College Party Culture and Sexual Assault

This is really a paper about alcohol, and indeed “the a word” dominates the very first paragraph of the text, here is the abstract:

Jason M. Lindo, Peter Siminski and Isaac D. Swensen

This paper considers the degree to which events that intensify partying increase sexual assault. Estimates are based on panel data from campus and local law enforcement agencies and an identification strategy that exploits plausibly random variation in the timing of Division 1 football games. The estimates indicate that these events increase daily reports of rape with 17–24-year-old victims by 28 percent. The effects are driven largely by 17–24-year-old offenders and by offenders unknown to the victim, but we also find significant effects on incidents involving offenders of other ages and on incidents involving offenders known to the victim.

That is from American Economic Journal: Applied Economics; from that same issue we also learn that “…increases in [Russian] alcohol prices would yield significant reductions in mortality.”


Yep. This is why countries like Japan and Korea, where it's a regular sight to see people who get so dead stinking drunk that they take naps on the sidewalk, have insanely high sexual assault rates. Or why virtually zero of the rapists in the famously binge-drinking Northern European democracies come from the minority group with religious prohibition on alcohol. Or why sexual violence is famously unknown in place like Jamaica, El Salvador and Papau New Guinea - all of which have less than half the per capita alcohol consumption of the US.

Oh wait, none of that's true at all... One of the hallmarks of civilization is the ability for a 20-year old woman to get trashed, have a Friday night on the town, and not have to think twice about her own safety. For example in Hong Kong she wouldn't have to think twice. In Caracas, you'd be out of your mind. All I have to know is this one single metric, and I can give you a pretty good guess about what that country's Human Development Index is.

I have never seen a girl openly drunk in Hong Kong. Nor in Japan either. Because those two places do have a rape problem of some size. What they do not have is a culture where women can complain about it. So the men in China, South Korea and Japan drink a lot. All the time. It is more or less compulsory if you work with others. But the women do not or at least they try to avoid it.

I think one of the hallmarks of a civilized country might be the ability of young women to get trashed, but it is pathetic that they do.

And I suppose I need to do the job no one else will do - College Football? Did they control for race?

> I have never seen a girl openly drunk in Hong Kong.

You've either never been to Hong Kong or you don't get invited many places. At night, much of the area around Central is effectively indistinguishable from the French Quarter during Mardi Gras.

There are drunk people of both genders literally passed out on the streets in the middle of Hong Kong on weekend nights.

Walking around late night, for the exercise. Dark and few people around, therefore I am carrying a concealed weapon. It is kind of awkward and does not fit, so I take it out with the intention of reconcealing it more comfortably. Glance around, to check if there is anyone who sees me concealing a weapon. There is a fifteen year old girl and boy. I am way bigger than both of them, and in considerably better shape. The girl is staring at me in a hostile manner, so I give her a a smile and a nod and turn my attention back to stashing my weapon, She starts yelling abuse. If she was a teenage male, he would be looking for a fight - but she is claiming sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment. She also asserts I am dangerous and crazy. She does not want to fight me, she wants the teenage male to white knight by fighting me, but he is not having any. He puts some space between himself and the girl and ignores both of us.

So, I suggest you should not take complaints of rape all that seriously. Similarly, Virginia University Campus. Remember "a rape on campus". That year there were thirty six rape complaints, which resulted in precisely zero disciplinary actions. If any of them had a better foundation than "a rape on campus", Rolling stone would have reported one of these failures to discipline, rather than, or as well as, the equally bogus case it did report.

Virginia University shows that actual rapes are an absolutely tiny and completely insignificant fraction of all rape complaints. Similarly, the recent collapse of two Scotland yard rape cases shows that actual rapes are a small fraction of all rape convictions - the police cut corners to obtain rape convictions in cases where the conviction is outrageously unjustified.

Also, reflect on events leading up to the Duke University rape case: A drunken violent whore was detained for drunken violence, got off by complaining about rape and/or sexual assault - which are magic words for getting out of trouble. Police cannot arrest drunken violent women who complain about patriarchal oppression by evil demonic males, because that might deter them from from complaining about evil demonic males. But this incentivizes women to make up stories about male oppression in order to get out of trouble.

