Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Teaching Boys Morality Is Enough

There's a genre of piece these days in which parents are solemnly advised how to teach their boys not to be rapists. I read one this morning. The suggestions were to teach boys 1) not to bottle up their emotions and then explode into rage when they couldn't take it anymore, 2) to observe basic personal boundaries of the "don't touch people like that" and "don't burst in on family members when they're naked" variety, and 3) to behave respectfully towards others (not hitting, insulting, beating up, etc.)

It's not that any of these are bad ideas. They're good ideas. These are essential elements of raising a boy (or a girl) to be a decent human being. I was raised this way, and I raise my children this way.

If the current consciousness of the dangers of rape and sexual abuse are a good hook to use to remind people that they have a moral obligation to teach their children to behave towards others with basic human respect, all the better, I suppose. I would hope that parents think of the idea of teaching their sons to treat others well even before they read an article about the issue of the moment, but if not, I'm glad that this prompt finally gets through to them.

Why then do I even bring it up, if I agree with the suggestions given?

It often seems as if there is an underlying assumption in the "let's teach boys not to rape" rhetoric that this is a new idea, one which the "old" moral principles do not cover. When Christians attempt to use the concerns of the moment to say it would solve these problems if people obeyed God's law in regard to sexuality, the response is often: "Rape and sexual abuse was pretty common in 'traditional' societies. We can do better."

There's a truth to this which some apologists too quickly dismiss. The past was not a golden age in which people did not sin. Those who cast a rose-tinted gaze on the era before the Sexual Revolution often forget this. Yes, there was abuse and rape in traditional societies. There was also theft and murder and adultery even though these are against Christian moral principles as well. The fact that there was not the same formal challenge to 'traditional morality' that there is now does not mean that people did not sin. Sometimes people's knowledge of morality was twisted by their cultural assumptions. Other times they knew the moral laws but violated them anyway, just as today we hear often enough about "woke" advocates who are revealed nonetheless to have abused the women in their own lives.

However, on the other side there is another fallacy, that because people who are identified as being "religious" are often seen to sin in these ways, that somehow a whole new morality is required in order to teach that get across the idea that rape, abuse, and harassment are wrong. Even some religious writers have caved to this idea, arguing that it's not enough to teach traditional Catholic sexual ethics, but that we must also teach the "everything is okay so long as both parties consent" ethics of the secular sexual morality which is slowly being constructed in its place, so that people will have a backup ethics to follow if they decide to violate Catholic morals.

When ostensibly "religious people" sin in these ways, the problem is not that Christian sexual ethics are unable to convey to people that it is wrong to abuse and harass. The problem is this that people do not always obey the moral codes to which they give outward assent. This is the case whether the code in question is Catholic moral teaching or the secular code of consent at all times.

If men follow the Church's teaching on sexuality, if they treat women with the dignity they deserve as people made in the image of God, they will not rape, abuse, or harass them. If they treat women in those ways, they are not following the Church's moral teaching. We do not need a new moral teaching, a new understanding of human decency, we need to teach and follow the one we have.

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