"Being Drunk Is Voluntary": England Strengthens Protections For Victims Of Assault

Yesterday, Baroness Stern - a Parliament Committee member commissioned to write a report on rape convictions in England - stated that rapists cannot "use alcohol as an excuse." The Daily Fail worries about the impact on office Christmas party season.

Police launched a campaign last month to warn women of the possible dangers of drinking too much at the office Christmas bash.

Lady Stern said: 'Being drunk is voluntary and people who become drunk are responsible for their actions. It is not the alcohol that commits the rape.

'It is not an excuse. It used to be regarded as such, but it is not an excuse. It is an aggravating factor.'

The Daily Mail illustrates this with a photo of models kissing under a mistletoe. While this may have not been their intention, the throwaway line as well as the choice of accompanying picture serves to trivialize the subject of the article. Instead of focusing on why the task force chose to make such a statement, the Mail talks of "sex breathalyzers" and allows the last word to reinforce that "If a man is responsible for his conduct when drunk, so is a woman." You can guess what the comments are like.

The Guardian (wisely choosing to use a photo of a man drinking) reports the same facts with a slightly different spin. Here, the focus is on a discussion of rape culture in general, and its pervasiveness in where a drinking culture overlaps with discussions of rape and victim blaming. The Guardian includes Lady Stern's full argument which sheds some more light on the intent:

"Being drunk is voluntary and people who become drunk are responsible for their actions. It is not the alcohol that commits the rape. It is not an excuse. It used to be regarded as such, but it is not an excuse . It is an aggravating factor."

Stern said that clear consent had to be obtained for sex regardless of how well couples know each other. A man could not assume a woman's consent.

"I don't think there is any ambiguity. You can't have sex with someone who hasn't said yes and this it. There is no grey area."

The full report is due in February. Hopefully, Lady Stern will also replace the idea that "an absence of no is as good as a yes" with the idea that an actual yes trumps all.

Drunk men who insist on sex 'are rapists and cannot use alcohol as an excuse', says govt. adviser [Daily Mail]
Drunk men who demand sex from partner should be 'treated as rapists' [Guardian]
How Does The Change Happen? [Yes Means Yes]