From Seed to Harvest

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Be it in business, industry, politics or entertainment, America has produced some incredibly talented role models. Many started their careers with next to nothing, working their way up to the top, now enjoying the benefits of their hard-earned station in society. They now live in a revered place of honor—theirs is a world of fans and paparazzi; of limousines and red carpets. Truly, they are role models to be admired.

Celebrity conjures recognition, making them instantly familiar; they are household names, whether in New York or Los Angeles, Seattle or Tampa… or Alamo, California. Let’s name a few and see if you can’t identify these towering personalities:
Sylvester Stallone; Ben Affleck; Richard Dreyfuss; Dustin Hoffman; Al Franken; Oliver Stone; Kevin Spacey; Jesse Jackson; former president George H. W. Bush; Louis C.K.; David Blaine; Charlie Rose; Nick Carter; Matt Lauer; George Takei; Rep. John Conyers; Steven Seagal; Mark Halperin; Russell Simmons; Roy Moore; Tavis Smiley… oh yes, let’s not forget Harvey Weinstein. And to satisfy the “Resisters” out there, we should probably add President Donald Trump.

Of course you knew where I was headed. This is just a short list of the ever-growing cascade of men accused of inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment, or worse. What began in October of last year as an exposé of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct with multiple actresses quickly spread throughout Hollywood and beyond, becoming an avalanche of notable men charged with reprehensible behavior. In Weinstein’s case alone, by the end of October, over eighty women—yes, that’s 80 not eight—had come forward, claiming that they had been sexual abused by him.

The “Me Too” movement burst upon America, shining a bright light upon a chronic, ugly problem that has been hidden below the surface for far too long. It’s as though American men have been oblivious to something that women have always known—that the corruption that often comes with power has been manifest throughout male culture for years; that too often, the unseemly moniker of “men are pigs” appears fitting. But Matt Lauer? Really? Here’s a guy with a family and grown children; a familiar face to many Americans every morning, now revealed as either just another actor playing a nice guy role, or a genuine Jekyll and Hyde living a double life.
In some cases men have admitted guilt and apologized. In others, they have apologized but claimed “quazi-innocence” on the basis that they believed their actions were consensual. In other cases, men flatly deny the allegations made against them.

Being Fair
To be fair, in most of these cases we are talking about accusations only; at this point, most of the allegations thus far are just that: allegations. While I have no doubt that many if not most of them are accurate, our inclination toward judgment must be tempered and prudent, resisting the temptation to “pile on” when emotions are running high.

In cases where much time has passed, we need to recognize that memories are sometimes poor records when it comes to accuracy. People tend to forget things—important details—and perspectives sometimes change over time.

In some cases, we need to be cognizant of the reality that time and place matter; that what was culturally acceptable years ago or in another region may be considered a form of perversion today. My mother married her first husband when she was a sophomore in high school, at sixteen. She later divorced and then married the man who became my father, who was a full twenty years her senior. In the 1940s, 50s and even 60s, these age differences were not all that uncommon.

We also need to give cursory thought as to the motivation of some accusers. While their claims may very well be truthful, charges like these can be used as a weapon, intended to exact revenge or damage someone’s reputation for political, personal, or other reasons. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!

Much of the media has already piled on, serving as prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner, all, apparently, because a juicy headline is of more value to them than the truth. And when these kinds of charges are made, it is human nature to accept them as fact, even though we have no way of really knowing yet if the charges are legitimate.

I am not excusing any of these men, as I expect many of the claims to be valid or close to accurate, if not completely so. I am merely suggesting that we ought to reserve judgment when there is so much at stake. Once a charge of sexual misconduct is made in the court of public opinion, a person’s entire career can be all but destroyed, simply on the basis of having been publicly accused—even if facts later vindicate the person charged.

What’s Going on Here?
As for the behavior and what’s going on here, I have a few theories. First off, I would ask if you are familiar with “The Law of Sowing and Reaping.” It’s an idea that says, if you plant seeds for corn you’ll get stalks of corn and eventually reap a harvest of corn; plant beans, you get beans. It’s a simple law that likewise applies to human nature, as a philosophical principle and spiritual law.

