WSJ writer James Taranto blames intoxicated rape victims for their own assaults

Screen shot 2014-02-11 at 3.50.06 PM

Image via Media Matters

*Trigger warning*

James Taranto’s made up War on Men persists. In his column for the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Taranto went even further than Emily “drunk women should expect to be assaulted” Yoffe.

He argued that women who drink and are forced to have sex against their will are not only at fault for their assault, but are equally guilty of a crime.

What is called the problem of “sexual assault” on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike.

It’s an ugly page from the rape-culture-victim-blaming playbook. A piss-poor assertion that perpetrators have no self-control over their actions, and their inability and bad judgment means they fail to comprehend the word “no.” Consent must be fuzzy. So it’s everyone’s fault.

The facts are not on his side. Media Matters’ points to a National Institutes of Health report:

The fact that alcohol consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur does not demonstrate that alcohol causes sexual assault.


[M]en are legally and morally responsible for acts of sexual assault they commit, regardless of whether or not they were intoxicated or felt that the woman had led them on previously. The fact that a woman’s alcohol consumption may increase their likelihood of experiencing sexual assault does not make them responsible for the man’s behavior, although such information may empower women when used in prevention programs.

Taranto may try to reframe the issue of campus sexual assault around alcohol consumption, but it’s a straw man argument that we’ve toppled here on this blog and elsewhere. To insist that victims share culpability for their assaults stigmatizes victims and, ultimately, makes them less likely to report these crimes. Taranto’s column comes on the heels of last week’s announcement from President Obama on the new White House task force to end campus rape.

Unfortunately, the WSJ is a platform for Taranto to continue to peddle victim-blaming garbage. And we should respond accordingly. Here’s a link to a petition you can sign to get the WSJ to stop promoting rape culture. It may not lead to his firing, but it will let them know that we are paying attention.

(H/T Media Matters)

sm-bio Syreeta McFadden is tired of having to keep repeat the following: “teach men not to rape.” But she will say it till it stops.

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

Syreeta McFadden is a contributing opinion writer for The Guardian US and an editor of Union Station Magazine.

Read more about Syreeta

Join the Conversation