Today, I am pretty annoyed by reading articles about the Portman group's report about boozing and the trouble it allegedly gets you into.
The report, “Anatomy of a big night out”, claims that almost four in ten young women (36%) have been sexually assaulted after getting drunk (the figure for men is 2%).
My reaction to this stat is to think that there is a problem with (mainly) men thinking it is OK to sexually assault a woman just because she has had a bit to drink.
But the Portman Group appears to turn this on its head, putting a spin on it that smacks of victim-blame. Jean Coussins, Chief Executive of The Portman Group, said: "These findings are disturbing. Alcohol affects your judgement and the fact that so many young women are being sexually assaulted after getting drunk is shocking ... What is most alarming of all is the fact that young women seem to be risking more than young men.”
Now, tell me ... How far is this from saying that if you have had a few, you are asking to get attacked?
Sorry, but there is no excuse, NO EXCUSE, for sexually assaulting a woman. And this kind of take on the issue - that young women are putting themselves at risk by drinking - not only blames the victim, it also gives the green light to men to take advantage of women under the influence.
And yet, most media pundits started a discussion about how society can encourage young women to drink more sensibly, not about how we can encourage men not to assault young women.
Professor Robin Touquet, consultant in accident and emergency medicine at St Mary's hospital, London, is quoted as saying: "Women must not put themselves in vulnerable situations." How about, "Men must not attack women"?!?
The report goes on to claim that "34% of young women questioned had unplanned or unprotected sex" when drunk. But hang on - "unplanned sex" and "unprotected sex" are two different things.
The report is getting at something here - the idea that young women get langers, fall into bed with some geezer and risk their lives by being carefree with precautions. But, whilst "unprotected sex" is obviously a very risky business, "unplanned sex" might just mean you got lucky.
It is unscientific to, in effect, merge two issues into one category. The consequences of "unplanned sex" are emotional; the risks of "unprotected sex" are medical (and also, as a consequence, emotional). That's not coldly 'unscientific', but 'unscientific' with a 'moral' spin on it.
You might be interested to know that the report, based on research conducted amongst a thousand 18-30-year-olds, also claims that:
- 63% of all respondents phoned in sick for work after a big night out
- More than half of young women (59%) said that they had got into an argument. 45% of young men said that they had argued.
- Almost half of the young women questioned said they did not eat a meal either before or during a “big night out”
- More young women than men claimed to have been arrested or cautioned by the police and more young women said they had been injured through an accident after getting drunk.
- Almost one third said they drank too much because they had had a bad day or week and 31% said they got drunk to make them feel more confident.
So who are the Portman Group? Well, that's where it gets interesting. The Group claims that its "purpose is to promote responsible drinking; help prevent alcohol abuse; encourage more informed discussion on alcohol issues; and encourage responsible marketing". Its member companies include: Allied Domecq; Bacardi Brown Forman Brands; Beverage Brands; Carlsberg UK; Coors Brewers; Diageo; Interbrew UK; Pernod Ricard; and Scottish & Newcastle.
So bascially, it is a project set up by the alcohol industry to assist its public image by looking like it cares about alcohol abuse. So no surpirse that I can find no evidence of it recommending measures that might reduce alcohol abuse but might also dent their sponsors' profits, for example: capping the profit margin on soft drinks; or requiring the leisure industry and licensing authorities to provide evening activities that do not involved getting off your face.