Faith

#MeToo Will Only Work if It Tackles the Cause of Sex Abuse

(Getty Images)

Over the weekend, #MeToo trended on Twitter. The hashtag trend began after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” According to a New York Times story published on October 16, “Tens of thousands of people replied to the message.” My own newsfeed has witnessed scores of tweets and retweets featuring #MeToo. While I empathize with the sentiment, I’m afraid that the trend ignores the actual cause of sexual harassment and abuse. Sin is the cause, not power.

Like everything that identity politics and intersectionality touch, a complex issue has become segregated away from needed voices. Solving problems requires being honest about the problem, and that honesty begins with allowing all participants a voice, regardless of gender.

Yesterday, after noticing the hashtag trend, I composed my own #MeToo tweet but deleted it without publishing. I hit “delete” for two main reasons. First, I didn’t want to inadvertently take away from the stories of the women I know. I empathize and agree that sexual harassment and assault are problems that the majority (if not all) of women face. My wife does — from being constantly groped on the DC Metro to having to buy a suit so that men will take her seriously, she is treated as less than because she’s a woman by many people. Second, I was afraid I would take away from the stories because I’m aware that my voice is not wanted, regardless of my story, because I’m a man. So, I stayed out of it.

But by God’s grace, I have a platform of my own from which to relate my story and offer my thoughts.

I’ve already written briefly about my experience with harassment and abuse as a theatre actor. Being an actor meant that I also frequently worked in the service industry. My experience observing and receiving sexual harassment and abuse in the theatre world was less than what I saw and received while working in the service industry.

I could probably write an entire book detailing the sexual abuse I witnessed and experienced in the service industry. It was non-stop. Gender was the least important variable, both in the abused and the abuser. Not all managers, but many of them, both male and female, expected sexual favors in return for being put on the schedule for the plum shifts. Being good at your job spared you from being confronted with that trade-off. Almost everyone, male and female, employee and employer, talked about their sexual exploits. And those discussions were usually graphic. What’s more, the discussions about desired sexual conquests were discussed in front of and, at times, with the object of the desire.

For me, the customers were the worst. When waiting tables, it was a rare night that I didn’t have my butt pinched or crotch grabbed, or both. Those actions, legally defined as sexual assault, were usually accompanied by graphic descriptions of what the customer wanted to do to me, and almost always by a woman.

The most egregious and ongoing example came from a group of ladies from the local Red Hat Society. Every week, they would eat lunch at the restaurant where I worked. Each week, they requested my section. Each week they would put their hands all over me and tell me what they would do to me if given the chance.

When I complained to the manager, she laughed and said, “You should find it flattering. Besides, they’re good customers and they tip well.”

While happening less often, I saw my fair share of sexual harassment while delivering pizzas, too.

The two most common occurrences involved women at home alone during the day and business women hosting business lunches. My point is that women sexually abuse men, too. More so than is probably acknowledged, in fact. As a man, you’re expected to accept it; it’s flattering, and a true man can handle it.

So, yeah, #MeToo.

Men desire women. Women desire men. It’s always been that way. When discussing sexuality, feminists rightfully reject the Victorian notion that sex is mainly for men. Women merely endure sex, according to that wrongheaded belief. The problem is that when discussing the problem of sexual harassment and abuse, feminists reduce it to power and ignore the sexual desires of women.

Concluding her article about the Weinstein scandal, Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate, “This gender dynamic used to be openly encouraged. Now, it’s grudgingly accepted. If any real good is to come from Weinstein’s downfall, it must be destroyed. Men will sexually harass women as long as their well-meaning peers can credibly say that it’s just how the real world works.”

I understand the dynamics of power. I understand that in every instance in which I can claim that I was sexually harassed or abused, it was by an individual who had some level of power over me. However, when it comes to sexual abuse, power isn’t the problem; the sinner who abuses his or her position of power is the problem. Drilling down even further, sin is the problem.

Reducing sexual abuse to power dynamics is dealing with the symptom and not the actual problem. This means that even if the symptom is halted for a while, it will eventually come back because the problem remains.

Sinners pursue power for sinful means; we’re all sinners; we all have within us the desire to pursue power for sinful means. A Biblical anthropology explains that all humans are born sinners in rebellion against God. The Bible’s solution — repentance of sin, and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — is the only way to deal with the problem of sexual abuse of both women and men by both women and men.

Of course, society rejects the Bible. Furthermore, society has full-bore accepted a standard for sexuality that is contrary to the Bible’s teachings. Leah Libresco Sargeant puts it well in First Things when she writes, “The more we embrace vulgarity and the breaking of taboos as liberating, the more predators will flourish.”

Until society is willing to submit to God and to God’s definitions and parameters for sexuality and sex, abuse will continue. Even if every man was removed from power and replaced by a woman, sexual abuse would still continue. Women have sexual desires just like men, and sinful women will (do) abuse their power just like men. Power isn’t the problem; sin is. And the solution to sin is the gospel of Jesus Christ.