It was ‘Sex Night’ at camp.
A month before my freshman semester, I attended an orientation camp designed to ‘welcome’ me to my university. Overwhelmingly, the staff was made up of sophomore and junior college students.
On the second night, they split the girl and guy campers into two separate groups. The format was a roundtable discussion among upperclassmen about the sexual realities of college, practicing safe sex, and establishing healthy boundaries.
That didn’t happen – at least not in the guy’s session.
The upperclassman leading the roundtable grabbed the microphone and addressed the small room filled with seventy-five freshman students.
“Okay, so wear a condom, yada, yada, yada. You guys know this,” he said. “So, while the girls are talking about their feelings ‘n shit, we’re going to have some fun. Which female counselor do you guys think has the best rack?”
I was dumbfounded. For an hour, I listened to a room full of guys discuss the sex appeal and body proportions of the girls who were literally only a room away.
I sat in shocked silence. I didn’t participate in the discussion. But I didn’t leave either.
I was afraid of what they would think of me.
Locker Room Talk and Moral Outrage
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about “locker room talk.”
On Friday, October 7, audio tape from 2005 of GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Billy Bush graphically discussing Trump attempting to “fuck a married woman” and using his celebrity status to “grab ’em by the pussy” was uncovered by the Washington Post.
The Trump campaign responded with an apology – the first in the campaign’s history – but downplayed the remarks as “locker room talk.”
For the record joking about grabbing a woman’s genitals without receiving consent isn’t mere “locker room talk” – it’s unequivocally joking about sexual assault.
This is indefensible.
But if we’re truly outraged by the implications of that leaked audio tape, then we need to take a hard look at the type of culture that creates and enables men like Trump.
I’m in no way downplaying or attempting to deflect from the rhetoric of Donald Trump – a man who speaks in such a way about women should never be president. But a country’s leaders are often the natural byproduct of the culture – not the other way around.
There’s a generation of young boys growing up within a culture that is telling them it’s okay for men to act like boys – that it’s okay to view and treat women like objects, and you can get away with it.
Boys and Pornography
In April of 2016, the ultra-conservative state of Utah declared pornography a public health crisis – calling it “evil, degrading, addictive, and harmful.” The passage of S.C.R. 9 was met with derision and ridicule across most of the internet.
For a Christian, I’m fairly left-of-center on a number of social issues. But, in regards to pornography, I can not brush it off as an entertainment preference. I’ve personally witnessed and experienced the devastating effects of pornography in my own life and in the lives of several other men and women.
More than one-third of all internet traffic is related to pornography. The porn industry generates more money per year than Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association – combined. The most popular search terms of porn are “teen,” “lesbian,” and “milf.”
According to the most conservative of statistics, 70% of men and 30% women watch porn on a weekly basis. The average time spent on a porn site is 12 minutes, and the average viewer visits a porn site 7.5 times per month.
In my personal experience and interactions, I’ve never met a single male who hasn’t at some point in their life struggled with pornography use – and I live in the heart of the Bible Belt.
In recent years, I’ve heard some women argue that pornography is actually empowering to women and it should be celebrated as an example of women taking control of their sexuality.
I’ve never known a single man, who through the viewing of internet pornography, has come away from the experience with a more enlightened or respectful view of women. Simply reviewing the titles of the top trending pornographic videos on any porn website should quickly dispel the feministic notion of porn – women are “banged,” “nailed,” “creamed,” “pounded,” “punished,” and “dominated.”
In porn, women are not portrayed as beings designed in the image of God – but instead as a set of holes designed to be filled by a domineering man for the viewing pleasure of another man masturbating in front of a computer screen.
This isn’t religious-fueled hysteria. More and more secular research institutions are beginning to sound the alarm on the detrimental effects of the normalization of pornography.
A man who regularly consumes a steady diet of pornography is not a man who is going to be biologically predisposed to respect women – because pornography literally alters the chemistry in someone’s brain.
The chemical cocktail released into a man’s brain during orgasm floods the brain with dopamine – which create neurological pathways toward your brain’s reward center. Within a healthy sexual relationship, this reaction is a good thing – it physically and emotionally increases feelings of intimacy between you to your partner.
But in regards to porn, the constant stream of hyper-sexualized images and videos will actually diminish the effectiveness of dopamine – numbing the neurological receptors. Porn that once excited a person loses it’s effectiveness, and it begins to take more porn – or different types of porn – more often to generate the same level of arousal.
If we wish to sufficiently combat a societal ill, we must target the cultural root of the problem. And the unfortunate reality is that a generation of boys is growing up in culture that not only normalizes the objectification of women via pornography, but also routinely fails to hold them accountable for their actions.
