Week 2: Gender and Social Control
Weiss and Coyler: R oofies, Mickies and Cautionary Tales- Examining
the Persistence of the “Date-Rape Drug” Crime Narrative.
- This article examines the origins and persistence of the ‘‘roofies’’ story, a crime narrative that emerged
during the mid 1990s, warning women to guard their drinks against lurking predators seeking to
incapacitate and rape them.
- Such DFSA incidents were relatively unknown before the 1990s. This is not to suggest that intentional
drugging of persons for the intent to commit sexual crime never occurred prior to 1990.
- Yet, despite the story’s ubi- quity, there has been little empirical evidence to suggest that drug-induced
sexual assault, as embodied in the roofies narrative, is anything more than a rare but tragic occurrence.
- when drugs are involved in the crime of rape, it is almost always as a result of victims voluntarily drinking
alcohol, using drugs (most often cocaine and marijuana), or mixing drugs with alcohol
- forensic studies tend to conclude that victims’ voluntary drinking and drug use is much more likely a
factor in facilitating sexual assault than surreptitious drugging.
- This article investigates why, despite little empirical evidence to suggest that roofies-induced sexual
assault is anything more than a rare tragedy, has become an oft-repeated crime narrative that has come to
- Social constructionist theorists (Best 1990, 1999; Cohen 1972; DeYoung 1998; Goode 2008; Goode and
Ben Yehuda 1994; Hilgartner and Bosk 1988; Reinarmen 2006) suggest that crimes and social problems are
brought to the public’s attention through a process of claimsmaking activities that include problematizing
issues in ways that are salient and significant to the consuming public. One way in which a problem can
gain traction and rally public support is the tell- ing of a ‘‘good story.’’
- It is important to note that moral panics and their accom- panying stories tend to be short-lived. As soon
as the media and interest groups have shifted their focus elsewhere, the public interest wanes, and the
stories that began it all fade away as well.
- We argue that the roofies narrative, constructed during a panic over youths’ use of club drugs, has
persisted long beyond the typical moral panic’s expected life span due in part to the support and protection
it has received from social institutions and interest groups.
- By the early twentieth century, stories of robbers and thieves drugging their victims had become part of
popular folklore in the United States, and the phrase ‘‘slipped him a Mickey’’ had become part of American
- Mickey Finn (corrupt bar owner who supposedly drugged patrons to rob them). By constructing the
saloon as a breeding ground of immorality and subversiveness, the bars and their immigrant owners and
patrons became convenient scapegoats for the burgeoning social problems in an industrializing America
- depicting a particular social group as dangerous, crooked, and degenerative has been a standard
claimsmaking strategy in many anti-drug cam- paigns that have successfully criminalized narcotics in this
country (Courtwright 2001; Musto 1999).
- Examples of drug-induced crime stories can be traced back to the early 1900s as part of anti-drug
propaganda used to ban opium and cocaine.
- Twenty years later, during the 1930s, marijuana became the next drug to be vilified by stories that
exaggerated the drug’s potential to corrupt and convert its users into violent criminals.
- It is important to note that the characterization of drug-induced crime victims as primarily women and
chil- dren have been especially instrumental in convincing the public that certain drugs are dangerous.
- Theorists (Best 1999; Cohen 1972; DeYoung 1998, Goode and Ben Yehuda 1994; Reinarmen 2006) have
suggested that moral panics tend to emerge during periods of structural or cultural unrest or economically
turbulent times. A retrospec- tive snapshot of the United States during the 1990s suggests that the decade
was indeed fertile for the panic over roofies and other synthetic drugs to take root. Amid an economic
recession, a widespread availability of illegal drugs, and a corresponding increase in juvenile arrests for
youth violence and drug use, an exaggerated discourse emerged concerning the seemingly reckless,
narcissistic, and out-of-control behavior of America’s youth
- it is against this cultural backdrop that stories of dangerous date-rape drugs emerged. Moreover, the
roofies story took root as many young Americans began gravitating toward a new form of nightlife known
- Like Mickies had 100 years earlier, Rohypnol became known for its potential to incapacitate crime
victims. But unlike the earlier Mickey Finn tale, the roofies story was also a gendered story whose prota-
gonists were predominantly young women and the predators were primarily men who used the drug to
- According to Lowney and Best (1995), a particularly effective way to legitimize a new issue is to connect
it to an stablished social problem and, by doing so, gain support from the promoters of the original
- Four years after this first bill was implemented, a second act was passed, known as the Hillory J. Farias
and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prevention Act of 2000. he Farias and Reid Date-Rape Preven- tion Act
further amended the Controlled Substances Act by adding GHB to the list of schedule I drugs.
- Thus, the roofies story persists in part because it has been institutionalized as a key component of many
anti-rape and safety campaigns. he roofies story also persists today because it has received little empirical
- With few challenges to a story’s logic or authenticity, a protected narrative often persists by mere
- Finally, the roofies story may also persist because of its utility for those who invoke it. For instance, the
story pro- vides an unambiguous articulation of rape that emphasizes the innocence of its victims.
- The story’s ability to neutralize blame may also explain why so many non-victims invoke the story.