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When Rules Change

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DISCLAIMER:  This post is not in any way, shape or fashion a defense of the sexual creeps and predators that have been revealed in droves in recent weeks.

Why are we shocked?  Seriously, why do we find this parade of indecency in anyway surprising or unexpected?  If you are shocked, aghast, surprised or dumbfounded about all the recent revelations then you are forgetting two very important things.   Firstly, the rules of sexual conduct in our society have been changing at an incredibly rapid pace.  When some rules change people are going to test all of them.  Secondly, we are not born knowing how to conduct ourselves in these situations.  We are not born decent.  Decency is taught, nurtured and reinforced, but we are not born with it.  When the rules are changing as rapidly as they have been it is pretty hard to know what is decent in order to teach, nurture and reinforce decency.  For most of my lifetime the message has been “live and let live” when it comes to sexual conduct.  So conflated are love and sex in our society that we are hesitant to say no to sex lest we say no to love – and no one wants to say no to love.

I have heard it said, derisively, that if this keeps up we are going to end up all having to practice the so-called “Pence rule.”  The derisiveness comes from the fact that most people, even decent people, find the rule somewhat extreme.  That may be true, but the extremity makes it easily enforceable – easy to teach and to nurture. That enforcability and teachability seems a virtue in the current environment.  Lord knows we need a little virtue right now.

We do not need to return to Victorian mores in light of what is happening before us, but we do need to return to some simple understandings of human nature, sexual nature and the fact that there are unintended consequences when you change the rules about human nature and sexual nature.  The fact that our culture has adopted this negotiable stance regarding sexual practice is the thing that is most shocking in all this mess particularly because the same culture clings so tightly to the idea of evolution.

If we humans are in fact simply highly evolved mammals, then I suggest we look to sexual practice in other mammals to understand how we will behave without the influences of civilization and its rules.  It is not a pretty picture.  If we cling to evolution, then the behavior of the sexual predators is the least surprising thing in this whole mess – male sexual predation is the norm in mammalian relationships.

But it is also pathetic.  These so-called “alpha males” are so insecure in their ability to attract female attention that they resort to these kinds of tactics.  But then can we blame them for their insecurities when they themselves don’t know what the rules are?  The rules are currently in such a state of flux that the question of how one does attract a female, or vice versa, is a seriously open question.

There is a desire to make this current situation simple – “Don’t do that.”  But it is not simple,  “Why can I not do that when everybody is doing this thing over here?”  That is a reasonable question, particularly in light of all the rule-changing that has been going on in recent decades.

I hope we understand that these are not just stories about creeps, jerks and predators.  I pray that what we are seeing is a recalibration of our culture’s understanding of sex and love and relationships.  We need to re-establish a lot more boundaries than the ones we are seeing crossed right now.


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