Salon.com: In a Monday opinion piece for the New York Daily News, Caitlin Flanagan repeated the oft-repeated (and repeated, and repeated, and repeated) idea that our culture is dangerously silent when it comes to policing young women’s behavior. Specifically, Flanagan believes we are failing female college students — who are “living away from home for the first time, excited to party and hook up, ill-informed by their fearful professors and advisors” — by not telling them “exactly what they should do to lower their risk of assault.”
Let’s put a pin in Flanagan’s assumption that women’s perfect compliance with social expectations is somehow the secret to preventing sexual assault on campus (or anywhere), and instead move on to this: Why do we let writers like Flanagan get away with pretending that campus safety is not already something that parents and university officials are teaching young people?
“The louts who perpetrate these rapes on drunken female students are apparently unmotivated to change their behavior,” Flanagan writes, “and the feminist power structure that controls the message regarding campus rape is unwilling to recommend that female students adopt safer behaviors.”
But a quick sampling of safety guidelines from major American universities reveals that risk reduction — the information that, according to Flanagan, no one is telling young women — is actually a central part of campus policy … pretty much everywhere.
And yet women are still being sexually assaulted because, of course, it’s not about alcohol. As Salon’s Soraya Chemaly recently noted, rape is not a product of women’s drinking, but is fostered by a “repressive and normatively biased culture intent on conserving a destructive status quo. One that has been telling women to avoid rape, to no success, forever.”