Recently American society at all levels has been exposed to the fall-out of its own inability to openly and comfortably discuss its accepted sexual behavior standards necessary to deal with sexual harassments and abuses. Deep rooted cultural, philosophical, religious and social taboos must become known to prevent their being defined by those who have fetishes or are deviant. Today, human reproductive biology may be prudently managed using condoms and/or birth control (contraceptives which are steroids).
Nevertheless, a taboo is practiced by many individuals who consider their personal sex life to be very private and personal. It is this taboo which hinders the ability of parents, clergy and workforce managers to do the counseling required as well as take administrative actions necessary. Society’s ability to openly talk about sexuality issues has not kept up with developments and challenges. Parents, supervisors, and employees simply are not comfortable yet to openly discuss human sexual behavior in society or the workplace when it is appropriate and timely.
What does become known in a fragmentary manner are the ‘do not; shall not’ social rules. The age of consent is generally accepted as 18 year-old but could be 16 years. A younger teenager is not considered to be responsibly capable of giving legal consent. Incest is criminal. Prostitution, sexual slave trafficking, predatory rape; practice of fetishes, sadism and masochism are all subjects of applicable laws and regulations. One issue is: ‘WHO KNOWS THEM ALL?’
For decades, promoters and advertisers have used very attractive women and sexual innuendos to sell products and services. A few years ago, the Boston Globe exposed the inability of local Catholic Diocese administrators to effectively deal with pedofilia. Pope Francis is allegedly dealing with such issues in a Chilean Diocese. During the last presidential campaign, then candidate Donald J. Trump boasted that his VIP status enabled him to grope women and get away with those disrespectful physical abusive actions. Recently, entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein was exposed and deposed when several women publicly shared their anecdotes during which this executive used his power position, authority and influence to demand sexual favors. Women in government public service careers revealed their personal experiences being sexually abused by highly esteemed elected officials. Both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. governance officials quickly updated the personnel policies and procedures which had not been reviewed during the prior 25 years. Then, 160+ female gymnasts testified in court that one prestigious physician had violated each one of them over a 20 year period. That case resulted in the accused being found guilty, given a prison sentence of 175 years, with the court’s judge (a woman) stating, “I have just signed your death warrant.” Heads are rolling at Michigan State University and U.S. Olympic Athletes management organizations. Recall the sexual harassment of young boys at Penn State University when Joe Paterno was Head Coach.
The “Me, Too” and “Times Up” movement plus two Women’s Marches have created the ‘crisis ambiance’ wherein many women now feel enabled to openly share and talk about their personal experiences dealing with unwanted sexual harassments.
In addition, an adult woman friend recently confided in me that she and all her sisters had been ‘sexually abused and violated’ by their father during their teenage years. Now that he is elderly needing assisted living care, all daughters were unable to “fully trust him in anyway,” and were very leery of being alone with him when providing needed care. “What should we do?” she asked. My thoughtful suggestion: Have a joint meeting with him during which you tell him what your behavior expectations are today. Can you verbally communicate the boundaries which all of you agree upon? There is no taboo here. Finally, tell him you still care for him as your father who you want to respect, love and honor. You just do not want to be verbally or physically abused by anyone, especially a parent or relative. Afterwards, you will all experience a ‘mental release’ from that psychic burden you have been carrying since first abused. Being constantly on ‘full alert’ requires a lot of energy and prevents one from paying full attention to other activities such as learning (education) or focus on tasks at hand.
The “Me, Too” and “Times Up” Movements are encouraging all women to stop being silent about inappropriate, improper and unwelcome incidences which have been experienced. And let’s include the LGBTQ cohort and men to share; to no longer suffer in silence. When all individuals who have been abused reveal their experiences, then these issues can be properly resolved while taking into consideration cultural, religious/philosophical, social, and legal perspectives. Dealing with certain individual human behaviors will be possible especially the perpetrators stand out as abusive and predatory because all have done unwelcome touching, groping, and been verbally abusive. Society’s leaders must be careful not to facilitate character assassinations or make due process difficult to achieve.
One deficiency which stands out is vocabulary. At different stages in a person’s development there is a precise vocabulary which enables communication in a manner that permits identifying the violator while not burdening the victim with guilt feelings. It begins with parents who responsibly try to protect their children with the outcome that children do not learn essential and appropriate words for personal body parts or areas. Knowing anatomical terms is not enough because when sudden sexual groping happens, the girl (or woman) is often forced to ‘react defensively’. She may later review her own behavior, including examination of clothing being worn at the time of an incident. On occasion, a girl may feel so alone, meaningless, insecure and defenseless that suicide is considered.
As parents my wife and I had occasional discussions about the various stages the kids grew through. We decided to teach appropriate words for every secondary sex trait each child developed as that trait appeared. But we did more than just that…each child was instructed to feel free to talk to us about any and all things plus the words necessary to describe the acceptable boundaries and even practiced the defensive arm, leg and body positions needed to reject unwanted physical contact. Each daughter was taught how to throw an effective punch and how to kick an abuser in the shins (causing a reflex action enabling escape).
Most important was the instruction regarding being aware of one’s surroundings at all times. Girls should never be alone with any male not known beforehand. Young women, especially when dating, need to be explicitly direct about her acceptable boundaries. One basic principle is to teach your kids that there is safety in numbers so always have a friend closeby. Sexuality is always present. In fact, it develops as one lives through puberty, transitional teenages, young adulthood, adulthood and finally become a senior citizen.
The main purpose of setting boundaries early is to ensure that individuals know and behave as expected. With the introduction of women into the workplace interacting with men, flirting, courting, and development of serious relationships is all a very natural process not appropriate there. Being on the job requires being attentive to work being done which is why management needs to learn how to counsel and guide employees who need to defer romantic interests. But, sexual harassment issues are not addressed because of taboos and lack of vocabulary to effectively counsel. This is a deficiency which needs attention especially if we are to “define new social behavior boundaries.”