Dear Abby: Enforcer of the Rape Culture

[Trigger warning for sexual assault, victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and rape apologia.]

"Dear Abby," the syndicated advice column currently being authored by Jeanne Phillips—daughter of the original "Abby," Pauline Phillips—has had some big misses over the years, but today's column is absolutely stunning:
DEAR ABBY: I have gotten myself into a "pickle," and I don't know how to get out of it.

I rent a house with two roommates (both males) and have always followed a strict rule of not dating roommates or co-workers. One night, I came home after having a few drinks with friends. One of my roommates was up, and we started talking. Then he started kissing me. I wasn't thinking clearly and didn't object when he trotted me off to my room.

I do like him, but only as a friend. There are no sparks for me as there are for him. I don't want this to happen again, but I don't want to hurt him either. In an ideal world, I'd like to remain friends and roommates, not lovers. Do you have any suggestions? — Can't Believe I Broke My Rule in Florida

DEAR CAN'T BELIEVE: Yes, I do. You need to quit drinking or institute another "rule" that you'll stop at two.

Inform your amorous roommate that in the cold sober light of day you regret what happened and don't want to repeat it. It won't "hurt" him; it will let him know where things stand, and it's important that he get that message.

If you do remain roommates, maintain some distance and don't come home "pickled" again, because you know what could happen if you do.
Holy shit.

The advice-seeker's letter is nebulous in its details the way that many accounts of what we euphemistically call "date rape" are nebulous, especially when the perpetrator is someone whose feelings the victim does not want to hurt.

It might even read, to the casual passerby, as a story about a woman who had two drinks and, feeling tipsy and carefree and a bit horny, slept with her roommate, which she then regretted. But a closer examination of the details reveals something else entirely: It was a "few drinks," yes, but enough that she "wasn't thinking clearly." She was impaired and could not consent—a vulnerable state in which her roommate, who feels a "spark" for her that she does not for him, took advantage, since her dating rules and lack of attraction rendered a consensual sexual liaison out of the realm of possibility.

That is called rape.

And having received a letter from a recently raped woman, still processing the details of what happened to her, and quite possibly substituting a question about how to avoid hurting her roommate/rapist's feelings for an actual inquiry about how to avoid pissing him off to the point where he hurts her/rapes her again, "Abby" does not tell her correspondent to report the incident to police, or to call a rape crisis line, or to move out of the apartment as quickly as possible, but instead admonishes her to curb her drinking!

"Because you know what could happen if you [come home drunk]," she ominously threatens.

Women, it seems, apparently do not even have the right to be intoxicated in our own homes, because, hey, there might be a dude there who wants to rape us, and it's our responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen.

And we all know that sobriety is an impenetrable fortress against determined rapists.

The absurd argument that a women shouldn't drink if she doesn't want to be raped is based on the implicit assertion that being intoxicated puts a woman at greater risk of being raped, which is simply not true. (Although, in yet another classic example of projection, it is true that alcohol lowers the inhibitions of men with a predisposition to rape.) What puts any woman at risk of being raped is proximity to a rapist.

The only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is bad fucking luck—and what rape apologists like "Abby" share in common is the patent refusal to acknowledge that the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is never be in the same room as a rapist.

That is, of course, an absurdly unreasonable expectation, since rapists don't tend to announce themselves or have the decency to glow purple or smell like rotten fish or emit the most annoying sound in the world before they brazenly trample across another human being's right of consent.

And, apart from being unreasonable, the expectation that women should never be in the presence of a rapist is wildly, laughably unfair. If women can be expected to "restrain themselves"—whether the expected restraint is never sharing space with a rapist, or never drinking, or any of the other Avoid Rape Rules to which we are meant to adhere every waking moment of our hounded lives—then why is it, exactly, that men cannot be expected to restrain themselves from raping?

There is, perhaps, no more unmistakable evidence of the rape culture than the incessant admonishment of women to "learn common sense" or "be more responsible" or "be aware of barroom risks" or "avoid these places" or "don't dress this way," and the consistent failure to admonish men to not rape.

I honestly cannot believe that in this day and age such an ugly, dangerous, cruel piece of victim-blaming rape apologia will still be given publication in one of the most widely-read advice columns in circulation, as if it's a totally non-controversial slice of folksy wisdom. To see the rape culture being promulgated and protected so blatantly, by someone of influence, is breathtaking—every single time I have the misfortune to see it.

Contact "Abby" here.

[H/Ts to Shakers tehkenny and Alex Blaze.]

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