Third post of this birthday day.
On Friday, Jill linked to this dreadful Kathryn Jean Lopez essay at National Review Online. Lopez reacts to the news that Catholic University of America's women's lacrosse team has also had its hazing rituals revealed in online photos:
Young men shouldn’t be getting sloppy drunk and doing childish things and paying for a stripper. But young women really shouldn’t. There is something more disconcerting about the latter—and it is even more disturbing that we won’t all have that reaction. It’s not beyond the call of duty for women to encourage men to be gentlemen. It's women's work. (Bold is mine)
Jill takes that apart very well, but I'm going to add my two cents.
The notion that women ought to hold themselves to a higher standard than men is a profoundly upsetting one to those of us who care deeply about issues of faith, feminism, and gender. Jill, and other articulate feminists, rightly point out that making young women responsible for civilizing men is a cruel burden to impose on women. But of course, what's also so infuriating is the implication that men can't be civilized and restrained without the active intervention of women.
A key thrust of the pro-feminist men's movement (a movement to which I happily belong) is to empower men to escape the "myth of male weakness" (the notion that at their core, men are sex-crazed brutes who need women to soothe, nurture, and restrain us.) In my life, one of the most liberating discoveries of all was the discovery that I could control my actions, and I could challenge other men in all-male settings to hold themselves accountable. It's a fine thing indeed to discover that possessing a penis (even an erect one) does not vitiate the ability to reason, nor does a rush of testosterone automatically override compassion and common sense!
The CUA lacrosse team hired a male stripper (photos are on the internet to prove it). So too did the Duke men's lacrosse team, with infamous results. But the two actions aren't comparable, largely because of the enormously reduced threat to a male stripper as opposed to his female coutnerpart. Zuzu writes below Jill's post:
The dynamic is very different than when you have a bunch of men hiring a female stripper. There’s no expectation of sexual acts with the stripper for a little extra cash, for example, and the fun is in being naughty with your friends and letting loose for once, with no men around but the bouncers and the stripper. There’s no real menace, because no matter how much they’re whooping and hollering and drinking, women aren’t going to, say, gang-rape a male stripper. Even if he does a little lap-dance type of thing for you, the goal is not for you to get off; the goal is for you to have fun (and for your friends to have fun watching you).
That's exactly right. I don't want anyone hiring strippers, period. But I'm not going to pretend that what the CUA women's lacrosse team did is remotely equivalent to what the Duke men's team. Zuzu's right: women don't rape male strippers. The man may take off his clothes for money, but he can be reasonably certain he won't be forcibly violated. And though some women may respond sexually to his gyrations, the real pleasure for most young women in hiring a man to strip is in the role reversal. Look at the faces of men watching a woman strip -- the men look hungry. Look at the faces of women watching a man strip -- they're contorted with often hysterical laughter. There's often a sordid, deadly seriousness beneath the raucousness when a group of men watch a naked woman dance for them; there's usually a kind of embarrassed silliness among the women when a man in a thong cavorts in front of them.
Lopez has it exactly backwards. While I don't want any college team stripping or hiring strippers as part of an initiation ritual or celebration, I think that it's far worse when men do so. It's not that I hold men to a higher standard -- it's that the threat of potential violence and violation is infinitely greater to a female stripper with a male audience than with a male stripper in front of a female audience. Young men worthy of carrying the name of their university on their chests or backs ought to know this well enough, and college administrators -- and conservative pundits -- would do well to keep this in mind.
I also want to reiterate my strong feeling that we shouldn't be looking at the photos circulating on the internet from these parties. Inside Higher Ed (as well as most other websites and many national papers) already linked to the site, and thus I mentioned it in the version of the post I wrote for that webpage. But I'm not linking to any of the pictures here. I've seen a few of them -- once. And there are numerous photos available on the web and linked to by major publications that I have avoided viewing. And I am adamant that I think we should all avert our gaze from these photos. The people who snapped these pictures of young people in various states of undress and intoxication did upload them to various photo-sharing communities. But they never intended the photos to be discussed, analyzed, and quite possibly drooled over by millions of folks across the country.
Of course the young people involved should have known better. Yet I suspect that many of the young women involved in the most noteworthy of the hazing incidents,that of the Northwestern soccer team, had no way of stopping the photos from being taken. (When you're being hazed, how do you tell the juniors and seniors who are running the show not to take a picture of you drunk and in your underwear?) But even if they put the photos up there deliberately and intentionally, even if they want us to look, we still shouldn't.
I wrote in February that I gave up my Myspace account for many reasons, not the least of which that I thought it was inappropriate that I be exposed to the (frequently) revealing and embarrassing photos that teenagers post of themselves on that site. I understand the temptation that young people feel to share their amusing, silly, and mildly shocking pictures with their friends and the broader world. But I know full well that what one considers funny and daring when one is 18 and smashed may be humiliating and painful at 28 -- or heck, even the next day when sobriety arrives with a brutal reality check. Those of us who ARE old enough to know better must do more than simply shake our heads and bemoan the poor judgment of "kids these days." Yes, we need to mentor and counsel and supervise. But we also need to avert our eyes, both out of a healthy and loving respect for the young people involved as well as out of a sense of what is healthy and good for us to see. I don't need to see a photo of some eighteen year-old soccer player giving a drunken lap dance in her bra and panties -- and I'm pretty damn sure that given the time to reflect on it, she doesn't want the likes of me to see that picture either. Out of respect for both of us, I'm not going there.
And yeah, I don't think of any of you should be going there either.