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Watch my drink

On Friday, Jan. 20, at early happy hour, we were all reminded that the Wardroom may not be as safe as we hope. The administration strewed bookmarks across tables reminding patrons to watch their drinks and take cabs home.

We all treat the Wardroom like our own living rooms. The friendly faces and familiar surroundings mean we can feel safe letting our guard down and having some fun. But on Friday, Jan. 20, at early happy hour, we were all reminded that the Wardroom may not be as safe as we hope. The administration strewed bookmarks across tables reminding patrons to watch their drinks and take cabs home, and posted flyers on which Claudius warns us about the dangers of date rape drugs: “It is the poison’d cup: it is too late.”
Scotland Yard ran a fantastic anti-sexual assault campaign over the holidays. It focused—for once—on aggressors, not victims’s. It involved sending messages to cellphones in bars, reminding those who, it seems, need constant reminders, that anyone who is drunk (or otherwise inebriated) cannot consent. Detective Superintendent Jason Ashwood, in a press release, said, “This is about us trying to prevent offences from happening in the first place … the only person ever responsible for a rape is the perpetrator.”
However, this campaign and the one on bookmarks in the Wardroom do have one thing in common: both are Band-Aid solutions. Just as prisons don’t get at the root of criminal behaviour, so these warnings do not address the deeper issues of rape culture: the tendency for our society to tell victims it’s on them not to be attacked—‘Don’t wear that skirt’, ‘Don’t flirt like that’, ‘Well, you left your drink, what did you expect?’—and to silence and dismiss survivors who do speak up about their experiences. Cabs and caution are excellent decisions, but relying only on these tips reinforces the idea of the “perfect victim.” If there are things we can do to keep from getting raped, then clearly we can differentiate between the right and wrong way to act. And if we get raped when we decide to trust the people we’re with to not drug our G&T when we go to the bathroom, or decide to walk home instead of spending our last few dollars on a cab, then we can be blamed for not being smart enough or careful enough. This leaves out the obvious: placing the blame on the shoulders of people who, you know, choose to rape.
Wouldn’t it be great if it were okay to feel as comfortable as we do in the Wardroom? If we didn’t teach people that they have to ensure their own freedom from rape by somehow making all the right choices? The fact is that we can never guarantee 100 per cent safety from sexual assault, but what we can do is start a conversation focused on consent and communication rather than victimhood.
We have the sex-positive sexuality talk during Frosh Week, but this discussion is one that needs to happen far sooner, and far more often, than that. We need to talk with everyone about what consent looks like (an informed, enthusiastic yes!) and what it doesn’t (drunk, silent, or unsure). We need to encourage men to talk about sex and relationships in new ways, and call each other out when they see violence brewing with a view to ending rape culture altogether. In starting and continuing these conversations with the people we live, learn, and yes, drink alongside, we can create powerful change—since, as we know, with most sexual assaults the aggressor is someone the victim knows, not a shadowy stranger on the street or in a bar.
This and other “Watch Your Drink” campaigns are symptoms, not solutions. So while we will continue to look out for ourselves and our friends, we’ll be working to make the world we live in one where we don’t need to.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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