I'm tired of talking about this sexual harassment thing. Let the victims come forward, let justice be done, but why are we spending every day talking about it? There's no point.
There could be a point, but there isn't. There isn't, because we aren't going to do anything to prevent these issues in the future. We aren't learning anything. We aren't coming up with solutions. We aren't allowed to come up with solutions. The only thing we're allowed to say is: "This is bad! So bad! Men are bad! So much badness! Very, very bad! Bad men! Bad!"
If anyone tries to advance the discussion — present an actual plan of action, etc. — they will be promptly chastised for "victim blaming." So what's the point? Yes, it's bad. We get it. If that's all that's going to be said, there's no reason to say it anymore. Let's move on.
But in a world populated by people more interested in solving problems than complaining about them, this discussion would be worthwhile. In this fantasyland, we may survey the scene, notice that nearly every institution in American life is overrun by accused sexual harassers and assaulters, and decide on a course of action to alleviate the crisis. That course of action would include, but perhaps not be limited to, the following three (very offensive and "victim blaming") steps:
1) Observe the Mike Pence rule.
When all is said and done, Mike Pence may be the only man left standing in Washington. I would say that Mike Pence gets the last laugh, but I'm told Mike Pence only laughs at jokes in Veggie Tales. Be that as it may, the Pences are clearly onto something here.
The vice president and his wife don't have to worry about being embroiled in one of these scandals because they never allow themselves to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. They don't do lunch dates. They don't have closed door, one-on-one meetings. And they certainly would neither hold nor attend a "meeting" in a hotel room.
Pence cannot be falsely accused of anything because he always has a witness. And, though a decent person would never be tempted to assault or harass, any fallen human can be tempted towards flirtatious, inappropriate, and finally adulterous relationships. Pence and his wife have less reason to worry about that because they have taken proactive steps against it. Married couples who respect and love each other ought to do everything in their power to avoid even the occasion for sin and the possibility of temptation.
The only argument against this strategy is that it shouldn't have to be this way. Men and women should be able to mingle freely, privately, without the possibility of anything unseemly occurring. A woman shouldn't have to worry about being harassed. A man shouldn't have to worry about being falsely accused. A wife shouldn't have to worry about her husband striking up an inappropriate relationship with a colleague. Shouldn't. Shouldn't. Shouldn't.
I agree. You shouldn't have to worry about any of these things. But you do. There is no use ignoring or denying human nature. People do things they shouldn't do all the time. And there is a very high possibility of a "shouldn't" occurring when a man and a woman, who are married but not to each other, get together in private. Literally millions of those kinds of shouldn'ts happen every year. Put male and female coworkers, or a male boss and a female subordinate, in a room together with the door closed, and a whole buffet of shouldn'ts immediately opens up before them. We can either charge forward like idiots, pretending that these shouldn'ts are impossible in our case and that we are immune, somehow, from the most common yet most devastating sorts of sins, or we can acknowledge human nature and do our best to work around it.
2) Emphasize modesty.
Now we are on very dicey ground. To most people, it is unthinkable to bring modesty into this discussion. What am I saying, exactly? That a woman deserves to be harassed if she goes to work dressed like a stripper? No, I'm not saying that. Nobody deserves to be harassed. But they can certainly increase or decrease the likelihood of falling victim to the thing they don't deserve depending on how they present themselves.
And modesty is not just about women, or even mostly about women. This applies equally across the board. Men and women ought to behave, dress, speak, and generally operate with a sense of modesty and decency. Back in the dark old days, there were standard codes of conduct governing how men and women interacted. Most of these codes could be chalked up to modesty. We have done away with these codes, we laugh at anyone who proposes that we reinstate them, and then we proceed to scratch our heads and wring our hands at the epidemic of sexual harassment. We really are quite stupid, aren't we?
There used to be an understanding that even certain conversations were not appropriate for mixed company. Today, men carry on with women like they carry on with each other. Conversations are frequently sexually charged and vulgar, and lines are blurred in the process. Women are guilty of this as well. A little while long ago, a group of girls sat at a table not far from me in Starbucks and began loudly discussing how their boyfriends like to be, well, pleasured. It was a gross and immodest conversation for a public place (or any other place, really). If some creep had overheard this discussion (it would have been difficult for anyone in the place to not overhear it), would he have been justified in barging into the conversation uninvited and harassing these girls? No, of course not, but they made themselves susceptible to creeps by being creeps themselves.
The point of modesty is to respect each other and ourselves. This should not be controversial. Yes, we deserve to be respected even if we do not respect ourselves, but it is harder to convey the message in that case. It is difficult for me to command respect if I do not have any for myself. That's what modesty is all about.
3) Emphasize chastity.
I mentioned this on Twitter and someone, who's apparently a professional writer, asked me what the word means. That's our culture in a nutshell. We literally don't know what the word "chastity" means.
For anyone else who may be confused, chastity is the virtue which moderates our sexual desires. Basically, to be chaste is to practice restraint. A chaste person refrains from more than just sexual assault. He refrains, also, from pornography, vulgarity, sex outside marriage, and sex that is not in accordance with natural law. This all sounds downright archaic nowadays, I realize, but our outrage over sexual improprieties doesn't amount to much if it isn't rooted in a fundamental belief in the dignity of the human person.
Notice I say we should emphasize chastity, not that we are doomed unless everyone practices it perfectly. The problem is not just that people misbehave nowadays — indeed, people have misbehaved in the same ways throughout history — but that our culture has no real message and no real idea about how we ought to be behaving. We can say, "Don't harass and assault," but the message is not getting through because it's insufficient on its own. People must be taught not to see each other as sex objects, but we can only teach them that if we teach them first about the sacredness of the sexual act and the inherent worth of all human beings. If we have ruled that out and abandoned chastity, then we cannot be shocked at the pigs who surround us.
I do not claim that these three steps would prevent every instance of sexual harassment. But they would mitigate the problem considerably. Anyway, they're worth a shot, aren't they? Nothing else seems to be working.