Yesterday, Harpyness reader Christopher F. wrote me about the firestorm of controversy surrounding a recent student column in the Daily Princetonian. In “The Real ‘Sex on a Saturday Night‘”, freshman Iulia Neagu explains that women who are raped while inebriated have only themselves to blame:
She knew what would happen if she started drinking. We all know that the more people drink, the less likely they are to make wise decisions. It is common sense.
Therefore, the girl willingly got herself into a state in which she could not act rationally. This, in my opinion, is equivalent to agreeing to anything that might happen to her while in this state.
It’s okay if your head exploded on reading that. Chris knew that mine would, and wanted to know if it would be shooting fish in a barrel for me to write a screed about Neagu’s op-ed.
Well, yes. But plenty of other women beat me to the punch, including a hell of a lot of Daily Princetonian commenters–rock on, y’all!—student activists at Princeton, Anna North at Jezebel and many, many others. So I’m not going to bother to take apart this poorly-written, small-minded turd of rape apology, although I will note that I have read much more eloquent and insidiously persuasive rape apologia in my time; Iulia Neagu is clearly still a rank amateur at writing, reasoning and victim-blaming.
As I discussed Neagu’s column in various comment threads, some responses–particularly from fellow Jez commenters–caught my attention, including this one:
Confession time: When I was the same age as Neagu I used to partake in the victim blaming. I used to think that women weren’t saying no loud enough or that they shouldn’t have put themselves in dangerous situations. I used to pride myself on my ability to suss out danger and stay away from people who could cause me harm. I thought that instincts, even when drunk, could protect someone. Looking back at my cocky 20 year old self, I want to kick myself, since I now know that instincts and saying no really loud are not enough to protect everybody all the time. And there is someone I truly owe an apology too from that time, since I’m sure I hurt her with my vicitm blaming ways.
Trust me, Neagu will figure it out soon enough and will feel like an ass for this article she wrote. It doesn’t excuse her behaviour, but one day, she’ll see it. I can assure you of that.
I suspect that even if the current blowback isn’t convincing, Neagu will be regretting it hardcore when some future HR recruiter does a Google search on her. But I did feel a pang of recognition–when I was 18, I held a lot of views that I look back on and cringe (although I was never a rape apologist). I also had that same jackass courage of my convictions. Fortunately for me, my youthful arrogance is not enshrined for posterity on the internet.
Still, Iulia Neagu chose to write this preachy, odious column, so she opened herself up for the furious response she’s getting. She’s technically an adult, she’s intelligent, she chose her choice–now she’s going to have to handle the consequences like a grown-up.
Another Jez commenter, though, had a (very) little empathy for Neagu, and I do think her point is worth considering.
I strongly disagree with this young woman. I strongly agree with the people who are calling bullshit on her victim blaming. But I’m a little worried about the way college writers are now being held up for scrutiny in the national media. This young woman is a freshman from Romania. That means she’s probably about 18 years old, and an international student. I’m worried that she, like many students, didn’t quite realize what she was getting herself into. I know, I know–the internet has made college news into a whole new phenomenon. College students are adults and responsible for their actions, but it’s one thing to be schooled by your fellow students, another to end up on Jezebel. I guess I’m imagining her as one of my own students, and thinking about the fact that not many of them could handle this kind of attention. I’m hoping her university has really good psychological services, both for her and her friend who had to read such a hateful statement about her experience.
Yes, I bet peer relations are preeeeetty unpleasant for Neagu right now, and I’m guessing the friend who confided in her will–rightly–never speak to her again. But now thanks to the internet, Iulia Neagu is also being shamed and maligned in public by thousands of people around the world.
That’s a lot for an 18 year old to handle, and it’s entirely possible that the fallout will continue to affect Neagu for years to come. So I ask you, gentle readers–does the punishment fit the crime?