On Irma Kurtz, rape and drunken women

If you leave a window of your house open when you go out, then come home to find you’ve been burgled, whose fault is it?

What if property is stolen from your car after you left it unlocked – who is to blame for the theft?

If you get roaring drunk on a night out, fall asleep on the bus home and end up at the terminus to find your wallet’s been nicked from your pocket – who is the culpable party?

In all such cases, haven’t you been a bit of an idiot?

Idiot, maybe, criminal, no. We all do idiotic things occasionally because to be human is to be forgetful sometimes, to be careless sometimes. We shouldn’t have to think carefully about every single thing we do. If everyone treated others as they would want to be treated themselves, we’d all be able to leave our homes and cars unlocked; we’d be able to go out and get plastered without fear of some blaggard robbing us. But we can’t because, even though most of us wouldn’t dream of stealing someone else’s personal property or kicking someone’s head in, unfortunately not everyone is like most of us.

Because of the existence of people who aren’t like us — people with no conscience or empathy, people who think nothing of causing hurt or hardship to their fellow human beings — we all have to be a bit careful if we want to avoid becoming their victims. But when we fail, when we forget to lock the door or have too much to drink and consequently suffer from someone else’s unscrupulous behaviour — it doesn’t make their unscrupulous behaviour our fault…does it? The fact that we didn’t do everything we could have done to protect our homes and selves doesn’t make us “responsible” for the burglary or robbery someone else committed against us. And pointing out that we should do this or not do that if we want to avoid becoming victims in future is not “victim-blaming”…is it?

For some people it is, apparently, and I find it absolutely baffling.

Here’s a rather inconvenient fact: getting very drunk on a night out makes one more vulnerable to personal crime — to being pick-pocketed, to being mugged, to being beaten up, to being sexually assaulted, to being raped. I know about some of this from bitter personal experience. I know a lot more of it from having spent many years working full-time for Victim Support, helping countless men and women who’d become victims of violent crimes — including sexual assault — while they were more than half-cut. This isn’t to suggest that most people who are victimised in this way are drunk at the time. Most of the victims I saw weren’t. I’m simply saying that drunkenness was definitely a factor in some of those cases. They were attacked because they were vulnerable; they were vulnerable because they were drunk. End of.

Cosmopolitan magazine agony aunt, Irma Kurtz, while being interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour yesterday morning, pointed out that we are all responsible for ourselves and that drunkenness “tears away” a woman’s ability to defend herself against rape. Nobody, as far as I know, disputes that — I mean, what is there to dispute? But it seems that quite a few people take exception to it being said out loud.

According to reports in today’s papers – including the Daily Fail – Lisa Longstaff, of Women Against Rape, called Kurz’ comments,

totally irresponsible…It is time commentators stopped blaming victims and put the responsibility on those who do the crime – rapists.

Oh, for fuck’s sake! How does pointing out that getting blind drunk makes us more vulnerable to rape equate to saying that the responsibility for rape doesn’t lie with the rapists?

And how about this, from a site misnamed ‘Ending victimisation and blame‘.

If you accept safety advice of this type for women, you are saying “It’s OK if he rapes the other woman”. The woman who wasn’t as sensible, the woman who didn’t make the ‘right’ choices, the woman who didn’t defend herself, the intoxicated woman, the vulnerable woman, that other woman.

Say what? Accepting the kind of advice your mother would give you about being careful about how much you drink so as not to be more vulnerable is effectively saying that raping someone else is OK?? This has to be the daftest and, frankly, the most offensive comment I’ve read on the topic.

Other things Kurtz now finds herself accused of include, “telling women not to drink with men” (no, she didn’t) and, predictably, that “all men are potential rapists” (yawn). Some objectors put Kurtz’ comments in the same category as those made by old white blokes in horsehair wigs who’ve notoriously blamed women for wearing short skirts and hitchhiking, while others have confined themselves to simply calling her a “total fucking bitch” and similar.

What madness is this? Kurtz said nothing about what women wear or do apart from drinking and she stated quite clearly that rape is a vicious crime that is not the victim’s fault — so how come all these critics seem to think she said the opposite?

There is only ONE factor that determines whether a woman will be raped, and that is if she meets a rapist.

That was said by one commenter in the Mail and it was echoed by several others. It’s nonsense. Meeting a man who doesn’t give a shit and would rape you if he could, doesn’t mean he will — unless you’re so fricking legless you can’t get away from him or fight him off.

That, in effect, is all Irma Kurtz is saying and it’s true – so for crying out loud, bitches, give the woman a break!


5 thoughts on “On Irma Kurtz, rape and drunken women”

  1. I’m quite surprised to have just seen on Twitter the suggestion that I’m saying rape is comparable to burglary as a crime. 🙁

    In the first part of my post I was trying to make the point that making ourselves more vulnerable to personal crime doesn’t make us responsible for the crime therefore advising somebody not to get drunk for the sake personal safety isn’t “victim-blaming”. I’m sorry I apparently failed with some people but at least plenty of others got it.

  2. I don’t get how society doesn’t tend to accept being drunk as an excuse for people to assault, to rape or hit someone with a car while drunk, yet some accept accept being drunk excuses you of any contribution to the vulnerability to being raped.

    I’ve known alpha male rugby players, who for a laugh take a photo of their ‘wasted’ best friends with a dick in their mouth. I don’t get it, but they find it funny. The victim? Oh, well he was drunk and doubtless get his own back, maybe he’ll learn his lesson and not get drunk in their company again.

