As stories of men behaving badly continue to roll in, we can no longer only ask what is wrong with the accused individual.
This isn’t a story about an individual or even a few individuals. It is a story about a sizable segment of the male population in America. That means this isn’t just a male nor individual issue, it is a cultural issue with cultural cues.
Why do we have so many men from the college campus to the corporate C-Suite to the Hollywood elite dishonoring and devaluing women? The problem doesn’t just lie with individual testosterone-laden macho men. It goes much deeper and much broader. Consider these cultural touchpoints that could help explain why so many men devalue and dishonor so many women.
Males aren’t saying “no” to other males. There are 45-year-old boys and there are 15-year-old men. One of the things that separates the men from the boys is the willingness to say something unpopular. Every male who is in the news has a group of boys around them who didn’t say anything or confront their friend. I’m tired of hearing celebrities say “I never knew.” Please. Yes you did. You were just too weak to do something about it. Male passivity in refusing to speak truth to other males has become a cultural norm. The true men among us need to rise up and get comfortable saying, “I see what you‘re doing and it isn’t acceptable.”
Our culture still objectifies women. Why does USA Today contain a standard feature of 100+ pics of “Cheerleaders around the NFL”? Those women are earning an honest living, but features like that are only there to get the male sexual juices flowing. Giving men regular and unnecessary reminders of how women look and how they seem to exist to turn you on doesn’t help a man reinforce a healthy and proper stereotype of women.
Hitler succeeded in turning the masses of Germany against the jews by objectifying them with their long noses as rats. Plantation owners in the south objectified Africans as subhuman. As women are objectified as less than human, or as superhuman sex objects in sports pages, “men’s” magazines, Victoria Secret TV specials, etc., women lose. Our culture has done a great job at conditioning men to look at women only as objects of pleasure.
Our culture of sexy. Having raised two daughters, I know every good parent has told their daughter, “Sweetie, you can’t wear that. It sends a message and it is my responsibility to help and protect you.” If you aren’t saying that as a parent when you see skin tight, high cut or low cut clothing, then you aren’t a good parent. Parents understand males in a way that their young daughters can’t.
As a woman comes of age, she learns enough about men to know how to ensure she looks attractive and even turns some heads. The fashion industry’s idea of “sexy” is alive and well in America. Abused and objectified women are not the problem, but a woman can’t operate as a victim. Women: I know this is the most controversial point. One of the ways to lessen the problem becoming real to you is to be mindful of your presentation. Broadcasting your curves, accentuating your assets, and enjoying the flirt as a way to get attention may end up doing just that. Yes, the men are the problem. We need to focus our efforts on changing their behavior. And we can’t ignore the reality that there will always be evil in our midst, we need to be mindful and protect ourselves against it.
Our culture has lost the meaning of sex. I know this sounds crazy, but the main reason for the existence of sex is to create children in the context of a healthy union. To disagree with this is to be on the wrong side of science and history. Our culture is increasingly running away from the blessing of children, and in its place sex has become only a toy for pleasure. Once this happens, a man begins to view inappropriate behavior as an innocent means of pleasure. He then is surprised that someone has been offended. After all, it’s only a toy.
Consider the legend of Hugh Hefner that caused our culture to mourn the passing of a sexual “liberator.” No. Playboy has devalued millions of women who didn’t fit the image of “the girl next door,” and helped men believe that every woman wants him. Training men that sex is a solo sport while facilitating millions of masturbations is not healthy nor helpful. Only in a culture like ours which trains and even applauds male selfish sexual activity will we have our current crisis with no acceptable answers.
Men are lacking healthy outlets for adventure. When a man pursues a woman it is a hunt. For many overworked and under-stimulated men, this is the only adventure they will experience in the course of their year. A man who doesn’t have a rigorous hobby and a healthy avocation which stimulates his imagination and challenges different aspects of his psyche is a danger to himself and others. Lack of healthy adventure coupled with the grind of life makes us more prone to the quick hitting unhealthy adventure of coming onto a woman inappropriately. One of the reasons a man pursues a woman he shouldn’t pursue is that he doesn’t have anything more stimulating or fulfilling to pursue.
Our culture is unwilling to grapple with the uniqueness of men and women. As we fight for equal opportunity and treatment for women, we can accidentally forget that men and women are different. If you disagree with that, refer to your 6th grade health class. One general difference is that men have greater size and strength. As a parent of girls and a boy and as a pastor who has witnessed the raising of thousands of boys and girls, I can tell you that the modes of instruction and discipline generally vary a bit among the sexes. We are unwilling as a culture to recognize this reality and to act accordingly. In turn, we aren’t turning our immature boys into healthy men.
Our culture devalues strong parenting. Do your own inventory of men who behave badly and you’ll find a regular pattern of a physically or emotionally AWOL parent. Most often a father. At my son’s birth, I held his little hand and he greeted me with a stream of urine that drenched my forearm. I thought to myself, “This cute little guy is not going to be so cute and little in the years ahead. If I don’t raise him right, he is going to piss all over me. And other people.” Young males need strong boundaries as well as rigorous environments that stretch them. These parenting choices are often frowned upon by society at large.
I like big dogs. And a dog isn’t “big” unless it is over 120 lbs. My first big dog was a Rottweiler. From the day I received him at six weeks, I knew I had a major responsibility to raise him right. To let a powerful dog naturally become what he could become without strict instruction would result in a menace to my neighbors. Out of control Rottweilers and males are both dangerous things to society. Men aren’t dogs, but the stakes are much higher when raising boys than girls. An out-of-control male wreaks more havoc than an out-of-control female, not just because of physical power, but also because of their disproportionate power in our culture. History tells us that females haven’t and maybe can’t do as much damage to others as their male counterparts. It is time for us as a society to rethink how we are raising our boys to become men, and how we are encouraging our men to revert to boyish behavior. The answers and the solutions aren’t easy, but they are necessary. The women in our culture deserve better.