Though I was raised a practicing Christian I often struggle with one of the faith's most well-known tenets: forgiveness. I was reminded of this when I took pleasure in seeing two young people cry. I generally don't enjoy seeing people in pain, but simply couldn't help myself because these two young people had inflicted considerable, horrifying pain on another, namely a young girl.
Having been raised in a sports obsessed Middle American community myself I was pleasantly surprised that the Steubenville case had the outcome many of us hoped for. Being good at tossing a ball turned out not to be enough to shield the smug, entitled, victimizers from justice.
But one thing I am disappointed about is that yet again, their co-conspirator has gotten away scot-free. I am referring to the culture of binge drinking.
If a teen drives drunk and is killed in an accident, or worse, kills someone else and we find out their parents never discouraged them from drinking and driving, we blame the parents. Yet for some reason we don't discuss the role of alcohol in sexual assault the same way.
Of course as a woman I shouldn't have to worry about how I behave and how much I drink anywhere -- in an ideal world that is. But we don't live in an ideal world. In an ideal world I could leave my door unlocked or propped open when I leave my home. It's my property and no one has any legal right to set foot in it unless I give them permission to. But again, we don't live in an ideal world, so I lock my door.
And yet for some reason as a culture we refuse to discuss alcohol and assault with the same clarity. The discussion seems to get drowned out by histrionics and extremists from all sides. There are those morons who seem to think that women have to dress and act like nuns in order to avoid accidentally signaling to men that we are ready to be raped. Then there are those who seem to throw equally unhelpful pieces of philosophical wisdom into the conversation, about our right to be naked where we want, when we want, with who we want as intoxicated as we want and it's nobody's business.
Okay. But do you really want to encourage your daughter to go through life that way? Especially since Steubenville reminded us that not every man who's dangerous looks like Charles Manson. Some of them look like the guy next door. Those who say, "A man shouldn't touch me no matter how drunk I am," have the moral high ground on this issue, no question. But will it make you feel better to pat yourself on the back and say "I have the moral high ground on this one," the next time another teen girl is assaulted because she was too intoxicated to say no? Because you told her not to worry about it, since she has the "moral high ground"?
Parents shouldn't be raising boys who rape, and I wish they wouldn't, but ultimately I have very little control over that. The one thing I can control is how much I drink, and how much I encourage others to drink, or rather discourage others to drink -- and not just young women.
Getting blackout drunk is a bad idea whether you are 16 or whether you are 40, whether you are a teen girl or an elderly man. It's dangerous to you, dangerous to others and since you can't actually remember what happened it can't even really be considered all that fun. Yet for some reason we as a culture not only condone this type of drinking, but celebrate it. Movies like the The Hangover have firmly established the whole "Isn't it funny we were so plastered no one knows what we did?" The only problem is that in many real life versions of The Hangover, there isn't a baby or Mike Tyson found in the aftermath, but a woman who's been hurt.
We have established a precedent in this country that good parents discourage their teens from drinking and driving. How about we go a step further and make it a precedent that good parents teach their kids how to drink responsibly, which is already commonplace in Europe? How about making a glass or two of wine or one beer instead of four, the cultural norm here -- instead of treating passing out at a 21st birthday party as some sort of American right of passage?
Just as we shame drunk drivers before they try to stagger out of a party to their vehicles, why don't we employ the same pressure to those who get so intoxicated they are falling all over themselves, regardless of gender? Because while the Steubenville case was pretty clear-cut to anyone with eyes and a brain, how different things might have been had the boys involved been nearly as intoxicated as the victim. In other words what happens when you have two incredibly intoxicated people of different genders who have wildly different recollections -- and no video -- of what happened?
Until we live in a world free of all rape -- or a country in which we can predict who belongs on a sex offender registry before their crimes land them there -- we should aim to become a country free of binge drinking.