How does a culture of alcohol use that pervades almost every dimension of campus life link to campus rape culture? It’s complicated.

1. A culture of alcohol use

Alcohol is an integral part of campus life, with the success of social events often relying on the presence of alcohol.

“This girl was using a tequila bottle as a water bottle and the professor called her out, like, ‘oh is that real tequila?’ And she was, like, ‘no I just use it as a water bottle.’ He was like, ‘no it’s fine if it is tequila. Just, you’re a very good drunk’.”

“I don’t think anyone really is tempted to go to a social if there isn’t alcohol advertised with it. Like I know at my rez, this one time we hosted a rez social speaking on gender-based violence and we offered hot chocolate and popcorn, I think. And not many people showed up. But then another women’s rez hosted another one and they offered pizza and wine and a lot of people showed up.”

“… (P)eople say, you know, you don’t go there to watch the game you go there to drink.”

“Basically, we love alcohol on campus! We love alcohol… Whether I am on campus or off campus, I’m still consuming alcohol and alcohol is really big part of the campus culture.”

“This definitely speaks into the drinking culture in Stellenbosch and it just irks me.”

“I think that social norm illustrates the amount of alcohol abuse that happens on campus…. ‘Cause lots of the time students (are) trying to get unconscious or they purposefully allow or try to get women to drink more than they should.”

2. Alcohol and safety

Women feel they have a right to drink and still be safe, but can they be safe if they drink? What is the link between campus rape culture and this culture of alcohol use?

“So, what happened was she was getting a drink and then she left her drink unattended. The drink was spiked and she… doesn’t remember anything.”

“Eventually, she was calling out her friend’s name in the bathroom and she found her roommate like lying there, throwing up on the (club’s) bathroom floor. And she instantly knew her friend had been spiked and she said she just felt like a wave of panic and adrenaline kicking in, and she said she just felt the need to protect her friend.”

“There’s this element of sisterhood, and they are all standing next to each other. And then… actually one of those girls getting really drunk, not really knowing what’s going to happen to her after she leaves the restaurant. And so I feel… (it) just illustrates, like the uncertain nature between safety and alcohol. There’s no real clear line. We don’t really know what’s going on… It reminds me of the calm before the storm, because here it looks so calm and quiet before everyone gets drunk.”

“… (S)he remembers just kind of like passing out and someone carrying her to a bedroom and she woke up at like six in the morning, with her guy friend next to her.”

3. It’s complicated

Alcohol use complicates matters relating to campus rape culture, such as consent and what it entails if one or both parties involved are intoxicated. Yet many students feel that alcohol can be fun and playful. Some believe that the University is making alcohol the scapegoat, ignoring the other factors also driving campus rape culture.

“What the university did is attach rape to drinking, which is a major major problem because men don’t need to be intoxicated to be rapists.”

“So they do allow you to drink, but not in rez because they think that rez is the problem. So they just put them in another venue so that they can go back to rez drunk.”

“When men try to coax girls into drinking more shots and having a lot more shots than they are used to in order to get drunk to the point of blacking out, men don’t really see that as a form of rape as women do. I’ve noticed a lot of guys employed this method of ‘I’m going to buy you a drink and I’m going to keep buying you drinks till you pass out.’ And I think that a lot of the time people are confused about whether that’s right: ‘Well, that’s not rape, because if he’s drunk and she’s drunk, then what does that mean?’”

“I think it’s a way of having fun. The more drunk you get, the more fun you’re said to have. And it’s just your friends and you doing stupid things, like you fall in a bush and that’s really funny because you’re both drunk. Or like I think the one time girls will pee standing up and they just find that so hilarious. But I think it’s just a form of bonding.”

“…I’m like ‘oh somebody just got drunk and lost their shoes…’”

“I know some girls do drink to get drunk and then hook up with people. There is a close connection with hookup culture and drinking culture, but it’s a difficult way to then discuss what consent means.”

Thank you for exploring the theme of Alcohol. Please click below to move onto the fourth shared theme of Masculinities.