Guest Blog by Michael Watkins
[The following letter appeared in the Opelika-Auburn News for 29 May 2015, under the title “GHB goes beyond drug problem.” The author’s preferred title is restored here.]
It is not surprising that someone in the Auburn area was making and distributing the date rape drug GHB. We knew it was in use and that it had to come from somewhere. I say it is not surprising. It is certainly awful. Getting clear about why it is awful, getting clear about why producing and distributing GHB is morally heinous (spoiler alert: it is not primarily about drugs), allows us to see something quite surprising, and that is that we have largely missed what is truly awful. We suffer from a kind of moral myopia.
Stephen Howard, a university employee, was arrested for distributing the date rape drug GHB, conspiring to possess and distribute GHB, and possessing a firearm in connection with a drug transaction. Message boards are filled with comments about drug use and its dangers, many opining blindly about drug use in general, others about the relative dangers of GHB in comparison with meth, heroin, and other drugs. And the University’s public safety advisory focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on the use of drugs and giving drugs to others without their consent: “giving someone a drug without their knowledge or permission is a felony.”
Indeed, giving someone a drug without her knowledge or permission is a felony. And it’s wrong. But to focus on drugs is to miss what is morally most important. GHB is a date RAPE drug. Having sex with someone incapacitated by GHB is RAPE. A bartender putting GHB in someone’s drink is assisting RAPE. The drug is distributed first and foremost for that purpose. It is distributed first and foremost to aid in the rape of women. And so, with that purpose in mind, distributing the drug is to assist in the serial assault and rape of women, and to profit financially from doing so. It is to assist many to rape many. The use of GHB is not primarily a drug problem. It is far, far worse than that.
Professor and Chair
Department of Philosophy