The age of exposure is exposed – Part 1
Each week another high profile person is accused of inappropriate sexual advances. No doubt many an actor in Hollywood or powerful CEO is looking down the barrel of the end of their career now, waiting in trepidation for the email, Tweet, blog post that pulls the trigger.
Hollywood ran at the head of the pack in the Sexual Revolution and now finds itself reaping the bitter fruit of what was sown. The problem with the Sexual Revolution of course is that it took a few decades to figure out the consent bit of the revolution.
As was observed by insiders within the BBC about the seedy seventies, “it’s just the way the culture was.” Licentious and anything else went, and went, and went. Before the age of consent and the age of exposure collided.
What those who imbibed dangerously, or over-reached themselves (i.e. sexually assaulted others or were grey when it came to consent) did not realise was that late modern culture, while still tracking merrily with the Sexual Revolution, would combine it with a puritanical streak almost at odds with the idea of a revolution. There’s a shoot to kill policy in operation now, and it’s going to take a lot of those free-flyers down.
Not that I think this is wrong—in fact it’s a good thing. What’s very clear is the modern conundrum at play in all of these sordid allegations: liberal moderns assumed that they could control their sex—when in reality, as many are now discovering, their sex controlled them. This should come as no surprise for those of us familiar with the biblical material on sin, sexual or otherwise. Sin is, if nothing else—and it is a lot more things than that—utterly deceitful.
Now? Sexual liberty finds itself in a bind. At the very time sexuality is dominating the culture to an even greater extent than before—and in an age when you are defined by your sexuality—the small matter of consent is rearing its head. And there is much confusion.
I quote Dale Kuehne’s excellent book, Sex and the iWorld constantly. But it’s a prophetic text for our times. Kuehne maps our movement in Western culture from what he calls the “tWorld”, or the traditional relationships of older stable communities, marriage and family. He posits not a return to that world, because too much has changed even if we wanted to return, but a move forward to what he calls the “rWorld”, or relational world, a world built on an alternate ethical community—one he situates in the stream of the biblical faith community.
The Limits of Freedom
But where are we now? The “iWorld”—the world of deep individualism in which our sexuality is our primary identity marker. Kuehne is well ahead of the curve in naming the taboos that occupy the “iWorld”, and it’s a set of taboos that the love-drunk hippies of Woodstock would not have envisaged, and would indeed be horrified by due to the very need to name them.
Even in the iWorld, however, there are limits to freedom. While the iWorld focuses on expanding the range of individual freedom, even it cannot allow complete individual freedom, lest…one person use it coercively over another. The iWorld embraces three taboos that serve to limit individual freedom if it affects another person’s individual freedom:
1. One may not criticise someone else’s life choices or behaviour.
2. One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others.
3. One may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent.
He goes on to say (and note the comments I have put in bold):
Freedom of individual choice, the first taboo, is the highest ideal of the iWorld, but all three taboos are held in such esteemed regard that the person who breaks them is treated not with toleration or mere disdain but with strident anger. In the iWorld these taboos are held with the fervour of religious zeal, and those who challenge or are willing to entertain questions about their adequacy are usually treated as heretics.
The average orthodox Christian who holds to a traditional view of marriage thought they were the only ones whose beliefs were met with strident anger, who were argued against with all the fervour of religious zeal, and who are increasingly treated as heretics.
No longer. Liberal voices such as Weinstein and Spacey et al. (and I suspect it’s going to be a longer list by the time the Hollywood establishment has sated its appetite for blood), have been unified in their scorn and condemnation for all those who broke taboo one. (part 2 next week)