Thursday, December 22, 2016

Opinions #3: Victim Blaming

I follow a blog called "Life in the Shoe."  It's written by a Mennonite lady, a minister's wife, mother of many fascinating, mostly-grown children, writer and columnist for the Eugene Register-Guard.  Dorcas is a woman I would love to meet, though I think she would probably be...uncomfortable with me.  Funny, we think of Mennonites as a closed, unworldly society...but this lady has had a much more expansive and exciting life than I will ever have.  She lives her faith utterly, yet that fact has not limited her or closed her mind.

Her posts always lead me on a voyage of contemplation.  Most recently, she wrote about "men who are not nice"--men who catcall and harass and are generally disrespectful to women, in public.  She wondered whether the conservative dress and prayer veil that Mennonite women wear in public protected them from that sort of harassment.  But she made a point about the power women have; the power they don't use...or, as I took it further in my own contemplation, the power they tend to misuse.  So many girls and women understand the power of their sex to be their ability to turn men into salivating, sex-enslaved dogs.  What we don't seem to comprehend is that we also have the power to command respect, courtesy and, yes, even chivalry.  All with how we dress.  And if we possess the power to calm the savage beast, why don't we use it? 

Sexual harassment, abuse, rape... all these have become problems of epidemic proportions in our society.  Sex in 21st-century America has become so overt, so in-your-face, so "everybody's getting it on and if you're not there's something wrong with you."  Men have begun to think they're entitled to sex, any kind, any way, any time they want.  And many women, not to be outdone, claim that entitlement as well. With all that sexual entitlement flying around, something has got seriously out of whack.  There's a growing subset of men who will take what they want with little provocation, much less an actual invitation.  And there are women who end up in situations they can't control because they dipped a toe into the sexual revolution only to be grabbed and pulled under by the evil that lurks just beneath the water.     

Am I victim blaming here?  I don't know.  I think the lines have become so blurred, the emotions surrounding the act have become so exaggerated, that it's almost impossible to use the label of "victim" when trying to sort out the players in the drama.

 Of course a woman never asks to be raped, or sexually assaulted, or verbally harassed.  In a perfect world, sex wouldn't always be the undercurrent of everything.  Women would be able to appear in public wearing whatever struck their fancy, whatever made them feel pretty.  I hear some people say that if a woman walks down the street stark naked,  she isn't asking to be raped.  I get that.  I really do.  But I think you have to put the "I have every right to..." aside and just see that actions have consequences.  Is it right that a man should get turned on by a woman wearing revealing clothing?  Probably not.  But what is "right" and what actually happens are two different things.  And women would do well to act in accordance with what IS if they want not to be harassed, or even raped.  Sorry, ladies.  You do stuff to protect yourself.  You don't jump into a pool of sharks wearing a pork-chop bikini and then sue the sharks when they bite your legs off.

I get that there is such a thing as date rape.  I get that guys will drug girls or take advantage of them when they get stupid drunk.  I get that a man is much stronger than a woman and can overpower her and take what he wants even when she's not into it.  But, I'm not one of those who thinks a girl should be able to go back to a guy's apartment, neck, pet, get undressed and get in bed with him, and then cry "rape" when the guy didn't stop because she said "no."  Is the guy entitled?  Of course not.  But if you didn't want to have sex, why the hell did you put yourself--and your date--in that position?  

Yes, need to teach your sons not to rape.  But you also need to teach your daughters how to control this sexual freedom that we, their mothers and grandmothers, worked so hard to win for them.  Because, as it turns out, men are not interested in gracefully giving up their position of sexual dominance...or even sharing it.  A complication that I don't think any of us on the forefront of the Sexual Revolution foresaw.  And now we need to figure out how to deal with that.

Anyway, Dorcas shared her formula for raising strong young women who respect themselves:
     What I teach my girls is that they belong to God, their lives ought to reflect Jesus, and their bodies have the sacred role of being temples of the Holy Spirit.  So their clothes should communicate dignity, royalty, value, beauty, femininity, and respect. 
Somehow, that has also worked to protect them.
Surely, even without the Christian frame  of reference, there is universal wisdom in these words. 

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