On 9 August 2021, a TV series called Crime Crackdown (《扫黑风暴》) caught the audience’s attention in mainland China. Based on real-life events, this TV series revealed the cruelty of crime boss Sun Xiaoguo’s deeds through the character Sun Xing. Innocent girls in shows or reality often cannot imagine that unspeakable crimes begin with forced drinking, leading to all the atrocities towards women like abuse, rape and even murder.
The evils of forced drinking has a neutral name — drinking culture. On the surface, it describes social courtesies observed at dinner functions because Chinese people believe that the amount of alcohol a person drinks equals his or her sincerity to the one s/he toasts, e.g., showing affection through downing one’s drink (感情深一口闷). This cultural tradition has a long history; gradually, it gained popularity through hierarchical institutions, especially interactions between superiors and subordinates. Subordinates should, or must, show their respect and flatter their bosses through the art of drinking. Gaining the favour of their superiors through drinking and urging others to drink is the first unspoken golden rule that every working adult needs to learn at the workplace.
Any woman, no matter whether she is forced to drink or drinks willingly, is questioned, blamed and stigmatised because of her drinking. However, ridiculously, a man’s inappropriate behaviour or crimes are excused, forgiven or rationalised because of his drinking.
Drinking becomes an excuse or an indictment
But this custom has turned into a perfect excuse to cover crimes targeted at women. Any woman, no matter whether she is forced to drink or drinks willingly, is questioned, blamed and stigmatised because of her drinking. However, ridiculously, a man’s inappropriate behaviour or crimes are excused, forgiven or rationalised because of his drinking. This double standard makes me wonder who is the real perpetrator of the endless crimes: drinking or the one who drinks?
Women are always the ones most vulnerable in drinking crimes. On 16 August, although Kris Wu, a Chinese-Canadian pop singer, was officially arrested on suspicion of rape, his fans still defended him, saying that the victims agreed to have sex with him because they drank at Wu’s place. Drinking, in this sense, is taken for sexual consent, although the victim Miss Du clarified that she was forced to drink.
A month later, some people laugh at Wu’s response in July that he did not force Miss Du to drink or have sex with him, saying these are the funniest joke ever. But I still remember how Miss Du was cyber bullied for months, and we still have no idea how many girls or teenagers have been hurt by this disgusting criminal.
Drinking crimes are not only confined to the worlds of TV series or entertainers but also occur in daily life. On 14 August, executives of Alibaba Group were detained by the authorities on sexual assault charges. Again, despite this official announcement, whether the victim drank or not became the focus of public debate. There is some illogical thinking behind the discussion. It seems that as long as a woman drinks, she must be responsible for all the negative consequences afterwards, such as indecency, rape or murder. The simple reason behind this ridiculous logic is that a perfect or good woman never drinks. However, we should never forget why women drink: the victim in Sun Xiaoguo’s crime drank because she was threatened; Miss Du drank because she was taken in by Kris Wu; the victim of Alibaba’s case drank because she did not dare to refuse her bosses. These women drank for different reasons, but shared one thing in common — they were forced to drink directly or indirectly. What’s more, though women agree to drink, it does not mean that they agree to be violated, raped or murdered, not forgetting that some victims are drugged in the drinking crimes.
Drinking as a submissiveness test is also a trap for women. Drinking means that she agrees to be submissive and obedient no matter how men treat her.
Forced drinking a form of subjugation
Misogyny is the root cause of the prevailing victim-blaming in drinking crimes. In the criminals’ minds, women are treated as objects to be toyed with, hurt or destroyed. Those who empathise with the cruel criminals also regard women as subordinates who are subject to men’s manipulation or disposition. Drinking is a core test of their submissiveness. Similar to superiors testing the obedience of their subordinates through drinking, men often test women through drinking as a means to display male power. Drinking as a submissiveness test is also a trap for women. Drinking means that she agrees to be submissive and obedient no matter how men treat her. Refusing to drink may mean losing her job, an opportunity or her family. So, no matter what choice a woman makes, she is always forced into a corner.
In drinking crimes, women are not only tortured by the cruel perpetrators and useless bystanders, but also suffer from the intense scrutiny cast on them, which ultimately leads to a great amount of self-blame. Most victims suffer from depression when something bad happens after drinking because they always chide themselves and ask what if they did not drink in the first place? I sincerely hope that the victims would stop torturing themselves with self-blame because no matter what they did, if someone intended to harm them, they would have had the same unfortunate ending. What plays a key role is not the victim’s choice, but the perpetrator’s. So, please stop asking women to be more careful.
The post-trauma self-blaming that goes on calls their integrity and virtue into question as they are victims of drinking crimes as well as patriarchal doctrines.
The cruelty of drinking crimes lies in the overwhelming self-blame that women go through. The post-trauma self-blaming that goes on calls their integrity and virtue into question as they are victims of drinking crimes as well as patriarchal doctrines. Perpetrators seldom blame themselves, and some of them even lie and hurt the victims again and again. In contrast, despite being greatly hurt, women still hesitate to report the crime. Though women are backed up by legal investigations and official arrests and charges, they still feel guilty, as if they are suffering the consequences of their drinking. In fact, daily activities such as agreeing to have a meal or watch a movie with someone can be construed as giving sexual consent. At least, well-known novelist Han Han made such a remark openly during an interview. The belief that women’s social activities signify sexual consent demonstrates deep-rooted misogyny, even on a social level. That’s the real tragedy of these drinking crimes.
Related: Crime boss's death sentence and lessons for China’s economic development | Kris Wu’s downfall and the dark side of big capital | Alibaba sexual assault case: China’s ugly drinking culture is a show of power