The #MeToo Movement
Recently, one of the sad daily rituals of my workday has become the time when my coworker updates me on new celebrities and public figures who have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it seems multitudes of women (and some men) have been emboldened to publicly share their story of sexual assault or harassment via social media; the most popular method being the #MeToo.
The #MeToo movement has as its goal, as I understand it, to uncover (or raise awareness of) what is alleged to be a culture of sexual assault and harassment, often perpetrated by those with some degree of power or authority over their victim. And by virtue of raising awareness of this culture of deviant behavior, to prevent future instances of it.
Though some might categorize sexual harassment under sexual assault, they are often thought of as two different forms of sexual misconduct. Assault is often defined more in terms of physical abuse, such as rape or inappropriate touching (groping). Harassment is more often defined in terms of verbal communication, such as sexual advances, inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, etc. A classic example of this behavior would be a male-boss who offers some kind of reward to a female subordinate for sexual favors. Or, a male superior who makes repeated-unwelcome comments of a sexual nature toward his female subordinate.
Some years ago I was sitting in one of my Criminology classes at NCSU, when my professor claimed that on average 1 in 4 women on college campuses were victims of sexual assault. We were encouraged at that time to take stock of the number of classmates we had and then consider how that statistic would play out among the female population in that class. Perhaps half of my class was female, which means there were roughly 25 women in the class, of which possibly 6-7 were victims of sexual assault should that statistic hold true. That was a quite startling statistic and reality to consider.
How We Define Things Matter for the Innocent
Sexual assault and sexual harassment is disgusting behavior. I have no reservations in saying that. But what I do have serious reservations about is how those things are defined. Certain people have offered criticisms against the alleged college campus rape-culture in that how many college campuses are defining sexual assault allows for innocent people (almost always young men) to become victims of unjust criminal accusations.
Many colleges now have policies where should a male and female who engage in consensual sex, both under the influence of alcohol, and where the female later regrets her decision, the male is culpable of sexual assault (i.e. rape). The lunacy of such a policy is made more obvious when you compare this scenario to one with the same aspects, only the female is not regretful of the decision she made; or even more striking, that she is regretful, but not in such a way that she feels victimized. Simply, such policies that determine a young man’s guilt of sexual assault can waver solely on the fluid nature of that young woman’s perception of the encounter. It’s these kinds of subjective aspects in the definition and reporting of sexual crime on campus that lead many to conclude the data grossly misrepresents the reality of the situation.
Now, I already know what you’re going to say. “But Brandon, isn’t that such a small percentage of the actual assaults reported? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about fixing the larger issue which is the overall rape-culture?” Honestly, no, not to the detriment of other innocent persons. Yes, we should be concerned if there is a real culture of sexual assault on college campuses, and in workplaces, and in Hollywood and media. We SHOULD do something about it, and not nothing. We should be concerned about any and all injustices. But, No! No we should not sacrifice the innocence of a few to comfort the many. The ends have never justified the means. I cannot accept that, and I don’t think God does either.
The Swing of the Pendulum Only Makes More Victims
A zeitgeist is defined by the “spirit of the age”. It’s a kind of idea or concept which moves through pop-culture for a time, having great influence over how people think and feel about a thing. Over the past several months, the #MeToo movement has been something of a zeitgeist in our culture. It has had influence in such a way as to create a great deal of support from among the population. But zeitgeists are all too often like fads. Fads, as we know from our high school pictures and closets of long forgotten wardrobes, come and go like the spiritual fervor of a church youth-conference. They move from one extreme to the other, only to return again to where it began (e.g. the evolution of jean styles).
This movement reminds me of the swing of a pendulum. A pendulum is never at rest, and as soon as it reaches its climax at one end, its descent immediately begins. Such fads in style and fashion are harmless to much else than our wallets. But fads in the institutions of justice and ethics can have disastrous effects on people, often the very people such fads seek to protect. That is where my concern is, not with the #MeToo movement per se, but perhaps the philosophical underpinnings which might be driving it.
For obvious reasons the #MeToo movement has been adopted and advanced by most segments of the Feminist movement. While there can be some good things said about the accomplishments of the Feminist movement, there can also be said some negative things about its values and certain viewpoints it takes. One of those negative viewpoints is its stance toward traditional masculinity. Because of an inherent duality of the sexes, many feminists view traditional ideals of masculinity, and at times the physiological nature of man, as the main obstacle to achieving their goals. As a result, much of the Feminist movement, I feel, has created a culture that is in certain degrees, hostile to men. In some ways it has made masculinity a fundamental evil.
