So is it still the sexual revolution or what?

A few months ago there was an interesting You-Tube video in which a young woman walked all over New York for a day, followed by a friend with a hidden camera. She was the recipient of a lot of ‘cat-calls’ and other inappropriate behavior. The video showed that men are often base, and sometimes scary, in the way they view, and react to, women. Nobody wants to be harassed or made uncomfortable by anyone’s comments. ‘Hey baby!’ is not an appropriate alternative to ‘good day.’   Here’s the link if you’re interested.

One of the latest issues facing interactions between the sexes has occurred on college campuses, which are now struggling with the issue of ‘positive consent’ as a way to protect against sexual assault.  That is, to be legitimate, a sexual encounter between students cannot involve alcohol and has to be approved at every step along the way with ‘positive consent.’ How this is to be defined is the stuff of much head-scratching. Does it require that a form be filled out and filed? An Office of Sexual Liaison? A video-taped statement?

While this seems to me a bit ‘over the top,’ I don’t mean in any way to diminish concerns about sexual assault. While sexual assault rates are falling, any sexual assault is a terrible crime, and one too many.

Both of the above illustrate what an interesting place we’ve arrived at in our culture. The sexual revolution of the 1960s informed America that old-fashioned sexual mores were out-dated and ridiculous. That sexual encounters were not things to be ashamed of, and that attempts to limit sexual expression were repressive. The oral contraceptive propelled the movement forward and the counter-culture gave us constant lessons that sex was no big deal. Women were as sexually free as men.

Suddenly there was sex without consequence, sex without commitment, sex without fear of pregnancy, sexual diseases all treatable with Penicillin (or so we thought)? It was, indeed, a brave new world. And those who said, ‘you know, this is immoral, unsafe behavior that will have bad consequences’ were laughed out of the discussion as narrow-minded, old-fashioned fundamentalists.

Now it appears that we’re circling back around. Men shouldn’t view women sexually. (Except in music videos or on television or in pornography or lingerie catalogs, etc.). And men shouldn’t talk to women in a way that suggests any sexual content. In fact, in many workplaces, a simple compliment like ‘that’s a nice dress,’ or ‘you look lovely,’ can be construed as sexual harassment. And men, and women, who were told that free sexual expression was the only way to live free of backwards religiosity are now told that they need an explicit ‘yes I want to do this’ from holding hands to home run.

There are great ironies afoot. We live in a society that glorifies every form of sexual expression from silky romance to leather-clad bondage; a society that sexualizes everything, from children’s Halloween costumes to fast-food ads. A time when sexual slavery is epidemic. Yet, in the midst of that, we find ourselves struggling with the harsh reality of objectification; with the pain of being used (or abused) and discarded. And we find men and women sometimes looking back and longing for a measure of respect and propriety that sees them as more than body parts.

But the other irony is that Christianity, often deemed morally antiquated, has always taught us to treat others with caution when it comes to sex. That we were not to look lustfully on others. (Which rather precludes cat-calls, I think.) It told us that we were not to enjoy another person sexually unless we were willing to commit to them exclusively in a covenant of marriage; a kind of holy positive consent, if you will. That we were to set boundaries on the incredibly powerful and wonderful thing that sexuality is. Even St. Paul said for men to treat younger women in the church as sisters, ‘with purity.’

We appear to have moved forward only to find ourselves backwards all over again. Maybe we’ll have to recover something from the past to make any progress. And so that all of our children can grow up to be treated with love and respect, rather than being used, abused and discarded.



0 0 votes
Article Rating