This society we have created

There is a lot of talk about sexual harassment and abuse going around. Such accusations are not new, but they seem to be coming thick and fast lately, with fast and hard consequences for the accused. Apparently the far reach of social media is the main difference. Somebody ‘outs’ a person on Twitter and pretty much instantly the whole world knows about it.
This is probably mostly a good thing. People who perpetrate sexual abuse should be called out on it. Those who haven’t been should be aware they could be exposed at any time. Those who are contemplating such behaviour should know they are unlikely to get away with it and the consequences could be dire indeed.
That’s all to the good. On the other side of the coin is the possibility – even likelihood – of mischievous or frivolous accusations against innocent people. Or mostly innocent people. Lives and careers can easily be ruined, we’re learning, by way of a single tweet. Once suspicion is cast, who can make it go away? It’s something to be very wary of.
Somewhere in this equation due process has to be established, or re-established. Accusers should have to prove their allegations. The accused need a chance to clear their names.
There are other questions that arise out of these escalating accusations of sexual misconduct. One is what kind of a society we are creating or allowing to develop. Sexual misbehaviour doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Nothing excuses it, but there are factors in society that aggravate it. We should be looking hard at those too, each of us, and questioning the consequences of our attitudes and behaviour.
For example, if somebody is inclined to abuse power and has poor control of his or her urges, this ultra-sexualized society we’re in is like a garden, with forbidden fruit hanging low all over the place. It’s a situation where failure to control one’s self is almost guaranteed, human nature being what it is.
It is fair to say there is a widespread failure to appreciate this. A lot of people, by their behaviour, are pretty much saying ‘look at me, aren’t I sexy,’ apparently without realizing there are predators out there who cannot or will not stop at looking.
The unspoken proposition in our culture as it has developed is that men should behave like gentlemen no matter what is flaunted in front of them. The responsibility, legally and morally, is certainly there and nothing really mitigates its breach. But the evidence shows the veneer of ‘civilization’ we’ve painted over our animal urges is pretty thin. And not nearly effective enough to stop people (mostly men) from doing terrible things.
Traditional, conservative societies have oppressive rules that acknowledge this and try to keep it under control. It creates all sorts of problems in the other direction – most notably the suppression of women’s rights and freedoms we take for granted in the so-called ‘West.’
Sadly, the freedom enjoyed here includes the freedom to be stupid and reckless, and that’s part of what’s going on.

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