What’s Speaking To Us: #MeToo, Sexual Harassment, and Establishing a New Ethic For Sex
If you’re like me, you may be feeling overwhelmed by another week of celebrities and powerful men being exposed for their crude sexual harassment of women. On the one hand you want to scream: “of course sexual liberation leads to objectification and mistreatment of sex and women!” On the other hand you may be wondering: “why is everyone taking sex so seriously all of a sudden? What might this mean for the future of the sexually obsessed culture we live in?”
Women Speak For Themselves was made for this moment. If ever there was a time when people are willing to listen when we say “we’ve treated sex too lightly,” that time is now. This week’s What’s Speaking To Us highlights some of the best commentary in this vein we’ve seen this week. In the coming weeks, we will continue to round-up similar commentary and to equip you to raise your voice about the weightiness of sex, and about its beauty when men and women are real collaborators.
Peggy Noonan writes that this is a watershed moment not just for sex, but also for journalism:
“To repeat the obvious again, journalists broke the back of the scandal when they broke the code on how to report it. For a quarter century we had been stuck in the He Said/She Said. Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas gave their testimonies, each offered witnesses, and the fair-minded did their best with the evidence at hand while sorting through all the swirling political agendas. In the end I believed Mr. Thomas. But nobody knows, or rather only two people do.
What happened during the past two years, and very much in the past few months, is that reporters and news organizations committed serious resources to unearthing numbers and patterns. Deep reporting found not one or two victims of an abuser but, in one case, that of Bill Cosby, at least 35. So that was the numbers. The testimony of the women who went on the record, named and unnamed, revealed patterns: the open bathrobe, the running shower, the “Let’s change our meeting from the restaurant to my room/your apartment/my guesthouse.” Once you, as a fair-minded reader, saw the numbers and patterns, and once you saw them in a lengthy, judicious, careful narrative, you knew who was telling the truth. You knew what was true. Knowing was appalling and sometimes shocking, but it also came as a kind of relief.
Once predators, who are almost always repeat offenders, understood the new way of reporting such stories, they understood something else: They weren’t going to get away with it anymore. They’d never known that. And they were going to pay a price, probably in their careers. They’d never known that, either.”
Hats off to these journalists, who have done their job this time to tell the truth, no matter the cost!
At least some people at the Washington Post think it’s time to talk about ethics and guardrails for sex. Washington Post opinion editor, Christine Emba made the attempt to articulate such hopes this week. Emba writes:
“A sex-above-all ethic, combined with a power structure that protects and enables men (alas, it’s almost always men) is what allows the Charlie Roses of the world to think that it’s fine to grope and proposition their subordinates: After all, Rose thought he was pursuing “shared feelings.” It’s what makes comedian Louis C.K. think that as long as he “asked first” and women didn’t say no, it was acceptable to make them watch him masturbate.”
She cedes she doesn’t believe we’ll get to a point where sex outside of marriage is “disallowed or discouraged” but she does suggest that “now could be the time to reintroduce virtues such as prudence, temperance, respect and even love. We might pursue the theory that sex possibly has a deeper significance than just recreation and that “consent” — that thin and gameable boundary — might not be the only moral sensibility we need respect.
Yes! It’s a start. Because we know from countless stories and studies, that sex separated from love, commitment and even the idea of children is far more damaging than our culture currently tells us.
He then questions how a culture reintroduces virtue without addressing the factors that eroded such virtue. “The society Emba is talking about was molded by birth control, abortion, no-fault divorce, and a celebration of hedonism. And it was utterly predictable that such a society would evolve into one where relationships are based on an ultimately dangerous and degrading sexual Darwinsm.None of which is to say that America was free of injustice—sexual or otherwise—50 years ago. It wasn’t. But social progress is rarely an untempered good and it isn’t like there haven’t been other sectors of society—those outside of Emba’s field of vision—who didn’t spent the last half century warning about the costs of sexal “liberation.” The entire body of Judeo-Christian thought has held that certain institutions regulating sexual behavior, protecting women, and supporting families, were worth maintaining and preserving. A great many Americans have even advocated conserving these institutions—and to whatever extent people failed in their own practice, their personal hypocrisy was the tribute that vice pays to virtue.”
While reading that, I thought of all of us women who speak for ourselves. We have to keep speaking the truth about women, men, sex, marriage, and family, with clarity and kindness. This is a moment in cultural history that our voices were made for!
WSFT is trying to create a world that is intellectually honest about women’s freedom, about the good of keeping sex, marriage, and children together, and about how our sexualized culture has immiserated women and their families. Because our goals are so lofty and countercultural, we read the news with a careful eye for signs of hope, and to find the places where our voices are needed. Our weekly update—What’s Speaking To Us—will give you a view into what we’re reading, what we’re thinking, and how we’re speaking for ourselves in the media or in our communities.
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Women, empowered with facts, can change the culture!