It seems quaint that I once believed in the existence of a baseline of shared human values.
We got confirmation that violence against women was acceptable to many Americans by the fact that almost 63 million people voted for our current president. Sure, DJT is a self-professed assaulter of women, has repeatedly used his position of power to threaten or demoralize teenage girls and other vulnerable women, and despite his denials, is accused of raping at least one 13-year-old girl.
Apparently that’s not THAT bad. At least, not so bad that it makes someone unelectable to the highest office in the country.
However, the potential existence of a video recording involving Russian sex workers and urination is looming large over 45’s presidency. Not rape, not assault, but peeing and prostitutes? I have to ask: what if we didn’t think getting peed on or being turned on by urination (often called “watersports”) was so shameful? And what if we didn’t moralize about prostitution? Would the specter of 45’s video loom so large? We don’t actually know if these videos exist, or what they contain, and perhaps therein is a level of depravity that merits them being such a powerful tool.
But the things we know happened, things we know exist were not enough to earn the reproach of many.
(SIDENOTE: As a sex educator, I do not approve of kink shaming; what happens between consenting adults is not a part of helping to define our collective moral compass. I also wonder how many people who are into watersports are more shamed by the idea that DJT may share their kink than they are about the kink itself!)
The question remains: how can we, as a society, feel more outraged by prostitution or by a kink we don’t understand than we are by violence and assault against multiple victims?
In case we needed further proof of this migratory moral compass, this week presented our latest case study.
Milo Yiannopoulos has been the darling of the neo-Nazi/white supremacist movement (I will not support the “alt-right” re-branding), spewing with impunity words of hate, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, anti-LGBTQ+, antisemitism…you get the picture. Prime speaking opportunities, a book deal, a senior editor post at a (regrettably) influential publication, the glamour that goes along with being the “It Boy” for a major political party, were all his for the taking; the vile messages he barked from his bully pulpit were welcomed.
Or at least people were willing to say, its not THAT bad.
It wasn’t until he essentially promoted pedophilia and sexual abuse of minors that people in positions of power decided he had crossed the line.
So if you’re keeping score at home, racism, sexism, homophobia — yes, it is still homophobia even when spoken by a gay man — etc. are all de rigeur in current culture. It’s only when we enter into the realm of child abuse that people finally speak up. And it is ok for a man in power to assault, manipulate and deny consent to countless women, but urine and escorts are too far?
I find it fascinating that once again, it is an act that involves sexuality (yes, I know it’s as much about violence and power as it is about sex, but it has an obviously sexual component) that finally pushes people into repudiation. I propose that having conversations about sex and sexuality is a solid place to start. We need to re-calibrate and analyze which things have come to be seen “not THAT bad,” where the shift has occurred and why.
We must expand our focus beyond the perpetrators and their proclivities and into the culture and (lack of) dialogue that defines what is acceptable, who deserves our protection, what it means to be human.
We can hope to once again to find our collective center, recognize our shared humanity, and make our way out of this morass. We must try figure out which way to go when we can’t even seem to agree on which way is north.