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.
It's the old society condoning rape thing again, though when you point that out most people will tell you of course they are against rape, etc. etc. Here rape is assumed to be inevitable, unavoidable from the attacker's side, so women have to be ever vigilant. Which, if you think about it, is pretty insulting to men as well as women (and feminists are the ones who are accused of being anti-male... so many contradictions!)
Very logical and very sensible. Probably the most open thoughts upon the whole issue
Here are some comments sent to me by friends ...
- "yes, sounds pretty much what you'd expect from the drinks industry! also, ironically reminds me of the Islammic response to male aggression of women togging themselves up because men just can't stop themselves from attacking a woman with a highly provocative nice head of hair.
blokes eh, what a waste of lager!"
- "Do drunk women deserve it? Definitely not. The Portman's Group's Dracula-in-charge-of-the-blood-bank hypocrisy got right up my nose."
- "Yeah, well said! Happily most people are smarter than t'meeja - pleased to see a number of comments on BBC Talking Point pointing out that men have drunk to excess for centuries and only when women start doing the same is it declared a crisis."
I was wondering whether some crusty judge will rule that being drunk is 'contributory negligence' on the part of a rape victim.
Twenty-odd years ago, one of the octagenarian fur-gown-and-wig brigade decided that hitch-hiking was 'contributory negligence', and the rapist had his sentence reduced as a result. (My mate Attila The Stockbroker wrote a superb poem about it, which - as far as I can see - is sadly not available to read on the web. Buy it from his website instead.)
I don't particularly advocate stiffer sentences as an effective antidote to rape, but I absolutely abhor the thinking behind the idea that a woman is 'negligent' and has 'contributed' to having this vile crime committed against her - and the similarly appalling idea that men are not entirely responsible for their actions if a woman is thumbing a lift / pissed / wearing a short skirt / showing her ankle / whatever.
Just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say that I completely agree, excellent post. I've already complained to them once about their take on women and alcohol and plan on doing so again.
A very interesting article by Sofie Buckland.
You may have noticed that lots and lots of people have read this blog entry - 773 at the time I type this.
I would love you to think that this is because word has got round that it is an interesting article on a brilliant blog.
But modesty forbids. And so, unfortunately, do the facts. Yes, there have been hundreds of 'genuine' hits. But there have also been a significant number of people who got here after searching on Google or other search engines for 'drunk girls', or 'drunk girls sex' or something similar.
A few may have been looking for an intelligent discussion on the issues around gender, alcohol and sexual assault, but the majority were after porn - which pretty much describes everything else that comes up for those searches.
I'm not against sexually-explicit, erotic material. But why would you get your rocks off on material portraying girls (note: 'girls', not 'women') who have had one drink too many? Are you fantasising about taking advantage?!
I'd be surprised if many of those people have read this far - probably clicked the 'Back' button as soon as they noticed there were no pictures. But if you did, then I hope you take some of it in. As Obi-Wan Kenobi said to the fag vendor in Attack Of The Clones - "you need to go home and re-think your life".