It’s rare that I jump on a social-justice bandwagon and shout from the windows… it’s not that I don’t care about gay rights or police brutality or political ignorance, but more that it’s exhausting to publicly rally and defend positions on often polarizing issues all. the. time. I am a firm believer that we can all make the world a better place by looking within ourselves and making our own lives a little better, first, before yelling at others to do something about theirs. But, alas, a Bandwagon has chugged into a station close to home for me and I am jumping, screaming, via anonymous Buzzfeed Community post, because I have some thoughts and my voice is the one little thing I can do in my own little life that might help make this world a smidgen of a better place.
Brock Turner, or, as I like to refer to him as, Brock F*ckface, represents what is wrong with the world as I know it. I read the letter that Nameless Victim wrote yesterday, and I felt sick to my stomach, as was a common reaction. A whole slew of emotions resurfaced from my college days and the (few) years of hindsight since. My emotions teeter between a resurgence of anger and frustration at my own experience having been taken advantage of by a Guy, while also wanting to adamantly defend those Good Men whose reputations I don’t want generically smeared because some disgusting weasel is using alcohol as his scapegoat.
Both of my stories rest on a simple thought: alcohol does not make good or bad men. Alcohol does not make good or bad choices. Alcohol is a factor; it is not the cause. The cause is deep-seated, rooted in nature versus nurture debates and parenting hypotheses that I’m sure Freud and every therapist in the world longs to crack the code to. The cause runs through societal norms that shouldn’t be, slithers into daily interactions and subtle reaffirmations, but the cause is not a shot of tequilla or a can of beer. Alcohol is a factor, alcohol was a detail in the story that lined up the series of events – but alcohol was not the cause. Brock was the cause. And the effects are enormous.
My first story, the one that is so difficult to tell partially because, like Nameless Victim, I cannot remember that night and partially because, like many other women in similar situations, it toes the fine line between being taken advantage of, and a misunderstanding – that murky gray area that, no doubt, alcohol makes even grayer to discern the lines. I don’t share this story because I am told, on levels deeper than just audible voices, that I am at fault for taking that drink, and that other shot, and for putting myself in the situation. I’m sure I wore some sort of very short sundress or cutoff denim shorts – I went to college in Florida and it is always summer here. I was a known party girl, often reprimanded by my sorority for drinking excessively. I liked this Guy – I spent time with him soberly, in daylight, and time with him drunkenly, in bars and our apartments. I had never consented, and in multiple instances had even refused. I liked him, but I did not want him. But, I should have known better, and I’m told anyone who takes a shot called a “mind eraser” can’t complain when she regrets her decisions the next morning.
Except – I did not make any decisions. I was not capable of making decisions. I was so incapable, in fact, that I woke up naked in a bed soaking with my own pee – too unconsciously drunk to even stumble the 6 feet to my bathroom. I woke up alone, having to piece together the events of the night, having to ask how I got home and have to be told that I had sex with someone. Someone I knew. But not someone I had allowed to have sex with me. I was told I liked it, but I can’t remember, so it’s my word against his… and his friends, who were also my friends. Friends who cradled me in their arms as I screamed and cried, friends who picked me up in their trucks and drove me around back roads as my phone rang over and over from the Guy, yelling at me on the other end of the phone that he was coming to my apartment set things straight, that I had wanted him, that I was clearly mistaken. Friends who begged me not to do anything drastic, not to call it rape, not to go that far. Friends that admitted it was wrong of him, apologized for him, and then begged me to re-think if it was really all that bad, and to please not make it worse.
Alcohol is a factor. A factor that blurs the facts, that helps us forget the details, a factor that helps us go limp and vulnerable. Alcohol encouraged our flirting, alcohol gave us the reason to be at the same bar, sitting next to each other, gave our hands something to pour into our mouths. But alcohol did not take advantage of me that night. A Guy took advantage of me that night. There is a difference.
Immediately juxtaposing that frustrating, confusing situation is my story of Good Men. With that experience, it could be easy for me to slander all men, all frat guys, all drunk college dudes in bars. I, too, was affected by sexual assault, by a Guy in a fraternity, none-the-less. But that would be so one-sided, and that would omit the countless other times that Good Men, in fraternities, at bars, at parties, in the middle of the day and the dark of night, did NOT do things like Guy did, and made choices that were exactly the opposite of Brock Turner’s.
Good Men have bought me shots, handed me beers, encouraged me to chug a drink. Good Men have gotten drunk right along side me. Good Men have held me up as I puked in bushes, have found me safe rides home if they couldn’t drive themselves, have tucked me into bed, alone. Good Men have put clothes on me (again, college in Florida meant lots of drinking in bikinis), laid me in the Bacchus position, called my friends to take care of me. Good Men have not taken advantage of me. Good Men have been drunk, and Good Men have been sober, and Good Men have made decisions in both of these states that did not raise questions of consent.
Because alcohol is a factor, not the cause. Good Men, and men like Brock Turner and Guy, they are each the same man sober as they are drunk. The only difference is how the series of events sets each person up to act on their intentions. Alcohol is not the problem, Brock Turner. Alcohol is not the cause. Alcohol is not the villain. You are the problem. You are the cause. You are the villain. And the effects are enormous.