Want Less Campus Rape? Lower the Damn Drinking Age Already

This would discourage the sort of black out drinking most likely to lead to sexual assault disputes.


Zenon Evans / Reason

In the pages of The New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat bemoans that activists on all sides of the debate over the so-called "epidemic of rape" on college campuses have failed to put forth sensible solutions. Stricter adjudication under campus courts is unlikely to result in justice for victims or the accused, he writes.

Douthat does, however, offer an under-explored proposition for lessening instances of campus rape: Lower the drinking age from 21 to 18. This would discourage the sort of black out drinking most likely to lead to sexual assault, he writes:

The key problem in college sexual culture right now isn't drinking per se; it's blackout drinking, which follows from binge drinking, which is more likely to happen when a drinking culture is driven underground.

Undoing the federal government's Reagan-era imposition of a higher drinking age is probably too counterintuitive for lawmakers to contemplate. And obviously it wouldn't eliminate the lure of the keg stand or tame the recklessness of youth. But it would create an opportunity for a healthier approach to alcohol consumption — more social and relaxed, less frantic and performative — to take root in collegiate culture once again.

Many campus rapes happen because one person takes advantage of another's inebriated state. Subsequent accusations involve fuzzy memories and blurry definitions of consent. The current drinking age facilitates this by encouraging college students to drink a lot in a short period of time, since drinking is illegal for them at all times, regardless. (And thanks to the drinking age, intoxicated students who become victims of a crime or serious accident are less likely to seek help from the proper authorities, since they have broken the law themselves.)

Lest anyone think Douthat is on some sort of roll, he also proposes a solution that would be pretty much anathema to libertarians:

Finally, colleges could embrace a more limited version of the old "parietal" system, in which they separated the sexes and supervised social life. This could involve, for instance, establishing more single-sex dorms and writing late-night rules that apply identically to men and women. Bringing a visitor to your room after 10 p.m. or midnight might require signing in with an adult adviser, who would have the right to intervene when inebriation seemed to call consent and safety into question.

I've written that the state of California is inviting itself into the bedrooms of college students under its latest anti-rape legislation. This proposal is even more direct than that.

Watch ReasonTV explore the national debate over the drinking age below.

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  1. This isn’t about solutions. This is about doting special rights/privileges to a voting bloc.

  2. There is one place where women are routinely victimized and subjected to rape and sexual above. It is not college campuses. It is jail. The treatment of women in our jails and prisons is a national disgrace. Yet, I have never heard peep out of any prominent feminists writer or journalist about the plight of women in our jails. Instead they obsess over the non existent “rape epidemic” on college campuses.

    The whole thing shows what disgusting elitists feminists are. Women in jail are being raped daily and they don’t give a shit. But let a top shelf white college girl get drunk and cheat on her b/f and have buyer’s remorse and it is a national epidemic requiring the emergency suspension of the Constitution.

    1. If they started down that road, John, they’d have to address the fact that rape and sexual assault are by no means a male-dominated activity. The facts are that 85% of sexual assaults against minors in state care are committed by women.

      1. They might also have to address the fact that approximately 20% of heterosexual women claim to have been raped by men while still higher levels of lesbian women claim to have been raped by women.

        People will have to grapple with some of the shitty thought-policing type stuff that they currently brush off with thought-terminating tropes like ‘rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power’. Touchy-feely leftists will be forced to call a spade a spade on a lot of ‘this crime is different because feelz’ fronts that they’ve been wrongly advocating for a while.

    2. principals vs principles. If you look at jails, then you have to take the patriarchy/male gaze/testosterone out of the equation and modern-day feminism would collapse without that underpinning.

      The worse part is that they would have to actually be honest about rape, which has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power. Last I checked, drunken frat boys were not power-hungry; they just want to get laid.

      1. I’m not sure I agree with the “not about sex” line.

        Robbery is about taking money by illegal force. Rape is about getting sex by illegal force (or other illegal methods).

        1. but sex is not the usual motivation. Power, domination, humiliation, etc tend to be.

