By Erin Weist
News in the United States was recently inundated with scandals involving sexual assault. These subjects range through Hollywood celebrities, movie directors, politicians, high-profile doctors, and more. Most consist of women accusing men of assault, although there are a fair number of men doing the accusing as well. Quite often, though not always, these stories stem from the claim that a young person was preyed upon by someone older, someone in a position of trust or authority.
Most of the men accused in these instances have already been tried by the court of public opinion, whether the accusations are true or not. Some of these predators have admitted to and apologized for their behavior. Unfortunately the damage is done and an apology does little to mitigate the consequences. In at least one instance, inappropriate behavior of a man toward a woman was justified, encourage, laughed at, brushed aside as a harmless joke. But the negative effects streaming through many societies show that sexual innuendo, gestures, or assault, all have long-term damaging effects on women and on society in general. The over-sexualization of a society has no benefits to individuals or families and are damaging to both. This is seen in these recent news reports, in the horrifying studies about the effects of pornography (particularly the effects on youth), even in entertainment productions, many of which portray the bodies of women as something akin to a plate of meat. (For reports on the effects of pornography,here is just tiny sampling: Pornography & Broken Relationships, Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction, Social Science Research on Pornography, The Impact of Pornography on Children, This is What Porn Does to Your Brain.)
People can argue about who is at fault, who is lying, who is truly a predator, or how much it really matters. There are probably a variety of opinions on the subject. But one thing is clear to me: we need good men. I know there are many out there because I am related to a great number of them. I know amazing husbands (including my own), fathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins who put their families first. They work hard to provide for and protect their families, they put aside their own pursuits to help their children, they serve the children in their communities by coaching sports teams, they act as mentors to nieces or nephews, they quietly serve in their churches to strengthen their neighbors. They have daughters that they adore and they understand that every woman is someone’s daughter.
My call to you is simple: please speak up. We need men who do not laugh at tawdriness and will prompt other men to turn away from such behavior. We need men who do not consume pornography to inspire others to also reject this destructive habit. We need men who recognize the value of their wives to put a voice to that belief. In short, we need you to be louder. Right now the entertainment industry has an incredibly loud voice. Movies earn millions of dollars, as do tv shows produced online, sports programs, streaming videos and more. These platforms can say and teach the next generation of men that sexualized behavior shows bravado and strength. You can say otherwise. You can speak up against such attitudes on social media, and you can encourage brands that you follow to do the same. You can recognize that the entertainment you consume affects more than just your own mind, it shapes our culture. Turn it off, if needs be, get outside and interact with your community. Be a reminder that loving your neighbor is more important than the mean pleasure that comes from taking advantage of a woman or from laughing at such degrading behavior. Encourage young boys within your scope of influence to be men of courtesy, of honor, of virtue, of duty, and teach them that these characteristics do not come by demeaning women but through respect. Teach them to love and respect their mothers through your own example; it will be the greatest way to teach them respect for all women. That love and respect for their mothers will be a guiding force throughout their life and in every situation.
As a woman I can declare that we need you. Your support is appreciated and noticed. Please do not give up and do not be silent. Be loud, as loud as you can! Your voices will make a difference, even when it appears that you are standing alone. That is the power of a man, using his strength to protect others. This is what we need — more good men.