How Stanford’s Hard Alcohol Ban Is Shifting The Sexual Assault Narrative, And Not In A Good Way

Flickr / Allan Chen
Flickr / Allan Chen

On Monday, Stanford University announced that students will no longer be allowed to drink hard alcohol at campus parties. Students will still be able to drink wine and beer at parties, but they will no longer be allowed to have hard alcohol (more than 20% alcohol by volume). The new policy also prohibits the size of the bottles of hard liquor that students can keep in their residence halls or common areas to under 750ml.

This announcement comes two months after the sentencing of Brock Turner, who was a former Stanford student that was convicted on a charge of intent to commit rape. The case caused national and international uproar when Turner was sentenced to only six months in jail.

The university has stated that the new ban on hard alcohol is not related to the recent sexual assault scandal, however it is difficult to believe that these two things are unrelated.

Banning hard alcohol moves the narrative on sexual assault away from what it should be focused on, which is educating young minds on sexual assault and consent. Banning hard alcohol supports the narrative that sexual assault can be blamed on alcohol that is consumed. Which it can’t be, and it shouldn’t be.

Stanford created a new site on Monday called “Female Bodies And Alcohol” where it starts off by saying that “a woman will get drunk faster than a man consuming the same amount of alcohol. It goes on to tell women how they should “optimize the positive effects of alcohol and avoid the negative consequences.”

The site originally had a section specifically regarding alcohol and sex, but it has since been deleted. However you can still read an archived version here In this section it says “for women, the odds of experiencing sexual aggression were 9 times higher on days of heavy drinking compared to days when the women did not drink. Individuals who are even a little intoxicated are more likely to be victimized than those who are not drinking.” If this isn’t victim blaming, then I don’t know what is. This page uses alcohol as a way to victim blame. It tells women that their choice to consume alcohol increases their chance of being sexually assaulted.

It continues to say “…men who think they have been drinking alcohol feel sexually aroused and are more responsive to erotic stimuli, including rape scenarios. For some, being drunk serves as a justification for behavior that is demeaning or insulting, including the use of others as sexual objects.” This statement gives men who are accused of sexual assault the power to use alcohol as a reason why. However, nowhere does it say that men are wrong in thinking that being drunk is a justification for assaulting someone.

According to court documents, a lot of Brock Turner’s defense was related to his drinking. He reportedly said, “Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she. I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.” Brock Turner was wrong.

Except that’s not what he was wrong about.

He was wrong to think that he could assault an unconscious woman.

He was wrong to think that he could get away with it.

And he was wrong to think that he could blame it on his alcohol consumption.

We need to stop teaching girls how to “not be assaulted.” We need to stop using alcohol as a scapegoat for physically harming and violating another human being.

Alcohol isn’t the problem. Rape culture is. TC mark

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