Here’s a shocking statistic: Approximately one half of all sexual assault victims report that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault, with estimates ranging from 30 to 79 percent. The connection between alcohol consumption and rape cannot be ignored. Imagine if half of all cough syrup takers reported being raped! There are several reasons why alcohol has been linked to sexual assault. First, alcohol has been linked to cognitive impairments that reduce an individual’s ability to evaluate risk. The drug can cause cognitive deficits that contribute to the misperception of the woman’s cues in such a way that the man perceives her as being more sexually encouraging than she really is because of alcohol’s effects on his cognitive functioning.
Second, alcohol in particular can cause motor impairments that reduce the ability to function (or resist) effectively. Third, alcohol is typically consumed in great quantities around strangers. For those reasons, alcohol, it seems, is a rapist’s drug of choice. In fact, predators may even drink themselves silly to justify forcing a woman to have sex with them. One study found that heavy drinkers may routinely use intoxication as an excuse for engaging in socially unacceptable behavior, including sexual assault.
Furthermore, rapists tend to troll in bars, parties and clubs where female drinkers are present. Sexually assaultive men tend to describe women who drink in bars as “loose,” immoral women who are appropriate targets for sexual aggression. Sexual assaults involving alcohol are more likely to occur between men and women who do not know each other well (dates, hookups) than among spouses or partners. Furthermore, alcohol-involved sexual assaults tend to occur at parties or in bars, rather than in either person’s home. If there’s a bartender present, you can assume that a sexual predator on the hunt for incoherent victims is in close proximity.
Here’s a truth we all know: Alcohol consumption can put women in positions where they will have a difficult time defending themselves from predatory rapists. That is the reality. I’m not writing this article to blame rape victims, only to discuss ways to minimize the risk of being raped. I first learned about the connection between alcohol consumption and rape during my freshman year of college, when I participated in a trial campus program developed to educate young women on the dangers of binge drinking (I went to a Catholic Jesuit college).
It was in that semester-long program that I learned that alcohol is a rapist’s wet dream, a tool used to coax incoherent and vulnerable women (and sometimes men) into frightening situations. Alcohol provides a double-whammy for rapists—first, the drug impacts an individual’s ability to evaluate risk, and second, the drug causes brain impairments that hinder a victim’s ability to protect themselves (the most prevalent alcohol-associated brain impairments affect visuospatial abilities, which include perceiving and remembering the relative locations of objects in 2- and 3-dimensional space). It’s been years since I participated in the program and I still minimize my drinking while in the presence of strangers to this day.
To be fair, it’s very easy for me to tout the benefits of partying sober, since I hardly ever drink—I drink maybe four times per year, if that. At this point, I’m used to ordering a glass of water at birthday parties and office happy hours. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the sensation of being drunk and I am actually terrified of getting premature wrinkles from alcohol consumption (Side note: Alcohol is a diuretic that causes the body to lose water. That can contribute to dry skin and dilate blood vessels).
During those rare instances when I do drink alcohol or smoke marijuana, it’s usually in the private home of a trusted friend of family member. So, when I party with friends at nightclubs, I’m ordering a glass of water with lemon. So what if it makes me look like a prude? At least I’m safe.
Ladies: Take the Pledge
I propose that individuals (male or female) take the pledge to avoid drinking in places where strangers are present. Taking a pledge of this sort is not much different than deciding to adhere to other safety precautions, such as locking your home doors or protecting your credit card numbers. Yes, it would be great to live on a planet free from rape, burglary and identify theft, but that is not a reality. The reality of the world is that you must take precautions to protect your survival, and choosing to prioritize your safety by limiting your public drinking is a wise choice to make. It’s not worth the risk to your mental and physical health to drink recklessly in public.
Besides minimizing the chances of rape, there are a few solid benefits to vowing to stay sober in public:
You make better decisions. According to the National Institutes of Health, mild-to-moderate drinking can adversely affect cognitive functioning, such as mental activities involving acquiring, storing, retrieving and using information. One of the most frustrating things about watching “Drink Responsibly” advertisements is that the commercials assume that intoxicated individuals have the ability to make careful or intelligent decisions about their well-being. They are drunk! Furthermore, one study conducted by John Hopkins found that in 88 percent of cases, drink responsible messages reinforced promotion of the advertised product.
Sobriety saves you from embarrassment. I am a sloppy, horrible drunk, and I admit it. I am a lightweight female (I’ve always been slightly underweight), and I know that it only takes a small bit of alcohol to make me drunk. With the proliferation of social media and smartphones, it is safe to assume that there are cameras everywhere. If you are sloppy drunk in public at a bar or office party, someone is likely going to record you at some point. Once an embarrassing photo is taken and posted online, it will likely be seen by your family, your friends and your employers (or potential employers). “Isn’t it cute to post a picture of how wasted Dan was last night?” No, no it isn’t.
Drinking is cheaper at home. The average cost of a martini (bought in a hotel) in New York City is $19. Isn’t that crazy! Who wants to pay an arm and a leg to drink around strangers (and potential rapists)? Even when I used to drink frequently at bars, I hated having to paying bartenders exorbitant amounts of money for drinks. Your wallet will thank you if you drink at home.
There are, however, downsides to pledging to stay sober in public, namely wasting money on expensive drinks and shutting yourself out of getting blackout drunk and hooking up with someone who really doesn’t care about you. Oops, it looks like those are not really downsides!
Take the “sober in public” pledge people.