At a Watertown, New York, town hall on Friday, John Kasich advised a female college student to steer clear of “parties where there’s a lot of alcohol” to keep from getting raped, assaulted, or sexually harassed.
His comment came after a first-year student from New York’s St. Lawrence University asked the GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor, “What are you going to do in office as president to help me feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment, and rape?”
First, Kasich spoke of the importance of confidential reporting mechanisms and rape kit accessibility “if something happens to you along the lines of sexual harassment or whatever.” Then, Kasich claimed that Ohio is in the process of ensuring that the state’s college students know the state’s laws and “confidential policies” so “co-eds” are “not vulnerable, at risk, and can be preyed upon.”
“I have two 16-year-old daughters, and I don’t even like to think about it,” Kasich said. Incidentally, neither do women. “It’s sad, but it’s something that I have to worry about,” the student responded.
“I’d also give you one bit of advice,” Kasich went on. “Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.” The crowd applauded him.
Kasich’s viewpoint is a cynical, victim-blaming, finger-wagging perspective. Former Dear Prudence columnist Emily Yoffe once made a similar argument to Kasich’s in the pages of Slate, when she wrote that “the rise of female binge drinking has made campuses a prey-rich environment.” If women didn’t get drunk, the thinking goes, they would be able to resist the advances of men waiting in dark corners, ready to prey on easy, intoxicated targets. And if they just stayed away from men who can’t control their alcohol-amplified sexual impulses, they wouldn’t become the victim of such heinous crimes.
It would make just as much, if not more sense to tell men to stop drinking so much so they don’t rape women. But rape and sexual assault are just as much about power and violence as they are about sex, and alcohol is not the root cause of rape. Kasich should blame misogyny, poor sex education, and toxic male behavior, not women, for the scourge of campus sexual assault. Women don’t need paternalistic counsel from politicians—they need men to learn about consent, respect for boundaries, and the swift punishment that awaits them when colleges and courts do their jobs.