A call for a holisitic vision of sexuality

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Isabel Dubert, Contributing Writer

 

UD can be a place where these aren't necessary. –Photo by Peter Sampson
UD can be a place where these aren’t necessary.
–Photo by Peter Sampson

Human nature, being what it is, inclines us to love things and use people although we know the opposite is what we were designed for and the way we find fulfillment. For millennia, sexual violence of all sorts has been decried as one of the great evils of society, and yet it is still here with us, present in every culture of the world. It is an issue that we must deal with, particularly in our community here at the University of Dallas.

Emerson observed that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Talking an issue to death is a kind of foolish consistency, accomplishing nothing while encouraging a penchant for gossip. Truth be told, people love scandal, but it should be the last reason we are discussing a moral issue such as this one. Our preoccupation with the cause of such an injustice and with attempts to fix it distracts us.

We know that we are part of a culture that objectifies women in media, entertainment and fashion, overtly and unashamedly. So instead of blaming others and medicating symptoms when sexual violence occurs, we should focus on how to counteract this individualistic and narcissistic culture

In Evan Hierholzer’s Sept. 3 article in The University News, John Plotts, vice president for enrollment and student affairs, stated that UD’s compliance with recent legislation “is not only a legal matter but a moral one as well.” In other words, as a Catholic university, part of the Body of Christ, we have a moral responsibility to God and to each other to live out our calling as children of God.

As a result, when addressing the issue of sexual violence, we must admit that blaming others will not solve any problems. We must approach the circumstances without prejudice and without the desire for retribution and strive even more tirelessly to create a positive UD culture and community.

Recently the Office of Student Life, headed by Dore Madere, “launched a campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses.” She emphasized that a safe environment at UD “must be maintained and encouraged by the student body” and that such an environment would require “looking out for others … [being] cautious and [realizing] that you are accountable for your actions.” Madere also reminded the student body of the need for “common sense and self-control” in all circumstances.

Futhermore, according to Brian Ahern’s article in the last issue of The University News, “Plotts remains positive that UD students’ moral compasses are the greatest forces for crime prevention on campus.” This is high praise; let us try to live up to it.

But how? Obama’s acts of legislation and awareness campaigns focus on the injustice of sexual violence and are often reactive instead of proactive. They depict a sexual war and make enemies of men and women – brothers and sisters who should be allies. We were designed to complement one another in a divine plan. This is the trap that rational people in a predominantly faithless culture have fallen into by trying to assign blame.

They have overlooked a better solution to the problem – that we “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2). This “renewal of mind” allows us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and as human beings responsible for each other. With this kind of mentality, we will be able to discover a philosophy by which we can live. If we can focus on the inherent power of combined love and fidelity, there will be no room for sexual violence at UD.

Combating sexual violence will not end it; let us instead foster attitudes that will make sexual harassment nonexistent on the UD campus. And let us do it in a grace-filled way.

I propose that we start a UD chapter of the Love & Fidelity Network or develop our own homegrown version. This network is proactively dedicated to “a humane and holistic vision of sexuality.” Luke Foster, a junior at Columbia University, was involved with the Love & Fidelity Network this past summer and wrote about his experience for the popular blog First Things. Please read Foster’s article and visit the Love & Fidelity website by capturing the barcodes at the end of this article with your smartphone.

We ought not to sweep this issue under the rug because we do not hear about it every day.

“One of the things I’m scared about is sexual violence not being taken seriously. I’m a transfer student; I was at A&M, and things like this were often in the paper. The university was always talking about it. This is a platform for sexual violence to be examined. And that’s why this article shouldn’t go away,” said senior Lily Ramsay.

As students at UD we aspire to high standards of moral virtue. Our communal responsibility is to address this issue in the right way and for the right reasons. So often we have heard that women must have self-respect and that men must be responsible; while these are true statements, they are only half of the story. Men, too, must have self-respect, and women, responsibility. Ephesians reminds us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21).

“I like that verse, ‘walk in a manner worthy of the call that you have received’” (Eph. 4:1), said junior Eleanor Carrano.

This is a call for self-respect as well as mutual respect “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2-3).