Indeed, riding the 3am night bus on a Friday in Europe is an eye opening experience. Near 100% of youngs are beyond wasted. They can't even tell a single coherent sentence or keep the eyes straight. Even though, no violence at all .

Last sample: a few weeks ago after the company Christmas dinner.

Are these intoxicated European youth on their way to campus or home?

Thank God this turned out to be satire, Doug, because you sounded exactly like a Western lib for the entire first paragraph. You could probably get it published verbatim in the NYT.

As for Tyler -- give him a choice between sending his 22-year-old daughter to an Ohio State football game or say, Cologne on New Years Eve.

I bet he'd make the right choice, but he'd invent a fake reason for it.

It sounds like Tyler's ready to ship her off to BYU.

Congratulations. You win!

Maybe not BYU specifically, since the whole golden plates thing is hard for some people to swallow... but a secular version thereof? Why not?

"you sounded exactly like a Western lib for the entire first paragraph. You could probably get it published verbatim in the NYT"

What are you smoking?

The comparisons to other high-drinking first-world countries are interesting, and I'm curious what differs in those areas -- drinking culture, sexual culture, specific types of high-risk situations, reporting of assaults, women being more reluctant to categorize drunk sex as rape?

I went to a good liberal-arts college (within the past 10 years, but prior to the current spotlight) where huge chunks of the campus would drink until somewhere from visibly drunk to blacked out, then everyone would cram into one of a handful of fraternity houses and whatever happened happened, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I've assumed not just that almost all of the current "sexual assault on college campus" situation is tied up in alcohol but also that there's no way to maintain both the US's specific college drinking culture and the current sexual mores.

Lol. I went there too! Before you, but it was the same. *shudder*

I don't see a whole lot of drunk sex categorized as rape. Maybe it happens on colleges a lot. I would not know. Been a long time since I have been on campus.

What I see is completely fake rape allegations made up out of the whole cloth, similar to "A rape on campus", to solicit white knight behavior, or to explain mysterious absences, or as a shit test against a lover to see how he handles pressure and cops.

Jackey Coakley would not stop when friendzoned. She then invented a gang of high status males raping her, to give herself preselection. Which is of course stupid. Preselection works for men when they try to impress girls, because girls always prefer to be part of a large harem of a high status male than in a monogamous relationship. Fails totally for girls when they want to impress men, because men have absolutely no desire to share their women with another man, especially another man higher in status than themselves.

(Monogamy was a plot between males to improve asabiyyah by fairer sharing of pussy, and it has to be continually imposed on women with a big stick)

I think the point is being missed here.

Whatever the background rate of sexual assault in the US, it peaks during major college football weekends. That need not be entirely a function of drinking, so the points about other countries don't seem relevant.

The fact that sexual assault reports would increase on days when events are held consisting of 100,000 people in a festive environment does not really suggest much of anything at all. Game days feature lots more human interaction than regular days, and those interactions are in a very casual setting. It would follow that the downsides of human interactions would increase as opposed to regular days. That sex assaults go up on those days, is not particularly surprising.

Additionally, the fact those events are held during a time of the year- and in parts of the country- where people are effectively shut in for a couple of months probably explains what little else there is to consider in terms of the noted deltas.

In short, if you replace 100,000 drunken football tailgaters with 100,000 tea-totaling, Milton-reciting cubers, you'll still get an increase in sexual assault. The only difference in the increase will be based on the fundamentals of the the two groups.

There's nothing casual about college football.

Bill Kilgore,

That makes sense.

We have no reason to suppose that the rate of sexual assault peaks during major college football events.

We know that the rate of complaints of sexual assault peaks during major college football events, but we have overwhelming evidence that there is no relationship between sexual assault and complaints of sexual assault.

The obvious, and I think by far the most likely, explanation is that men neglect woman to watch football, and then woman complain about sexual assault in order to get some drama and attention.

“…increases in [Russian] alcohol prices would yield significant reductions in mortality.”

That would be true if people's behavior was simple to model. I have my doubts. Adam Smith pointed out that when alcohol is cheap, people drink less. Or more exactly he noted that when French regiments were moved from the north to the south where alcohol was more available, soldiers got drunk for a while and then gave up.

