Note: This post contains a brief discussion of sexual assault and rape culture.
I recently read Part 1 and Part 2 of (A)Sex and the City’s piece comparing the pressure to drink to the pressure to engage with sex. I have written about this before, and luvtheheaven has too, and (A)Sex and the City’s posts are a reminder that there is more to be said on the subject.
First of all, based on my interactions with Australians in Asia … I am totally unsurprised that that Australia has a major drinking culture. In my experience, Australians and Europeans are more inclined to pressure people who have chosen to abstain from alcohol into drinking than North Americans. My experience in the San Francisco Bay Area has generally been that, when I say I don’t want alcohol at some event where alcohol is offered, I only need to say it once, and it’s not a big deal (to be specific, ‘no, not now’ is generally taken well – ‘no, never’ can elicit a different reaction). In my social circles, having designated drivers is taken seriously, and considering how dependent California society is on cars, that means all social gatherings are going to have some people who aren’t drinking alcohol.
Heck, I was at a bar last night, and nobody remarked on the fact that I wasn’t drinking a single drop of alcohol.
Second, the (A)Sex and the City posts bring up the idea that people ‘should’ drink alcohol to ‘relax’ and ‘loosen up’. I’ve never become fully drunk, but I have become tipsy, and I can tell you this:
Alcohol does not ‘loosen me up’.
Alcohol does not relax me.
Alcohol does not make me more outgoing, sociable, etc. than I am when I am sober.
If anything, I become more distrustful of people when I’ve been drinking, though I don’t know whether it’s the alcohol itself, or merely the thought that people are more likely to take advantage me when I’m under the influence, a thought I would have even if I had drunk a placebo. Drinking alcohol only helps me with social bonding to the extent that I am not ‘left out’, and on the whole, I think it makes me more antisocial, not social.
As any regular reader of this blog would expect, alcohol also doesn’t make be any more sexual (in terms of behavior or feelings) than when I am sober. If anything, I think I think even less about sex when I am under the influence.
I had wanted to bring it up in my posts about Husband Factor but ultimately didn’t because those posts were already really long, so I’ll say it here: there is a common notion that alcohol will make people more sexually available. In my case, this is totally not true, at least with regards to consensual sex. Alcohol was one of the many tools used to turn the protagonist from someone who was going her own path into someone who was conforming with what her society told her she should be doing. To be more specific, alcohol was a tool to ‘loosen her up’ so that she would behave in a more sexual way AND end up in sexual situations she did not intend to be in.
When someone (always male, for some reason) is refusing to accept my ‘no’ to alcohol, I wonder if they intend to sexually assault me. There is that aspect of rape culture which equates drinking alcohol to consenting to any sexual things people might do to you while you’re under the influence.
While reading the posts by (A)Sex and the City, I thought of one possible reason why peers put so much pressure on the ‘one’ person who isn’t drinking alcohol. Alcohol makes people more vulnerable in multiple ways (for example, making them more inclined to embarrass themselves), and people are comfortable doing this because everyone is doing this. But what if not everybody is doing this? What if somebody is not taking the plunge with everyone else? They can take advantage of all of the vulnerable people without becoming vulnerable themselves.
In my social circles, people don’t expect every single person present to drink alcohol, so if they take the plunge, it’s with the understanding that some people are not going to go down with them. But perhaps, in some circumstances, there is the expectation that everyone is taking the plunge together. Hence the hostility to the ‘coward’ who doesn’t have ‘team spirit’.
In Part 2, I am going to take this discussion in a very different direction.