Across much of our country, women suffer from high rates of sexual abuse and rape. The problem is nowhere more dire than Alaska, where nearly 40 percent of women report being victims of sexual violence at some point in their life.
In recent months, we have also learned of high levels of rape on college campuses across the nation.
The reasons for this abuse against our daughters, sisters, mothers, relatives and friends are varied but are often related to broken families, live-in boyfriends and alcohol and drug-induced passions.
These are the fruits born of a culture that has shaken off older ideas about the need to defend and honor women, about marriage being a lifelong commitment, and about sex belonging within the context of marriage. Cast off these values as dusty moralistic artifacts and the idea that sex is merely for pleasure begins to take hold.
This distorts and conceals the reality that sexual intimacy is meant to be the physical expression of deep, committed love between a husband and a wife who are open to becoming a father and a mother if or when their union leads to new life.
But when our public sense of sexual morality is stripped down to merely obtaining consent, sex comes to be seen as a recreational activity that can be enjoyed with an acquaintance at a weekend party.
To question the wisdom — let alone the morality — of this choice is a sure ticket to being accused of “imposing” your personal moral and religious beliefs on others.
In a post-Christian, post-natural law culture, the last thin trace of ethics is the mantra of consent. So long as sexual intimacy is consensual, then it is above reproach — to criticize it is to be “judgmental.”
This notion of consent, while maintaining a vestige of the idea that human beings are subjects, not objects to be used, still devolves into making people “consensual” tools. Once consent is procured nothing more is needed — no commitment, no tenderness, no respect for the wider circles of family, community, even human history, which for millennia has acknowledged that sex stays in marriage. So long as someone consents then nothing else is required because our modern culture abhors any trace of a moral structure that might limit choices, even when these limits guide us to what’s right and true and beautiful, where we find real happiness and freedom.
And here’s where the University of Alaska, Anchorage’s stripped-down attempt at sexual safety comes in.
Each year, as Saint Valentine’s Day approaches, Alaska’s largest publicly funded university rolls out a so-called “safe-sex” campaign that reflects the basest, most ethically-neutered view of sex, handing out free condoms and how-to sex kits.
This annual campaign is predicated upon a view of students as animals expected to yield to their sexual urges – as long as everyone consents and tries not to get pregnant or catch and spread sexually transmitted diseases. Otherwise, nothing matters.
What sort of message does that send about respecting and defending the inherent God-given dignity in each other? Add to the mix alcohol and drug fueled passions and it’s hard to imagine this so-called sexual “ethics” making much of a dent in the alarming rates of sexual violence against Alaskan women.