As a woman, I’ve been taught to love myself, to respect myself, to stand up for myself. I’ve been taught to be free-thinking, to stand firm in my beliefs, to hold my own. Independence has been ingrained in me. So has free will. I was told that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up and I believed it. Barbie showed me that I could be a mommy, a veterinarian, and, someday, maybe even president. The Spice Girls sang of girl power and Margaret Thatcher proved that it really did exist. I was invincible, unstoppable, and uninhibited…and then I got to college.
You see, a weird thing happened at the pre-games and the bars and the frat parties. Girls could go and check their inhibitions at the door, responsibility at the coat check, and self-awareness at the bar. We could drink to our heart’s content, be stupid, be dumb, dance up on bars, kiss a stranger, go home with a different one, and then wake up and not have to take ownership for any of it. The flyers on our hallway bulletin boards piled up. Seminars commenced. PSAs were abound. “My rapist doesn’t know he’s a rapist,” they all told us. And we believed it.
So we went to the pre-games and we went to the bars and we went to the frat parties. We did drink to our heart’s content and we made bad decisions. We did go home with strangers. And then we woke up and we decided that we didn’t like what we had done. We regretted it. We didn’t like that we had willingly taken eleven shots of cheap vodka at the pre-game with “our girls.” We didn’t like that we had arrived at the bar and purchased our own double vodka cranberries. We didn’t like that we had accepted a shot from our best friend and then another from our biology lab partner. We didn’t like that we had drunkenly danced on the counter and we were embarrassed that a bar full of strangers had likely seen our panties. We didn’t like that we were blacked out, and we most certainly did not like that we had stumbled back to campus after last call to attend a party. We didn’t like that we had fallen down the stairs at a fraternity house, and we didn’t like that we had bullied a brother into giving us vodka, because we “don’t drink beer.” We didn’t like that we had wandered into the bed of someone who was even more intoxicated than we were, and we didn’t like the fact that we woke up wearing nothing but a dirty rush t-shirt. And so we freaked out.
Faced with our poor decisions of the night before, we had no excuse but to take them all back. After all, that’s what all of the flyers and the seminars and the PSAs said. That’s what our professors told us, as did the nurses at Student Health. That’s what the protestors wearing the skimpy outfits and holding the glittery posters said. “It’s not your fault,” they all told us. Yes, you were drunk. And yes, you flirted with him. And yes, you initiated the first makeout…and the second one. Yes, you whispered, “Let’s get out of here.” But you felt guilty this morning. And so you take it all back. No matter that he was drunk, too, and you were a willing participant — you take it back. And in the game of your word against his, you will always win.
Legally speaking, those who are incapacitated cannot consent to sex. But what is incapacitated? Is it a certain BAC? A slurred word? Perhaps a drunken stumble or a sloppy text? If incapacitation is the end all, be all, then why don’t we have police officers standing outside of bars? Girls exit on one side, boys on the other. Keep your hands to yourselves and where I can see them. No more one-night stands, no more walks of shame. So what is it? What’s the line that can’t be crossed? And what about the boys? What if they’re drunk, too?
We’ve created a culture where it is completely acceptable for girls to get drunk, make bad decisions, and then take it all back. There is no ownership, no responsibility, no acceptance of one’s own mistakes. And for what? So we can feel better about our actions? So we can feel better about our “numbers” which don’t mean anything, anyway? So we can feel better about the poor choices, the stupid decisions, the regrets, the “I shouldn’t haves,” the errors, the misjudgments, the shots, the kisses, and the sex? I just…I don’t understand.
This culture that we now live in, this societal acceptance of regret and unaccountability — it’s wrong. We’re creating a mockery of the real victims of sexual assault, the ones who are violently attacked. The ones who didn’t willingly take the shot, drink the drink, and climb into bed. We’re discouraging them from stepping forward. We’re preventing police officers from taking them seriously and district attorneys from pressing charges. We’re creating a world where all females are victims and all men are attackers — and that is simply not the case. Perhaps there is a gray area. Maybe something does, in fact, exist between the spectrum of rape and a consensual one-night-stand. But that doesn’t mean that every drunken hookup is the result of a violent attack. That doesn’t mean that women can go into a situation knowing good and well what will happen, and then take it back when the sun comes up. It simply doesn’t work like that. Something has got to give.
We’re supposed to be living in a world where women can be anything they want to be. Isn’t that what we were taught? That we’re strong and independent and able-bodied? That we can be the mommy, the veterinarian, and maybe even the president? That we can not only preach girl power, but live it, too? That we don’t have to be ashamed of our sexuality or forced to hide it? That we can play with the big boys and act like them, too? So why are we running from it? Why are we going out and making stupid decisions and then acting like we are in no way responsible for ourselves? That’s not how it works. We don’t get to arbitrarily take things back. We don’t get to be stupid and then blameless. We don’t get to be held unaccountable for our actions. Doing so sets us back. Doing so makes us weak and it makes us powerless. It’s time that we stop playing the blame game. It’s time that we start taking responsibility for our own actions — no matter how bad they may be.
Image via flickr