Listen friends. I am tired of men, especially self-proclaimed Christian men, dismissing the suffering of women who have been traumatized by the aggressive sexuality that is so prolific in our world today. Many women who have spoken about their experiences describe a ‘rape culture’ wherein the attitudes of men (and even some women) perpetuates a social climate in which men (and even some women) feel justified in forcing another being to satisfy their animal drives. Some have dismissed this idea of a ‘rape culture’ as an overstatement, but I am not burdened by an excessive dependence on opinions when the facts signified are the real issue in question.
When people dispute an individual case of sexual violence, mincing words and disregarding an individual’s trauma because it does not fit some arbitrary definition of ‘rape’, this ignores the real problem that is aggressive dominance. Aggressive dominance is that mode of behavior and attitudinal orientation where an individual or group imposes their desires on other individuals or groups, without regard for the wishes of the others. Aggressive dominance is not taking “no” for an answer and the result is a trespass against all sense of right and wrong – an insult to the very idea of ethics and morality – especially where this attitude leads to sexual violence.
Some of my readers (listeners) will understand the parallels between sexual violence and the aggressive dominance of war. In some cases, such as when Japan invaded China during the second World War, aggressive dominance was underpinned by an explicit policy of sexual violence, rape of the population under conquest. But, this attitude is not unique to the Japanese, if we recall that Americans did the same thing when we invaded Vietnam, if we recall the long and bloody pattern of rape and pillage across the globe that is inseparable from a true and enlightened knowledge of history: our common human heritage. But, when the same thing happens in the privacy of someone’s home, suddenly it becomes a question of definitions: whether an act of sexual aggressiveness constitutes legally prosecutable “rape” or if it is simply an individual expressing the natural animal impulse common to all.
I am hopeful that we can overcome this rather primitive worldview, where sexual violence is accepted and defended when it serves the interests of the dominant class, whether as an expression of international policy or as a preservation of patriarchy (where it involves male students in elite universities and sports heroes whose aggressive attitudes are reinforced by institutional support and a culture of unrepentant competition). How can we possibly consider ourselves a civilized people, if we tolerate the most barbaric behavior and defend the attitude of aggressive dominance that is synonymous with the competitive culture (and American hegemony)?
I believe we have the potential to be better than that… in fact, I know that many of us are better than that. So, now, ‘being full of vision and blessed with the gift of fiery speech, I speak to my people, and I speak in my people’s name to the masters of my people: I say to my people that they are holy, that they are august despite their chains. That they are greater than those that hold them, and stronger and purer…’ we have but need to raise ourselves above our primitive animal natures, to realize our own cruelty and grow into our higher potential.
I believe that the meek should inherit the Earth, so my words are addressed to this purpose and intoned with this intention. Anyone who shares my opinions, that the meek should inherit the Earth and that peacemakers are blessed, will immediately recognize that these opinions are opposed to any culture that condones sexual violence or valorizes aggressive dominance as an ideal of human behavior. There is no common ground between these attitudes. A rapist cannot be meek, humble and pure of heart, just as an aggressive dominator cannot make true peace.
So the question becomes, how can we transcend the ‘rape culture’ in America and manifest a purer ideal? In the past, such transformations were instigated by moral leaders, religious teachers and great visionaries. For example, let us consider Islam. Before we proceed, I must say that my words are intended with all due respect to practicing Muslims. I have the highest regard for people of faith, wherever they live, insofar as they have chosen a path of self-improvement and spiritual development, and I mean no insult by my words. That said, we can view the Prophet Muhammad’s work (may peace be upon him) as a project of ethical instruction, where he sought to establish a common paradigm of social mores. These ethical instructions, by their very nature, sought to reform the society and bring humankind closer to our highest potential.
Unfortunately, trouble arises when we consider the way moral teachings are enforced in the society. For Islam, moral teachings are reinforced by an individual’s acceptance of the core tenant that “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.” For me, the statement is absolutely true in a poetic sense, that there is no divine Truth but the divine Truth, and Muhammad was inspired by that same Truth… but, beyond this, it appears to me little different than the Catholic doctrine that the Pope is infallible (imagine that: a human being who cannot be wrong). The only value of such a doctrine is to establish the authority of their teachings, but, when this fails, history has shown time and time again that humans revert to their animalistic attitude of aggressive dominance. How do we grow beyond these limitations?
Nowadays, in America, we have self-proclaimed Christians who ask, in all seriousness, “if evolution is true, is rape wrong?” Like, goodness and decency are only important if there is some aggressively dominant Father-figure standing over you with a stick, ready to smite you if you don’t please Him. That is a rather childish approach to morality, if you ask me, and I think it has failed to lead our species towards a better and more just society (although it has served to justify some rather horrendous cruelties). But, we are evolving as a species and we can grow beyond these limitations, if we can simply overcome the primal urge to assert power over each other. When we overcome these animal tendencies, we will have grown closer to our high potential, closer to the day when the meek will inherit the Earth.
Until then, a variety of strategies remain that can help us guide our societies towards these purer ideals. The first is that we must shun the aggressor and not the victim. If the meek are to inherit the Earth, this means we must be friends to the downtrodden; we must be their champions and true heroes. This means we must be ready to listen, if a woman or man has been the victim of sexual violence, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to hear. We must become a society of people brave enough to face the harsh truths of life and willing to help our brethren cope with their painful experiences. Moreover, we must stand ready to punish the aggressor, no matter what their social standing may be. We cannot accept a judicial system that willfully ignores violent crimes perpetrated by the wealthy, but imprisons the poor and downtrodden for non-violent, victimless crimes… it is offensive to any sense of Justice.
Even still, I am hesitant to say we should drive rapists out of our communities with sticks and stones, that we should break their bones and grind them into dust. That would be a reversion to the same animal aggression we hope to grow beyond. Instead, we need to recognize that rapists are merely human, flawed like any of us, driven by natural impulses and capable of improvement. We must be willing to give them the opportunity for this improvement, just as we would give a child the opportunity to learn how to ask for things nicely instead of aggressively taking things without permission. In the end, there is little difference between these lessons, except only our willingness to teach. But, again, just as we do not tolerate bullies around our children, we cannot tolerate bullies in the society of adults. We can and, indeed, must outgrow these childish attitudes, attitudes of aggressive dominance, if we ever hope to achieve true peace; if we ever hope to see the meek inherit the Earth.
Can a person call themselves Christian and avoid these facts? It happens every day… nevertheless, simply calling yourself a thing does not make it true. The same if I called myself messiah and declared my word to be the Law. If there is a God, She would know the difference. But, as humans we are prone to error, so we must not be too quick to judge. Sometimes people are falsely accused of crimes, whether rape or otherwise, so wisdom challenges us to be equally sympathetic to the accused as to the accuser and not jump into harsh condemnation before the evidence of a case has been thoroughly considered. Still, where it concerns sexual violence, we must be prepared to give a full hearing to each case and not dismiss it out of hand.
Too many people have expressed their willingness to overlook sexual aggression, saying things like “boys will be boys” or “she was asking for it” or “she was too drunk to say no, so I thought that meant yes.” Some women like a sexually aggressive man, that much is true. However, to suggest that because one woman wants that, then all women should be subject to the same behavior is just as ludicrous as saying that, just because one altar boy enjoys being molested, then all altar boys should be subject to molestation. It is not an ethical point of view. In fact, it is the very essence of the rape culture that feminists have been speaking out against for so many years. I don’t know if you were listening, but I was. Now I join my voice to theirs in calling for an end to the cruel society that can justify sexual violence and aggressive dominance.
“A better world is possible and we have vowed to make it real…”