          1. I think that’s more “pull you into an alley at knife point” rape and less “man gets drunk at party gets turned down by too many women and drunkenly decides not to take no next time” rape.

            A friend of mine used to throw house parties off campus and at the end of the night I’d be put in charge of a flock of the drunkest girls to make sure they’d get home safely. This involved fending off the drunken assholes who would follow this group home trying to peel off the drunkest girls from the group. That wasn’t about power it was about not going back to the dorm alone to fap.

          2. I would suspect that those things are mixed up together in the criminal’s mind. The more the dominance and humiliation, the greater the pleasure.

      2. “The worse part is that they would have to actually be honest about rape, which has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power.”

        Not true, some rape is about power, some is about a desire to do violence, some is about vengance, and some believe it or not is about sex.

        A frat boy taking advantage of a passed out girl because he just wants to get laid is still rape and more than likely he doesn’t really care about power or any other dynamic than a good orgasm.

        The problem is feminists want to simplify all rapes to be identical. As if there is no difference between a drunken frat boy finding a passed out girl and taking advantage of the situation and someone staking out a womans house then breaking it and violently raping her over the course of 3 days.

        Doing this allows them to turn simple misunderstwandings and miscommunications into “violent attacks” that you have to be a “survivor”of.

  3. Bringing a visitor to your room after 10 p.m. or midnight might require signing in with an adult adviser,

    Aren’t these people bringing the guests in also ‘adults’ by this society’s purported definitions? While a few under 18s may get into university, they tend to be rare compared to the mass of people there.

    1. The guests are also generally adults.

    2. Umm. Huh. The women’s dorm used to prohibit male visitors after a certain hour as late as 1999 at the University of Texas. Plus ca change. It really sucks when you have to piss at 3am and you aren’t allowed to be in the hallways until 8am.

      1. Technically the men’s dorms forbade female visitors, but I do remember a Friday night fire drill that was distinctly coeducational in its makeup. And nobody proposed that we should not allow our female guests back inside after the all clear.

  4. Why would parietal rules violate libertarian principles?

    1. “anathema to libertarians” != “violate libertarian principles”

      1. That’s what I suspected.

        Libertarianism /= libertinism, *but* lots of libertarians happen to be libertines.

        It would help to clarify that distinction – there are people out there sympathetic to the freedom philosophy, but who need assurance that they wouldn’t be signing on to a project to promote the Sexual Revolution.

        1. My school had a range of sex segregation from a women’s only dorm, to sex segregated floors to mixed floors (but not mixed rooms). Were there enough students interested in it, having dorms available that followed the parietal schema might be a good thing to offer.

          I opted to live in one of the two “substance free” dorms, even though I drank, because I had no interest in being kept up all night by drunks, have or have to deal with shit smeared on the walls and pools of vomit in the bathrooms and halls like the freshman “party” dorm did.

        2. I really don’t think that the “Sexual Revolution” needs much promoting. I was under the impression that it already happened. Single-sex dorms did not, as I recall from my college days, significantly cut down the amount of canoodling that went on. Also, at what point does one move from being an ordinary college student to being a “libertine”? After the first impure thought?

          1. The post says that Douthat’s proposal for (mitigated) parietal rules is “a solution that would be pretty much anathema to libertarians.”

            Indicating that libertarians, either from libertarian principle or for other reasons, would oppose rules that used to be quite common at colleges.

            1. I think bringing them back across the board would nettle a lot of libertarians for the reason Nicole snarks below: What percentage of students are not their own “adult adviser,” exactly?

              I don’t think that libertarians would generally have a problem with opt-in parietal dorms, or if schools chose to embrace this setup because it’s what students (the consumer) want. As a policy prescription it sucks, as a potential expansion of options available to students it’s good.

      2. I’m as ancap as you can get, and a college dorm’s rules are pretty far down on my concern list. Much like employees who want their IUD’s paid for can work somewhere other than Hobby Lobby, students who want their BF/GF’s to spend the night can go to another school, or get a cheap motel room.

    2. I didn’t get it either. A private institution can make those rules if they want. A student may decide they are bullshit and matriculate elsewhere.

