There's currently a disturbing trend of straight, white men making consistently dubious arguments regarding sexual assault on college campsuses. But Friday's disaster in the University of Arizona's Daily Wildcat takes the cake.
In a brain-dead screed about sexual assault entitled "Only responsiblity can stop rape" (which is a fundamentally flawed, because in reality only men not raping will stop rape), Rob Monteleone makes a horifically moronic case for personal responsiblity:
College is full of being vulnerable around strangers. When stated like that, it seems like something you'd want to avoid, no?
Only 6.6% of women who smoke will develop lung cancer. A woman who smokes is more than three times as likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to develop lung cancer. We turn our noses up at smokers and just made our campus tobacco-free. Yet, nothing is done about sexual assault, short of blaming the "attacker," a guy who was likely as drunk as his "victim." We do everything we can to mitigate the small risk of lung cancer, but nothing at all to mitigate the much greater risk of sexual assault.
Um, OK? This is where things get especially messy (emphasis ours):
If drunk women who have sex are able to claim "rape," why aren't drunk men alleviated of responsibility for the poor decisions they make?
There's an old saying that reads, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." We lock our bikes and label food in the fridge because we don't want them to be stolen. When something of ours is stolen, we blame ourselves, saying "I left it out!" or something to that effect.
If that "stolen bike" analogy sounds familiar, it's because it should: It's the same logic deployed by a Stanford undergrad in a January 2013 Stanford Daily op-ed (and was recently recirculated in a recent Bloomberg News article):
So is victim-blaming only wrong in cases of sexual assault, or is it universally bad? For those who say it's only wrong in cases of sexual assault, I see your point. Sexual assault is a far more intimate and egregious violation than theft. Moreover, victim-blaming in sexual assault attempts to limit a person's fundamental freedoms to do things like dress how they please.
At the same time, I should have the freedom to park my bike without a lock. After all, it's not against the law to leave your bike unlocked, but it is against the law to walk off with someone else's. It's not my fault if someone steals it, yet I'd be inundated with comments about stupid it is to leave a bike unlocked.
There are two big issues here. First, the bicycle theft analogy. As I've written before, human beings are not bicycles. This is a basic principle of western ethics: human beings, unlike inanimate objects, are not tools to be deployed towards an end, but ends in themselves. This is the same logic we deploy against things like murder, torture and all other violations of human dignity and decency. The "inherent dignity" of human beings is the fundamental ethical principle that defines basically every major social contract, including the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this sense, the comparison to petty theft is moot.
Second, the "double standard" about drunk men and women that Monteleone cites. Undergrad Erin Zweiner actually delivers a forceful rebuttal in the comments (emphasis ours):
Wouldn't it be better if women just exercised a bit of caution and avoided this whole inconvenient rape thing? Really? That's your argument? Here's the real double standard: Men can go out alone, party, drink, heck just walk home at night without fear of being raped. Women not only risk being sexually assaulted when they step out of an ever narrowing "safe zone" (which isn't really safe, but that's a whole other article), they also have to deal with people like you going on about how if they'd just been a little more careful, nothing bad would have happened to them. Sure, if I lived my entire life inside a glass bubble, I'd be perfectly safe. But I like experiencing the world ... We are not going to cower in the corner from fear of assault. We're going to change the way the world works and make it safer for us. Quit apologizing for rapists.
Guys, here's a piece of advice from a straight, white bro like yourselves: Don't mansplain sexual assault to people, especially women. End of story.