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This week, a study in the British Journal of Criminology announced that “date rape drugs” are “largely an urban myth,” as “there is a stark contrast between heightened perceptions of risk associated with drug-facilitated sexual assault and a lack of evidence that this is a wide-spread threat.” Several sites for women met the news with skepticism. Feministing suggested that the study may have engaged in victim-blaming. The Frisky warned that the study “needs to be viewed with caution. I don’t think we want women to start leaving their drinks unattended, just because the chances of getting roofied are slimmer than they may have thought.” TresSugar hailed the report as “depressing.”

I, for one, am celebrating. First: the research suggests that women aren’t regularly being drugged on their night out—-wonderful news! But it also means that we may finally retire all the media scare-tactics, the girls-night-out drink protection strategies, and mercifully, every single absurd product that has arisen out of society’s inflated concern of drink spiking—-and has dangerously distracted the rape conversation from addressing the real experiences of victims.

Confession: I have always been a roofie skeptic. This is not to say that I’m an all-out Date Rape Drug Denier: I do think that these drugs exist, and I do believe that some women have been drugged by men who intend to rape them. I just think that this happens about as often as the classic stranger-rapist-in-the-bushes scenario—-in terms of real rape statistics, hardly ever. A 2006 study of 120 date rape cases in the United Kingdom revealed that 119 of the cases involved alcohol, but only two involved the date rape drug GHB. Of course, those two cases are not insignificant, and the experiences of women who have been drugged should not be discounted. That being said, these numbers just don’t support the widespread fear that girls’ nights out are being sabotaged by amateur druggists.

But despite my reservations about the actual risk of “date rape drugs,” I have completely assimilated to the behavior modifications required by the “date rape drug” myth. When I step away from my beer, I’ll tell a friend to watch over my glass. When I’m sitting at the bar, I’ll nurse my drink close to my body. I will go so far as to take my beverage along to the bathroom while I’m having a piss. And I’m not alone. According to a study in UK’s More magazine, “77 per cent of women claimed to keep hold of their drink even when they go to the toilet.”

I blame the date-rape-drug-industrial-complex for forcing me to squat over a dingy bar toilet with a pint in one hand and a wad of toilet paper in the other. According to the study, the constant reminder that date rape drugs are a real danger to women has significantly altered our behavior patterns, even though law enforcement sources have found that the drugs pose a “very limited threat.” As the researchers note, “routinized DFSA is improbable as a widespread crime; it involves a stranger extracting an individual from her social group unnoticed, administering a substance undetected, precisely controlling drug effect, and reliably erasing memory of the experience.”

Importantly, this “date rape drug” narrative does not describe a date rape; it describes another form of stranger rape. This time, the rapist isn’t jumping out of the bushes—-he’s jumping out from below the bar-stool to sprinkle odorless powder in your drink before dragging you to an undisclosed location. As the study notes, “the media tend to represent drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) as a significant and widespread problem, to the extent that newspapers have appropriated the phrase ‘date rape’ to refer to this crime.” This is the most dangerous aspect of the frenzy over “date rape drugs”—-the way the myth has managed to completely co-opt the conversation about acquaintance rape. Instead of concerning ourselves with the disconcerting fact that most rapists are known to the victim, the public has been told to turn its attentions to yet another outlandish crime scenario that does not pose a significant threat to women.

How has the “date rape drug” myth gained so much traction in the public consciousness? The study floats a theory: The worry over “date rape drugs” helps “give shape to otherwise nebulous threats,” in turn”allowing us to displace worry about other, less manageable threats.” We drum up concern over the risk of “date rape drugs”—-then devise strategies for managing that risk—-because it’s easier than actually doing the business of preventing rape. It’s easier to keep your thumb over your bottle than it is to stop your boyfriend from raping you. It’s easier to take your drink to the bathroom than to understand why a person you trust would assault you. It’s easier to tell grown women what to do than to teach our children not to grow up to be rapists. And it is a whole lot easier to avoid a crime that rarely happens than to prevent the type of sexual assaults that occur every single day.

This is why the “date rape drug” myth arose hand-in-hand with public awareness of acquaintance rape. While society has begun to recognize rapes against wives, girlfriends, friends, and co-workers as serious crimes, it has failed to embrace the idea that husbands, boyfriends, trusted friends, the guys in your office, and other seemingly normal men can be rapists. We’re still much more comfortable thinking of rapists as men who lurk in the shadows, guys who only emerge in polite society in order to secure another rape victim. The news that most rapists aren’t easily-identifiable as villains—-men hunch-backed from crouching in the bushes, their hands caked with sedatives—-has failed to inspire solutions aimed at preventing men from raping.

The public is similarly slow to accept that most victims don’t fit the storybook stereotype of a buttoned-up virgin sipping on hot cocoa. Thankfully, the requirement that victims be the model of chastity has eroded a bit in recent years. Now, society is ready to accept that a rape victim is still a rape victim if she goes out to a bar with her girlfriends and has a few drinks—-as long as her intoxication is capped off with a surprise roofie. The more likely scenario—-that a rape victim goes out to a bar with her girlfriends, willingly ingests alcohol, and then is raped—-is more difficult for the public to swallow.

As the idea of “acquaintance rape” and the myth of the “date rape drug” rose, so did another trend society wasn’t ready for—-women who drink like men. Female drinking has increased rapidly in recent years (though we’re still far outstripped by the boys)—-in 2006, 15 percent of women engaged in binge-drinking, compared to 30 percent of males. As the study notes, society has failed to process its discomfort with girls who drink: “Despite greater gender equality when it comes to public drinking, there is no clear language through which the female experience can be discussed, let alone celebrated in the manner that remains central to masculinity. . . . female drinking is widely seen as challenging gender norms, either as a deviant subversion of ideals of femininity or as part of a broader project of female emancipation.”

The idea that women who drink are an affront to the “ideals of femininity” has contributed to the widespread perception that drunk women are less-than-perfect rape victims. The perception that female drinking is a conscious sexual subversion on the part of women is problematic on a number of levels. First, it tells women who drink that they’re asking for it; that if they are raped, they are somehow responsible for the crime committed against them; that it is their deviant decisions that caused them to be raped. Second, it tells rapists that women who drink are not valued by society; that they are considered “lesser” women; that everyone knows drunk girls are down for sex, and no one will believe they can be raped. In other words, it points out exactly who rapists ought to target in order to avoid the consequences of their crimes. This is how rapists have historically gotten away with raping their wives, and raping prostitutes, and raping fat women, and raping promiscuous women—-because society has told them over and over again that these women cannot be raped.

I hope that our culture’s outlandish fears over “date rape drugs” go away for a very, very long time. And I hope we replace the fears over drink spiking with educational solutions aimed at teaching men and women how to recognize consent, respect each other’s bodies, and really, truly prevent rape. Consider the testimony of one inventor of “date rape drug” detectors: “I knew somebody who was date raped, and I couldn’t believe nobody had a product to stop it,” he told the press. The problem of date rape can’t be solved with roofie-sensitive drink coasters. It can only be remedied by changing attitudes.