Double standards for men and women: drunk sex and domestic violence

Not long ago TV counselor Dr. Phil asked a question via Twitter which was quickly deleted:

dr phil

When I first saw it I didn’t get the impression that he was implying it was OK to have sex with drunk girls (or that he was asking “for a friend”).  I had figured he was trying to gauge public opinion for a future show.  There are enough men out there, most likely on college campuses, who wouldn’t think it unethical to have sex with a girl who was drunk.  So in this regard his question has merit.

More than this, I also think there is a tendency to overlook that the majority of men who would have sex with a girl who is drunk is probably drunk himself.  This facet rarely makes its way into the discussion.  All to often when both the guy and the girl are at a party drinking it up and having a good time and both are drunk, the guy is held responsible for sexual assault.  Why not the girl?  Why not both?  I have the impression that regret in hind-sight plays a role in the reporting intoxication related sexual assaults.  Not always, but more often that we’re willing to admit.

This is the case also with domestic violence.  It’s often presumed that men are most responsible for domestic violence.  This also seems to be a conclusion prejudiced by the size difference and social acceptance of the idea that women are weak and defenseless.  This isn’t the case though.  In instances of domestic violence, women are as often as men likely to be the initiator of the altercation.

(ScienceDaily) — The [University of Washington] study also found no independent link between an individual’s use of alcohol or drugs and committing domestic violence. In addition it showed that nearly twice as many women as men said they perpetrated domestic violence in the past year including kicking, biting or punching their partner, threatening to hit or throw something at their partner, and pushing, grabbing or shoving their partner.

(University of Florida) — In a survey of 2,500 students at UF and the University of South Carolina between August and December 2005, more than a quarter (29 percent) reported physically assaulting their dates and 22 percent reported being the victims of attacks during the past year. Thirty-two percent of women reported being the perpetrators of this violence, compared with 24 percent of men. The students took selected liberal arts and sciences courses. Forty percent were men and 60 percent were women, reflecting the gender composition of these classes.

(American Journal of Public Health) — Almost 24% of all relationships had some violence, and half (49.7%) of those were reciprocally violent. In nonreciprocally violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in more than 70% of the cases. Reciprocity was associated with more frequent violence among women (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.3; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.9, 2.8), but not men (AOR=1.26; 95% CI=0.9, 1.7). Regarding injury, men were more likely to inflict injury than were women (AOR=1.3; 95% CI=1.1, 1.5), and reciprocal intimate partner violence was associated with greater injury than was nonreciprocal intimate partner violence regardless of the gender of the perpetrator (AOR=4.4; 95% CI=3.6, 5.5).

(Baltimore Sun) — Men are often the victims of their girlfriends or wives. Ned Holstein and Glenn Sacks (“The violence we ignore,” July 16, 2009) cite a 2007 Harvard study that says, “according to both men’s and women’s accounts, 50 percent of the violence in their relationship was reciprocal (involving both parties). In those cases, the women were more likely to have been the first to strike.”

The article continues: “Moreover, when the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70 percent of the time.”

Men and women both make poor life decisions.  Yet they are rarely held in equitable accountability for those choices.  Of course I know domestic violence and sexual assault are morally wrong.  I also know it’s just as wrong for women to be violent as it is for men as well as being equally responsible for drunken escapades when both parties are intoxicated.


  1. Completely agree with you on the domestic assault examples and have found after working in the field that women and men are more often being presented with similar consequences in a legitimately fair manner, like anger management groups/meetings, etc. It is becoming much clearer that women can be just as angry and act out in physically aggressive ways as men do. Stereotypes are falling by the wayside.

    When it comes to sexual assault though, who is to blame or at fault seems as if that is beside the point. The fact of the matter is that the man is almost always the physically stronger person and thus is able to force himself upon the woman. He successfully perpetrates the rape/sexual assault because of his size. He is held accountable for forcing himself upon someone who cannot give or did not give justifiable, legitimate consent.

    That he is under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not offer acceptable excuse or rationalization for not being held responsible for his actions. The consequences for getting drunk and sexually assaulting or raping a woman are prison time, regardless of the excuses for why it happened, and this is how it should be.

