BY ELIZABETH GYORI
Alcohol abuse and underage drinking are certainly problems faced by many teenagers and young adults across the U.S. We’ve all learned about the effects of excessive alcohol consumption in health class. With excessive drinking comes a decrease in motor skills, negative health effects on the liver, judgment impairment and the possibility of alcohol poisoning. We’ve also been taught that we should always watch our drinks at parties and to never leave our drinks unattended so that no one slips unwanted drugs or substances into our drinks. A new ad by the Pennsylvania state liquor board tries to warn young adults against alcohol abuse by linking excessive drinking with date rape. The ad was eventually pulled after an influx of criticism though.
Yes, that is a real ad that was OK’ed by a government agency to be run as part of the “Control Tonight” online campaign against alcohol abuse.
Not only is this ad very, very racy, but it also does nothing more than blame rape victims (who may have been drinking) for the trauma they suffered. Yes, drinking excessively can severely impair judgment and lead to regrettable mistakes. Yes, alcohol abuse can lead to a decrease in awareness of surroundings, making it easier for someone to slip date rape into your drink. And these are issues that must be addressed. But if someone is sick enough to slip date rape into a person’s drink and then rape him or her, it’s far from the victim’s fault that she or he couldn’t say no.
If Rape is an intentional choice on the part of the rapist, especially if the choice to use date rape drugs is involved. The PA state liquor board should be running ads that tell people to abstain from rape (or they could end up in jail), not telling women that it’ll be their fault they are raped while trying to have a fun and enjoyable night out. The fact that this ad even ran just goes to show how we really do live in a society that teaches, “Don’t get raped,” rather than, “Don’t rape.”
Beyond the victim blaming, this ad doesn’t account for the legality of having sex with someone who is intoxicated. The law states that you cannot consent to sex if you’ve been drinking. That’s the bottom line, no ifs, and’s or buts. If you have sex with someone who has been drinking, that’s rape and you could go to jail for it. Maybe we should be running ads with a picture of someone being put in the back of a police car and big, white, capital letters saying, “Sober consent: the only real and legal way to say ‘yes’ to sex.”
Finally, this ad makes it seem like only women are date raped and only women could possibly make irresponsible sexual choices while drinking. Date rape is not gender neutral. I’ve personally known men who’ve been slipped date rape while out drinking and I’ve known men who’ve been raped while drunk. Furthermore, rape is not only a problem in heterosexual relationships, but it is also an issue in gay and transgender relationships. Perhaps ads need to be more all-inclusive in order to make a real impact.
Date rape drugs, lack of consent during sex, rape and alcohol abuse are all pervasive problems that need to be tackled via a massive public education campaign and other initiatives. But we have to target the source of the problem when it comes to each of these issues. That is, people should be taught: Respect people enough to not slip drugs into others’ drinks; Consenting to sex while intoxicated is not consent at all; And rape is—to put it as simply as possible—bad.