Earlier this month, Slate’s in-house agony aunt Emily Yoffe was the latest to dip her toes into one of the thorniest corners of the giant teeming hornet’s nest that is campus sexual assault: drinking.
The vast majority of college rapes occur when a man has sex with a woman who is too drunk to consent, often in her bedroom. Of women who’d ever consumed 10 or more drinks in a sitting since starting college, 59 percent were sexually victimized by the end of their first semester, according to a 2011 University of Buffalo study.
The best way to prevent alcohol-based assaults, Yoffe argued, is for young women to drink less alcohol.
"Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them," she wrote. "Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue."
Critics quickly pummeled the column, which Salon summarized as an ”entreaty that women stop drinking alcohol so that men will stop raping them.”
While feminists in-fought on the Internet over whether Yoffe’s advice was deluded victim-shaming or basic common sense, correspondent Casey Kauffman spent a day and a night partying at the University of Kansas, with young college men and women who had plenty of their own thoughts on drinking and sex, and the often euphoric - and sometimes dystopian - mixing of the two.
'Everyone's so drunk'
Kauffman's first discovery was that college students, by and large, love drinking and having sex. And some male students seemed to love it, even if they’d blacked out the details. Or the fact of the sex happening at all.
“There’s nights where we go out and we wake up and we are with a girl and we don’t remember anything from the night before, like, ask ourselves, ‘Whoa, did I have sex with her, or no?’” explains Casey, a KU senior. “It’s nothing like bad. We enjoy partying. We enjoy having a good time.”
“We just like to drink together,” says Casey’s girlfriend of three years, when the two are reunited a little later at the party. “A couple that blacks out together, stays together."
Overall, college kids aren’t binge drinking more than they were 10 years ago. Forty percent of 18- to 24-year-old college kids drank five or more units of alcohol on one occasion in the previous 30 days, according to a 2012 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, down from 44 percent in 2002. Fourteen percent drank that much on at least five occasions in the past month, a number that is also going down.