Why ‘drunk’ never means ‘asking for it’

Elsa Maishman 22 March 2015

Drunkenness is often irresponsible and sometimes even dangerous. But it must never be used as an excuse to blame the victim in a case of sexual assault. If I am drunk and I drop my phone on the ground, it's my fault. If I am drunk and I knock into someone, causing them to spill their drink, it's my fault. I am the only person who can be blamed for the resulting broken phone and wasted beverage, because I am the only person whose actions resulted in those consequences. However, I can never be held accountable for the actions of other people.

The victim-blaming culture prevalent in our society has been called out so many times, and yet women who experience sexual assault are still accused of being 'irresponsible,' of dressing too scantily, of being too friendly, of not looking out for themselves. Alcohol is associated with victim blaming because it can make a woman more friendly, less inhibited, flirtatious even. But *newsflash* riendliness alone does not equal consent.

The recent allegations of sexual assault in Gardies are extremely worrying, but by no means unusual. Every woman seems to have at least one story, whether it's set in a club, a chip-shop or out on the street. Yes, it's irresponsible to be so drunk that you're unaware of what's going on, but that does not make a woman fair game for sexual assault.

Drunk women are more vulnerable, less likely to be on the alert in a potentially dangerous situation. But the problem with a woman being so drunk that she is unable to defend herself is not the fact that she is drunk, but the fact that she has the need to defend herself. The constant in sexual assault cases is, surprisingly, not alcohol. It is an aggressor. A male (in relation to this particular issue) who thinks that because a girl is inebriated, it's ok to kiss her, to touch her or to do worse, without her consent. Of course not every ill-advised drunken encounter constitutes a case of assault, and sometimes the line can be blurred. But in cases that involve a man or group of men forcing a women into sexual activity, it's not difficult to see that she's not giving her consent.

The reason why drunk women are such frequent targets of sexual assault is because the aggressor knows that any subsequent accusation levelled at him can be brushed off by blaming the victim. Drunk women who experience assault are accused of 'asking for trouble.' But the only way of 'asking for' a sexual encounter is by giving consent to it, not by simply being too drunk to defend oneself.