    It may shock the ladies, but some guys do go out of an evening with the intention of getting laid, and some like the easy victim, if you have no intention of a long-term relationship, want to sow your wild oats and you have not found a suitable quarry, what are your choices?

    Maybe you’ve been boning up all evening looking at some gal you’ll never be good enough to get, then you walk along and find some stupid drunk in the doorway, if you took her phone, people would say you a criminal and her stupid. If you took her wallet, likewise, but if you took her virginity, she is blameless and you deserve to die.

    Hypocrisy much?

    It is not a new phenomena, men {or women} taking advantage of drunk women or men…just like ever since booze was invented or discovered, drunks have been taken advantage of by others, even the world’s favourite fairy tale the Bible has one of the Patriarchs being ‘known’ by one of his own, a son if I remember…a lot of crap business deals -like the sale of Rover cars to China- occur by drunks being manipulated.

    I can remember years ago a very drunk woman, someone I kind of knew, outside my home, with two drunk guys in attendance nearby, something alarmed me about them, they seemed predatory, and didn’t engage in conversation, I felt that they thought I was spoiling their sport and chance of a shag. Anyway, I let her in to sleep things off a bit, and in the morning she said about how she got wasted by these couple of guys in the club. So I felt vindicated by my ‘sixth sense’ {WOO lol} about the guys’ intentions. Interesting to note that if I had wanted to, I could have done anything to that little lady and she’d likely have never known, that experience is one that I tell folks to wise them up, but of course getting drunk is the most important thing to the British.

    Rape is a terrible thing, whether forced upon a male or female, drunk or sober, and I think people should be trying harder to stop themselves from being victims, true at times there isn’t much we can do about it, but going to the lion’s den drunk and crying when the lion eats you, is f@cking stupid.

    If you’re going to get completely wasted do it safely, keep people you trust who aren’t drinking nearby (although having had a partner who was essentially a drunk and uncooperative when they were drunk, this can be difficult I know), do it at home…but for sanities sake, don’t go to a nightclub where the guys are looking for drunk girls to follow home and abuse.

    Sure it’s the minority who rape drunk females, and in a perfect world we should all be able to go about our business, at all times without fear of violence to the person, but life is like Russian Roulette, you can’t know which chambers are empty…or how many…

    1. So what are you suggesting – that drunkenness might be a reasonable defence for an assault charge? Think about the implications of that – any man would be able to rape with impunity if he could just ensure he failed a breathalyzer test first. I don’t believe that drunkenness causes men to rape if they don’t have the mentality of a rapist in the first place, any more than it causes them to become thieves or murderers (same goes for women) but I’d be interested in reading any robust evidence to contradict this, if you have any.

      I don’t think your stunning revelation about some guys going out with the intention of getting laid and liking easy victims will shock any women and it would indeed be hypocrisy if, as you say, “if you took her phone, people would say you a criminal and her stupid. If you took her wallet, likewise, but if you took her virginity, she is blameless and you deserve to die.” But, of course, nobody does say that do they? The whole point here is that women DO get blamed for getting raped when rape is NEVER their fault. The responsibility for rape, like the responsibility for any other crime, lies entirely with the perpetrator and not the victim, regardless of how much they have “contributed to their own vulnerability”.

      “of course getting drunk is the most important thing to the British.”

      “going to the lion’s den drunk and crying when the lion eats you, is f@cking stupid”

      Wow, stereotyping and victim-blaming. Charmed I’m sure.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. For some reason erique’s comment didn’t show up in my RSS reader until today, so he probably won’t even read this but I have to say that I’m disgusted.
    This scenario you paint with the poor guy wanting to “sow his wild oats” who has to rape the drunk girl or he’ll go home alone and crysturbate, you probably should keep that to yourself from now on because it makes you look like creep plenty of women won’t feel safe around. Your story about the woman you could have raped if you wanted to isn’t much better – it’s like a chef saying they could poison you if they wanted to and nobody would ever find out, so the fact that nobody has been poisoned in their restaurant should prove they’re not a murderous poisoner, but people shouldn’t be so sure about other chefs.

    The difference between being a drunken victim and a drunken offender should be an obvious one:
    alcohol consumption usually makes you less focused, less logical, less controlled and weaker, sometimes even makes you pass out. That’s something everyone who’s ever been drunk has experienced, so society accepts alcohol consumption as an explanation for being more vulnerable.
    Raping, assaulting and killing people on the other hand is (quite fortunately) something most people don’t experience when they’re drunk – alcohol lessens your inhibitions, it doesn’t make you a different person.
    All the things we do when we’re drunk but wouldn’t do sober, we don’t do because we fear the consequences (making out with your best friend? friendship might be awkward after that; being brutally honest? people might be offended; unprotected sex? unwanted pregnancy or embarassing STIs; sex with someone you’ve just met? social circle might not approve; skinny-dipping? …), not because they’re evil.
    Taking advantage of someone’s helplessness is never OK and should never be seen as a mitigating factor – if anything it should be aggravating. If you steal someone’s phone or wallet your punishment should be the same whether they were sober or drunk. You didn’t steal it because their alcohol consumption made you do it, you stole it because you wanted to have their phone or wallet, and it’s not their fault you’re a thief. Could they have defended themselves if they weren’t drunk? We don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter – your intentions count, not your ability to succeed.

  4. Vicky

    Sorry about the notification problem – I actually don’t get notified of comments at all and have to rely on hubby or on the changedetection programme to tell me about them. I suck at computers. 🙁

    As always, thanks for your great comment.

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