Boys and Sexual Assault
On June 2, 2016, the nation looked on in stunned outrage as Brock Turner – a Stanford University student who was caught sexually assaulting a fellow classmate in public – was sentenced to only six months in jail.
The People v. Turner case was brought into the public spotlight after Brock’s victim posted her courtroom statement to Brock on the internet. It quickly went viral.
Brock Turner would only serve three months of his sentence before being released for “good behavior.”
Unfortunately, the very fact that Brock Turner spent anytime in jail for sexual assault should be seen as a minor victory.
One out of every six women has been victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Some statistics have that number as a high one out of every four women. Three out of four rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
Out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 994 perpetuators will never see a jail cell.However, as many as 80% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. The reasons for not reporting included fear of retaliation, the belief that the police wouldn’t do anything to help, and the belief it wasn’t important enough to report.
A common misconception about sexual assault is that it’s a crime fueled by sexual desire. But it’s not. It’s an egregious violation of human dignity fueled by a compulsion to exert dominance over an individual. It’s about power.
Men in the United States (and around the world) need to start taking the plight of women in regards to sexual assault seriously. It’s a crime that relies heavily on the victim’s shame to silence its victims.
Sexual assault and rape are uncomfortable and disturbing topics to address. We would rather pretend we are not affect by it, and thus we turn a blind eye. But that is exactly the type of attitude that contributes to its prevalence in our society.
The Fall of Man
I know this post is probably being shared on social media by a few ‘old-timers’ and ‘traditional folks’ as they shake their heads and say things like “Can you believe how bad it’s gotten? Why, in my day…”
Let me be very clear about something: We are living in the world you created.
It’s the “aww shucks, boys will be boys” attitude of decades past that led people to tolerate mainstream pornography, sexism, and lackluster sexual assault laws.
The wraith of misogyny has been creeping in the background of our culture for centuries, and the millennials just happen to the generation that dug it up out of shadows and put it online for the world to see.
The world doesn’t necessarily need “women to be stronger.” Statements like these – once again – shift the burden of guilt and responsibility back upon the shoulders of women. It also implies women aren’t already strong enough.
The world is in desperate of need of boys strong enough to step up, become men and elevate women to the level of respect and honor endowed upon them by their Creator.
This means an entire generation of boys needs to grow up.
We need boys to stop watching pornography and become men who denounce the degradation of women in any and all forms.
We need boys to put down their phones and become men who can talk to a women face-to-face without thinking about getting her in bed.
We need boys to stop encouraging “locker room talk” with their silence and become men who hold their peers accountable for their words and actions.
We need boys to stand up and speak out against misogynistic roundtable discussions at freshman orientation camps while they’re happening.
Because our women deserve better from us.
Addendum: On Moral Panic
It gives me no pleasure to be a doomsayer.
I’m only 25, far too young to be the old man sitting on the front porch shaking his fist at a cloud.
But this is different. Social media and the internet pervade every aspect of our culture, especially among younger generations. They don’t know a world prior to smart phones.
In her book Alone Together, sociologist Sherry Turkle says “These young people are among the first to grow up with an expectation of continuous connection: always on, and always on them. And they are among the first to grow up not necessarily thinking of simulation as second best.”
I’m not advocating the United States ban pornography. I know how the internet works.
But we can probably assume a 13-year-old boy alone in his room with access to the entire breadth of human sexuality on his mobile device is probably not considering the long-term consequences of his actions.
And neither are we.
For parents, this may mean having an uncomfortable and awkward conversation with your sons and daughters. Because if they’re in their mid-teens and have a smart phone, it’s not just possible that they’re regularly interacting with porn, it’s highly probable.
For the rest of us, it may mean asking honest questions about our culture’s infatuation with porn. As much as we would like to believe that we can keep the spheres of pornography and real life separate, biology shows us it’s far more difficult to do than just closing out a browser window.
Because if we don’t start having open and honest dialogue about the issues I’ve explored above – internet pornography, the digitalization of misogyny, and lax sexual assault laws – the rise of men like Donald Trump is only the beginning.
And he probably won’t be the worst.
- Get the facts on how porn negatively impacts your brain, heart, and the world.
- Block explicit content from the web browser on your iPhone or Android mobile device.
- Download a porn blocker extension or accountability software.
- Talk openly and honestly about your struggles with pornography with a trusted mentor or friend.
- Get the facts on the prevalence of sexual assault.
- Learn how to talk to a survivor of sexual assault.
- Volunteer at your local rape crisis center.
- Write to your congressman about the importance of harsher sentencing for sexual assault and increased funding for survivor recovery programs.
- Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
- American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle