For Our Kids’ Sake, Responsible Adults Have to Raise the Bar on Sexual Behavior
Maybe such scandal-ridden individuals as Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein actually have something to teach
Powerful men often fall short in their personal lives. We’ve all seen Matt Lauer, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and many others fall — scandalously.
This may be just the tip of the iceberg, sadly, when it comes to discovering that men who hold the public’s trust have behaved very badly in private.
But as much as I would like to say I’m surprised, I’m not.
Let’s look around. Many women voraciously consume books like the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series, which glorifies sadomasochistic sex. We need to ask ourselves as women: Is it OK to be entertained by something we would never tolerate in real life?
My answer is no.
There is a danger here and every woman and every mother must wrestle with it. As we applaud the inherent justice of seeing powerful and sexually disturbed men get their due, we need to be very careful ourselves.
First, we should never brand all men as perpetrators. For the health of our marriages and our relationships with our children, we cannot ascribe practices of sexual perversion, domination, and other bad behaviors to the millions of good co-workers, fathers, brothers, and yes — pastors and priests — among us.
When we brand all men as evil, we do an enormous disservice to our children. We communicate to our sons that masculinity is something to be despised, and this can cause them shame. We must teach our sons why their sexuality is to be cherished, protected, and never used to abuse others. This way, we teach them about the level of respect they deserve to show themselves as men.
Similarly, when we teach our daughters they must fight men, distrust them, and look at each one suspiciously, we keep them from healthy intimacy and from living authentically. Sexiness in young girls is praised and sought by girls today, who want more "likes" on social media.
The truth is, many men are acting like creeps because our culture promotes creepiness. The media, music, social media — almost every outlet pushes a potent narrative that sexual identity, behavior, and even gender are up for grabs.
The overwhelming number of married adults, however, believe that a healthy and mutually respectful marriage demands sexual fidelity. It does seem, given the numerous scandals coming to light, that as society becomes more fractured, men are learning that perhaps fidelity isn't an important value. Our culture promotes fluid, choice-centric sexual behavior as healthy.
Why, some married men figure, should they be exempt?
Children are learning that sexuality and gender can be anything they want these things to be. They hear that sexual promiscuity is good. Kids are taught that their sexuality is more important than their humanity, that sexual experimentation with whomever they want, whenever they want, is a good thing.
The problem is: Science and biology matter. Promiscuity in teens leads to an epidemic of diseases and emotional pain, and genes do not, in fact, morph after one is born.
We must use these scandals as an opportunity to confront a toxic sexual culture that confuses our children, ushers numerous diseases into their lives (if you doubt me, check out the latest data on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website), and stand firmly against the foul sexual messages pushed out by the media. We need to have the courage to tell our kids that sexual behavior is important and not to be taken lightly.
We must also show them that sexual perversion does exist in real life, as we see in these prominent, well-known men — but that they have the power to choose not to participate in it when they themselves are older.
Most significantly, we must open their adolescent and pre-adolescent eyes to the twisted, unhealthy, toxic messages they hear on a daily basis. Will they listen? They will. Because when we adults raise the bar for their behavior regarding things as important to them as sexual behavior, they rise to it. I know this because I've seen kids to do for years.
My challenge to each woman is to use these awful stories to find their "fire within" — and fight for our kids' sexual health.
Because if we don't, who will?
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course "The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids," which is part of The Strong Parent Project.