    Taking advantage of someone who cannot consent legally is also a crime. Statutory rape/Date rape is also an ethical, moral crime and involves someone taking advantage of another who is under the influence, cannot consent appropriately, or is mentally challenged and unable to consent. Size and gender doesn’t matter in these kinds of cases; it’s what is morally appropriate that matters. Men and women are being equally prosecuted in these kinds of cases, as they should be.

    • Warrioress

      I am not excusing a situation where a man does coerce or force himself upon a woman even if he is under the influence. What I find suspect is the presumption of guilt men carry, especially if both are impaired and it is one word against another.

      I think more often than is admitted both the guy and girl are impaired and she regrets who it is and what happened.

  2. So if women are “clearly” weaker, then should they be allowed in combat situations? Should women be allowed to patrol alone in police cars? You can’t have it both ways.

  3. Reblogged this on Disciple's Perspective and commented:
    Interesting article that exposes a lot of things. I must yet disagree with the conclusions that author of this post came to. I hope to write more about it later. Also I want to encourage you to read the comments that people wrote on his post….

  4. Very good post. An unpopular one, or better said not politically correct, and I see the rest tend to be that way. Which I like it. Real quick, I have a friend that has spent 6 months in jail for domestic violence. You had to see the girl he was with, she would not smack him but literally punch him even in public. I even saw her grabbing a knife and threatening thing. And he stayed because she threaten to take away his child forever. So he was the one submissive. When he finally left her he showed me his cell phone, he had 99 calls from this crazy girl in one day! And shortly after he left her he was sentence for domestic violence. Those are the progressive laws in Spain.

  5. Forgot. Thanks for checking out my crazy blog.

    • In my state the domestic laws are heavily biased toward women. In divorces for example, the starting point is that the mom gets the kids unless there is a reason otherwise. Not a fan of presuming one side guilty.

  6. i would ask this…does a woman have a penis to commit sexual assault in that regard..yes i know a woman can sexually assault in other ways….as well i would state as a woman myself, we are considered weak because too many people have underestimated us for too long..women can be just as horrible as men and i believe more women abuse their children physically (not necessarily sexually) than men, in a lot of cases the mother is the one who stays at home and has more opportunity to lose control

    • Crystal

      Thanks for the input. But are you misunderstanding me here? I thought I was clear that taking advantage of an intoxicated person is obviously wrong. My point, however, is many times — if not most — the guy is intoxicated also. Why does he bear the only burden of restraint in this case?

      • I agree men and women are both to blame, actually i have never heard of a man claiming to be assaulted while drunk. If you choose to drink in public you are setting yourself up for trouble.

        • No, its not that men are claiming to have been sexually assaulted. They are blamed for sexual assault even when they were both drunk. I protest the presumption that men have a burden to exercise restraint in that situation and women arent. Its an unfair double standard in my opinion.

  7. If you get drunk at a party and someone stabs you, are you also to blame?

    The argument isn’t whether a person should or shouldn’t get drunk. No one would argue that drinking responsibly isn’t good.

    The argument is whether, drunk or sober, a person who commits a crime should be held accountable. That’s it. That’s the whole argument. We don’t let robbers go free because the person they robbed was walking alone. We don’t let murderers go free because the person they murdered was a drug dealer. We shouldn’t let rapists go free because the person they raped was drunk.

    • Jessica, this presumes that when 2 people are drunk the woman doesnt consent. I am saying I believe that more often than most people are willing to admit, the sex is consensual at the time then regretted afterwards.

      Drunk consensual sex is not the same as being robbed or stabbed, so you’re not being honest here.

      Are you as willing to say that if both are drunk but the man says he was taken advantage of, the woman should be called a rapist as well?

  8. I think Jessica would agree that rape is rape- regardless of gender.
    Her and I likely both disagree with your assertion that many rape charges are caused by regret instead of being forcefully coerced or subdued. Where are the statistics backing up that assertion?

    • The stats are in the same place as the one touted that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in college. Keep in mind im not saying most are exaggerated. Im saying that when both the guy and girl are drunk and have sex, when a sex assault is reported it is due to regret more often than we might be willing to concede.