      1. But those institutions have to live by the rules they set. Otherwise, the students have a legitimate claim against them.

        If I enroll at a private college and the student handbook and policies say I am entitled to a given amount of due process before they kick me out, I can sue them if they welch on that deal.

        Could a private college say “all men are presumed guilty of rape when accused of such”? They probably could but that would depend also on the various Department of Education regs the compliance with which comes as a condition of your students recieving financial aid. I don’t know enough about those regs to say if they contain a “you can’t screw your students without some due process” clause or not.

        Regardless, no college to my knowledge has ever made it clear men are not entitled to due process when accused of rape. The men who have been screwed by these colleges generally do have a cause of action because the schools are not living by their own rules.

  5. might require signing in with an adult adviser

    What percentage of students are not their own “adult adviser,” exactly?

    1. I believe that percentage is a rolling total, determined by the feminists in a given location. And what’s wrong with you, expecting women of adult age to act like adults? You must be under the spell of the patriarchy.

    2. You can’t bring logic into an illogical discussion.

  6. Binge drinking is defined as, what, like 3 beers at one time?

    1. i think it’s 5 for guys and 4 for women over 2 hours

  7. As my dad has kept saying for years, if you’re old enough to join the military, you’re old enough to drink. I’m all for lowering the drinking age to 18 because let’s be honest here, how many teenagers have had a drink or ten before they are 18? Probably at least 50%, maybe even 75%, right? Besides, as a youngin’ relative to my school class, I was pissed that I couldn’t go to the bars until my senior year in college, so I’m a bit biased…

    1. I don’t know if it’s still true, but in the late 80’s / early 90’s, the drinking age on most bases was 18. If the base was on federal land, it was up to the base commander.

      Some just made it 18, some it was 18 for beer and wine, 21 for booze. Twentynine Palms was on California land, so young Sailors and Marines were always getting hassled by the MPs.

      1. I remember during my first hitch, the base bar in Norfolk didn’t give a hoot how old you were as long as you had a military ID. This has probably changed now tho…

    2. Ive jokingly used the line, “if you are old enough to drive, you are old enough to drink.”

      But considering my current business, I should stop doing that.

  8. Here’s my proposal: Don’t require freshmen to live on campus and make dorms single sex/supervisory. You still have the choice of opting out and getting knee deep in ‘tang if that’s your thing, but those of us who prefer the old style boarding experience can have it. I went to an engineering and science only school, so it was de facto all male, and it was lovely. A nice break from the drama of high school, especially in an intensive program in a new setting, can be a pretty good thing.

    I think an educational institution that has on-campus housing has good reason to want to minimize problems. When I was an RA I let everyone know that I was fine with their drinking/smoking (against school policy), so long as they were quiet and it never got out of control, and I’d always give them a ride back to the dorms without any questions. I suppose I was being a parent, but it wasn’t forced, and I never had problems.

    1. Don’t require freshmen to live on campus

      That’s crazy talk: how would you teach freshmen the correct way to think about all social issues if you couldn’t round them up from their dorm rooms?

      1. That really has little to do with it. Freshmen are cash cows and living off campus makes it difficult to milk them.

        1. And SugarFree knows a thing or two about milking freshmen.

          1. Those cows were all over the age of consent!

        2. True from the perspective of college administrators. But the little fascists in the faculty and student interest groups like having a captive audience.

          1. The admins and the progfessors are more antagonistic than it looks like from the outside. Cash beats out their concerns 99 times out of a 100 in the large state schools where they have to mandate Freshman live on campus. That’s also why most of them won’t let you have a parking pass either (or outright ban you from having a car), to really trap you into using the overpriced campus services.

    2. Even better, all schools should become “commuter schools.” I, as a hypothetical commuter student, shouldn’t be forced to subsidize a thousand little projects, groups, and programs that have nothing to do with furthering my education and are catered to live-in students.

      Kids who want to “get out of the parents’ house” can rent an apartment.

