Emily Yoffe, a Slate contributor and the voice of the "Dear Prudence" advice column, has some somewhat unpopular advice for college-aged women: Stop drinking so much.
In a lengthy article published Tuesday, Yoffe connects the consistent and disheartening problem of sexual assaults on college campuses with what she describes as an avoidable practice among young women. Binge-drinking, she says, compromises the faculties and can leave young women especially vulnerable to rape or sexual assault.
"Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice," she writes. "But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them."
As if sensing the inevitable backlash and calls of victim-blaming the piece would inspire, she equivocates:
"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."
The piece, which employs statistics and studies to illustrate the convergent cultures of campus drinking and sexual assault, and draws on the experience of real rape victims whom Yoffe interviewed, is framed in the voice of a mother who is looking after her daughter.
"I’ve told my daughter that it’s her responsibility to take steps to protect herself," Yoffe writes, referring to her own daughter who will start college next year.
Despite the author being a woman, and despite Yoffe's attempts to align her views with some widely held feminist principles, feminist authors around the Internet were critical of her advice, calling it "rape denialism" and saying the article makes Yoffe sound like an "a--hole." Some opinions, from some popular online voices:
"Perhaps more than Yoffe herself, I’m disgusted at Slate editors for playing host to this vile line of thought, so commonly debunked for years, by feminists of many stripes. This is not journalism. This is not a new, provocative, or worthwhile argument. This is plain old victim-blaming." -- Lori Adelman, Feministing
"Unsurprisingly, this bit of e-prudery by the woman otherwise known as Dear Prudence was poorly received because, you know, we're all pretty tired of the 'ladies be getting themselves raped' trope — and for good reason. Is there a way to discuss rape prevention and personal safety that both acknowledges the sad, rapey reality of the world without blaming the victims and, by extension, coming across like a scoldy a--hole?" -- Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel
"Yoffe failed to realize that there's one thing that's more common than alcohol when it comes to rapes. That would be rapists. While alcohol plays a part in a number of rapes, I can assure you that in every case (both male and female) of rape, there is at least one rapist. And, well, Yoffe's column isn't titled 'Rapists, stop raping women.'" -- Alexander Abad-Santos, The Atlantic
"We live in a world where people live-tweet and Instagram an alleged sexual assault rather than stepping in to stop it, where 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities, and where 97% of rapists will not spend even a day incarcerated. There is certainly a culture that needs changing, but scolding college women for drinking beer at a kegger is not the way to do it." -- Emma Gray, Huffington Post Women
Ann Friedman, a magazine journalist, penned a parody of the piece, titled "College Men: Stop Getting Drunk," that closely resembled Yoffe's writing, but switched all of the relevant female pronouns.
Still, under the heavy pile of criticism, some outlets agreed, at least generally, with Yoffe's viewpoint. The New Republic acknowledged the controversy of the article, but pointed out that heightened incidences of sexual assault aren't the only reason college women should stay away from the booze.
Twitter, of course, has been inundated with criticism (and some support) of the piece, with hashtags such as #victimblaming and #rapeculture accompanying many opinions.
What do you think of Yoffe's advice? Should young women seek to curb their behavior to avoid a possibly dangerous situation, or is this victim blaming that fails to address the real problems behind sexual assault on college campuses?