, but two-drink Rob Ford doesn’t mind two more, and four-drink Rob Ford doesn’t mind six more, and ten-drink Rob Ford doesn’t mind crack. A sober young man might want one drink and only to take home a completely willing girl, but two drinks in and with testosterone and adrenaline flooding his brain, he might find it okay to use a little strength with her, and four drinks in he may think that a little force is okay.

Perhaps you think this seems obvious, but think back to many situations in which you, step by step, ended up doing something that you would never do if it were presented to you without all the intermediate steps. It doesn’t come to us naturally to think through these chains to their end, because we can’t reasonably imagine our future thinking being different. Gandhi can’t properly imagine what decisions 90%-Gandhi would make – he imagines himself making that decision. Rob Ford assumes that two-drink Rob Ford will make the same decisions as he is making now, etc.

To prevent such problems, the key is never to get on the slippery slope in the first place – to keep several doorways between you and the risk of something bad happening. Rob Ford (or, more likely, his advisors) must have and enforce a rule of “no drinks while in office.” Winston’s coaches should have a strict rule that keeps players several steps from potential trouble, perhaps benching or suspending players who go to parties with alcohol. Yes, perhaps there could be a one drink minimum instead of zero, or maybe the rule for players should be “parties with alcohol are ok, but drugs are not,” but you’re now starting a dangerous path. You’re altering the future decision-maker, and once that process starts, we’ve seen it’s difficult to stop.

For the benefit of all, this slippery slope should be part of moral education. I’m sure most young men understand “don’t rape” when presented to them as a principle. I don’t think they instinctively understand that they can easily slip into a situation where they’re liable to commit it. Showing them how quickly they can get themselves into a bad situation if they don’t keep enough doorways between themselves trouble is one way to encourage at least some of them to avoid the slippery slope.

Yoffe Replies To Her Critics

As a final piece to, Emily Yoffe responded to her critics today. The whole piece is worth reading, if you’ve been following the debate, but here’s a key excerpt:

Many others said I should have written a piece not focusing on women, but on men, who, after all, are the rapists. I did note in the story the importance of rape education—especially teaching young men and women what consent means and that a highly intoxicated woman can’t give it. But I agree with critics that the education of men is an important issue and I should have hit it harder. However, the argument went beyond that to declare that when it comes to sexual assault, women’s behavior is a verboten topic and the only thing to discuss is men. Many said college women don’t need to change their drinking habits—what has to change is a male culture of sexual entitlement. No doubt that culture should change, but at best it will do so slowly and incompletely. In the meantime, this weekend, some young, intoxicated women will wake up next to guys they never wanted to sleep with. I believe it’s worth talking about how keeping within a safe drinking limit can potentially help young women avoid such situations.

Slate Redux, And Victim-Blaming In Particular

Shortly after Emily Yoffe’s column posted yesterday, Twitter and Facebook went pretty crazy, and, given the circles I am in, most of them were angrily anti-Yoffe. The arguments, focused on two basic areas, one of which makes sense but hardly warrants vitriol, and one of which I still don’t understand.

The first is the usual call to focus on the perpetrators, not the victims. One particularly interesting piece rewrites Yoffe’s column to call on young men to stop getting drunk, as alcohol has been shown to be associate with the commission of sexual crimes. It’s an excellent point, one that Yoffe merely touched upon, and it’s certainly an important part of rape prevention. (From my own college experience, it’s also taught to most freshmen as soon as they arrive.) The fact that Yoffe’s column focuses on another part of rape prevention (namely, women protecting themselves) doesn’t mean she’s saying this other part of prevention deserves no attention or resources. (In fact, her column calls for binge drinking in general to be curbed further.) It’s fair to disagree on which of the methods is more effective and more important, but it’s silly to argue that emphasizing one particular part of a big picture means that others aren’t important. (To continue yesterday’s example, I counsel people against going to the south side of Chicago, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also want them to avoid most of Detroit.)(Or Syria.)

The second, louder part of the response to Yoffe was that she blaming the victim or denying the reality of rape. I’ve never been particularly clear on the concept that a victim might be at fault for whatever happened to them, but based on some all-capped Facebook posts, it seems that the position is this: By saying that women can reduce the risk of being raped by not drinking (or other behaviors, like dressing provocatively), this means that women who drink and are raped are at fault for letting happen, since they could have avoided the rape by not drinking. (If anyone reads this differently, let me know.) I suppose the difficulty for me is making the leap that someone who doesn’t take every precautionary measure is somehow “at fault” for violence done to them. I understand that this is particularly sensitive issue with regards to rape, a crime that’s difficult to prove because there are no witnesses (usually) and determining the facts tends to become a he said/she said affair (in which, 80% of the time, he or she or both were drunk). I still don’t understand who would blame a person for being raped – as I said yesterday, and as Yoffe points out, the blame for sexual crime always falls on the perpetrator and never the victim. Neither legal nor moral fault of the rapist is reduced by his victim’s actions. While I can understand that some people viscerally respond to something like that by saying “well, she shouldn’t have gotten drunk,” and perhaps some of those people even consider the victim at fault, I don’t, and Yoffe doesn’t. And lumping us all together does a disservice to the ultimate goal, which I hope is “having no rapes anywhere ever.”

Getting drunk or going to a dangerous neighborhood aren’t immoral actions, and in a perfect world, women could do all of those things without risk. In the real world, they are at higher risk of being raped when they are drunk. Castigating someone who points out this reality and advises women to protect themselves isn’t just stupid, it’s counter-productive. Just because women SHOULD be able to get drunk with impunity doesn’t mean that they CAN. And just because a woman could have lowered the risk of being the victim of a crime doesn’t mean she’s at fault. It means, however, that a future potential victim can learn from that event. Otherwise, a tragic event becomes even more tragic.