This is not a pathetic campaign to eradicate violence, but a call to unity and to compassion. We want UD to be a place where, if this sort of thing happens, the perpetrator can find forgiveness and show repentance, and the victim can find reconciliation and show forgiveness.

As a Catholic university, let us lead the way in modeling a renewal of mind. Let us bravely develop a definite and practical plan of action to honor and live in love and fidelity in a world that has forgotten what those words mean. And that is what will truly change the lives of the people in this community.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Isabel, what you are calling for is necessary for a long term change in our culture, but it’s incomplete. Until attitudes do indeed change, until we have a more positive society with respect to sexuality, we need to make sure we provide a safe environment for women at UD. Women need to be able to come forward when they have been assaulted with the assurance that both they are safe and proper punitive measures will be taken with the rapist.

    You call for the need for mercy and forgiveness. These are not antithetical to justice, but rather complimentary.

  2. In Evan Hierholzer’s September 10 article titled “OSL launches sexual assault awareness campaign”, it is stated that OSL’s campaign “comes on the heels of an alleged sexual assault on campus near the end of the spring 2013 semester”. As the commenter above me expressed, there is an immediacy present that Isabel ignores. Sure, it would be great if all UD students “recognize[d] each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and as human beings responsible for each other”. But that is clearly not the case, since the article also states that the offense was committed by a student. There are those among us that do not see their fellow students as brothers and sisters who they are responsible for. This must be addressed; students like that, particularly if they are unrepentant, should be removed from the school in order to ensure the safety of the student body. Safety is the first, immediate concern, and I (as well as many others, I’m sure) would hope that the administration has taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of UD’s students. Sexual assault is not something that should be tolerated, especially on a college campus. It is worth noting that according to a 2002 study by Lisak and Miller (one of the most often quoted studies on sexual assault), 63.3% of perpetrators repeated the offense at least once. The University has a responsibility to the safety of its students that must be addressed immediately, if it hasn’t been already. Only after that can we begin to change the culture here as Isabel recommends.

  3. A UD Chapter of the Love and Fidelity Network is a great idea!

    Yes, win the immediate battle. But while you’re at it, try to win the war!

  4. Dear “Amused” Alumnus,

    I hope you did not intend to sound ignorant, but there is nothing to be “amused” about in regards to sexual assault at UD. I don’t want to take away from your positive comment, but the fact that you chose the word “amused” to describe yourself seems to reflect an alarmingly prevalent attitude of ignorance at this university- one that doesn’t grasp the gravity of the events that happened last semester.

    Sexual assault is something that is still a reality here and should not be treated lightly, next time please be less careless.

    • People typically choose one handle and stick to it when posting, and this person has been posting under that handle for a while. I doubt that they are actually amused at this horrific tragedy.

  5. Dear Student, the insensitive screen name was an inadvertent error. It populated by default, since I had just commented on another article. In my haste to post a simple comment, I did not update the name. Rest assured, I find nothing “amusing” about sexual assault. And neither do a majority of UD students, I believe.

    The “prevalent attitude” you sense is a seeming desensitization to illicit (sometimes illegal) sexual behavior. The source of that problem is simple: easy access to online pornography.

    If an LFN chapter starts up at UD, educating students about the social, psychological, and spiritual harms of pornography should be a top priority.

    • It is *much* broader than the problem of pornography. It is not that simple whatsoever. There are wider problematic attitudes and ignorances that are present within both secular culture which glorifies the objectification of women in pornography and more conservative, religious culture which rejects it.

      • To downplay the centrality of the pornography epidemic is to be dangerously naive. It is true that the “me” philosophy of Sanger, Kinsey, etc provides the moral justification for indulging in selfish hedonism, pornography being but one manifestation. But until society addresses the harms of pornography, it will be near impossible to inculcate public virtue. Pornography use is a social vice that blinds the intellect to forming high ideals and, more importantly, acting in accord with those ideals.

        Remedying widespread ignorance of the social costs of pornography is a sine qua non for any organization seeking to promote a healthy culture. Hopefully UD’s LFN Chapter does just that (and more!).

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