Now consider for a moment, what seeds, by and large, in terms of men’s roles and standards of character, has American culture has been planting for the past half century? This isn’t something difficult to discover as anyone over the age of fifty can testify to the fact that polite and even the most basic, civil behavior has declined significantly over the past few decades.

Some would argue that this is due to the secularization of American society, and it is easy to point to behavioral markers that support that theory. In the 1940s, basic Judeo-Christian mores were accepted throughout nearly all of American society and institutions, including public schools. At that time, the seven major problems reported in those schools were:

1) Talking out of turn
2) Chewing gum
3) Making noise
4) Running in the halls
5) Cutting in line
6) Violating the dress code
7) Littering

By the 1980s, that list of seven major problems in public schools became:

1) Drug abuse
2) Alcohol abuse
3) Pregnancy
4) Suicide
5) Rape
6) Robbery
7) Assault

Any way you slice it, what we have is a culture-wide degradation of values. As modern society has progressed technologically and financially, self-respect and respect for others has diminished.

For example, the other day I heard another story about increasing problems on our BART transit system. The report said that crime is a widespread problem and that there are now significant problems of trash, public urination, and even defecation on trains. It wasn’t that way twenty years ago. Why are these problems happening now? What’s changed? The trains haven’t… but the people and society have.

We shouldn’t be surprised at widespread inappropriate behavior by these men, given what has been a steady decline of morality and virtue. A weak or lacking moral framework combined with societal power bestowed by wealth and celebrity (one void of personal responsibility) is a certain recipe for the type of behavior being reported by women all over America.

The Era of Mixed Messages
Aside from a decline in morality, I would also lay some of the blame for this bad behavior by men upon our society for conveying mixed messages when it comes to roles and behavior, and for not accepting the reality of men’s basic nature.

What, exactly, is a man today, anyway? Does anyone even dare say? Right now, the State of California, by law, recognizes gender as a personal choice. You now have the option to be identified on your driver’s license or official ID as male, female, or “nonbinary,” which essentially means you are something other than male or female—it’s your choice.

If it is no longer appropriate to think about each other in terms of traditionally-defined genders and roles, then who’s to say what behaviors are appropriate? Is it sexist or demeaning for someone to open a door for someone else? Is someone who chooses to be a homemaker of less value to society than someone who practices law?

While the traditional roles of men and women began changing long ago, those changes accelerated in the 1960s during the sexual revolution, and has continued unabated ever since. Today we have reached a kind of critical mass in terms of confusion and mixed messages when it comes to social and gender roles, all while ignoring the basic, natural differences between men and women.

As the lines between male have female have become blurred socially I would argue that they have not done so physiologically. I imagine I’ll get some flak for saying it, but despite what some claim, men and women are different physically and as an extension of those differences, each are better suited for different roles. These differences also have a lot to do with human behavior—in this case, the “inappropriate behavior” of some men.

I am not a psychologist, but I would say men are, in many ways, more hormonally- driven than women. They also tend to be more ego-driven and insecure than women, seeking and needing recognition more than women.

While the trend in Western society is to try and alter or break long-standing, traditional gender roles, I’d say much of this bad behavior is evidence that there are physiological forces at work here that want no part of that trend.

The testosterone levels in men have a lot to say about how they behave, and throughout human history this fact is self-evident. It is why wars are started and fought by men and why soldiers, traditionally, have mostly been men. Men are more likely to commit crimes than women. According to research conducted by Bloomberg:

Females have lower arrest rates than males for virtually all crime categories except prostitution. This is true in all countries for which data are available. It is true for all racial and ethnic groups, and for every historical period. In the United States, women constitute less than 20 percent of arrests for most crime categories. Females have even lower representation than males do in serious crime categories. Since the 1960s in the United States, the extent of female arrests has generally been less than 15 percent for homicide and aggravated assault, and less than 10 percent for the serious property crimes of burglary and robbery.

