Mike Pence, the current Vice President of the United States, has been mocked and ridiculed for following the revelation that he never eats alone with another woman, other than his wife. The derisive response on Twitter was as one might expect:
In light of the veritable tsunami of sexual abuse allegations occurring at present in both the US and Australia, maybe the preventative action by Pence is a good one. Just how many men, in particular, this will affect is hard to say. The impression from someone like Tracey Spicer, is that it will be legion. It’s what Caroline Overington referred to in The Weekend Australian as “the reckoning.”
The question I would like to raise and address though is, “How did we get to this point?” What factors have fed into this maelstrom of sexual abuse, especially towards women? What follows might be somewhat controversial, at least to some, but I believe that there have been four key things.
First, is the astronomical growth of pornography. In a recent article for The Daily Wire, Matt Walsh points out that twenty years ago the porn industry was worth $750 million, whereas today that figure is close to $97 billion. What’s more, the most searched for themes were “incest” and “teens.” Walsh states: “Just on Porn Hub, humanity spent twice as much time viewing porn in a year as it has spent existing on planet Earth. The site had over 90 billion video views and 44,000 visitors every minute of every day. It all adds up to over 500 thousand years’ worth of porn consumed in the span of 12 months. Since 2015, human beings have spent one million years watching porn.”
This is nothing short of a sexual global crisis. If this is what people are regularly spending their time viewing, then is it any wonder that they have acted out that way in real life? This in no way excuses the behaviour. But if we are to accurately perceive the underlying reasons as to why this kind of abuse has so routinely occurred then this is a subject that must be addressed.
Second is the hypocrisy of the media themselves. For the past thirty or forty years, there has been this Hollywood cultural imperialism, where the entertainment elite (actors, writers, producers and directors) have sexualised everything they could get their hands on. Even Disney cartoons are no longer exempt. Everywhere you look we are being shown images of marital breakdown, violence, and sexual exploits that former generations would not have hesitated to label as pornographic. And I’m not just referring to Fifty Shades of Grey.
Western culture, in particular, has become increasingly desensitised – some would say ‘conditioned’ – regarding topics such as vulgarity, sex and violence. Why are we so shocked and surprised then when we are told that the key figures involved in orchestrating these things have been shown themselves to have been active players? The likes of Harvey Weinstein and co may have been in control of it, but everyone else was complicit.
Third, is the role of feminism. Strangely, all this happened at a time when women were leading the charge for a new and ‘progressive’ feminist morality. Where it was being argued by luminaries such as Germane Greer, that women should experience the same kind of sexual “freedoms” that many men do.
Sadly, as we are hearing, the casting couch was a horrific reflection of what many of those same people were later paid to portray on the big, or small, screen. Ironically, the media continues to produce sexually explicit and violent films, novels and even plays that graphically depict everything that feminism deplores. And all the while, it was women who were willing to appear in these productions and be paid to do so.
Fourth is western society’s slide into secularism. Having rejected a Biblical world-view we have entered an era where anything goes. It’s what Stephen McAlpine, has brilliantly described as ‘sexularism.’ As McAlpine explains: “Sexularism is secularism’s holy grail, it’s G-spot, it’s petit mort, it’s… (okay, we get it – Double Entendre Ed). And there we were, thinking that secularism had bigger fish to fry, when all along its primary interest has been in the bedroom, with plenty of implications for the boardrooms, the lunch rooms, the restrooms, and the sacred rooms of our culture.”
Once we understand that ‘sexularists’ are obsessed with sex, is it any wonder that with the decline of especially Christian belief and practice that we’ve also seen a parallel increase in sexual and moral abuse? It was Dostoyevsky who reportedly once said, “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” Unfortunately, twenty-first Western century culture has proved this to be true.
There is something profoundly liberating – especially for women, but also for men – in the teaching of Jesus when he says, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.” This not only shows that sexual fidelity to one’s partner arises out of an inward orientation but that you have to be ruthless in removing those circumstances that make it easy to stumble.
In the end, Mike Pence just might be on to something. The first step to treating women with respect is to acknowledge one’s own proclivity to weakness. And so, rather than being patronising to women, the US Vice President’s personal rule about never dining alone with someone other than his wife is a wise one. Indeed, if more people in politics and the media practised it we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
Cartoon: Ben R Davis.
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