      1. Agreed. And it would further separate education from the rest of life. Right now colleges can get parents to cough up whatever they want by making campus housing part of the educational experience. When housing is divorced from campus, it’s harder to justify.

  9. Students either drink legally in bars or illegally at house parties. In bars, they’re surrounded by fellow drinkers with more experience who actually frown upon people getting out of control drunk (as well as staff who aren’t afraid to eject them if they get too rowdy). Their fellow drinkers at house parties are similarly inexperienced and have no reason to drink responsibly. It’s a policy about as smart as having 16 year olds teaching driver’s ed.

  10. 18 is old enough to get blown up by an IED in Afghanistan, and too young to buy a beer in the USA.

    1. That’s a good argument for letting soldiers drink (off duty), but other arguments are necessary in the case of Brother Biff partying at the frat house.

    2. At 18 you’re smart enough to vote but you’re too dumb to drink until you’re 21.

      I’d interchange the two ages.

    3. To be fair, IEDs will blow up anyone who’s within range, regardless of age, including locals who are unquestionably children.

  11. To beat my drum once again, this problem should be reduced as more education departs from the residential model, saving money and focusing education more narrowly on, you know, actual education.

    1. Yep. If remote education was around when the educational models developed, there’s no way they’d look like they do now.

      Georgia Tech is offering a master’s in comp sci through Udacity for under $7000. All the classes are available for free, but to get the credential, it costs $7000. It’s a bargain by today’s standards, yet they still felt they had to justify where the money was going, as all the courseware is free. That’s a huge departure, and it’s only possible now that the residential model is breaking down.

  12. Another reason the drinking age lowering would help is that the women would be drinking in different places.

    They would be in clubs and bars instead of some dudes frat or dorm room.

    1. So older guys with game would be nailing them instead of drunk sophomore guys.

      1. Probably, but they wouldnt be passing out in his house until AFTER they agreed to go back with him.

  13. So can somebody tell me why this rape epidemic is raging only on college campuses? Many young men and women wander through the vast wilderness of non-university territory in the rest of the country and nothing similar seems to happen there. What’s up?

    1. They aren’t paying a quarter million for 4 years of supervision and a Gender Studies department.

    2. It’s all made up, that’s why.

  14. Either you are an adult at 18 or you aren’t. If you have all the responsibilities of an adult at 18, then you should have all the rights of an adult as well.

    If you treat people like children, don’t be shocked when they act like children.

    1. Exactly. Which is why I scoff at anyone proposing to raise the age limit for anything… especially past the age where people still have to live with their parents. I would prefer to teach my kids to properly handle alcohol so that they don’t go wild once they can legally get it on their own, preferably at age 18. And I would like to not be arrested for doing so, like in some states.

      I don’t think it’s any accident that people matured earlier when there were less draconian age limits on stuff, before the Drug Wars and “no twenty-oney, no money”. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve seen these age limits creep up on us at the same rate as the welfare state.

  15. Lower the drinking age from 21 to 18

    Get back to me when the proposals aren’t statist bullshit like this.

    There should be no such thing as a “drinking age”.

    1. Well, the Federalist in me says “Stop making federal highway funds contingent on the 21 drinking age.”

      Then the true Federalist in me wakes up and yells: “End all federal revenue sharing!”

  16. But allowing legal drinking at 18 means that some of these “kids” might develop adult judgement by the time they graduate at 22. My god, that is not going to sit well with 25 year olds who are on their parents’ health insurance.

    OBTW, this reminds me of a point I noticed a while back but never voiced: Obama calling Sandra Fluke after the Limbaugh incident and telling her that her parents should be “proud” of her. The “girl” was THIRTY YEARS OLD. Imagine if BOOOOSSH had told a 30 year old woman the same thing. They’d still be talking about it on MSNBC.

  17. Want Less Campus Rape? Lower Eliminate the Damn Drinking Age Already

    1. ^^THIS^^

      There is no need for a drinking age. Any business that actually sold alcohol to unsupervised minors would quickly be sued out of business by angry parents and any victims of the minors’ behavior.

