Emily Yoffe's views on rape are misunderstood, says Emily Yoffe

Yoffe claims her critics have not been very sophisticated in responding to her "banal" observations about rape

Published October 18, 2013 10:05PM (EDT)

   (<a href=' http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-872362p1.html '> Heiko Kueverling </a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
( Heiko Kueverling via Shutterstock)

Emily Yoffe on Friday published a response to those who criticized her for arguing that college women should "stop getting drunk" to avoid being raped.

In the piece, Yoffe says talking about what women can do to prevent rape is the "third rail" of journalism, and recalls how many of her colleagues had warned her not to touch it, lest the full force of the Internet's feminist hammer come down upon Dear Prudence's head.

There was some hammering, from Salon and plenty of others. And that's a good thing. It's important to hammer when a writer at a popular website spends almost all of a 2,800 word piece on rape prevention explaining how modifying women's behavior is the most practical means to stopping sexual assault. Several of these responses, in fact, prodded Yoffe to reflect on how little she bothered to mention educating men about their responsibility to understand and obtain consent, or the responsibility of university officials to prosecute campus sexual assault so that these serial sexual predators stop targeting intoxicated women without consequence. Or, as Allie Jones at the Atlantic notes, the work that is already being done on college campuses by sororities and activists to promote safety and community among female students.

She learned something, she admits. But she didn't learn much. Yoffe still believes that most of her critics misrepresented her argument, and were out to silence her.

"It’s unfortunate that instead of wanting to engage in discussion of complicated, sensitive topics, a fellow journalist would prefer to dictate that only certain points of view are ideologically acceptable," Yoffe writes about Jezebel's Erin Gloria Ryan's response to her piece, without a shred of recognition that what Ryan wrote did engage her in discussion. Critics pushed Yoffe on her ideas, and she pushed back.

That's kind of how this works.

Contrary to what Yoffe would like to believe, none of the critics of her piece made her views disappear from the Internet. The post remains on Slate's website, driving traffic. No one stopped her from sharing her tired notions about rape. And no one stopped her when she did the same thing on Friday.

But make no mistake: Yoffe is not a brave truth-teller, suffering the public's fury as a martyr to common sense. She is the dominant cultural voice in how we talk about rape in America. The one that reflexively asks what the victim could have done differently to prevent becoming a victim. Yoffe argues women's drinking contributes to their victimization, and criminal defense lawyers on Fox News argue the same about teenage girls who leave their parents' homes after dark.

It's infuriating, but, as Yoffe notes, it's also so common as to feel completely banal.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

College Rape Rape Culture Sexual Assault Women's Rights Women's Safety