In light of the story of sexual abuse unearthed at the US Senate Judiciary hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, it’s no surprise that a new hashtag has appeared on Twitter for men who managed to go through their high school or college years without having sexually assaulted anybody: #Not Me.
It seems bizarre to me that we should reach the stage where it should be remarkable that young men made it through their adolescence being kind and respectful to sexual partners – whether women or men. And I frankly don’t think it is. I think that most men are and want to be decent human beings in their sexual relationships. But you might not know that from the comments on social media following Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony of having been thrown down and groped by Kavanaugh. We heard it whispered among some men, “Well, who didn’t?” The answer is: lots of us, most of us, men who recognized that only a predator and a jerk would treat women that way.
And as long as we’re talking, I need to add: Not me, either. I was a quiet kid growing up, no social butterfly. But I had girlfriends in high school and college and was sexually active, but all those relationships were consensual. I never forced myself on anyone.
I have to say, though, that in college I did hear about some wilder goings on, places women were warned against going, where some men embarrassed and debased them. This was pretty widely known, but no one did anything to stop it.
What’s frightening today is that with the entertainment industry so sexualized and with porn ubiquitous across the Internet, it can be hard for boys, especially, to make sense of what a healthy sexual relationship even looks like. That is part of what makes it incumbent on us as a caring, compassionate community to help them learn.
The Our Whole Lives classes that we at UUCA convene across age spans are centered in a value-based conversation about sexuality at each age level, up to and including adults. I took the classes years ago. So did our three daughters and now our granddaughters, and I am grateful for this gift to their lives.
Meanwhile, we men need to be upfront in pledging never to be sexual abusers ourselves, to intervene if we see it happening, to directly urge our sons never to engage in it and to confront anyone who would normalize that kind of behavior. Not Me, not any of us, not ever.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister