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Alcohol "Rape Warning" Proposal Sparks Storm

A doctor argues that alcohol labels should warn women of the risk of sexual assault. But is this victim blaming?

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By Bryan Le

06/11/13

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An editorial in the The Canadian Medical Association Journal has stirred controversy by suggesting that alcohol labels come with a warning—specifically for young girls. According to a recent study, girls in their teens are now drinking as much as teen boys—or even more. As a response, Dr. Ken Flagel, the editorial's author, argues that alcohol "is not an equal-opportunity substance," and therefore should be regulated more strictly for girls. He proposes that the government should require a "health warning to accompany alcohol advertising aimed at young women as well as on the products sold." Among his arguments, he states that women have an average lower body mass than men and therefore get drunk more quickly. He also points that advertising has been found to exert greater influence on girls than boys. But most controversially, Flagel makes the claim that another "risk" of drinking is that it makes women more vulnerable to sexual assault, saying: "Female-specific risks are already well known and include violence, unwanted sex and pregnancy.” The statement has been criticized as "victim blaming," and Jezebel's Callie Buesman writes: “How many times will be have to be [sic] dumbfounded by the clearly misogynistic logic that 'getting too drunk' = 'an open invitation to be raped or harassed'?” As a tongue-in-cheek response, Buesman offers up a list of other suggested "warning labels" for alcohol ads and products, including: "WARNING: Over-consuming alcohol may cause you to attempt to insert yourself into the live performance of a screamo band covering Ke$ha songs."

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