During a committee hearing on Tuesday to discuss sexual assault on college campus, a Texas lawmaker said that staying sober is a woman’s “best chance” at not getting raped.
While State Rep. Myra Crownover, a Republican from Denton, says her comments during a House Higher Education Committee hearing have been taken out of context, her advice seems to reinforce the idea that it’s a woman's job to avoid being victimized, rather than the onus being on men to stop doing the raping.
During the hearing Tuesday – which, no kidding, just so happened to be on International Women’s Day — Crownover told her colleagues:
“I was listening for mention of drug or alcohol abuse and, you know, I think those two conversations are so intertwined. I would be curious to see how many times a pure, sober sexual assault happened. And I think that’s something we need to talk about. The two are so intertwined, I don’t see talking about one without talking about the other. I think it’s very intertwined and that needs to be in every conversation, practically. The best chance is being sober.”
Crownover later told the Dallas Morning News that she wasn't condoning sexual assault on drunk women, but rather, from her “public health attitude,” many problems, like sexual assault, relate back to drug and alcohol abuse. “You wonder, if nobody drank, what would happen to rape, car wrecks, all sorts of things,” she told the News.
Crownover’s comments didn’t happen in a vacuum. Just a few weeks ago the Texas Observer reported on a panel discussion by the right-wing Austin Institute at the University of Texas called “Assault and Integrity: A Frank and Fearless Discussion About Sex on Campus.” Panelists talked about “gray rape,” in which a woman goes “pretty far toward that young man before backing off.” They bemoaned "hook-up culture" and mocked the idea of explicit or “enthusiastic consent” among sexual partners. (Consent: What a buzzkill, right?) Panelists included the illustrious Mark Regnerus, whose own “fundamentally flawed” research demonizing LGBT families was disavowed not just by his own sociology department but by the American Sociological Association.
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If “pure, sober” rape sounds kinda like that infamous “legitimate rape” comment, it’s because the two aren't all that far removed. While Todd Akin was wrong about basic biology (maybe he’s a victim of abstinence-only sex-ed), Crownover apparently doesn’t understand how and why rape happens.
It’s not as if being "pure" or "sober" is enough to avoid sexual violence in college, not when nearly one in four women say they’ve experienced sexual aggression on campus. One recent UT survey found that nearly one in five female undergrads said they were sexually assaulted while they were either intoxicated, by force, or both since arriving on campus.
Putting the onus on women to be safe and sober to stop getting raped is to misunderstand what rape is – not necessarily a crime of advantage or even sex, but rather one of power and subjugation. The stay-sober-and-avoid-rape trope only further objectifies women — as if, when drunk, they’re just like cash-filled purses that, if left out in the open, are begging to be taken.
Comments like Crownover’s just tell women to stop making it so easy.