June 17, 2019

Toxic Masculinity, Not Alcohol, Leads to Sexual Assault

“Booze-filled, chaperone-free parties. Teasing that crossed the line under the influence of alcohol. Relatively shy young men who became “aggressive and even belligerent” when drinking. Whatever the behavior of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it’s become clear that the circles he traveled in as a young man — both at prep school and later Yale University — were characterized by young men drinking, a lot. And by young women whose social interactions were fraught with danger.

And this is no surprise to experts who study campus sexual assault. Years of research both in and out of the lab suggests that there is a connection between young men drinking alcohol and making choices that destroy young women’s lives. But it’s not accurate to say alcohol causes sexual assault. Preventing rape will take more than simply convincing young men not to drink (let alone telling their victims to abstain). That’s because booze is only part of the problem. Every drink is downed amid cultural expectations and societally mediated attitudes about women and power. Those things — and how young men absorb them — have a stronger causal influence than the alcohol alone. When a man feels entitled to assault someone, he may get drunk before he does it, but the decision to act was ultimately his alone.

Half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption — usually by both the victim and perpetrator, said Kelly Cue Davis, a professor at Arizona State University. And a 2002 review of literature found that, across a number of studies, perpetrators were more likely to report using alcohol at the time of an assault than victims — 60 to 65 percent of perpetrators compared with 30 to 55 percent of victims. Although men can be both perpetrators of sexual violence and victims, almost all the research is focused on the heterosexual paradigm of male perpetrators and female victims, Davis said.”

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