Indeed, even the exception—prostitution—supports my claim, as unlike violent crimes, it is not a crime of passion (hormone-induced). And aside from it being “legally” considered a criminal act, it can be further argued that women are merely being logical and businesslike, creating a marketable service that profits from what is, in many cases, a hormonally-induced weakness in some men.

While warfare, crime, and violence are largely the expressions of men’s hormone-induced aggressive behavior, I would also argue that these same physiological factors have much to do with men’s propensities toward sexual indiscretion. While both men and women commit adultery, the reasons and incidence are very different. A survey conducted in the United Kingdom revealed:

Once women decide to cheat, they are significantly more likely to play the field in search for love compared to cheating men, who report wanting sexual excitement, boredom with their marriage and the need for an ego boost as being the top reasons for being unfaithful. Women, on the other hand, are far more likely to list improving their self-esteem, romance and emotional fulfillment as the main reasons for cheating.

Another survey about extra-marital affairs conducted in the United States said:

The ratio of males to females is greatest among those older than 65, with 14 men for every woman. The ratio is 4-to-1 among those in their 50s, 3-to-1 for spouses in their 40s, and evenly divided among people in their 30s.

Even turning back to biblical times, it seems that it was common knowledge that men, specifically, had a problem with controlling their sexual urges, as Jesus himself said:

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

Notice, Jesus did not say “looks at another person.” He said, “looks at a woman,” certainly speaking to men.

Dressed for Sexcess?
Besides the law of sowing and reaping, there is another principle that applies to physically-induced behavior in men. It is the idea that you become what you think about most of the time. Put another way, you character is largely shaped by your thoughts. (Years ago, a friend of mine humorously proclaimed that there must be exceptions to this, because if that law had been true when he was in high school, he would have become either a girl of a beer bottle. I can easily relate, as I recall that much of my thinking and imagination during those years was similarly focused.)

The point is, most men’s character is influenced by a physical, sexual attraction to women, and as many of these celebrities’ inappropriate behavior incidents suggest, it is often to a degree where they are willing to risk everything—their marriages, careers, and reputations—all for the sake of satisfying a sexual urge or to manifest some expression of aggression.

Numerous studies have confirmed that men are more visually aroused than are women by provocative or suggestive imagery. Roughly three times as many men admit to watching pornography than women, and between 88 and 92 percent of those seeking treatment for sexual addiction are male. For many men, sexual imagery is like a moth to a flame.

In light of these facts, it is appropriate, indeed it is important, to look at how women are largely portrayed in media—or should I say, “marketed”—and to consider what, if any, effect this has upon men. In stark contrast to the lip service delivered by those wanting to appear politically correct, the old axiom of “sex sells,” is truer than ever. Prime time television often features scantily-clad women and/or sexually explicit performances. Most sit-coms’ episodes are fixated upon portrayals laden with sexual innuendo.

Right about now, I’d guess you’re thinking that I am prudish to the extreme—some judgmental cave-dweller. The fact is however, I am not shocked by what I see today, but I do think this affects men and how they think about and behave towards women. If you compare what’s generally acceptable today in terms of dress, media, and behavior, to what was common just twenty years ago, you must admit there have been vast changes.

While public service announcements ask society to reconsider and recast women’s roles by teaching little girls about science and technology, Hollywood and the fashion and music industries are becoming ever bolder at portraying women as sex objects. Other than National Geographic, I’d bet you can’t name a single woman scientist that graced a magazine cover. On the other hand, based upon how they are usually depicted, what’s being sold when we see Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, or Nicki Minaj on the screen or in print?

“But it shouldn’t matter how women are dressed,” some will cry, “you cannot blame the victims in these cases.” While I would agree with the part about not blaming the victim, I would say that how one is dressed can be a factor in all of this.

The idea that we should not judge people based upon how they look may be a noble aspiration… but that is all it is and all it will ever be. The truth is, people judge and assess each other based upon appearances. And the clothes we wear, and how we wear them, are part of the criteria of judgment.

How one dresses is a form of communication. It says something about the person, their priorities, and values. A man wearing an expensive, designer business suit is saying something quite different from the man wearing oversized sweatpants that ride below his backside, showing off red underwear. Likewise, a woman wearing comparable upscale business attire is saying something different from the woman wearing a sheer, low-cut blouse and a short, tight, leather skirt and high-heeled boots.