  9. I think that John is simply suggesting that if two drunk people have “consensual” sex, then neither party should be able to claim rape afterward. I also think that John is suggesting that the presumption that the drunk male has more responsibility than the drunk female is an inconsistent standard.

    The question this raises for me is “Is it possible to have sex that is legally consensual if both parties are impaired?”.

    No question that rape is rape regardless of gender. But that doesn’t seem to the the issue raised here.

  10. Before I agree with you, I need you to tell me what you think the difference between “consensual” sex and consensual sex is. Are the “scare quotes” shifting the definition of the word at all? Nobody is saying that consensual sex is rape. I’m saying that non-consensual sex is rape. Consent has a pretty specific definition.
    I take exception to the idea that many rape allegations are the result of women feeling regretful after the fact. There is no evidence presented for this argument and it parrots Rape Culture “talking points”.

    As an aside- I do believe that there are levels of impairment where consent is possible. I also think it is beholden on both men and women to use common sense as to when consent is clear, ambiguous, or impossible- and govern their actions accordingly.

  11. George,

    Actually the “scare quotes” aren’t about scaring at all, they’re more about differentiation. My question is can a person who is impaired actually give consent to anything an a meaningful way. I would suggest that there is a qualitative difference in ones ability to consent between someone with a BAC of 0.00 and someone with a BAC of .8. I believe that what John is suggesting is that in some circumstances “drunken consent” on Friday night becomes “rape” on Saturday morning.

    So, I ask again, “Is it possible to have sex that is legally consensual if both parties are impaired?”.

  12. I thought I answered that question in my last comment. Was I unclear in some way?

  13. I apologize I was responding to your first sentence, and explaining why I differentiated between types of consent.

    Actually you kind of answered my question. I specified “legally consensual”, since that seems to be the issue. So perhaps you could clarify at what point one can legally consent while impaired.

  14. Reblogged this on Renegade Expressions.

  15. There has been such a double-standard on these issues for so long, and I am so glad that this is finally being addressed.

  16. Is it the same when a female punches a male versus a male punching a female? It’s not that simple. I’m sure we can agree one sex is stronger than the other unless the female is built like Serena Williams or some other “big built” female. That being said any one who commits domestic abuse should be punished across the board.

    Drunk sex

    I agree with the drunk sex discussion and both are usually drunk and not just the female. Where the issue is for me is the abuse and assault during the act, the hold down and beat up business and the violent behavior during the act. That isn’t normal and is coming from a different place.

    • Gibbie

      It sounds to be like youre saying that because men are larger and stronger on average, they are more culpable even they are both wrong. Is that right? Im saying neither should be more wrong or less culpable because of their sex. After all some men are considerably smaller and weaker than others but are not held to lower standards whenbit comes to violence.

      Legally speaking there should be no consideration of gender, wojld you agree?

  17. In regards to your comment criticising the fact that in sexual assault cases, the fact that both parties are often drunk is hardly ever raised, I do hear what you are saying, and I do agree with you to some extent. People make mistakes, and if both people are intoxicated then both are unable to make proper and sensible judgements. HOWEVER, it is important to understand that in the majority of sexual assault cases, the male is the guilty party. This is due to a number of factors. Physically, males are more powerfully built and their biological make-up means that they play the dominant sexual role. This is not to say that all men are going to abuse their physical power, but it is likely that in a situation where one or both parties are drunk, that a man may be unable to control himself and will take advantage of the way he is able to overpower the more vulnerable female.
    In response to your comment regarding domestic abuse, and the culpability of the female in instigating altercations, obviously it holds some truth. But again, regarding both these situations, it comes down to the man abusing his prerogative as being more physically powerful and using violence and force to win an argument instead of words. It is a typically male response to respond to frustration and anger with his fists.
    I am definitely not denying violence towards men, or downplaying it’s seriousness. The fact of the matter that the majority of victims of sexual and domestic abuse are females, and this is due to men abusing their physical power, and says a lot about the views and values that they hold regarding the opposite sex.

