My #MeToo Story

MeToo movement backlash

As a student at art college, one autumn I decided to take a psychology class at a neighboring campus, UMKC. The KC Art Institute didn’t offer psychology classes, at least not formally. (The Art Institute itself was actually kind of like one big psychology experiment, but that’s another story).

One evening after my intro to psych class I was on my bike headed back to my dorm at my own campus. A carload of girls pulled alongside me, and one the girls shouted out, “NICE ASS!” as the car sped past, the girls in the car laughing uproariously.

As a college boy, I thought this was funny. And then I saw that it was about to get funnier. Looking down the road, I saw the traffic light turn red. The carload of girls had to stop at the light. I grinned to myself and pedaled as quickly as I could and caught up to the car.

I put on my most polite voice, looked into the car, and innocently asked,

“I’m sorry…you shouted something out to me back there, but I didn’t understand what you said.”

It took a few seconds for them to figure out that I was the guy they’d harassed. One of the girls shrunk down and buried her head in her hands, others tried to stifle their giggling. The girl sitting next to the driver, to whom I was speaking, pretended not to know what I was talking about.

I innocently persisted. There were no other cars on the street after all. She suddenly remembered, “Oh!…I said nice BIKE. I said I like your bike.” The car erupted with stifled laughter again. Then the light turned green and as the car sped off, she shouted out more profane remarks. The end.

Men and Women are Different
As you read this, you probably recognize that my story doesn’t really qualify as a #MeToo story. I agree. I didn’t feel victimized, or threatened, and I found the whole thing to be amusing. I assume these girls were just having a little fun by getting back at some random guy (me) for all the times they had been harassed on the street, (not by me, just for the record).

I’m really telling my story to illustrate the fact that men and women experience their sexuality differently. No young, female college student in her right mind would purposely approach a carload of guys who had just harassed her on the street. Certainly not in the evening with no one else around.

My Failed Campaign

When I was a hormonal high schooler, I remember sitting in the school cafeteria with my testosterone-crazed male peers and listening to them talk about girls. This wasn’t talking about girls as in, “wow, she’s cute.” This was cold, graphic, predatory talk. By my junior year, in addition to being raised well, I was a serious follower of Jesus, so I had compelling worldview reasons to treat women with respect. Nonetheless, as a normal male I could see within myself the same sexual impulses as those that ruled my hormonally hopped up peers.

As I looked around and compared the guys and girls I knew, I saw stark differences between the sexes that I felt no one was addressing. I felt pretty sure that most girls assumed that most guys approached sex the same way they did. Almost universally, if there was a word to sum up how most girls approached guys, I felt that word would be “unsuspecting.” I sort of took it upon myself to inform my female friends about what guys are really like.

It didn’t go all that well. Mostly I couldn’t get them to believe me.

This was understandable – it is difficult for any of us to imagine ways of thinking that are foreign to us, especially if we would rather hope such things not be true. Regarding male sexuality, it’s probably too generous to even call it a way of “thinking.” It’s more like a way of responding to a hormone-induced state of being.

At any rate, unless a girl had suffered abuse, there seemed to be little evidence for what I was saying, because guys seemed to be so “nice.” I tried explaining that, yes, a lot of guys act nice in order to get into a girl’s pants. I knew a guy who boasted that he would tell a girl he loved her to get her to sleep with him. But what girl wants to believe the world is like that?

Plus, there were factors that confused the picture.

There actually were guys who, for reasons of morality and integrity, fought internally against their animal impulses and worked at viewing women with respect.

There actually were plenty of girls who seemed to be inviting exactly the kind of non-discriminating sexual attention that the unapologetically horny guys wanted to give them.

Nothing was what it seemed to be on the surface.

The Failed Sexual Revolution
Underneath it all was the backdrop of what was then called “sexual liberation,” which seemed like an incredibly stupid idea to me, even at the time, because it raged against the societal taboos that protected women. The sexual revolution seemed to me to overwhelmingly benefit men at the expense of women, and yet, feminists were at the front of the parade leading the charge.

Weird, and yet, predictable, because the feminists were mostly women.

But it’s even wrong to say the sexual revolution “benefitted” men. It simply accommodated the animal impulses of men, which doesn’t truly benefit men or women.