      If I sell a fifth of Jack Danials to a 12 year old and said 12 year old goes out and kills himself with it, the parents are going to have one hell of a negligence case against me. How could I possibly say it was reasonable to sell that to an unsupervised child? I couldn’t and no one who did such things could get liability insurance.

      Getting rid of the drinking age would eliminate any legal restraints on selling to anyone over 18 and essentially leave drinking by those under 18 to the discretion of their patents, which is as it should be.

    2. Would you propose to get rid of statutory rape by eliminating the age of consent?

      1. No. But the decision to drink is not the same as the decision to have sex. Sex, since it can carry consequences that last a lifetime is something that not even a parent can consent for their child to at some ages.

        Drinking, in contrast is completely different. I see nothing wrong with parents deciding when and if and how their kids will drink at any age. For centuries small children would drink watered down wine or punch. Giving your 8 year old a glass of wine at a family dinner is not the same as allowing someone to have sex with them.

        Could allowing small children to drink be done in such an irresponsible way that the parent is guilty of abuse? Sure. But the issue there is abuse. The alcohol is just the means. The fact that it can be a means of abuse shouldn’t mean parents don’t have the ultimate call.

        1. I certainly agree with having an age of consent for sex as well as other things, e.g. binding contracts. How high or low should these ages be set?

          1. That is a good question and a hard one to answer. The problem is that people become interested in and competent to consent to sex long before they are competent to drink without their parents permission or sign contracts and such.

            I am fine with saying kids basically belong to their parents until they are 18 when it comes to pretty much everything. Sex, however is a bit different since kids clearly have sex and clearly are competent to consent to it before 18. And unlike drinking and such, it is much harder for parents to really control when their kids have sex. Moreover, since sex involves another party, saying kids can’t consent to sex makes the other party guilty of rape. For those reasons I am uncomfortable with an age of consent for sex being 18. I think 14 or 16 would be better numbers for that. Otherwise, make everything 18 but leave the decision up to the parents. After 18, then people should be full on adults and entitled to do whatever they want.

            1. If interested, herewith a summary of drinking age by country.

      2. And for the record, Homple, I would be fine with a rule that said no child could drink or buy alcohol without the presence of their parent or guardian.

        My view is that children do not own their discretion. Their parents do. I would support that law for the same reason I would support only selling birth control to a kid with their parents’ approval.

        1. It would be a nice but unenforceable rule, as any parent of a teenager can attest.

          1. That is the parents’ problem. I am saying they have the authority. How they enforce that authority is up to them. But I am fine with saying that businesses have to recognize that authority when dealing with minors.

      3. Actually, my point was that kids go apeshit drinking BECAUSE they are told they may not.

        My premise is that children would drink in moderation because it would never have been “a thing”. You have a beer with your dinner, or a glass of wine. It’s not something you do to be rebellious, which is what it is now.

        1. The drinking age is a massive infringement on the sovereignty of the family. If a parent decides it is okay for their kid to drink, it is none of the state’s business. The drinking age makes it a crime for parents to decide when their children are competent enough to drink.

          1. It actually depends on the state. Federal law only mandates that minors cannot purchase alcohol.

            15 states and the District of Columbia ban underage consumption outright, 17 states do not ban underage consumption, and the remaining 18 states have family member and/or location exceptions to their underage consumption laws.

          2. We let our daughter try whatever we happened to have around the house. As a result she avoided the drinking crowds in high school and college, since drinking was deemed ok by her parents.

  18. I recall getting a tour of Eton College in U.K. and being told that students with good grades could get a pint in the school lounge at age 15. It was quite an incentive to keep one’s grades up. I know Eton grads have historically gone on to cause a lot of problems
    (e.g. WWI trench slaughter) but learning to drink responsibly at
    15 is probably a plus.

    1. Also, “…the noise of English county families baying for broken glass”.

  19. My college was actually two older colleges, one for men, one for women, separated by a small lake. Totally segregated dorms.

    Didn’t seem to put a crimp in anyone’s drunken sex life.

  20. Does anyone really think college drinking is “underground”? What college did he go to?

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