In the United States, the victims of sexual harassment and assault are finally being treated with the soberness and sympathy they deserve. More than ever, people are seriously discussing what is and is not appropriate verbal and physical behavior. It is hard not to appreciate this change, but it would be easier to appreciate if there were fewer politicians and journalists using #MeToo as a means to voice their noxious opinions about sexuality. In November of 2017, a contributor for The New York Times named Stephen Marche published a piece entitled “The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido.” In it, he asked his readers to consider the possibility that Americans will never “create an equal world” because “male mechanisms of desire are inherently brutal.” Fundamentalist Christians also tend to view sex as a vulgar and brutal force, so it is wonderful that progressives have finally found a topic on which they agree with the religious right.
Marche wrote, “If you want to be a civilized man, you have to consider what you are. Pretending to be something else, some fiction you would prefer to be, cannot help. It is not morality but culture – accepting our monstrosity, reckoning with it – that can save us. If anything can.” Marche is the sort of social justice advocate who “cannot imagine why a woman would ever call herself anything but a feminist,” but thinks that masculinity is violent and base at its very core. He is, in other words, something of a sexist.
Plenty of men have sexual feelings that are intertwined with violent urges, and those men obviously have something to gain by using #MeToo as a moment for self-examination. However, Marche accomplishes nothing by trying pin the blame for these Hollywood scandals on the entire male gender, unless his goal is to make men suspicious and ashamed of their own bodies. “Reckoning with monstrosity” is something that those guilty of a crime are supposed to do, and most men are not guilty of any crime, sexual or otherwise.
To some writers, #MeToo is less of a moment to come to grips with the experiences of sexual abuse victims, and more of an opportunity to proselytize about some twisted view of sexual morality. The Independent published an opinion piece in which the author, a lawyer named Qasim Rashid, set out to explain how the teachings of Islam could help prevent sexual abuse. According to Rashid, The Quran instructs Muslims not to gawk at or physically harm women, thus preventing them from committing sexual abuse. While the Quran does share egalitarian wisdom every now and then, it also explicitly condones a man marrying his slaves.
Rashid insists in his piece that “Islam and Prophet Muhammad provide a practical solution” to sexual abuse. According to Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234 of the Sahih Bukhari hadith, Muhammad first had sex with one of his wives when she was nine years old. Some of the moral edicts laid out by Allah are worth following, but it is unethical to whitewash the sordid nature of The Quran. There is a reason why this text has been used throughout history to justify barbaric sexual practices, and it may have something to do with the fact that there is no way to describe the Prophet Muhammad frankly without bringing up his predilections for slavery, spousal abuse and child rape.
Far too many opinion writers infuse their articles with bitter, illogical rhetoric that has no place in a levelheaded discussion about sex and power in America. Jessica Valenti of The Guardian said “Perhaps the problem is that powerful white men have not been afraid enough. Maybe the incredible sense of entitlement … can be killed – or at least hobbled – with a nice dose of fear.” #MeToo is about cultural introspection, not Islam or the inherent brutality of the male libido. Readers should ignore those writers who use abuse scandals as a way to promote warped ideas about human sexuality. Valenti may have revealed more than she intended to when she said that it might not be such a bad idea to use #MeToo as a way to make people afraid.
Alex Klein is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.