Many #MeToo stories we are now hearing occurred when unsuspecting women accepted invitations to visit a man’s hotel room, home, or office alone. This used to be taboo. But now that we’re all “sexually liberated,” such taboos that once protected women are gone. So the culture has changed, but male animal nature has not, leaving girls and women vulnerable. The proof is that so many women are surprised by sexual harassment and assault by men they trusted and “thought they knew.”

One imperfect but convenient aspect about taboos in more discreet eras was that sexual proclivities could be dealt with, and the vulnerable protected, without going into graphic detail about the reasons why the taboos were necessary. Today we are supposedly more “open,” but we’re open about the wrong things. Who knew that powerful men were using their influence to coerce women for sex??? Well…um…apparently everyone. But no one was talking about it, men or women.

The high-profile men who have recently been outed – including Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, and many others – have been called monsters. I call them unethical. Calling them monsters relegates their natural human sexual impulses to some frightening, dark, inhuman realm. For all I know they’re mostly probably pretty normal men, but lacked accountability, and principled worldview beliefs sufficient to restrain their impulses, so they gave in to the temptation to abuse their power. One could argue that, in part at least, the climate produced by the sexual revolution enabled these men to operate freely as sexual predators.

Will the #metoo movement succeed?
In one sense, the #MeToo movement is what I thought I wanted decades ago – a general female awareness that men are jerks. Even though I had theological reasons that told me all of humanity – both male and female – is corrupt and fallen, I still tended to put women on a pedestal.

In more recent years my sympathies toward men have grown, and I believe I see more clearly that both men and women (and everyone in between) are seriously jacked up and in need of redemption and spiritual guidance. I have several close examples of decent men who have been used by women, and lost much in the process.

Regarding the #MeToo movement, I now personally know at least 2 men who have probably had careers destroyed because of unproven accusations from women. I can testify with certainty that not all men are guilty of sexual misconduct. I regularly meet with other men for purposes of accountability, with no “help” at all from feminists shaming me for being male.

I’ve generally been inclined to be sympathetic to the idea of feminism, because historically, men have overwhelmingly tended to abuse their masculine strength, and because I believe in the fundamental equality of men and women. But unfortunately, in practice, feminism consistently veers into a tangle of toxic solutions and malignant ideology. This is not necessarily true of #MeToo.

The Me Too Movement was founded by Tarana Burke, a black woman and survivor of sexual abuse who set up a non profit in 2006 to help young women of color find community and healing from sexual abuse. The more recent social media iteration of the movement is more focused on raising awareness and calling men into account for their actions.

As it is today, I believe the Me Too movement has been a positive force. It is giving formerly silent women a voice, affirming those who have been abused, and bringing to light the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence. It also contradicts stereotypes about women propagated by the porn industry – lies that many men would like to believe. I think this benefits all women, and helps to create a powerful societal atmosphere of unacceptability around predatory sexual behavior.

In other words it’s a step toward re-erecting societal taboos that have fallen, or perhaps even replacing them with something better.

But the Me Too Movement is not going to change the biological impulses of men. We are all still going to have to learn to live together, in community, in an understanding way.

Furthermore, if the Me Too Movement becomes politicized and partisan, it will be a loss for women. Unfortunately, this already seems to be happening. If the Me Too movement becomes co-opted by, and identified with, left wing feminism(s), it will cease to be a voice and a help for all women, even as it claims to be so. It will become one more divisive faction, issuing irrational ultimatums in our already badly fractured society.

Both the perpetrators and the victims of sexual misconduct cross all political, racial, economic, professional, and ideological lines. No one, (outside of the porn industry), is championing sexual violence. We can’t allow the issue of sexual violence and sexual harassment to become a political tool. May we all move toward more dialogue and healing, and away from walling ourselves off from those who are different from us.

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In Defense of Sex Taboos. Sort of.

Remember the first time you got away with breaking a rule as a kid? Maybe it was your first cigarette, or maybe you stole something, or cheated on a test at school. Do you remember what happened afterward?

