"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fornication just keeps getting riskier...for men

Once people are past college age, there's little point in trying to advise them about sex and none in giving unsolicited advice. But in the former career I work to resume, I found myself willy-nilly advising many adolescents and young adults about sex. While a handful of people walking this earth would find that fact richly amusing—not without some reason, I admit—I am convinced not only that the content of my advice was sound but that it's getting sounder all the time. And as usual, it's the truly ironic developments that are making it so.

I do not refer to what's obvious to many and should be obvious to all: the often-mutual manipulation, the heartbreak, the STDs, the unwanted pregnancies, etc. Even when none of those things occur, fornication consists in telling a lie with one's body. Sexual intercourse without marriage says, with the body, "I give myself unreservedly to you" when in fact one is doing no such thing. The use of devices to avoid pregnancy and/or STDs not only reinforces the lie but, by truncating sex itself, accelerates the tendency to separate true love from real sex. That alone corrodes one's character by reducing one's ability to love in the deepest sense of the term. But current cultural trends are adding legal risks to this spiritually lethal mix. That's what has me more worried than ever.

The United Kingdom has just passed a "reform" of the rape law that, in effect, places the onus on men who have sex with women they've been drinking with to prove that the woman has consented. If she cries rape later and he can't prove in trial that she consented, then he is guilty of rape. Never mind the sexism of such a law; apparently it didn't occur to Parliament to make the law gender-neutral, as it ought to be if passed at all, which it oughtn't to be. I knew firsthand in college of two cases where it was the man, and only the man, who had by design been taken advantage of in such a fashion by the woman (and in one case, by her friends too). And that was three decades ago, before women had attained the sort of sexual and legal superior...oops, I mean equality they have by now. Never mind that this law effectively makes men, if accused, guilty until proven innocent. The law reflects a cultural trend that's been gathering steam for a generation: just being sexual outside of marriage is getting almost as risky for men as it has always been for women. The Puritans are back, albeit for the wrong reasons.

There are the sexual harassment laws, of course. Morally disedifying but usually harmless acts that many men would welcome more of from women in almost any setting—leering, making passes, etc.—are actionable offenses if directed by men to women at work. Everybody who cares knows that few male workers bring sexual-harassment suits against female co-workers or bosses, and most who do have a hard time being taken seriously. But most men on the job know that letting their glance linger on a miniskirted pair of female legs could cost them a pink slip at the very least. And believe me, that has an effect.

The new British rape law is a harbinger of more to come: abstracting from the pub culture, feminists want to see it emulated in some fashion all over the world, and left-wing governments will in due course give it to them. In that case, men in the relevant situations had better get a consent form signed in triplicate by their inebriated partner in fornication. Yeah, right. If one cares at all about risk, the only realistic alternative to that unlikely prospect is abstinence. In either case, every square centimeter of posterior is covered.

That's what our world is coming to. And I have to say it's not entirely a bad trend. One of my favorite contemporary philosophers, J. Budziszewski, has coined the phrase 'the revenge of conscience'. There definitely is such a thing, and it is making itself felt like a groundswell in our age. That's why fornication just keeps getting riskier for men.
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