A billboard targeting sexual predators of children in Virginia (story ABC) has stirred controversy, in that it seems to target men. Ah, but isn’t it true that sexual abuse of children is overwhelmingly perpetrated by males? Yes. But it is also true that the vast majority of men neither desire nor have perpetrated any such crime. The critics of the billboards say its depiction of a male holding a child’s hand — and provocative radio ads which further underscore the male involvement with sexual abuse — may well create in children a fear of men in general.
For me, who as a man has often experienced the pain of seeing my gender’s connection to sexual abuse, including that of both children and adults, I can’t help but resonate some with these critics’ worries. Yet as a Christian with pro-feminist leanings I also can’t help believing that as men, we best serve our own gender and humanity in general by wholeheartedly becoming involved with those protecting children and targeting pedophiles.
I try, when viewing a story about yet another child molestation case or rape of an adult woman (the latter being a crime I take very personally as a blow against all men as well as women), to get past that feeling of guilt/defensiveness a sensitive male can hardly escape in such matters. Women do view men with suspicion, and my feminist sensibilities tell me we often give them more than adequate reasons to do so. Rather than complain that we are being discriminated against (which as a white male I feel is singularly disengenuous), I suggest we men find ways of standing beside women and children against predators, most of whom are in fact male.
I would hope that in an instance where we experience discrimination due to being male (a mother’s apparent nervousness at our presence, a woman’s sudden outburst in the office or a social situation about how men are all dogs, that “all men want the same thing” and so on), we allow that feeling of unfairness and anger and sadness at such accusations against us to remind us of how much more often such things happen to minorities and women. Let our small bit of suffering teach us to empathize with the greater suffering of others.
The terrible truth is that regarding sexual violence, the male is implicated. We personally may not feel that we are, but our manhood is for far too many women a sign of their own, and their children’s, lack of safety.
For the Christian male, this is especially problematic. Our history, and our present (see the Southern Baptist leadership’s continual war on women as an example), prove that we are not living the Word we claim as authoritative. The first favor we can do women is to de-Patriarchalize the Church and our understanding of God. Calling Him Father is one thing… but claiming that women may not teach or preach, must submit to their husbands unilaterally, and so forth is to create a culture in which violence against women and children is more likely to occur.
If we are tired of being “othered” and seemingly implicated in crimes we personally are not part of, perhaps we need to help create a Church and a culture where sexual predators have nowhere to hide, either doctrinally or in practice. It isn’t enough to merely say “I’m not responsible for rape and/or child abuse.” We must make war on the systems which perpetuate such abuse, whether it be systems of theology in the Church or the hideous virus of internet pornography feeding child molesters and other peretrators of sexual violence.
We are part of the problem as men… or part of the solution.
For more suggested reading, see Christians for Biblical Equality.