“Dear Prudence” columnist publishes rape denialism manifesto advising women to “stop getting drunk”

Emily Yoffe aka Slate advice columnist “Prudence” is a rape denialist. We’ve known this for years because she repeatedly denies clear instances of rape in her advice column. But until she published this morning’s rape denialism manifesto on Slate, lamenting that a “misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable” to warn women of the dangers of drinking, we didn’t know just how bad it actually was. 

It’s hard to know where to start with this terrible and dangerous column (which we will *not* be linking to), so I’ll start where Yoffe does. Bemoaning “one awful high-profile case after another” in which  a young woman “ends up being raped” after drinking, Yoffe  seems to feel as if she is breaking through some kind of political correctness taboo by letting the women of the world know that “when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them”.

Unfortunately, blaming women for their own rapes is the oldest, most pernicious trick in the book. It’s not new or edgy, though in this case it almost certainly made for a clicky and profitable #slatepitch.

“A common denominator in these cases is alcohol,” she writes conclusively, as if the existence of actual rapists is besides the point.

Frankly, I’m tired of spilling ink over this. Alexandra wrote a definitive takedown of this kind of rape denialism here, documenting Yoffe’s long history of rape denialism (with backing by Slate) in a letter to the high-profile columnist:

“Your approach to alcohol and rape, however, has never been too concerned with details or variability between situations. Instead, you’ve been content to apply a blanket policy of rape apologia regardless of circumstance. This is the fourth letter in 12 months you’ve answered about a woman deeply affected by unremembered intercourse, and the third time you’ve insisted that such acts constitute an irresponsible drinker’s comeuppance or a fun, harmless night (a la Knocked Up, which you imply in your most recent rep column is representative of drunk sex generally)—but almost never rape.”

Alexandra cites cases in which Yoffe alternately discourages pressing charges against a man the writer believes raped her while she was drunk because “trying to ruin someone else’s life is a poor way to address one’s alcohol and self-control problems”; laughs off a woman who had been raped by her husband as “prim, punctilious, punitive” because her story doesn’t sound like a Law & Order plot; and, unsurprisingly, talks extensively about how women set themselves up for assault by drinking.

As Alexandra wrote, doubting a given account doesn’t automatically make one a rape denialist, but a consistent track record of dismissing alleged assaults because the victims were drunk does. Alexandra concludes, and after this latest manifesto it’s hard to argue the point, that Yoffe “betrays all survivors” with her flippant attitude and hyper focus on women’s behavior rather than that of their rapists. 

Perhaps more than Yoffe herself, I’m disgusted at Slate editors for playing host to this vile line of thought, so commonly debunked for years, by feminists of many stripes. This is not journalism. This is not a new, provocative, or worthwhile argument. This is plain old victim-blaming. We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it: rape is the fault of rapists, and no one else. Your shoddy attempts to say otherwise, however couched in faux-concern for women, debase and blame survivors of sexual assault and women everywhere and lend credence to criminals.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships & Outreach. She has never before used “#slatepitch” in a sentence, and hopes to never do so again. 



Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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