One night when I was at university, I woke up to the sound of screaming. It was around 3am and - bleary-eyed and shivery - I crawled from the warm safety of my bed to my bedroom window. On the doorstep outside, my housemate was struggling frantically with her keys and shouting at a man who lurked behind her in the gloom.
She got into the house safely and told us, through rasping sobs, how she’d fallen asleep on a night bus home and had woken up at the end of the route. While she was trying to figure out her next move, she had been accosted by an apparently altruistic gentleman keen to walk her home. She declined. He followed.
It's not an unfamiliar story. Lots of women have similar tales of predatory men who think any woman the wrong side of a few Tequila shots is fair game. Only last month a man pinned me up against the wall of a club and pressed his unsolicited lips against my cheek as I danced past looking for my friends.
The “Drunk Girl in Public” video currently doing the rounds is the latest social experiment to highlight the very real danger some men pose to vulnerable women. The YouTube clip shows an actress stumbling up to a number of men, beer in hand, and asking them to help her get home. Of the five that talk to her, only one points her in the direction of the nearest bus stop. The others instead try to lure her back to their homes, ignoring her slurred protests. A few even take her by the arm and steer her their way.
Response to the video has been mixed. Hurrahs of recognition from women have been met with cries of indignation from men, many of whom say women should drink responsibly and not put themselves in danger. (Not a theory readily applied to men, I find.) Some have suggested the actress “might not be so lucky next time”.
The overwhelming reaction, however, is that the experiment has been staged, or - at the very least - edited in such a way as to imply all men are a threat to women. It’s a fair assumption. The woman in the film only encounters five men, as far as we can tell. It’s not exactly extensive research. It’s also filmed on Hollywood Boulevard, an area of LA not famed for its stand-up clientele. So fair enough, the experiment could be a sham. But here’s the thing, chaps. It doesn’t matter.
Fake or not, the film has shone a light on society's dated and dangerous attitude towards consent, an approach that puts the onus of rape entirely on the victim. (You got drunk? You walked home alone? You wore a low cut top and a short skirt? That'll learn you.)
The men in the experiment might not be real, but the man who followed my friend home in the early hours definitely was. So was the guy who slobbered over my face in the club, and so too are the many thousands who take advantage of women - drunk, vulnerable, or otherwise - across the UK every year. According to the Office for National Statistics, there has been a 29 per cent increase in reported rapes this year. Many more will have gone unreported because the victim felt responsible for the attack; fearing they would be blamed, ridiculed, or simply ignored by society if they were drunk when the rape happened.
We are quick to dismiss as a fake something that we don't like, vehemently denying the ugly picture the Drunk Girl video paints. But maybe the most enlightening aspect of this particular experiment isn’t the male response to a drunken woman asking for help, but is, instead, our own out-of-date reaction to the film, and to the cold, hard facts beyond the footage.Reuse content