In a powerful op-ed appearing on the Women Speak for Themselves (WSFT) website, executive director Meg Johnson encourages women to seize the momentum behind the #MeToo movement to change a culture that is too willing to present sex as “no big deal.”
While she has nothing but praise for the “silence breakers,” the women who are coming out and revealing the sexual harassment they have been enduring in Hollywood, on the job, in the government, those of us who have been breaking the silence about the true meaning of sexuality are also “silence breakers.”
“I don’t say this to diminish the valor of the #MeToo cohort: they are uniquely brave in coming forward about their experiences,” Johnson writes. “I simply say it to empower all women to join this fight for the respect that is owed to women, including our bodies, and to empower all women to speak about the weightiness of sex, and why it ideally belongs in a truly safe environment, a loving marriage.”
This is why we can’t let this moment pass us by without offering even more clarity about sexual ethics and the respect due to women.
“To be clear, sexual harassment and assault are always an abuse of power—a boss taking advantage of his (or her) staff because he (or she) knows the victim can’t risk their job (or won’t). A man groping a woman on a crowded train, because he knows he can get away with it. A date taking things too far amidst protestations, because she ‘set the stage.’ Comments or behavior from colleagues that crosses the line, and sometimes leave the victim feeling confused–‘perhaps I started it with my friendly banter,’ or ‘maybe I was standing too close.’ When it gets to the point of harassment and assault, it’s not her fault, she didn’t ask for it, and it’s not okay.”
“Sex is intrinsically intimate and emotional, and always affects both body and soul. Yet we live in a culture that says sometimes sex can be casual, non-relational, and divorced utterly from its potential to create life. This casual sex culture creates a lie that sexual behavior ‘isn’t a big deal’.”
And if sex is not a big deal, some abusers think, “who cares if you explicitly consent?”
Even though they know, at least on some level, that sexual harassment and assault are wrong, what aids some abusers in believing they are owed what they want, is how seemingly inconsequential it is, Johnson points out.
Hopefully, the flood of credible harassment allegations that are coming in wave after sordid wave may be bringing this era of victim-blaming to an end.
So how do we, who are part of the pro-“sex connected to marriage and kids” movement, capitalize on the momentum women are gaining in this fight?
“First, we need to listen to the stories from the victims with compassion and support,” Johnson suggests. “Next, we need to join the national conversation by speaking about the meaning of sex. We need to advocate for clear social expectations about what is unacceptable sexual behavior, and pose questions as to how we can create better guardrails, so that their violation is clearly understood.”
We also need to talk about our experiences, and the experiences of women we know.
“We need to advocate for impoverished women and women of color, whom we know are more victimized than elites,” she writes. “We also need to give reasons for hope: by offering resources for healing (i.e. good mental health counseling, prayer, and strong community); by talking about the good men and women we know—who would never violate another person in this way; by talking about the empowerment that comes when sex, marriage, and children are connected.”
Of course, it won’t be easy and we may not do it perfectly. “But together, let’s find the language to draw the lines between sexual harassment and the need for a sexual ethic that is compassionate to victims, empowers women, and puts sex, marriage, and children together.”
Visit the WSFT website for resources that will be of help to women who are interested in seizing this moment to change the culture.
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