Perhaps you remember the bestselling book, Dress for Success, by John Molloy, first published in 1975. It sold millions of copies and was followed by several revised and other editions intended for both men and women. These books are about how to dress and use one’s appearance as a communication tool to advance one’s career. The same principle that works so well in helping one create a positive impression also works in reverse. Inappropriate dress can send the wrong message, or suggest something you may not intend. The point is, what you wear communicates something.

Hairstyles say something. Shoes say something. Tattoos and piercings say something. It may be wrong, but people look at how you look, and they assess and infer things about your motives and character. There are no objective standards here, and all this judging and interpreting can differ widely from person to person. But make no mistake, people do this. You do this all the time and so do I.

Based upon how you look—what you wear and how you present yourself—a person may conclude that you are wealthy, or not. They may believe you are highly intelligent, or not at all smart. They may think you are single or married; gay or straight. And it may even suggest to someone, “I am available. I am looking to connect in some way with someone of the opposite sex.”

Where Do We Go from Here?
I do not excuse these men or suggest that they are merely slaves to hormonally-driven forces beyond their control. This is hardly the case. But I will argue that we ought to look hard at ourselves and the direction we are moving as a society, as we have created and allowed a fertile environment for precisely this type of behavior.

Most of Hollywood’s product, along with much of popular culture, mocks monogamy and any notion of traditional families. Sleeping around is no big deal—in fact, one risks being labeled a reactionary doofus to suggest otherwise. But isn’t it ironic (and hypocritical) that some of the enablers and promoters of this behavior—the media—now seem obsessed with exposing their celebrity cohorts for impropriety. Perhaps the one thing that sells better than sex is scandal!

When a society appears to be stumbling along, rejecting long-held beliefs about familial relationships, and now even gender; when if fails to establish clear standards of behavior anchored by those same long-held ideals, and when it fails to elevate virtue above self-fulfillment, it is by extension, failing at to provide the social fabric necessary to produce virtuous men.

Certainly, these men have erred. Some have committed crimes. Many have harmed women with some perhaps believing that what they were doing wasn’t wrong. Ultimately, however, they must bear the responsibility for their actions.

But, we, as a society can and ought to do a much better job at fashioning our culture in ways that help prevent this type of behavior from happening in the future. We must recognize and openly discuss the natural differences between men and women, and seek ways to address those differences—particularly regarding how we communicate with each other, not only though our words, but by the actions we take and the impressions we make. We must respect women and see them as whole persons, not as marketable products used by the entertainment industry. And we must remember our own imperfections, and be cautious about throwing stones while living in homes of glass.

And, we must guide our young people in ways that foster self-respect and genuine respect for others. And this doesn’t mean just parents—it means every adult who would like to see our world become better must accept some responsibility for making it so. Becoming a volunteer leader in a youth organization like scouting, the Boys and Girls Club of America, or the YMCA, might be a place to start. In order to have a society with men who respect and honor women, they must be taught when they are boys, and these organizations provide a way to do just that—especially if they aren’t learning it at home.

And if you are a single mother, I highly recommend that you involve your son in one of these organizations, and you join as a volunteer leader, if at all possible.

Last of all, if you are a father with a son, don’t shirk, defer, or delegate your most solemn responsibility. No one can or should replace your role and example. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received on raising my son was this: Know that your most important role is to lead by example, and one of the best things you can do in order to help your son grow to become a good man is love, honor, and respect his mother.

Our children are watching. Today we are planting the seeds of male behavior for the future harvest of generations to come. Let’s make sure the seeds we plant are good seeds.

Author’s Note to Dads: Before our son was born, never having raised a child before, I thought about how we should raise him—about how I, as a father, should raise him. I listened to my father and other fathers I respected, and sought out resources. I subscribed to Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family newsletter, and read books. I read the Bible and a book entitled, Raising a Modern Day Knight, by Robert Lewis. If you are a father seeking guidance, these resources can help a lot.

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