Presumably Russian men are signalling their manliness by drinking. If alcohol was cheaper they might not do so any more.

If alcohol was cheaper they might not do so any more.

When I lived in Russia (around 2000) alcohol was often literally the cheapest thing you could buy to drink - a half lt. bottle of (not bad) beer cost less than a coke, or bottled water, or juice. A bottle of vodka could be had for barely more than $1.00, while a 2lt bottle of coke cost more, and 2lt of bottled water (Russians drink a lot of bottled water) often cost just as much. Yet, Russian men drank like fishes (and women only a little less.) The price of drinking has gone up, and the drinking rate down a bit. So, I don't think the argument works here.

The paper wasn't theory, it was based on data. There's been a long term decline in Russian drinking in the last two decades, but it accelerates every time they raise prices.

Only a year ago there were ca. 50 dead in one Russian city for drinking counterfeit alcohol. How making alcohol more expensive will solve this problem?

I think it's mistaken to say that the correlation here is between alcohol use and sexual assault (or other criminal / anti-social behaviour) per se. Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain have very high alcohol use rates that don't correspond with crime rates in any way comparable to what occurs in more northerly countries. Rather, the problem is one of the established social norms around drinking alcohol in certain societies: some societies set different standards of acceptable behaviour for those who are under the influence of alcohol and those who are not. E.g. it may be more acceptable to initiate conversation with a stranger when under the influence of alcohol (probably a good thing) or to insult others (possibly a good safety valve to let people blow off steam, so long as it doesn't lead to a fight) or use violence against others (pretty much universally a bad thing). I suspect that if one were to replace the alcohol-based punch at a frat party with alcohol-free punch without anyone noticing the participants would behave as if they had been drinking anyway, i.e. the increase in sexual assault at frat parties is a function of the fact that the participants believe that the social standards defining acceptable behaviour are more lenient at a social occasion when people have been drinking that they would normally be, and that they will be able to avoid censure by saying "I'm sorry, I was drunk". The anthropologist Kate Fox writes well in this area: I'm not suggesting that alcohol use and the social institutions surrounding its use can be easily separated, especially given that lowered social expectations of acceptable behaviour is one of the main attractions that draws people to drink alcohol in the first place, but I think it's a mistake to treat ethanol as having magical properties to turn good people into bad people when the real problem is a social one.

Great post

Sure, there's social components, but they also go in both directions: Women also have different expectations of what will happen if they say they've been raped. You might be also surprised about how the cultural situation is changing: American TV and movies carry with them American drinking norms.

Part of Spanish news today is about a relatively high profile case about a gang rape in last year's San Fermin festivities, and how the defense's argument is that 'she didn't fight enough', You can learn in the coverage all about what men and women in Spain find tolerable, and how they define rape.

Sure, the whole horrible "She was drunk at a party, what did she expect would happen" argument is also a part of the way people treat alcohol as having magical powers that suspend the normal rules of human social interaction. And my point wasn't that there's a greater or lesser amount of sexual assault in Spain or Italy than there is in anglophone countries, just that "I'm sorry, I was drunk, it wasn't my fault" is less likely to get you off the hook for what would count as unacceptable behaviour in Latin societies than it is in anglophone ones.

Good point. How are American college kids supposed to develop healthy norms around alcohol when they're sheltered from it until a random day in the sophmore or junior year?

Does any of what you say negate their findings? Let's say you're right, there's an interaction between social norms and alcohol use. It still means that that interaction leads to higher sexual assault in the US among young adults. Your point might be more about how to address it, but even then, I think trying to limit access to alcohol (perhaps through higher price) is an easier short term fix then changing social norms. Good luck on that one.

No, it doesn't. And yes, you're probably right. Though I would also be pretty skeptical about government's ability to limit access to alcohol, or any other drug for that matter. Alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century seemed to lead to an increase in alcohol consumption and the drug prohibition starting in the mid 20th century doesn't seem to have worked much better. The main effect of taxing alcohol heavily would probably be to increase sales of illegal alcohol and to funnel money into organised crime. I don't think there's any quick fix to this problem, but I think that a strategy aimed at addressing the cause of the disease (beliefs about the acceptability of sexual assault) is more likely to work long term than one aimed at addressing its symptoms (such as one attempting to limit people's access to booze).

