Why are Women Criminals for Drunk Driving, but “Victims” of Drunk Sex?

Posted on October 19, 2015


The live social-media broadcast of a DUI in progress should remind us about who is really responsible for drunken decisions.


23-year-old Whitney Beall live-streamed her own drunk driving misadventure via Periscope, and ended up arrested for DUI. No surprise, but check out the 11-minute video at Huffington Post. Listen to her repeated comments about what she is doing. Listen to her repeated, conscious, intentional decisions to continue (despite knowing that she has a flat tire, or just ran over a sign in a median). Listen to her verbalize her realization that what she is doing is wrong, and her rationalization that she thinks she won’t be caught. All of this – the intent, the decision-making, the action, the conscious knowledge – shows us why we are right to hold drunk drivers responsible for what they do.

Now, suppose that Whitney were a drunk college student. For every time on the video that she acknowledges that she is intentionally driving drunk, substitute a statement that she most definitely wants to get it on with her drunk, hunky frat-boy date. When she makes a comment about continuing to drive on a flat tire, or after she wipes out a sign in a median and continues to drive anyway, substitute a remark that the lack of a condom is no big deal. When she says she thinks she won’t get caught driving drunk, substitute “I won’t get pregnant,” or, “my boyfriend won’t find out about this.”

Well, Whitney got arrested for DUI. The next morning was, I am certain, filled with embarrassment and regret, as seen from the inside of the Polk County Jail. More embarrassment and regret faces her at some future date in a courtroom. Such are the wages of her conscious, sustained, drunken decision, and so it would be, too, for a drunken assault, or drunken trespassing, or drunken public urination, or drunken vandalism.

What if this were, instead, a case of a drunk college student engaging in a consensual sexual encounter? Well, then she could take it all back, just because it involves sex. If the next morning is filled with embarrassment and regret, she need only cry “rape,” and point out that she was drunk off her a** and therefore, her consent and her giggles and her rationalizations of the night before don’t count. No, no, because sex was involved, she was not responsible. So says the State of California, and a number of college campuses around the country. It’s all the drunk boy’s fault. The drunk girl who said yes, yes, yes!! last night is the “victim” this morning.

Remember California’s “yes means yes” bill? As the BBC reported, the new rule defines consent as “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” But under the new law, someone who is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep cannot grant consent.

I vehemently disagree with the notion that someone who is drunk cannot grant consent to sex.

Actually, maybe I agree with the Florida student quoted in Slate: “The only absolute line should be if the victim is completely unresponsive.” So if you are that drunk, then no, you cannot grant consent, any more than you can then decide to get into your car. But if you are wasted, plastered, even if you black out and have no recollection the following day… so long as you willingly had sex, even while drunk, it is absolutely not rape.

Either that, or young Whitney Beall should be cleared of all charges in her DUI.