Fact: Every 21 hours there is another rape on an American college campus. Fact: College women are most vulnerable to rape during the first few weeks of the freshman and sophomore years. Fact: 90 percent of all campus rapes occur under the influence of alcohol. Fact: These facts sound just as familiar as a Friday night spent with your head in the toilet from drinking one too many shots of tequila. Observation: we know we should be scared of alcohol, but we’re not. Why?
Think about it. When was the last time you watched your parents sit around the fireplace and enjoy a line of cocaine? How often did your mother add a dash of meth to her pasta sauce, or cleanse your wounds with pills of ecstasy? Now replace all of those scary drugs with alcohol — sounds like a pretty typical Tuesday night at home, doesn’t it?
Alcohol has been present in our lives from the get-go. We’ve slowly developed our trust with the substance; we watched it sit on the countertop in those big, pretty red bottles — from our first soccer match to our senior prom.
So when we’re offered that first sip of “Natty Light” at a college party, the revolting taste is, understandably, accompanied by an instinctive feeling of safety. Alcohol’s familiarity makes a shot of vodka look just about as terrifying as a shot of Arrowhead water.
But, I’ll let you in on a little secret. That vodka you’re drinking is about as close to what your parents are drinking as grape-flavored candy is to actual grapes. College kids can hardly pay for a much needed bar of soap, let alone a bottle of Pinot noir. So instead we buy whiskey – with an alcoholic content around 60 percent (six times more alcoholic than the average wine bottle). I mean hey, more alcohol for less money — good deal, right? Kind of — but here’s the problem: Whiskey, and most hard liquor, tastes more like lighter fluid then alcohol. And sorry, but nobody likes “sipping” lighter fluid.
But it seems like a good idea to pour gallons of hard liquor down our throats at once. Why prolong the wait to feel those fun effects anyways? If I feel happy after two shots, aren’t I going to feel like a unicorn in Candy Land after 10? It seems like a logical conclusion to jump to. More always seems better. But the faster we drink, the less likely we are to stop when the fun does. Soon enough, alcohol’s effects start to feel less like a euphoric high and more like a repulsive stomach flu. And I don’t know about you, but I’m hardly ever able to find Candy Land in a toilet filled with my own vomit.
So why is college drinking so dangerous? It is dangerous because our brains are more sensitive to alcohol. It is dangerous because we don’t know how to drink or what we’re drinking, so we mindlessly drink past the point of making responsible, logical decisions. And it is dangerous because 90 percent of college student sexual assaults involve alcohol, and 100 percent of those instances could have been safer if we just understood that alcohol isn’t.
There’s a reason your body forces the alcohol out of you. There’s a reason your mind blacks out and your body passes out. We’re not meant to drink in excess like this, and our bodies are desperately trying to tell us to stop. You might not have listened to your body before, but you can listen to me now: Don’t high five about “forgetting the night.” Last time I checked, drunk driving, suicide and rape were not and will never be “cool.”
Alcohol might make your mom laugh a little harder at your dad’s jokes, but when used in excess, it can also turn ignorant people into complete monsters. I don’t hate alcohol, and I definitely don’t want to discourage the occasional good time. I just think that before you go to another frat party on Friday night, maybe think about drinking a substance you can actually stand to swallow.
Like her bluntness? Contact MADDY PETTIT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.