We’re Doing Sex Wrong: What Weinstein, #MeToo, & This Wake of Sexual Assault Scandals Reveals

Top (from left): Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Roy Moore. Bottom: John Besh, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Piven, and Richard Dreyfuss. (AP images)

The past month or so, we’ve seen incident after incident after incident of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct (Weinstein, Franken, Moore, etc.). We’ve witnessed (or participated in) the #MeToo trend, bringing awareness to and identifying what is apparently a pervasive problem in our society. Yet, as these scandals have unfolded, many have responded with shock and surprise. “I can’t believe that [so and so] did that…”

Christians believe in the doctrine of sin — that humanity is broken and rebellious against God, rejecting his good purposes. And so, on the one hand, Christians are never totally surprised when humanity acts heinously. We have theological categories for this.

On the other hand, there’s a certain level of shock that should always be present — a shock that matches the degree of sin’s audacity. Even as we understand humanity’s disposition to sin and propensity to commit great acts of evil, this reality doesn’t make sin any less appalling. Furthermore, due to God’s (common) restraining grace on humanity, we expect people to treat others with a certain base-level of dignity, even in their sinfulness.

But, at this point in the cultural story, if you’re still surprised when the latest sexual assault scandal emerges, you shouldn’t be.

If you aren’t a Christian, then frankly, maybe you don’t have the categories for things like humanity’s brokenness — you reject this idea of our inherent sinfulness. And so the scandals are in some part shocking. It’s hard to make sense of this, for you. As such, these cases serve as an implicit challenge to your worldview.

It always amazes me when people affirm that humanity is basically good, and then turn around with shock and horror when that same humanity commits horrendous acts of evil over and over — a fact that obviously defeats their stated hypothesis.

(While we’re at it, this goes for the recent mass shootings as well. It’s an unfortunate spectacle to watch a culture, which rejects a consistent notion of sin and evil, attempt to grapple and make sense of these acts of undeniable evil and depravity.)

But furthermore, we shouldn’t be surprised (appalled? — yes; horrified? — yes; complacent or excusing? — absolutely not; but surprised, as if this were something unexpected, unusual, or out of character — no) because at this point it is quite clear that we, as a culture, have a problem. It’s more than a few bad apples, isn’t it? (E.g., see here, here, and here.) Can anyone argue with that at this point?

As Christine Emba says in her piece at the Washinton Post, “[T]he excesses of our current sexual ethic are coming up against their consequences….” We have a culture — even an ethic, and our very view of sexual experience — that apparently enables, empowers, fosters, and maybe even encourages this sort of thing — not overtly and explicity obviously (at least, not in most settings or by most people), but covertly and implicitly.

Allow me to cite the insights of others here. And even if you don’t agree with every detail below, the general direction is hopefully recognizably perceptive and challenging.

Emba continues,

[On] America’s prevailing and problematic sexual ethic — one that is in no small part responsible for getting us into this sexual misconduct mess in the first place. … At the bottom of all this confusion sits a fundamental misframing: that … our sexual freedom should be circumscribed only by the boundary of consent. Any other obstacle is not to be borne. …

It’s unlikely that we’ll return to a society in which sexual encounters outside of marriage are disallowed or even discouraged — that sex train has already left the fornication station, if it was ever properly there to begin with. But 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. …

See Carl Trueman’s words to this effect on Hollywood’s Moral Contradiction Amidst the Weinstein Scandal. “[S]ex is deeply significant, and intrinsically so—and no amount of pop-culture trivialization can remove this stubborn fact.”

Michael Wear Tweeted the following:

This is what happens when sexuality breaks its divinely designed placement within the covenant of marriage. This is what it looks like when a culture recreationalizes sex ( = the mere exchange of pleasures, like an economic transfer), fixates on it as if it is an ultimate, and makes its purpose, pursuit, and goal one’s own self-gratification.

And as we’ve witnessed, this epidemic isn’t one that knows our neat ideological boundaries. Both so-called pro-women, liberal feminists and right-wing advocates of “traditional values” seem to be affected by the disease. Lesson learned: Our culture of abuse is pervasive.

Advertisements