May Our Sons be Men

The proper function of everything must be looked for. The proper function of power is to protect.
-Blaise Pascal

Recently the news has been ablaze with the story of a woman who was sexually assaulted by a Stanford student. Many have been outraged (rightly) at his absurdly light sentencing for his crime. Too many have defended the young man’s actions, excusing him for his crimes.

Sadly, this is one more instance of a man abandoning his responsibility toward women.

Because women have been and continue to be oppressed by men, as in the Stanford case and many like it, some are saying we need feminism. Yet, feminism does not hold men to responsibility, for feminism often ignores the distinction of sex and the call for men to operate as protectors. The justice and equal value for women that feminism rightly seeks to achieve (yet most often fails at accomplishing), is not changed primarily through women, but through men. Only when men hold themselves to the dignity of manhood by standing firm in responsibility and self-restraint will they in turn treat people (and especially those who may be weaker–whether by substances, physical characteristics, emotional fortitude, or circumstance) with kindness, gentleness, and an overwhelming desire to protect against those who seek to exploit.

We are all familiar with stories of men weaponizing sex (some of us perhaps know these stories personally and painfully well), we know of these instances where men use physical, social, and mental power as a way to subdue and destroy a woman. There is perhaps nothing more disgusting than the use of something intended to be beautiful and intimate as a callous and cruel weapon, turning a whole person into a mere object for personal pleasure. The destruction it leaves is a wake of grief, confusion, and a struggle to redeem what was designed to be enjoyed, not feared. No man should ever inflict such destruction on a woman, but we live in a world that is full of “should nots”.

But, unlike most of these stories there is a singular glimmer of hope in this instance. The most unique aspect of the Stanford crime are the two men who acted as men in its occurrence: as one man used his power to hurt and objectify, two men used their power to protect and bring justice.

Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson saw the assault taking place, and rather than walking away, ignoring and excusing it, they interceded. When Brock Turner in his cowardice tried to run away, one tackled him, the other stayed by the woman’s side until police arrived. I know nothing else about these men, but that image is a stark contrast: two man who exemplified manhood in a situation where Allen exemplified wickedness. When one hand crushed weakness, one held steady for justice, another softened with comfort.

Turner has had the opportunity to repent for his actions, to show remorse–to be a man–but instead he blamed the woman. He pointed his finger at her and said she drank, and our culture encourages promiscuity. It was only 20 minutes of action, his father pleaded, don’t let it ruin his life (and you can hear the slap of insolence ring out as they ignore the woman whose life has been shattered by those 20 minutes). This type of thinking, of men pointing to women and blaming them for their own lust, lack of self-restraint, and the depravity in their own hearts is no new thing.  It began in the garden, at the beginning of depravity, when the first man pointed to the first woman and blamed her for his own failure.

The problem with feminism’s attempt to solve this problem is the naive attempt to rid the world of power differences. Feminism tries to bring men out of positions of power (which is not always wrong, but it is also not always right either), as though power is the root of depravity. But it isn’t positions of power that are the problem, and power over someone is something all humans possess. I have power over my children as a mother, a man who is stronger than me has power that I do not possess, and no amount of societal change will alter that. It is how this power is wielded that determines whether it will be just or wicked. If power is used to protect and defend it is just and right, if it is used to exploit and abuse it is wicked and repulsive.

How we use our positions of power is determined not by how society is stratified, it is determined by our hearts. A man begins the steady road to destruction in the moments where his mind and heart wander, and Jesus says,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
Matthew 5:27-29

The trajectory toward abuse of power and irresponsibility begins in those small moments, in those seconds of decisions. When that pornographic image flashes on the screen, will you look away? When a broken woman asks for sex, will you protect the purity she doesn’t even recognize belongs to her? When the boys of the locker room speak of women as belt notches and trophies, will you defend them as people? When the girl you like has set your passions on fire, will you dignify her with self-restraint? When the world tells you all that is required is her consent, will you defy culture and say that it requires commitment before God and humanity as well? Will you serve yourself or God?

Our culture encourages irresponsibility, certainly. But what worldly culture hasn’t? Our culture says sex is free and without consequence; we are told it is merely an instinct and urge, to be exercised and satisfied without bounds or restraint. Our culture lies, and this is nothing new.

So, what do we do in the face of a lie? We speak truth, often and fervently.

We must teach our sons from the beginning that weakness in all its forms ought to be protected, not exploited. We must teach them that 20 seconds of lusting after a woman is the beginning of destruction, because in that moment a man allows his mind to wander after a woman he reduces her to an object for his own pleasure and steals her personhood and he has already sinned against her and God.

We must teach them that self-restraint is their responsibility, always. We must teach them that a woman is always a body and soul. We must teach them no matter how much the world pushes women as one-dimensional objects for pleasure (including women themselves), their job as men never changes: they must always seek to protect a woman’s body and soul (even in moments where she desires no such protection). Our sons will have power in their lives, whether by strength, intelligence or social status, and we must teach them the purpose of any kind of power:  to protect, never to abuse; to serve, never to exploit. Our sons have responsibility, God-given and serious, and we must teach them who he designed them to be.

We must teach them that their failures are their own, and cannot be blamed on anyone but their own depraved selves. And in their failure we must teach them there is God: who bled over even these most wretched of sins (yes, including Brock Turner’s if he repents), that he purchased them out of the bondage of lust and cruelty, freeing them to be men of courage and purity, reflecting his goodness.

We must teach them to lean wholly on this God who left his seat of power to come down and rescue this world that perpetuates destruction, and in looking at him they can see women as his daughters, and only then will they know what it is to cherish them. We must teach our sons that sex is no mere action of the body, but one that holds their heart and soul, and the heart and soul of another. We must teach them that they have no ownership over any woman, but rather a responsibility to serve them.

We must teach our sons to be those who, rather than exploiting weakness or ignoring it, sprint after evil and tackle it to the ground seeking justice, while softly holding the hands of those who need comfort.

We must teach our sons to be men.

 

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