Emily Yoffe Thinks you Shouldn’t Binge-Drink. Neither Do I; My Story On Assault and Alcohol

This piece is in response to the backlash over THIS article by Emily Yoffe of Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column. Read, with an open mind, and see if you agree.

It was my first week of college.

I should probably preface this with a bit of history that would make me sound less, um…stupid and more naive.

I grew up a sheltered child in a Pentecostal family. I went to a tiny private school for primary education, and my summers were a combination of theme-parks, church camp and volunteer work. High school bore little difference; I graduated top three out of a whopping class of 100 and spent my summers in laboratories. I was a bookworm through and through, and my social troubles I have long-since documented here. By the time I walked into the halls of my 5000-strong university campus-just two weeks into my eighteenth birthday- it was clear I was out of my league. I had never even kissed a boy, let alone spent time alone with one.

It was the first get-together of the school year. I nervously asked my new roommate if I knew anyone who was going to be hanging out with us off-campus while I threw on some makeup. “Of course not,” she scoffed. “We don’t hang with freshmen. Welcome to the big leagues!” I took a deep breath and forced a smile.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the party’s “host”, who offered up the ubiquitous solo cups of alcohol for consumption. “No beer here, honey!” was yelled as the evening’s festivities were courtesy of hard liquor. I, introduced as the ‘new kid’, got my solo cup exchanged for a 32-oz tumbler of vodka punch.

They cheered my first-ever gulp of alcohol. At 5’2 and 105lbs, it took about ten minutes before I felt the first tingle take effect. I snuck off and poured a bit down the sink so they’d think I drank more than I did, but by then I was already fuzzy. My roommate sat me on a couch and left to go hang with her friends. A few minutes in I was joined on the couch.

“So you’re new, huh?”

I believe I nodded. I really can’t tell you what I did. But I remember he was sweet, and funny. I found myself feeling less nervous, as at least I had one new friend at the party. “It’s loud in here!” he shouted. “Wanna go over there and talk?”

“Over there” was the first available bedroom. “Don’t worry, the door’s open,” he laughed. He was really nice, so I sat on the edge of the bed and we continued our conversation for a few minutes. He touched my knee. I was already flushed. He laughed about the loud music again…and walked over to lock the door. I couldn’t feel my fingers, but I held on to my punch.

The next two minutes were a blur-but not for the reasons you think. The host mercifully was walking by the exact moment my ‘friend’ was fumbling with the lock-and burst through the door. “Oh, no. Not at my party folks!” was his literal reaction-and my only crystal-clear memory that evening. He told my ‘friend’ to leave-and practically dragged me by my ear back to the couch. “SIT,” he ordered-and he left me to my embarrassment. While I was initially annoyed that he interrupted what I thought an innocent conversation, time and water brought the reality of what had almost happened. I was ashamed. I was scared. I was disoriented. I had never felt dumber. I wanted to go home that second. I didn’t know how. My roommate still hadn’t returned.

I received another lifeboat and made it home safely that evening, although I can’t tell you anything else, as I have never been able to recall the rest. My roommate didn’t turn up until that morning, where they had a pretty good laugh at my first hangover. It was clear I had a world of lessons to catch up with, and I can only thank the universe my first wasn’t my worst. As the year progressed I quickly learned there was a specific group of people who never had your best interests at heart, and wait for a moment when you no longer have your wits about you. While I can’t say it was my last drink, it was the last time I ever got she-needs-some-help-to-get-home-drunk on campus. I changed who I partied with, and set my own limits. When I was done, I was done.

That was my first brush with the effects of binge-drinking, but it wasn’t my last. By the end of that year I had been assaulted by a sloppy-drunk dorm-mate (our dorms were co-ed), helped pull two classmates from a burning car in a drunk-driving accident, and lost another classmate to an alcohol-assisted suicide.

I have been sexually assaulted over the course of my lifetime. To suggest victims have anything to do with their assault is heinous. The only common denominator in rape is rapists, period. But it would be irresponsible to exclude sexual assault in a general and much-needed conversation about the negative, dangerous and deadly effects of drinking far beyond your mental capacity in college. College is fun, and most people are able to look back (well, the lucky ones who didn’t have it documented via Instagram), laugh and thank the heavens that they lived to tell the tale. But it is also where you learn responsibility, boundaries, and how to navigate this earth as an adult. Part of being an adult is learning your limits. There is nothing wrong with a frank conversation about dangerous behaviors and the risks they may pose. A conversation is long overdue, and it’s about time we started somewhere.

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7 thoughts on “Emily Yoffe Thinks you Shouldn’t Binge-Drink. Neither Do I; My Story On Assault and Alcohol

  1. Thank God nothing happened to you that night. I had a similar experience where I was abandoned by friends at this Kappa house party. Some Kappa drove me and two other girls to their dorm and mine was nearby, but it could have turned out so much worse. It’s good it didn’t.

    1. I was very fortunate that particular evening. Not all my stories have a happy ending like that (and perhaps one day I’ll share on here), but what I do plan to follow up with in another post is that the difference is not my wits, or luck, it was MALE INTERVENTION. It is imperative we find a way to include men in the conversation. We cannot do this alone, and peer accountibility will be a key component. Until then, no matter HOW unfair it is, women have no choice but to alter our routines for the sake of our safety.

  2. This was real, and I appreciate that. I grew up much like you: sheltered, regimented schedules that kept me out of “trouble.” But because I went to college in my hometown and wasn’t sold on the “college experience,” I lived at home all four years. I’m 30 and I still have never been drunk because I don’t trust people to take care of me during times I cannot trust my own judgment.

    So much of the conventional wisdom on “preventing” rape has indeed been aimed at keeping women out of so-called dangerous situations. Rapists gonna rape, this is true. But I don’t believe we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Women should be as careful as they can, but it does not mean that the blame and onus for preventing/or not preventing rape should be on them.

    1. I felt bad, because the original author was NOT writing a “rape prevention” article. She was including the threat of assault by a PARTICULAR breed of predator in a general conversation about potentially dangerous behaviors. I don’t believe in “rape prevention” articles, to be clear. But I also do not believe we should leave out assault in a conversation on safer practices. For example, the kidnapping and trafficking of tourists is terrible, and absolutely not the fault of the tourist. Doesn’t mean there aren’t countless articles on safe measures when traveling abroad. The difference is the language. “Rape prevention” articles often take a slant that suggests victims could have been “smarter”, which I don’t agree with.

      1. Slate editors (or Yoffe herself) fanned the flames a little with their banner heading “The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted.”

        I think that might have something to do with the backlash.

      2. Yeah, that title is pretty horrible. I doubt Yoffe was super-involved. Most times when I submit an article to a third party, I have no say in the title.

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