Editor's Note: Jaclyn Friedman is the executive director of Women, Action & the Media and a charter member of CounterQuo, a national coalition challenging the way we respond to sexual violence. Her anthology, "Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape," was named one of Publishers' Weekly's Top 100 Books of 2009.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/29/friedman.art.jpg caption="Author Jaclyn Friedman says we should stop worrying about "bad girls" and focus on the men who put them in danger."]
By Jaclyn Friedman, Special to CNN
Last Friday, Carol Costello interviewed me for a story about what she called a "dangerous," "dirty girl" trend, (embodied by pop-star-come-lately Ke$ha) saying it involved girls being "rude, crude, and sometimes very, very drunk," and asking if mothers should worry.
While Carol and I agree about the importance of women's safety, watching the final edit of the piece made me realize how much we disagree about how to get there. Kindly, she's invited me to share my perspectives with you.
Now, I'm no Ke$ha fan. (I just cringed as I typed that ridiculous "$" in her name.) Her lyrics and videos embrace shock value for no reason beyond shock. But pop stars being blandly offensive are nothing new – Elvis was no different. Except for one tiny detail: Elvis was male.
And that's what's really at issue here. Bad boys make us shriek and faint. Bad girls make us worry. Don't they know that acting like that is dangerous?
Of course they do. That's why they're doing it. Know what else? All the girls dancing to their music know it's dangerous, too. That's why they like it.
Young adulthood has long been a time for rebelling against social norms, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Want to keep girls safe while they figure out where their limits are? Don't ask them to be good girls in order to stay safe, when they can see that no one asks boys to do the same thing. That's not just unfair – it doesn't work.
Every girl in America knows from a heartbreakingly young age the list of things not to do if you don't want to "get yourself raped:" Don't go out by yourself. Don't wear that. Don't flirt with him. Don't drink. Don't get drunk. Watch your drink. But those warnings don't keep girls safe.
A 2007 study funded by the Department of Justice found that rates of rape didn't decline at all in between 1992 and 2006, and in fact, may have increased. What they do is make it easy for others to blame us when someone attacks us, letting the rapist off the hook.
Every woman is going to sometimes choose short-term fun – even "bad" fun – over the abstract risk that someone might do something violent to us. We're all human. We'll inevitably take risks to have fun sometimes. What's not inevitable is that men will do violence to us while we're at it. If you want to keep girls safe, holding men responsible for their behavior is the place to start.
For example, did you know that, according to one study, if alcohol is involved in a sexual assault, the assailant is slightly more likely than the victim to have been drinking? And yet where are the messages telling boys not to get so drunk they can't tell if their partner is consenting?
Or how about those lyrics to TiK ToK that everyone's so worried about? If you actually read them, you'll find that the worst thing Ke$ha says about alcohol is that she's "tryna get a little bit tipsy." In fact, she seems to understand exactly what she should be worried about:
I'm talkin' bout – everybody getting crunk, crunk
Boys tryna touch my junk, junk
Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk
On the other hand, where was the concerned outrage when Oscar-winner (and ostensibly much "better" role model) Jamie Foxx came out with this ode to victim-blame a few summers ago?
Cause shawty know what she want
But she don't wanna seem like she easy
I ain't saying what you wont do
But you know we probably gonna do
Girl what you drinking ?
Gonna let sink in
Here for the weekend
See what we can be if we press fast forward
Just one more round and you're down I know it
Fill another cup up
Feeling on yo butt what ?
You don't even care now
I was unaware how fine you were before my buzz set in, before my buzz set in....
Rapists know exactly who's going to be blamed if their victim has been drinking. That's why they tell researchers that they deliberately introduce alcohol into the situation when they're planning an assault, to increase their plausible deniability. When we focus on women's drinking and not men's behavior toward drunk women, we play right into their hands.
Binge drinking is a real problem, but why is it a women's problem? The study referenced in Carol's story found that men binge drink at a higher rate than women.
As for "raunchy behavior," as long as everyone practices safe sex, it's not particularly dangerous. A recent study out of the University of Wisconsin found that young adults – even young women – who engage in casual sex are just as mentally healthy as those who only have sex in a committed relationship.
So, let's stop wringing our hands about "bad girls" and put the focus where it belongs: on the men who put them in danger.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jacylyn Friedman.