Imagine a couple of islands. Although they share many similarities — a similar climate and a similar population, for example — in terms of their values they could hardly be more different.
The Island of Self-Restraint has what you might call a distinctly Christian ethos, especially in matters of family and relationships. For instance, marriage is seen as a sacred, lifelong covenant, and the overwhelming number of men and women on the island take their vows very seriously.
In the island’s churches, husbands are routinely exhorted to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Likewise, wives are regularly exhorted to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
Parents pass these values onto their children, teaching them the meaning of marriage, the place that sex has within the marriage union, and that members of the opposite sex are to be treated with honour and respect. As you may have gathered, sex outside marriage is considered by most of the islanders to be wrong, as are drunkenness and drug taking.
The Island of Self-Gratification could hardly be more different. Although the idea of marriage still exists, it is what might be called “the done thing”, rather than being a matter of principle. Adultery hardly raises an eyebrow anymore, and faithfulness is not considered to be a particularly important indicator of a person’s character.
As for pre-marital sex, it’s the norm, as is pornography, which is now commonly viewed even by young children. And the island is littered with nightclubs where young people go to dance, drink a lot or take the easily available drugs, with the aim for many being to end the night by “getting laid”.
Now, here’s a couple of questions: Which island do you think has the highest incidence of sexual assaults? And which island do you suppose has the highest rate of Sexually Transmitted Infections?
Those questions aren’t actually very hard, are they? Unless you’ve been thoroughly conditioned to believe that all the evils of the world are contained within the patriarchal family, you probably won’t have any difficulty identifying the Island of Self-Gratification as being the one with the highest incidence of drink problems, drug problems, STIs, and sexual assault.
That’s not to eulogise the Island of Self-Restraint. Its problems are many, with hypocrisy and self-righteousness especially prone to lurking around some corner or other. But given the genuine commitment most of the island’s inhabitants have to keeping their marriage vows and passing the same ethos onto their children, STIs and sexual assault are likely to feature much lower on their sin list than the Island of Self-Gratification. That’s fairly obvious, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, since both islands are entirely fictional, we cannot know for sure that this is the case. Yet it is at least logical, isn’t it? It is intuitive, isn’t it? You would expect a society that has freed sex from the boundary of marriage, which is awash with pornography and drugs, and which teaches children how to have sex at about the same time that they are learning to tie their shoelaces — you would expect that society to have more sexual problems than the other one, wouldn’t you?
But apparently we just can’t get this concept into our heads. Having severed sex from marriage and procreation, and having built a culture that encourages casual relationships in all sorts of ways, apparently we are then shocked to discover that there is a lack of honour, respect and civility between the sexes, with many young men in particular seemingly fine with acting like predators towards females, rather than the protectors they are meant to be.
But predators many of them are. This from Metro:
“Sexual harassment is part and parcel of most nights out, a depressing study has found. Almost three-quarters of young people have witnessed sexual harassment during a night in bars, pubs and clubs.
A YouGov poll of 2,013 adults — aged between 18 and 24 — found nearly two-thirds (63%) of women and more than a quarter (26%) of men had been on the receiving end themselves of sexual harassment. Inappropriate comments, unwanted touching or groping and inappropriate behaviour had been experienced by 79% of women. And a concerning 72% said they have seen sexual harassment in some form; including ‘someone being on the receiving end of inappropriate sexual comments or abuse’, ‘someone being on the receiving end of inappropriate sexual touching’ or ‘someone receiving other inappropriate or unwanted physical attention or touching’.”
Well who’da thunk it? You mean that if you create a society where marriage is diluted into nothing, and where sex is a game completely divorced from procreation, more and more men will come to see women as cheap and easy targets ripe for harassment? You mean that if you create a sexual free-for-all, it might just be taken by some as a green light for a sexual free-for-all? File it under the ever-growing list of things modernity is having to painfully discover for itself marked “So Actions Have Consequences After All.”
CS Lewis saw this sort of thing wonderfully well:
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
Exactly so. We actually think that we can mess with marriage, cheapen sex, coarsen the culture, and still expect that young men will behave with the same kind of decorum and respect towards females that their grandfathers would have had at the local village dance back in their day. Isn’t going to happen. Won’t happen. Can’t happen.
But of course we still think it can. Drinkaware have launched a campaign that bears a remarkable similarity to trying to treat lung cancer with an Aspirin:
“Drinkaware’s campaign lead, Janet MacKechnie, said: ‘For far too many people, drunken sexual harassment is now sadly part and parcel of a night out. Being drunk is no excuse to grab, grope or make inappropriate comments to strangers on a night out after a few drinks.’
The charity is calling for bystanders to step in, if safe, to support anyone being targeted. ‘If people see someone being sexually harassed, asking them if they are okay can make a big difference whether they’re a friend or a stranger,’ Ms MacKechnie explained. ‘It’s time to put an end to unwanted drunken sexual harassment. Asking someone if they are okay and giving them support sends a clear signal that this behaviour is no longer going to be tolerated.’”
She’s right, drinking is of course no excuse. But excuse or not, in a culture that has eschewed virtue, it is going to happen, and no amount of “Are you okay” campaigns and the like will make a blind bit of difference.
Here’s the bottom line. The most fundamental change in our society since the end of the Second World War is that we have moved from a value system based more or less on self-restraint to one based more or less on self-gratification. You can see it everywhere if you look. Well, here’s the news: you can have a society that places a high value on self-restraint, and your will probably find that people by and large exercise self-restraint. Or you can have a society that exults self-gratification, and you will probably find that more and more people tend to ignore self-restraint in order to self-gratify. But what you can’t have is a society that laughs at self-restraint and exults self-gratification, but then expects those who have imbibed this ethos to suddenly discover self-restraint when it’s needed. You can have one or the other, but not both.
That being the case, why would it surprise us to see people attempting to gratify themselves, even if it means violating the honour, the dignity and the body of other people? You reap what you sow, I think it says somewhere.