I've been thinking about loyalty lately and about the stories I have heard of the lengths that soldiers will go to, and the heroism many have shown in protecting their comrades. I have heard beautiful testimonies of soldiers even risking their lives to recover the bodies of their fallen friends. Yet, these stories of heroism are coupled with accounts of the high instance of rape in the military, of stories of female soldiers being sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers or commanding officers. In situations that normally bond people together, such as the stresses of combat and military life in general, for some reason, in some situations, these experiences did not secure loyalty to the women. What enables men to show fierce loyalty to one another, but not show that same loyalty to the women in their group?
There are also stories of friends, stories of young women who have trusted and confided in the person who was their best friend...that is, until the night he decided to rape her. I've been thinking about the group of friends, mostly boys, and the girl who was "one of the guys", until the boys plotted with one another to get the female friend drunk and sexually assault her and physically abuse her with callous violence. On top of the trauma that such a girl experiences is the betrayal and hurt when she realizes that the people she thought were her friends didn't actually count her as a real friend, and worse yet, that they didn't even see her as a person. Her participation in the group was actually conditional upon her willingness to be considered a thing for their amusement rather than an equal person.
Why is this? Perhaps it is sexualization of women by the media. Perhaps it is the high place that contraception holds in our society, with the notion that being sexually available is more important than even our health. Even the medical industry, whose concern it is to care for the physical health of women, feels that taking a group one carcinogen is an acceptable risk for women to take for sexual availability. Of course they say it is so that we can plan our family size, but natural and effective means of planning family size are available. So I suspect the real reason that Natural Family Planning is frowned upon is that it requires a woman to be sexually unavailable during her fertile time if she wishes to avoid pregnancy. I often encounter the belief that abstinence for ten days with Natural Family Planning is unacceptable, but that increased risk of blood clots, stroke, and breast, liver, and cervical cancer for a woman on the pill are not.
Perhaps it is the idea of female as "Other", the idea that the default gender is male, and that women deviate from this norm that leads to men being unable to see the humanity of women. Rather than having more than one standard of "normal", they see only one, male norm. I have noticed this frequently as a mother of girls. There are often toys that both sexes would enjoy, but it seems the manufacturers think that only boys would like it and if they want to reach the girls they have to make it more "girly", like The LEGO Group that decided to make "girl" legos and so made princess castles and pink blocks. I see it in the shoe department when they have two versions of each sneaker, the one for boys in blue and the one for girls in pink, rather than having all the colors of the rainbow available to all children. I don't ascribe to the view that there are no differences between the sexes and that gender itself is a societal construct, but I feel it is also harmful to paint the sexes as so completely opposite one another that each is made into a caricature of maleness and femaleness.
I think that one cause of such disloyalty toward women is pornography viewing. Some estimate that 80% of men have a porn addiction.1 Patrick Trueman, Former Chief of US Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, reports that one effect of porn viewing among men is that it reduces their capacity to see the humanity of women and that they begin to feel "entitled" to sex. That is, they feel that their female friends and coworkers owe it to the men to have sex with them. Trueman also reports that pornography is an addiction, and like addiction to drugs, the porn addict progressively needs more hardcore, more taboo material in order to get the same effect.2 RECLAIM, an online pornography recovery program, explains:
Pornography viewing triggers the brain into releasing a flood of its own endorphins and other potent neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These internal chemicals produce a powerful rush or high very similar to street drugs. People across the globe are turning to pornography as their "drug of choice" for escape and self-medication.3Trueman informs that currently, the fastest-growing market is child pornography. Though people often begin with viewing adult nude women, they quickly become accustomed and "graduate" to more hardcore and more taboo material. He also states that men who regularly view porn report a higher intent to rape, with many of them saying they would commit such an act if they could be guaranteed to get away with it.2 A recent study by John D Foubert, Associate Professor at Oklahoma State University, showed that men who view pornography are statistically less likely to intervene as a bystander in rape situations, report an increased behavioral intent to rape, and are more likely to believe rape myths.4
I know that many believe that pornography and other hyper-sexualized images of women is harmless fun, but there exists quite a lot of evidence to the contrary. I would argue that dehumanizing others is never harmless and the ever-rising violence that is occurring against women and children is demanding that we wake up, pay attention, and dare to change the present status quo.
Is Pornography Viewing a Drug Addiction?
Want help overcoming pornography-use or other unwanted sexual behaviors?
1. Jeannie Hannemmann, "A Call to Awareness and Action" (presentation, Reclaim Sexual Health Conference, Appleton WI, October 27, 2011).
2. Patrick Trueman, "A Call to Awareness and Action" (presentation, Reclaim Sexual Health Conference, Appleton WI, October 27, 2011).
3. "How It Works." reclaimsexualhealth.com, 2013. http://reclaimsexualhealth.com/healthy-sexuality/pornography/how-it-works/
4. John D. Foubert, Matt W. Brosi, and R. Sean Bannon. "Pornography viewing among fraternity men: Effects of bystander intervention, rape myth acceptance and behavioral intent to commit sexual assault." Journal of Sex Addiction and Compulsivity. 18 (2011): 212-231. http://works.bepress.com/john_foubert/7/