The XX Factor

The Upsetting “Blame the Victim” Mentality in This Week’s “Friend or Foe”

To the DoubleX commenters who were outraged with Lucinda’s “Friend or Foe” column from Monday , and who don’t feel mollified by this morning’s apology : I see where you’re coming from. When I first read Lucinda’s response to the girl who says someone “slipped [her] a mickey” at a concert and then was ditched by her friends, I gave Lucinda the benefit of the doubt. I’ve talked to her before; I like her; I didn’t want to believe she’d be quite this flip about such a troubling tale.

So I reasoned that Lucinda, who is older than you’d think by her impeccable skin, just didn’t know what “slipped me a mickey” meant. It was this line, I thought, that revealed her ignorance:

Yes, overnights at the E.R. are the opposite of fun. So are disastrous drug trips. (I had one in my twenties, which pretty much sealed my fate as an illegal-substance ninny.)

This was not a disastrous drug trip. This was someone being drugged. To conflate the two is to imply that a woman getting drugged at a bar is as responsible for that outcome as one who willingly sneaks into a bathroom stall to snort a line. That couldn’t be what Lucinda meant, right?

But on rereading Lucinda’s response, and seeing that ending I must have glossed over the first time-“I’d wager a guess that [your friends] think you’re lying about the mickey, tales of which are sometimes used as a cover for irresponsible behavior. (Only you know the truth.)”-I realized what our commenters already knew: that Lucinda understood the girl’s claim that she was drugged. She just didn’t buy it.

In her apology this morning, Lucinda writes:

I was struck by how many readers seemed to be hearing echoes of date rape or sexual abuse in ‘Drugged’s’ story. I have to admit, I did not think of that at the time. There is no evidence in her letter that she was a victim of a sex crime.

But the echoes of date rape or sexual abuse aren’t in the confines of the story of what happened that night. The echoes are in Lucinda’s answer, and the implication that the girl should take responsibility for ending up unconscious on the sidewalk. That’s the same sort of “blame the victim” mentality we’re so used to hearing and striking down when it comes to rape.

Maybe Lucinda’s right that this girl is using being drugged as an excuse for letting her night get so out of hand. (As she and others point out, it’s hard to make sense of the friends being angry with her in the morning otherwise.) But, as Mary Carmichael writes on Newsweek today , the fact that some women lie about being drugged doesn’t mean that Lucinda should assume this one woman is lying, or that women are never drugged, “any more than the murkiness of sexual assault statistics and the occasional false accusation means that women are never raped.”