    • Regarding physical abuse youre wrong. Men are victims as often or more often than women. It goes unreported to the authorities and that’s not really disputed. I agree that when men abuse or fight back the woman is injured more severely because of the size and strength differences, but thats not the discussion. The fact is that women initiate violence and assault as often and actually more often than men and they dont get a pass because men are bigger.

      And while I acknowledge sexual assault is wrong, I dont acknowledge that the man is more culpable when both parties are intoxicated and are in no condition to give consent.

      Keep in mind that im not saying that if he forces himself upon her that because theyre both drunk ‘oh well’. The scenario I’m addressing is when both are drunk and both participate. I am suggesting that some women report being forced due to hindsight regret more often than is admitted.

  18. Although I can accept your premise, it is important to remember that most women who make rape charges after being raped whilst intoxicated do not do so lightly, and they were certainly not “up for a good time” when drunk and then simply regretted it after.
    The instances of this are exceedingly rare, because in the case of rape, unlike all other types of crime, the premise of ‘someone is innocent until proven guilty’ actually implies that whilst the accused is innocent until proven otherwise, the accuser – that is the victim – has to prove that they are not guilty (of a lie) by going through the trial.
    And I don’t know if you’ve ever attended a rape trial, but believe me when I tell you this: no woman would EVER go through that just because she regrets a “poor life choice”.
    The majority of rape cases go unreported. The majority of reported rape cases go un-trialled. If a case does actually make it to a trial, the woman has to relive the experience. Nay! She is made to relive it by going over and over again over every little detail of the horrific, horrifying and deeply damaging experience.
    And she is made to relive this whilst being accused of untruthfulness, of being somehow responsible for having been raped, required to answer questions about her past sexual experiences, her character being dragged through the mud as the defending lawyer does his/her best to make it out as if she were a slut who deserved all she got.
    Men get raped too. I hope you never ever have to go through something like this yourself, but imagine the trauma, and then doubling, tripling, quadrupling it when you are accused of being a liar, and when you are told that you are somehow responsible for what happened.
    So, I doubt that any of the cases you refer to of regret actually ever go before a judge. If a woman is drunk then she does not have the legal capacity to say yes, so men – whether drunk or sober – would do better to step away, and wait for an opportunity to “have a good time” with someone who is conscious and can give explicit consent to their advances.

  19. “Researchers agree that women suffer the lion’s share of injuries from domestic violence… These data suggest that men are engaged in more relationship violence.” We all know that, statistically and throughout history, men are more violent than women. Acknowledging that fact is not an expression of policy, ideology, double standards, or misandry, but a statement about reality and a starting point for constructive discussion about a serious problem. We can not ‘level the playing field’ simply by splitting the responsibility, or blame, 50/50. Men rape girls, boys, men, and women. Women don’t. (OK, there are incidences but they are too rare to tip the scales.) There are 9 or 10 times more males in prison populations than females. One authority on psychopathy has estimated that 1 in 10 men are sociopathic, and only 1 in 100 women. The fact that a girl/woman CAN and may seem to have a motive to lie about having been raped or assaulted means only that it is possible—not plausible—in any given case.

  20. I think with the sexual assault you can only claim that if you have actually said no. You would never know if a girl is lying unless there are marks of struggle or violence. Usually you need some kind of evidence to convict someone so in a way I disagree with your comments although I do agree most men would be drunk the same as the women. If a women didn’t say no or struggle she shouldn’t be claiming rape. I mean most of us have woken up next to someone less desirable after a big night even if we don’t remember what happened we know it’s not rape. I like to think most women have some common sense….but I could be wrong.

  21. Any time ANYONE tries to take a side or even APPEARS to take a side on this, people get all up in arms. I’m an advocate for RAIN, and found this on their FB page. An interesting thought. Not EXACTLY along the same lines, but your post made me think about this. —>

    It is sad either way you look at it. Sexual assalt, rape, sexual abuse, anything people may call it is so damaging and wrong. To BOTH parties involved. No matter why, how, where, when, it’s damaging. I don’t care how or why it happened to a person, I want to help and show others that you do not have to remain a vicim. You CAN use anything that has happened to you and turn it into something good. Something beautiful.
    Again, thanks for the post – like the blog!

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