Nothing…

No angry voice from heaven. No dark clouds gathering with peals of thunder. No being struck with blindness or leprosy. ‘Just crickets and birds chirping…Hmmm. Remember how this made you wonder if maybe what you had done wasn’t such a big deal after all? If you were like me, your immature mind figured that if an action were truly wrong, then there must follow some unpleasant visible consequence. Instead there were only “artificial” consequences, usually imposed by adult authorities. This gave some of us the distinct impression as children that there was really nothing innately wrong with breaking these rules at all – these were simply things adults didn’t want us to do. They were “merely” social constructs. Therefore, all we needed to worry about was not getting caught. I watched as this became a way of life for many of my adolescent peers – breaking the rules and trying not to get caught.

It would be overly simplistic to say that the rebellious kids who saw the rules as disposable social constructs grew up to land on one side of the political spectrum, while kids who tried to obey their parents grew up to land on the other side. So I won’t say that. It would be only slightly more accurate to say that adults who view moral values as mere social constructs never grew up at all. So I won’t say that either. But I’ll say this: I think I’m seeing that the reasoning of a lot of us as adults is not much different from that of adolescent rebellious kids. I hear a lot of people who are arguing that if something is a social construct, then we’re probably all better off without it. The idea seems to be that discarding these artificialities will bring us closer to our “true” selves. And there seems to be an accompanying naïve assumption that our true selves must be good.

That is a wildly optimistic assumption if one looks at human behavior.

There is definitely a vocal and influential segment of modern culture who feels that, because an action may not have immediate visible, verifiable, negative consequences, then there are no consequences; all moral judgments must be relative, and are therefore, artificial. These well-intentioned people think that gender and monogamous marriage are malleable social constructs; that it makes perfect sense to treat sex as purely recreational; that personhood must be subjectively defined. That anyone who says otherwise is seeking to control women, or impose their morality or religion on others. Those who seek to uphold a societal moral code are judging people, which is now apparently on the same level as putting a kitten in a blender.

Now I’m on the other side. I’m a parent who has raised 5 children. I’ve worked with teens for a lot of years, and have watched a lot of other families raise their kids. I’ve watched a lot of kids (and adults) go off the rails. It’s clear to me now that as a parent, I did in fact know what was best for my children in most cases. I was wiser than they were, I could see farther down the road than they could, and I loved them and had their very best interest at heart when I administered “artificial” consequences. I understand now that the artificial consequences were preferable over the natural ones, because often the natural consequences would’ve come at too high a price, or would’ve taken years to see.

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As I was thinking about my own childhood recently, a metaphor came to mind that explains postmodern American culture.

I’m pretty sure that every parent I know instructs their toddlers to stay out of the street. At the same time, everyone knows this is overstated. There is nothing innately dangerous about a street – it’s actually the moving cars on the street that parents are concerned with. But it’s simpler to say, “stay out of the street.” That’s the way taboos work. If you examine them closely you can see that they’re kind of stupid. You can always find an exception to the rule.

In the suburb where I grew up, as we toddlers became adolescents, it became quite common for us to play in the street. This actually became an annoyance to the adults. My friends and I played roller hockey in the street right in front of my house. My brother, sister, and friends sometimes took up a quarter of the block playing 3 Grounders or a Fly. Why did we do this when there was a nice park down the street a block away? Maybe it was partly because we were lazy. But partly, for me at least, it was because I thought it was cool to play in the street, because not playing in the street was for little kids. It felt good to me. The adults could really no longer tell us to stay out of the street because we all knew the point of the rule was really not to stay out of the street, but to not get hit by a car. So we would move over for the cars. Nonetheless, we would actually get frustrated whenever a car would interrupt our games. Ironically, some of us would jokingly shout at the cars and tell them to get on the sidewalk where they belonged.

It’s interesting that I never saw an adult playing in the street with us adolescents. There were probably several reasons for this. For one thing, none of us adolescents were driving yet. So we didn’t yet realize what an annoyance we were. Mostly, as in the political arena, the most important stuff was left unspoken. But periodically an adult would actually spell out for us that streets were designed to be driven on, and that yards and parks and private property were designed to be safe places to play. But the conversation would end with us saying that we were being careful of the traffic.

Here is where we are now as a culture. We now have lots of people playing in the street. There are respected people in academia and in the entertainment industry urging them on, arguing that even the idea of a street is a social construct. Saying this solves nothing, but it makes those who say it sound intellectual, perceptive, and cutting-edge. And technically, what they’re saying is true: cars could drive on the sidewalks and through people’s yards in order to get around the adolescents who want to play wherever the hell they want. One can no doubt find places in the world where this is done. And in a perfect world this could even work quite well. But this gets us to the heart of the matter: we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world that needs artificial boundaries to keep society from descending into chaos.

