A Different Kind of Reaction

This blog is usually about philosophy and chemistry, but today more pressing matters are at hand. The Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board (Our taxpayer dollars at work!) has started a new campaign against teen drinking. The message? Choosing to drink makes it your fault that you or your friends get raped.

THIS IS NOT OKAY. I’m far from the first to point it out (See Jezebel’s story for a summary), but I am a Pennsylvania taxpayer and I would like my money not to go to promoting rape culture. So I sent a letter to Control Tonight (contact@controltonight.com) and Pennsylvania’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program (ra-lbramp@pa.gov), and if you are offended by this ad, you should too. You can even send the letter I sent! But you should probably change the signature to your own name, for maximum effectiveness. Here it is:

To Whom it May Concern:

I recently viewed one of your Control Tonight campaign ads against
teen drinking, in which a pair of apparently female legs are sprawled
across a tile floor with underwear around the ankles and a message
reading “02:19A.M. She didn’t want to, but she couldn’t say no.” As a
Pennsylvania resident and taxpayer, not to mention an educator and a
victim of sexual assault, I find this advertisement incredibly
offensive and potentially harmful to the very demographic it is
purporting to protect.

The advertisement implies that unwanted sexual advances are the fault
of the victim, not the assailant, and that victims of sexual assault
are only to be held blameless insofar as they are sober, if ever.
Rape, and sexual assault more generally, are not the results of
actions controlled by the victim–and that includes the victim’s
choice whether or not to have a drink that night. This fact is part of
the definition of assault, and your advertisement’s insinuation
otherwise is not only emotionally hurtful and false, but it is also
potentially dangerous in its implicit excusing of sexual predators for
their actions, as long as their victims have had something to drink.

Tonight, you have made me feel ashamed to call myself a Pennsylvanian.
If you actually care about the young women of Pennsylvania, I demand
that you reconsider your campaign: Pull this advertisement and those
like it from circulation immediately.

Julia Bursten


About burstenj

Assistant Professor of Philosophy
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