Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blaming the Victim

"It's society that needs to change, not the length of my skirt."

Sooo, regarding the crime of rape, I think it's fairly accepted these days that the civil approach is not to blame the victim. That is, if a girl dresses in provocative clothing, or if she acts in a flirty manner, or what have you, this is not an invitation for sexual assault. I am fully behind this approach. In fact, it's the only humane approach; which places the responsibility for rape in the hands of the rapist himself, while allowing for the rest of us the full range of free expression. In other words, I can express myself in a sexual manner if I like, and that does not constitute an excuse to be sexually assaulted. (Thank you very much.)

But I think this approach can be expanded a little bit further. Some so-called feminists have a bit of a misandrist streak and love nothing more than to define expressions of male sexuality as being inherently misogynistic and degrading of women. You hear this a lot from the anti-pornography camp. Well, here's the way I look at it. If I feel compelled to create artistic renditions of girls as viewed in a sexual light through the gaze of the horny male, I don't see how any part of that involves my supporting the rape and degradation of women. If somebody looks at pictures and goes out and rapes a woman, the rapist is to blame, not the pictures, and not the person who created those pictures. If women aren't to be blamed for being raped because they dressed provocatively, then neither should I be blamed for encouraging the rape of women by taking provocative pictures of them.

Because you see, thinking that a picture depicting a girl in a sexualized manner invites rape is no different from thinking that a girl presenting herself in a provocative manner (by way of dress or behavior) invites rape. It would be absolutely ridiculous to suggest that women ought to be allowed to contextualize themselves as sexual agents, but that men should simultaneously be barred from viewing them that way. Even were it possible, it would completely disrupt the sexual chemistry between males and females. You simply cannot write off all male appreciation of female sexuality as the degradation of women, and proof of their support of rape. The key to preventing sexual assault is having a clear understanding of the line between sex and rape. Defining all sexual attention as assault doesn't accomplish that.

So please, place the responsibility where it belongs; don't treat people who express themselves sexually (and that includes pornographers) as if they were inviting or supporting sexual abuse.

Lust as a Sin

I think a lot of people have a tendency to take the seven deadly sins at face value, and forget that they are only deadly in so far as you indulge in them excessively to the exclusion of other important things in your life - specifically, from a religious perspective, your duty to God. It's very similar to the concept of addiction. In moderation, none of the sins are necessarily a bad thing - despite the fact that they are considered to be vices.

Take gluttony, for example. There's absolutely nothing wrong with eating - in fact, it's necessary for survival. And I personally don't see any problem in taking enjoyment out of eating. It's only when your love of eating overcomes other considerations - like your health, spending time with friends, being able to concentrate on your job - that it becomes dangerous and loses its virtue. If you'd rather put down a sandwich than play ball with your son, for example, your love of food is a problem.

What are the other sins? Sloth? It's perfectly fine to enjoy some relaxation now and then, so long as you're not resting so much that you're not getting things done that you need to be getting done. Pride? It's a good thing to take a certain amount of pride in your achievements - it only becomes insidious when you start to overinflate your ego and put down other people to hoist yourself up. Greed? This is a tricky one, because the desire for material possessions is tempting, but who's to say a reasonable desire for enough wealth to live a comfortable life is something that poisons one's humanity? That excessive greed is a sin doesn't mean that you have to be a penniless ascetic to preserve your virtue. Wrath is a hard one to argue because even a little bit of anger can cause problems - but everyone is entitled to feel angry at times in their life. In fact, it's healthy - bottling up that anger can cause even more problems. The important thing is not to let your anger get control over you to the point that you hurt others.

People seem really quick to label anything sexual as being lustful. We can argue the definition of the word "lust", but in terms of the seven deadly sins, having an appreciation for sex and an interest in the vast realm of sexuality does not itself indicate that a person has been consumed with vice and fallen off the path of virtue. Get your head out of the Puritan sand - sex was not invented by the devil. Pleasure is not solely a device for temptation. Pleasure is a gift that God gave us. And sex is divine.

The different sins depict different qualities of varying virtue (or lack of virtue, one might say). Wrath and envy are generally seen as being negative things. Pride and greed and sloth are all viewed as vices, but this depends on the excessive application of their behaviors. In moderation, none of them are all that bad. Just like with gluttony - we don't define eating for survival, or enjoying feasting in moderation, as gluttony, it only becomes gluttony when it crosses the line into unhealthy addiction. Why shouldn't we view lust the same way? If your love of sex is getting in the way of things, then that can be unhealthy, but whose to say that all things sexual are demonic, that any sexual activity is a vice, that sex cannot be pursued as a virtue, like one who pursues the culinary arts for the purpose of brightening the lives of others?

Well I think it can.