The intellectual elites apparently feel they are educating people by pointing out that the rule, or even the street, is a social construct, and that they therefore are dispensable; taboos restrict human autonomy. Taboos are bars on a cage. Taboos are designed by those in authority to control people. I now routinely hear that ideas such as gender, monogamous marriage, and virginity, are social constructs. The very act of saying such things is assumed to be enlightening, and a call to action. Everyone! Get out in the street and play!

Here’s an enlightening quote from a cutting-edge dead guy:

“Whenever a taboo is broken, something good happens, something vitalizing. Taboos after all are only hangovers, the product of diseased minds, you might say, of fearsome people who hadn’t the courage to live and who under the guise of morality and religion have imposed these things upon us.”
Henry Miller – frequently banned American writer, 1891-1980

Really? But could a subjective, culturally made-up taboo serve a good purpose, even though it’s not “real”?

I personally don’t get excited about taboos, and I don’t live by them at all. However, I think they serve a real purpose in a very imperfect, heavily populated world. Even though I’m inclined to question everything, I often find that there are good reasons for the things we are told to question. Sex taboos are one of those things. I see them as a lame, last ditch, imperfect societal safety net. They’re like guardrails on a dangerous curve in the road. How many of you rely on the guardrail to keep your car on the road?

Right. Neither do I.

However, if you’re a drunken idiot, or if the road conditions are unsafe, hitting the guardrail is better than sailing over the edge and bursting into flame. Call me a pessimist, but removing all the road signs and guardrails might not lead to freedom and wonderfulness for everybody’s “true self.” Doing so might actually make it impossible for one’s true self to reach its destination. Those things might’ve been there for good reasons.

The neighborhood can handle a few kids playing in the street. This has always been the case. But there is a tipping point. Eventually, if the street becomes too crowded with adolescents, either traffic is going to come to a halt, or people are going to get hurt. If the neighborhood loses a common understanding of what a park, a street, and a car are for, the neighborhood will eventually disintegrate. Regarding our existence today, there could not be more fundamental ideas than gender, marriage, and human personhood. These are the most weight bearing of societal pillars. So many are expressing surprise and delight at how quickly these pillars are being removed! At the inevitability of it all!

Allow me to make a prediction about freedom in America. Please excuse the fact that it’s not very original. (I’ll admit that I looked at history to make this prediction):

American pluralism has given us a maximum amount of freedom with a minimal amount of chaos. Historically, we have ordered ourselves through the unique concept of (largely religiously motivated) self-government, along with the usual societal taboos around these societal pillars. With the redefining of gender, marriage, and personhood, the religious segment of society will lose constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. (This is not really a prediction, since it is currently underway.) As self-government fails over time, and taboos and guardrails are gone, society will descend into chaos. People’s “true selves” will be surprised, but will be helpless to do anything about it. The State will need to step in to forcibly restore order, resulting in a net loss of basic freedoms for everyone. That, my friends, is how dictators get elected – desperate people elect them. (Plus dictators lie and cheat, but that’a another topic.)

Here’s a fascinating paradox, addressed to my socially liberal friends: You guys are taking all the fun out of being counter-cultural. Supposedly, cultural taboos are oppressive. But the truth is you were always free not to comply. The consequence for non-compliance was that you would be labeled a rebel, or a radical, or a freethinker. Big deal. America never had a state church. You were always free to give religion the finger and go your own way in our pluralistic culture, if you had the courage to do so. But now, “progressives” are enforcing their “enlightened” (but-still-subjective, btw) values on everyone else, necessarily becoming the oppressor. You don’t have a compelling basis for self-government. You no longer have societal taboos. You have no transcendent basis for innately valuing all human life. You are now left with the force of government, which we are not free to disregard, to force those of us who disagree to comply with your subjective values. This is going to get interesting.

I want you to know that I forgive you. And I still love you. And I’m not going to comply.

Wishing EVERYONE tolerance and freedom of speech, expression, and religion in the coming year!
(Because we are now down to wishing.)

– Scott Freeman

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