Whatever happened to basic human decency?

The Longview News-Journal recently published a guest editorial that attempted to take on the thorny issue of sexual violence under the title “Whatever happened to self discipline?”

Go read it, if you have the stomach. However, survivors of sexual violence may wish to pass.

Whatever happened to self-discipline? That’s certainly a valid question to ask of any man who presumes to force himself upon a woman. Unfortunately, the author takes the completely wrong-headed approach of asking that question of the “women … whose breasts [are] almost literally hanging out of their shirts or dresses.”

Let me be clear: implying that a victim of sexual violence deserved it because of what they may or may not have been wearing is absolutely wrong. A culture of victim blaming creates a tremendous disincentive to report the crime, and compounds the psychological trauma that accompanies a physical assault. We must do better than this!

The author deals heavily in generalizations and personal anecdotes:

“I knew intuitively what social science now teaches: Men are turned on sexually by what they see. Women are turned on by what they feel.”

This is an insidious cultural lie, because it gives the rapist an out; he couldn’t help it, she was just so hot! But men are not animals; insinuating that they lose their minds at the slightest suggestion of female flesh is incredibly degrading. Whatever happened to self-discipline? This belief would have you think that men are incapable of it altogether. Meanwhile, what science actually says about the difference between male and female arousal is more complex.

Even worse:

“I made sure I didn’t dress provocatively, but that didn’t stop the advances of some men. I made sure I never was in a situation or place where I could be raped. A firm, “No,” was sufficient to stop the inappropriate behavior.”

Sadly, there is no such thing as a situation or place where rape can never occur, and statements like this once again lay blame for an assault at the victim’s feet. Obviously, if everyone just stayed away from the bad part of town, then we’ll have that pesky rape problem solved. How did we not think of this before? As for just saying “No,” well, that’s what Janese Talton-Jackson did. Twice. “No” did not save her.

The remainder of the op-ed is frankly rather rambling, with digressions on inappropriately-dressed receptionists, the Kardashians, and the author’s belief that women who dress provocatively are “missing something” in that they fail to “value themselves as they are.” Adele makes an appearance, too, as an example of how a lady should behave. The author concludes with another doozy:

“Is the rising incidence of sexual crimes, particularly toward children, due to increasing instances of undress in women that turn a man on sexually?”

Lord have mercy. How do you make the logical leap from adult female fashion to child abuse?

Rape is not about sex; sex is a consensual act. Rather, rape is about entitlement; a stronger party forcing their desires upon a weaker party, regardless of the weaker party’s wishes. Breaking down this sense of entitlement is the key to reducing (dare I dream eliminating?) rape.

Men are not entitled to women’s attention.

Men are not entitled to women’s time.

Men are not entitled to women’s bodies.

Men are not entitled to respond with violence when their advances are rebuffed.

Et cetera, ad infinitum.

Let us heap our scorn and shame on anyone who believes or acts otherwise, and regain our basic human decency towards those in our midst who have survived hell.


1 thought on “Whatever happened to basic human decency?

  1. nancy haygood says:

    well said, Andrew. Prayers for decency, and for wisdom in how we provide support to victims and potential victims. Lord God, protect the children, and the powerless, always. Amen.

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