Two Personal Stories
One day in P.E. class, sometime around the age of 11 or 12, I was playing basketball with friends. At that time there was a male and female class combined for free time in the gymnasium. In the midst of playing our game there were two young girls standing on the court in our vicinity. While I was being guarded I thought it would be comical to dribble around these girls as if using them as shield. I kept on playing for several moments until the female P.E. instructor came over and demanded that I follow her to the corner of the gym where the other male instructor was. Once there she demanded that I confess to having inappropriately touched the young girl who I dribbled around. Apparently the girl had accused me of this, though I had done no such thing. The female instructor would not accept my tearful pleas of innocence and kept growling at me with the question “What do you do that you shouldn’t have done?”
Thankfully she relented after several minutes of intense interrogation and my denial. Of course, I’ll never forget that sharp sting of being judged a kind of predator; of my guilt being presumed on the basis of my male-ness. I wonder if I had been an effeminate little boy with no athletic interest, would she have been so quick to judge? But I wasn’t that boy. I was the fiery-red headed boy who was rambunctious and athletic and well known (though, quite shy). I was, and still am, the kind of male who is traditionally masculine. And that masculinity, in certain situations, assumes a level of guilt.
Now, I’m going to share the other story where, depending on your interpretation, I might be guilty of the very things I’m discussing now. Sometime in my senior year of high school I found myself in a corner of a classroom sitting on a computer desk next to a young lady while she worked on the computer. At the time I had something of a crush on this girl and there had been some small degree of innocent flirtation exchanged. I was sitting up on the desk while she was sitting down in the chair working. In the midst of our conversation it became immediately apparent to me that I could see down this girl’s loose fitting blouse, leaving little up to the imagination. Being young, foolish, and completely drunk on hormones at the time, I thought it would be comical to make a statement that was sexually-suggestive. She laughed, possibly uncomfortably, made a short remark for which I have no recollection, and nothing eventful happened.
Like I’ve said before, things are rarely black and white.
Perhaps she thought my comment was funny and was intrigued by it? Perhaps she thought it was a stupid comment, but she liked me and was willing to overlook the lack of form? Perhaps she wasn’t interested in me and simply thought my comment (or myself), though crude, was harmless? Perhaps she was genuinely offended?
I have no doubt, now, that my comment was inappropriate; but not for the same reason that many others would say. I think my comment was inappropriate because it presumed sexual activity outside of marriage. I don’t think my comment was inappropriate because of how she may or may not have perceived it, with whether it was entirely welcome or not.
What is the Real Cause of Sexual Misconduct? Ideas of Marriage Not Masculinity
Feminists most often blame an unhealthy culture of masculinity that promotes sexual aggressiveness and misogyny for the occurrence of sexual misconduct by men. Such a culture, they say, encourages men to make sexual advances toward women, without respect of female consent. If only it were that simple though.
The reality is that much feminist ideology has helped to create the present situation. In its pursuit to liberate women from the perceived bondage of marriage, it has advanced a sexual ethic that is dangerous for both women and men. It has driven a wedge between the institution of marriage and sexuality. The result is an environment where both men and women seek sexual intimacy without the consensual-intentional protection of marriage.
Simply, men and women who seek to have sexual encounters outside of marriage and relationships must do so by navigating the treacherous landscape of discerning people’s intentions and willingness. How is a man supposed to discern the willingness of a woman if does not make a clear sexual-advance?
Perhaps, you might say that a man should be more delicate and nuanced in how he goes about expressing his sexual interests. And if the man is turned down, then he should accept that and move on. But this only confuses men even more as most women still desire traditionally masculine traits in their partners and relationships; aggressive, powerful, take charge, be the pursuer, etc. Many women want men to be all these things and while not being confined by traditional ideals of marriage and sexuality. At times they are rewarded for their sexual advances and at times not. There is no consistency for these men to measure the appropriateness of their actions which makes them all the more frustrated and confused as to how to go about meeting sexual partners. And when men live this way without the goal of marriage, they ultimately become the monster that women have made them out to be, sexual predators that objectify and abuse women.
So it is, our culture eats the fruit of the seed it has sown. Modern man has alienated his sexuality from its proper role in marriage, and out there on its own, sex and sexuality only enslaves, it doesn’t liberate. Our daughters are victims in waiting and our sons are predators from the womb.
The problem is not with masculinity. The problem is with marriage. We have sinned by denying the institution of Biblical marriage and sexuality and if we are to promote a culture that protects the innocent, we must promote a culture that respects and protects those things.