PS: Megan McArdle, my intellectual crush, backs Yoffe, and even mirrors some of my own arguments (be still my heart):

it would be lunatic to tell them it’s fine to act as if our neighborhood right now is as safe as I hope it someday will be. And realistically, telling my guests where it’s safe to walk is more likely to be effective than telling the muggers that what they’re doing is wrong. I can press for more police patrols and vote on the issue of crime, but at the moment when a guest gets up to leave, I also need to tell them how to be safe.

[Here I swoon, intellectually.]

Alcohol & Rape: An Intra-Slate Battle

Dueling articles regarding binge drinking and rape appeared on Slate today, an original piece by Emily Yoffe and a reply by Amanda Hess. I’m entirely on Yoffe’s side, but let’s go through it anyway because it addresses some interesting issues I’ve been meaning to get to anyway after Serena Williams was criticized for her comments about the Steubenville rape case.  Also, I’ll focus on man-on-woman assaults in this post, even though, once prison is taken into account, more men than women are raped in the US.

Yoffe begins:

In one awful high-profile case after another—the U.S. Naval Academy; Steubenville, Ohio; now the allegations in Maryville, Mo.—we read about a young woman, sometimes only a girl, who goes to a party and ends up being raped. As soon as the school year begins, so do reports of female students sexually assaulted by their male classmates. A common denominator in these cases is alcohol, often copious amounts, enough to render the young woman incapacitated. But a misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young women that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves in potential peril.

And the key paragraph:

Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.

As I said, I echo Yoffe’s points. It has always bothered me that a victim of rape immediately becomes immune from criticism that could be used to educate other women. A victim of a rape, or any crime, can take many steps to make the crime more or less likely, and each unfortunate instance of the crime is another data point that can be used to tell us what victims might do to endanger themselves. As Yoffe’s article demonstrates, binge drinking is strongly associated with danger for young women, and with sexual assault in particular. The fact that this is so doesn’t change anything about the culpability of the perpetrator. In fact, a victim’s actions don’t bear on the perpetrator’s in most crimes: walking down a dark alley doesn’t make a mugging somehow okay, and no one would argue that it did. To go to the extreme, if a young woman decided to take a stroll in a maximum security prison yard that is unsupervised by guards, anything that happened to her would be the fault of those that attacked her.

Yet whenever someone (like Serena above) points out that a victim engaged in a behavior that put them at risk, they’re accused of “blaming the victim.” It’s a misguided attempt to protect the feeling of the particular victim while putting many more potential victims at risk. We have learned that certain behaviors (say, binge drinking) or places (south side of Chicago), or even companions, are more dangerous than others. Not pointing this out to protect the feelings of someone who engaged in that behavior or went to such a place simply prevents other women from learning how to take care of themselves. Obviously we should minimize the harm to rape victims, but if we’re trying to minimize the harm to rape victims, the best way to do it is to minimize the number of rapes. In this case, doing what’s best for victims overall may not be what’s best for a particular victim, but I think all reasonable people would agree that preventing rapes is more important.

Amanda Hess is not reasonable. Starting:

Telling women that they can evade rape by not drinking will only exacerbate that problem [of women feeling guilty and shameful] when it does happen, through no fault of their own. One victim of alcohol-assisted rape Yoffe spoke with said that she was overwhelmed with “shame and guilt” following the assault, and only began to come to terms with the crime when “I realized it wasn’t my fault.”  That realization felt like climbing out of a “deep, dark hole.” Victims should never be put in that hole in the first place—no matter how many drinks they’ve consumed. [Emphasis added.]

Hess probably doesn’t mean that the only effect of pointing out when a victim engaged in dangerous behaviors is that they’ll feel worse about themselves, but her sentence constructions (and her article) make you think that that’s all that matters. She refuses to acknowledge that “telling women that they can evade rape by not drinking” will also lower the incidence of rape. If that effect is large, as it probably would be, given campus rape statistics, perhaps some hurt feelings in the short run are worth it.

Hess continues with an excellent Nirvana fallacy:

Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue. Parents can tell their own daughters not to get drunk, but even if those women follow instructions, it won’t keep other people’s daughters safe. It will just force campus rapists who rely on alcohol to execute their crimes to find other targets.

Yes, rape is a societal problem, but it obviously ALSO a self-help issue. Parents teaching their daughters to avoid dangerous behaviors aren’t protecting other people’s daughters, but it should count for something that they’re protecting their own child. And yes, sexual predators who lose one source of “prey” will move on to something else, but surely it’s a good thing that the victim pool is smaller and their crimes are more difficult. This should

Colleges can start changing those structures by refusing to put the onus on victims to prevent their own assaults, and instead holding perpetrators accountable for the crimes they commit—often, while drunk.

The latter part is obviously true. Many have even argued that universities have gone too far in going after alleged rapists while they’re still merely alleged, but never mind that now. The former part is an excellent strawman that is easily knocked down: yes, universities bear some responsibility for protecting their students, but students bear some responsibility for their own safety. Reminding them that some of their own behaviors are dangerous isn’t putting the onus on them any more than pointing out that pizza is fattening for students fighting the freshman fifteen.

In a perfect world, yes, a woman should be able to get blackout drunk in a fraternity basement and go home unharmed. That doesn’t mean that women should act like they live in a perfect world. Hess seems to be under the impression that girls protecting themselves somehow undermines the quest for this perfect world. Yoffe and I disagree. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to live in such a world.