Columnist Nicholas Kristof asks some provocative questions and makes some very good points in his recent editorial, “Bill Cosby, UVA, and Rape.” Kristof reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the news saturated with stories about Bill Cosby, or the Rolling Stone Magazine article on the culture of rape at the University of Virginia. . . which, by the way, isn’t at all limited to that campus in Charlottesville. After all, we live in a culture that actually promotes it.
Everywhere we turn these days, sexual assault is being talked about. And so it should be. It’s pervasive.
But I wonder if there are some sacred cultural cows feeding this beast that we’re either too blind to see or too frightened to address?
Kristof offers a powerful example of this when he writes, “Too often boys are socialized to see women and girls as baubles, as playthings. The upshot is that rapists can be stunningly clueless, somehow unaware that they have committed a crime or even a faux pas. The Rolling Stone article describes how the rape victim at the University of Virginia, two weeks after the incident, ran into her principal assailant. ‘Are you ignoring me?’ he blithely asked. ‘I wanted to thank you for the other night. I had a great time.’ Likewise, a university student shared with me a letter her ex-boyfriend wrote her after brutally raping her in her dorm room. He apologized for overpowering her, suggested that she should be flattered and proposed that they get back together. Huh?”
There are a few threads in the tapestry of this culture of sexual assault that I think we need to recognize, call out, and then address with our kids. These certainly don’t comprise all the threads that we need to be concerned about, and no one individual thread should be cited as THE reason this culture of sexual assault exists. What are they?
First, the thread of narcissism feeds a growing sense of entitlement that has infiltrated, informed, and distorted all of life, including our sexuality. We are selfish people. We covet, desire, and feel like we deserve anything and everything whenever and wherever we decide we want it. If we are willing to push and shove our way into trying to satisfy our retail cravings on Black Friday, we shouldn’t be surprised that we selfishly push and shove our way into sexual encounters, all in an attempt to satisfy the lusty sexual desires that have come to rule our lives. So strong are these desires that nowadays that we don’t stop to get the other person’s name, pause to consider the purpose and place of sex, or think about how our time with our pants off could affect multiple lives for a lifetime after our pants are back on. Our kids need to hear that sex is a good and wonderful gift from God for one man and one woman to experience together within the context of a life-long, monogamous, covenantal marriage.
Second, our entertainers continue to create and peddle “art” that glorifies aggressive, no-holds-barred sexuality. Once again, I can’t help but think about vulnerable and curious little boys and little girls who grow up watching, listening to, and learning from things like Adam Levine and Maroon 5’s visual and lyrical depiction of how to live out your sexuality in their video “Animals.” Or how about what they see and hear from Nicki Minaj in her song “Anaconda?” Or DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What?” Or. . . .? Why can’t or don’t we speak up about these things, showing and telling our kids the difference between right and wrong? Our kids need to see and hear depictions of sexuality that are good, true, right, and honorable. And they should easily recognize and cringe at those which aren’t.
And third, we need to establish borders and boundaries from an early age. Things like. . . this is how you treat another human being with respect and dignity. . . this is how you should and should not dress . . . there is where you should and should not go, etc. Our kids need to treat sexuality as the sacred trust that it is. This will evidence itself in how they treat one another, in a modest appearance, and in reminding their little hands and feet to be careful about where they go.
In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis invites readers into the head of the enemy, with some words that clearly reflect our tendency to take God’s good things and totally distort, misuse, and destroy them. . . which in the end, winds up destroying both ourselves and others. What he writes applies to the good gift of our sexuality: “To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy want to make of it, and then do the opposite.”
Seems like it might be working.