A dose of skepticism

Since “One drink rape” was published two weeks ago, I’ve received some criticism with regards to my rhetoric and opinion on UVM’s sexual assault policy. Specifically, Margaret M. Hodder’s letter to the editor in last week’s Cynic issue deems “One drink rape” both offensive and uninformed. While Ms. Hodder does point out some loaded language used in my article, I’m not sure she and I really disagree about the policy. Ms. Hodder writes “nowhere does [the UVM sexual assault policy] read that a woman is incapable of giving consent after she’s had a drink or a puff.” While Hodder is right that the policy doesn’t define “under the influence of drugs or alcohol” as one drink or one puff, it is only because the policy fails to define “under the influence” at all. The state of Vermont has a zero tolerance policy with regards to underage drinking and driving, meaning that if a minor blows a .01 he or she is going to jail for a DUI. Does that translate to sexual activity? If a minor consents to sex and would have blown a .01, is his or her consent invalid? It is precisely the vagueness of UVM’s sexual assault policy that “One drink rape” attempted to illuminate. It’s not as if either party is going to carry around a tool that measures blood-alcohol-content to make sure that their consent is valid before going to bed together. If my definition is subjective, who decides the definition of “under the influence”? Because faced with a vague, undefined phrase such as “under the influence,” it may be safest to choose the conservative route. But, when it comes down to our actual opinion on the policy, Hodder and I really don’t disagree. Rape is wrong. Anyone who read “One drink rape” and found my opinion to support rapists did not read carefully enough. The intention was to point out the ambiguity of the UVM sexual assault policy. How many drinks does constitute “under the influence”? The purpose was to point out that it may be far fewer than an average person would associate with a rape or sexual assault charge. Later, the column presents virtually a carbon-copy of Ms. Hodder’s stance regarding the policy. To quote “One drink rape,” “in general, the stricter the sexual assault policy the better. It’s not as if most women are salivating at the opportunity to press sexual assault charges after having two or three drinks followed by some regrettable sex.” The column goes on: “strict sexual assault policies provide women who have: been unknowingly drugged, or, drank a fifth of tequila in an hour, to be legally protected from that creepy guy who keeps smiling at her funny while he’s refilling her drink.” Ms. Hodder’s experiences at the rape crisis center support my opinion. She writes that: “[one would] never [come] in contact with a person who pressed charges against an assailant due to a bad hangover.” More than anything, my column uses college slang as a mechanism to attract readers who may otherwise never pick up an issue of The Cynic. Quotes pulled by Ms. Hodder such as, “your legal standing may depend on how bad her hangover is in the morning,” are there for shock value, not because I believe women are petty. The rhetoric in the closing paragraph of “One drink rape” may be truly offensive to some, and to those people I sincerely apologize. ‘Sexis’t is not a title that I’m used to being described as, and by no means did “One drink rape” intend to portray women as searching for a sexual assault charge. Rather, the column attempted to emphasize what the policy actually is. It is a mechanism to ensure that women are safe from sexual predators. At the same time, the policy is quite vague and open to interpretation. Hypothetically, if a woman (or a man) wanted to claim that her/his consent to sex was not valid, how would her/his partner defend himself/herself in a court of law? Under UVM’s policy, if she/he were to say “I was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when I consented,” it would seem like he/she was on a fast-track to the state penitentiary. “One drink rape” didn’t say that this was likely, common, or even unlikely; just that it was possible. So, let me amend the second-to-last paragraph of “One drink rape.” “I’m sorry if I scared the guys, [or offended the women]. I would take the law with a grain of salt. After all, in practice, this law probably makes the majority of sex among college students illegal, [depending on the interpretation of “under the influence].”