The special risk that drunkenness poses to women – that’s due to a social climate that tolerates sexual predation. When we tell young women to stay sober in order to avoid getting raped, we send the message that we do not intend to change that social climate, that we have chosen to regard misogyny as inevitable.
I can't imagine caring parents and parental figures thinking this way. How would it go? Let's see. Our daughter Maria is going rock climbing and likes to drink. May we tell her to stay sober, to avoid plunging to her death? Yes we may, because it's in the nature of safe rock climbing to require sobriety. If she did fall while drinking, it wouldn't be the fault of any second party, so we can warn her without committing the sin of blaming the victim. Our other daughter, Laura, is going to a car dealership to buy a car. May we tell her to go there sober, to avoid being taken advantage of by the sales person? No, because it's not in the nature of drinking to cause people to be swindled. If we tell her to stay sober, we'll be sending the message that we don't intend to change the behavior of car dealers, that we have chosen to regard swindling as inevitable.
If Maria and Laura are my daughters, I'm not going to think this way. I'm going to tell them both to stay sober to protect themselves. I don't think I'm going to care about "messages"-- I'm just going to want to protect my daughters. But supposed I did care. There's still be no problem with warning both Maria and Laura. Cause is one thing, blame is another. Laura's drunkenness may be one cause of her winding up being swindled, but only the swindler has the mens rea that is crucial for moral and legal responsibility. We can actually point out drunkenness as a cause and not blame the drinker for the things others do to her.
Now, you might say binge drinking at a party is different from drinking at a car dealership, because nobody regards drinking while buying car as a valuable liberty. Advising women against drinking at parties is more like advising black men against walking in white neighborhoods. But why talk about that, and not something more pertinent to women and rape? As a young woman in Boston, I resented having to take so many precautions when walking home late at night. All that vigilance, checking behind me, walking fast, looking for streetlights, avoiding the wee hours--my liberty to walk home at all times and while day-dreaming was definitely curtailed. But would any parent not advise daughters about where, when, and how they get about in a city, for fear of victim blaming? If so, I'm speechless!
Yes, of course, the real problem when it comes to rape, assault, harassment, shady salesman, etc., is the agent who perpetrates these things. So if you're going to advise your daughters against binge drinking at college, you should be shot (not to put too fine a point on it) if you don't also advise your sons against binge drinking at college parties. No doubt studies also show that more rapes happen when men are drinking a lot. We should be trying to reduce the incidence of rape as well as helping our daughters avoid becoming victims of rape. Of course.