“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”—victim’s statement read aloud at Brock Turner’s sentencing
The monster in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Freddy Krueger, kills his victims in their dreams. So long as you can stay awake, so long as you can refrain from sleeping, you’re safe. But, as you might expect, the young people who Krueger stalks can only stay up for so long. Eventually they fall asleep. And when they do, as they all eventually do, he uses a glove armed with razors to slice his victims into pieces.
The monster in Emily Yoffe’s Slate article on sexual assault “lurks where women drink like a lion at a watering hole.” Though mitigated with caveat after caveat, Yoffe’s advice to young women is about as stupid as that given to the young people in A Nightmare on Elm Street. So long as you can stay sober, so long as you can refrain from drinking, you’re safe. What’s ironic is that Yoffe clearly views her advice as pragmatic. It is, in fact, quite idealistic. It’s also unrealistic.
Drinking has been a central part of youth culture for thousands of years. There are plenty of good and bad reasons for this. But that’s another conversation for another day. What matters here is that we pragmatically acknowledge one simple fact: partying is a central feature of college life, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. As such, asking young women to avoid it—for their own good—is profoundly unfair. Why should they have to miss out on a big part of the college experience? Is it any wonder that they ignore us? I would.
The nightmare on Elm Street is caused by Freddy Krueger. He’s the problem. Not the young people who keep falling asleep. Likewise, the nightmare on College Street is caused by sexual predators like Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on January 17th, 2015. They’re the problem. Not the young women who keep drinking.
I partied like a champ back in the day, as did most of my friends, and it did lead to some stupid decisions. It occurred to some of us to take on a bouncer twice our size. Or a football player three times our size. Fair amount of fighting happened. But it just didn’t occur to any of us to rape. And we were regularly around passed out drunk girls. That’s why I just don’t buy this whole “WHOOPS, I RAPED HER” defense. There are plenty of things that guys who are “totally out of control” refrain from doing almost all the time (e.g., stabbing pets to death, stealing from friends, sticking forks into electrical outlets, cutting their own dicks off for fun, etc.). If drunk guys were just as likely to rape as they were to cut off their own limbs, or jump out of penthouse windows, I’d be prepared to take the diminished capacity argument seriously. But we all know that’s simply not the case.
If drunk words are sober thoughts, drunk actions are sober fantasies. And full-blown fantasies aren’t born full-grown. To rape when you’re drunk, you’ve gotta be fantasizing about it a whole lot when you’re sober. And what kind of a culture produces a steady supply of kids who fantasize about raping each other? Um, I don’t know, maybe a rape culture.
There have always been, and there will always be, a small number of weirdos and outliers with strange desires (e.g., cannibals, necrophiliacs, bestialitists). These people are rare events, black swans, freaks of nature. The parents who produce them, and the communities who nurture them, can’t be held responsible for their fantasies, nor can they be held responsible for their actions. The same cannot be said of the Brock Turners of this world. Because their fantasies are anything but rare. And their crimes are all too common.
There are people in our midst who think it’s totally appropriate to use someone else’s body like a blowup doll with a pulse. If we’re ever to wake up from this nightmare on College Street, your tragedy must cease to be their fantasy.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)