Human Dignity or Sexual Exploitation: We Can’t Have Both

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Photo:  Rich Polk/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company Producer Harvey Weinstein speaks onstage at The Weinstein Company’s Pre-Oscar Dinner in partnership with Bvlgari and Grey Goose at Montage Beverly Hills on February 25, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.

Our society proclaims equal dignity even as it strips women of it.

 By Rob Schwarzwalder, The Stream, November 20, 2017

Sexual predation is evil.

This should go without saying, but apparently has been lost on lots of rich and powerful men. Long calloused to the God-given consciences with which they were endowed, harassing, assaulting, and even raping women has become for many a habit. Sort of like brushing one’s teeth or expecting change at a grocery counter.

But we cannot condemn sexual predation without also condemning our broader culture.

We say women deserve respect. They do. But all around us, women are hyper-sexualized. Objectified. Dehumanized, reduced to outlets for male sexual pleasure. Let’s count some of the ways:

  • “Cheerleaders” who ape the routines of strippers.

  • College spring break rituals which elevate indiscriminate sex to a sort of rite of passage.

  • “Dating” sites on which men and find attractive young women willing to be used sexually in the (vain) hope of finding a boyfriend or even a mate.

  • No comment needed.

  • Sex trafficking.

  • Again, ditto.

  • Elective abortion, on demand and federally subsidized. Women are told, and tell themselves, the unborn child has all the personhood of a turnip. So why not take care of “the problem” at a local abortion center and get on with life, right?

We cannot debase women — and women cannot invite debasement — while heralding dignity, decency, and equality at the same time.

Cultural Incoherence

To be clear: Nothing justifies the harassment or abuse or threatening of a woman by a man. Period. No qualifications.

What I’m talking about is cultural incoherence. Messages so obviously contradictory and yet continuous in all facets of our culture.

The confusion bred thereby is only increased by the absence of good fathers in homes across the nation. According to the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, “the percentage of (all) U.S. teenagers aged 15 to 17 who have grown up with both biological parents always married is 46 percent.”

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Broken homes, with all their many painful effects on the children whose parents leave one another, augment the vulnerability of adolescence. Boys lack proper role models and gravitate toward the uglier angels of their nature. Yearning for love, girls surrender to the promises of young men whose concept of relationship is informed by the pornography on his smartphone.

We create mire and demand purity. We bathe in filth and expect cleanliness. We replace decency with barely checked desire and wonder at its horrid fruit.

The Law on Our Hearts

I have sat through any number of training sessions on how to treat women in the workplace. My colleagues and I sit through videos of men “hitting” on women in various ways and are told that this should not be.

The guys I have worked with get it. The training films are so bumpy and poorly acted that they invite more laughter than conviction. But the great majority of men I know in the white-collar secular workforce understand that putting sexual pressure on a woman is wrong.

Power, opportunity, and a lack of accountability foster predation. So does a culture that portrays women more as objects of gratification than persons.

Why? Because they have a law written on their hearts, to use the Apostle Paul’s phrase. Their consciences are not so dead they don’t understand that intimidating or using a woman is disgusting.

But that doesn’t mean that they won’t do this, at least some of them. Power, opportunity, and a lack of accountability fuel their predation.

And so does a culture that portrays women more as objects of gratification than persons. As human beings with all that term implies. With minds and souls, longings and joys, interests and hopes — and bodies, too.

We Can’t Have it Both Ways

We cannot have it both ways. Our families are frayed and fraying more and more, even to the point that the very foundation of family — one man and one woman, married and faithful, for life — is being denigrated and redefined, both. Our society exalts sexual intimacy like the ancients exalted temple prostitution. Sex becomes a form of worship — worship of the self, a worship expressed in the employment of another solely for pleasure.

Our society proclaims equal dignity even as it strips women of it.

In Christ, there is hope. Hope in the respect shown in abstinence. Hope in the fulfillment found in fidelity. Hope in the beauty of marital intimacy and its fruit, children — children who are raised in a loving and stable and permanent home.

Looking to Him, we can model how beauty and sexuality can be found in marriage. How modesty exalts rather than restricts. How femininity is found in self-respect far more than physical self-exposure.