The dramatic, depressing stories from 36 years ago that were beamed around the world last week are now stuck in our minds. Our country has been brought together to witness some gripping political theatre and some horrific personal tragedies. Anyone with an ounce of compassion must feel the pain of Christine Blasey Ford, and, yes, the pain of Brett Kavanaugh too. The images conjured up by the hearings will stay with us for a long time: of drunken teenagers, partying in parent-less homes; of a frightened girl attacked and scarred for life; of smug, sophomoric comments in high-school yearbooks; of jocks smirking over supposed sexual conquests and lionizing inebriation. Yes, the hearings brought us together to watch, glued to our seats, only to shatter into warring camps to the drumbeat of fatuous political rhetoric. Pathetic. Disturbing.
I can just imagine the ayatollahs and imams in the Middle East shaking their heads knowingly : “This is why we insist women must wear the veil. It is the only way to protect them from the lusts of men, and particularly young foolish men, barely out of boyhood. This is why we forbid alcohol. Come here, my daughter, and cover yourself from head to toe so that you will not be a temptation for young men to sin.”
But is there no other answer than this? If only we could use this important moment to get at something even greater than a Supreme Court seat: the treatment of women. The Catholics call marriage a Sacrament, but the act of sexual union itself is what is sacred, or should be, an intimate, beautiful manifestation of love and commitment, not a pastime, not a game. To think of sex as an appetite to be indulged puts us at the level of the beasts. Can’t we tune in to our higher selves without entombing women in shapeless cocoons?
Joseph Campbell warned us long ago, that we are society without a rite of passage for young men, and if none exists, they will create their own. Drunken binges and scoring with girls have become the ritual for too many, especially when boys and young men come together in groups. We should do all in our power to create a new respect for the Sacrament of Sexual Union.
Here are some suggestions:
Every father and mother should now go to their young boys and say, “Whatever you do in life, always treat women with respect.” Repeat this frequently throughout their adolescence.
Every coach of every team in high school and college should gather their players and insist (as many already do): “You guys are here to be examples to the wider community, so if I hear about any drunken binges, or parties with strippers or hookers, you’re off the team.”
Every president of every college and university should let fraternities and sororities know that the days of worshipping the keg are over. No more Animal House—it’s not funny anymore.
Every captain in the armed forces should meet with their troops and crews: “I know you guys need to relax and have fun, but do it within reason, and men, always treat women as your equals, not as objects, not as prey.”
In the meantime, women, watch out, and fight back.