> the increase in sexual assault at frat parties

There is no sexual assault at frat parties. Maybe there was in the fifties, but today males are too terrorized, too castrated, and their testosterone is too low.

If there was one sexual assault in one frat party in the last decade, the left would have a better poster boy

Again look at what happened at Virginia campus. Jackie Coakley was friendzoned, but would not stop. So she made up a story about bad fratboys, and every male at Virginia university was humiliated, degraded, and terrorized to punish them. But nothing bad happens to Jackie Coakley, though in a civilized society she would be sold naked on the auction block to someone who promised to take adequate care of her and to restrain her from immorality.

If bad fratboys actually existed, would the left would have better posterboys for the role of evil white male.

Children are taught the Biblical story of Noah and the Ark, but few are taught what happened to Noah after the flood: "Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked." Genesis 9:21. Why did Noah get falling down drunk? Likely for the same reason many people do today: stress.

The widespread use of alcohol as a tool to claim assault after the fact makes me skeptical of the data.

100% of the cases of sexual assault that I have dealt with in the military have had alcohol involvement. That's not 99.9%, it's 100%.

Far more people drink than commit a crime, but one has to be willfully ignorant to claim there isn't a correlation.

It's also hard to disambiguate the actual criminal behavior and the regret. A woman can say that she was drunk; therefore rape. She can also say he was drunk; therefore rape. Both scenarios are accepted as fact. The situation has resulted in the attitude inside the military that if a woman has a single drink the man not just can be, but should be, charged with rape. If a man was drunk, then his inner rapist was released.

I'm finding the same general attitude on college campuses. Alcohol consumption by a woman gives her the right to claim impairment, therefore he took advantage. If he was drunk, he was a drunk rapist. It is predominantly the attitude that if a woman drinks she cannot be held responsible but men are.

This is as good as it gets.

Women have options. Men have obligations.

Both men and women have options and obligations.

Silly Msgkings,

You don’t realize women don’t have to pay taxes in the US? They float along on their options.

They don’t have to pay rent or utilities either. They use their options. Also no work obligations or responsibilities. Just options and stuff.

More seriously I too had to deal with SA cases in the military, and they all did involve alcohol. However we did have some harassment cases which did not.

Take from that what you will.

Why is this an econ paper, and not a sociological study? Is this yet another example of econ's imperial tendencies in the social sciences to comment on every topic?

There ought to be a tariff paid by economists every time they write a sociology paper. It's obvious the sociologists can't compete.

Yeah, because once you get the training to answer interesting questions well with data, you should be banned from even considering answering questions that fall outside of the arbitrary categories that were created long before we came around.

More seriously, correlated with these substantive fields (e.g., econ, poli sci, sociology, etc.) are also approaches to studying questions. Unfortunately, those approaches can hinder how the substantive questions are answered and the quality of those answers. In fact, it might be the case that the substantive fields are more defined by the approaches they take to understanding human behavior than perhaps the questions they ask about that behavior. I'm not an economist, but I'll admit that their training is more rigorous and that econ PhD's are probably much better at quantitative analysis and reasoning than other social science PhD's. I'm fine if they're "imperial." They have some really bright people who have the tools to provide strong answers to interesting questions. Let them do it.

@aMichael: I agree with everything you've written above. I don't mind when economists answer questions outside their field. But I do have two grievances. First, in many cases, imperial economists will conduct sophisticated analyses without drawing upon the existing literature and theories in the outside field that they are broaching. Their empirical work may be superior on one level, but that superiority can be easily undermined by an ignorance of existing relevant work. Second, in many cases, the imperial economists conduct studies outside their field and fail to recognize that their findings simply replicate what sociologists or political scientists have already found.

I'm not claiming that the above paper is guilty of these things. But I'm still curious, given its topic, why the paper is in an econ journal, and not a sociology journal. Perhaps my view of economics is too narrow.

These are good points. Plus, there's also a tendency of people with fancy methods to come into a literature without much context and ultimately run an analysis that can't be used because they're not accounting for things that they should and would had they known the context and literature better.

I'm also one who's skeptical of economists' highly complex quantitative analyses that hinge on a lot of untested and likely untestable assumptions in their models. How many econ papers reassure the readers that everything is fine because they run an instrumental variables regression, but do nothing to actually show that the instrument they chose is valid.

Sure. Valid points.

But we’re literally comparing DSGE and VAR models to ranting about bell hooks and intersectionality.

You don’t get to have it both ways. Really. You don’t.

Either you’re the scientific agnostic crowd whose arc “bends toward reality” ( to butcher MLK with a paraphrase), or reality is a social construct and patriarchical oppression means whatever bullshit comes out of women’s studies departments.

You don’t get to be the disinterested seekers of truth and spew bullshit.

What I see is a tribal pivot to the university as cathedral, and a meta argument from authority mindset with no critical thinking.

Say what you want about Conservatives like Art Deco, their logic is internally consistent. Their worldview reaches conclusions that I do not agree with, but it’s logically consistent.

Liberals can be should embrace the truth as a shield and weapon. But every time I want to vote they refuse.

Shocking news from news from the Land of Intellectuals.

So, the "Free Love" (marijuana, LSD, etc., too) movement of the 1960's was mass rape?

I kind of get your response, but at the same time, I wonder. Would you rather they not address this topic and provide these answers, that seem obvious to you but are probably dismissed by others without strong evidence? What's your response when you come across a well researched paper that comes to conclusions you didn't expect? Let me guess: Shocking news from the Land of Intellectuals -- findings that confirm their prior position...

Someone should look at colleges in states where marijuana has been legalized and compare to ones where it hasn't. I would expect there to be something of a substitution effect that should reduce the rate of assault.

It's important not to conflate "reported sexual assault" with "actual sexual assault" especially in the current university climate where any woman who has sex while under the influence is encouraged to consider it sexual assault.

Yes, that changing definition does make comparisons to the past difficult. And much harder to use alcohol (or other drugs) as a way to hide sexual assault today compared to how it was often used in the past.


But, but women do not lie bout sexual assault I think Hilliary said that, so it must be true. Of course, only Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom know for sure though as they are firmly 'invested' in protecting womyn.
Signed, an ex-Duke Lacrosse player who transferred to UVa (where I met Jackie).

It's possible that watching a violent, testosterone fueled sport, such as football, increases the likelihood that a male (especially a 17-24 year old) would commit rape. It's also not clear whether the study controlled for wins and losses, which might also be a factor:

Maybe it's easier to take advantage of someone when there's a 50,000 - 100,000 anonymous mob of people with loosened social mores to blend into after you've committed the wrong.

But I remain skeptical of reported rates of sexual assault on campus, because they're capturing lots of consensual but regretted after the fact sex, which by any sane definition, is not sexual assault.

> I remain skeptical of reported rates of sexual assault on campus, because they’re capturing lots of consensual but regretted after the fact sex

I don't think this is the case. Jackie Coakley's "rape on campus" and Crystal Mangum's lacrosse team rape, is more congruent with my experience and observation, which is that women just totally make this stuff up out of thin air about men they have not necessarily ever met, because they like attention, drama, and because they can claim pre-selection. Jackie Coakley and Crystal Mangum are totally congruent with my private and personal experience and observation of women's complaints of sexual abuse, sexual violence, rape, domestic abuse, etc.. I have never encountered a case of hangover fueled morning after regret, but have encountered a few Jackie Coakleys and Crystal Mangums

Hopefully that's a higher quality study than the "superbowl-domestic violence" study

Maybe if they'd increased the price of Mein Kampf there wouldn't've been any nazis.


It seems odd that the concern is college drinking and sex, rather than just young people drinking and sex. Not everyone over the age of 18 attends college but many of these non-students drink and party with other uneducated libertines. Are there no rape incidents among them? Many of the attendees at college football games aren't students, either. But they're drinking and pawing one another anyway. Maybe it's just being close to a few students that can afford to go to the games that lights a fire under their libido.

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