One of the things he said was that men should be using this as a learning opportunity rather than a finger-wagging opportunity. The way he puts it is:
I feel like, as a man, one of the best openings to a conversation right now is simply to say, “Hey, have you been reading all this Franken stuff, and all this Matt Lauer stuff?” . . . And instead of talking about, like, what a bunch of jerks, or boy, there’s a reckoning, to go like, “What I’ve been thinking is, what about me? I wonder if I’ve ever put anybody in a bad place.”
I like that point. It beats listening to P.Z. Myers blithely say Louis C.K.’s apology wasn’t good enough or something like that.
In another main point of his podcast episode, he says, “stop talking about how do you repress [inappropriate sexual thoughts] from coming into your mind,” and start talking about how to “desire something else even more that should trump that.”
I’m with him there, although I do question whether most men really need to be told that sexual thoughts are natural. I don’t share Campolo’s background as an evangelical, so I guess it’s a difference of perspective.
I do, however, have a couple points of disagreement about what kinds of thoughts are most likely helpful in order to resist inappropriate sexual ideas.
In one part of the podcast episode, Campolo asks us to imagine a scenario where a man is serving as a woman’s boss, and he has inappropriate sexual thoughts about her. He asks men to resist any inappropriate impulses by saying, “Wait a second. That woman’s my sister, in some kind of a broad tribal sense. That woman’s a human being. That woman is someone I want to see elevated. I want to watch her flourish.”
That’s a nice thought, and if that thought works, then great. My concern is, that thought does not come readily to the mind of most men who are in the midst of getting a boner-inducing glimpse of a sexy woman.
He also asks us to imagine the same scenario where the woman is coming on to the man, who let us say is her boss. Is it wrong for the boss to make a move on her, even when she seems to be inviting it? Probably so, but it’s more of a moral gray area. If the one and only thing that’s supposed to help him resist that impulse is the thought, “That woman’s my sister in some kind of a broad tribal sense,” I fear that his odds of resisting the impulse may not be great enough.
I propose that a better thought to help him resist that impulse is, will I regret doing this later? It may be something he can readily foresee he’ll regret, possibly even minutes later. Or days later, or whatever.
This is not a principle that relies upon the question of whether he gets caught. There are a lot of men who can understand what a mental toll it takes when you know you’ve done something wrong, or haven’t lived up to your ideals.
Perhaps most importantly, this is not a principle that relies upon a deep understanding of female psychology, which is a type of understanding that may be in really short supply when a man is dealing with the highly difficult moral gray area of what to do when, for example, one of his female subordinates is coming on to him. He might not be able to see what she will regret, but he should be able to see what he himself will regret. If he has a strong enough conscience, that should stop him. If he doesn’t, nothing will stop him except the thought of getting caught.
Finally, Campolo says:
So the question is, should you [resist inappropriate sexual desires] because you’re worried about being punished, because you’re worried about getting caught? No, you should . . . because you care about that person more than you care about indulging your own desires.
This sentence sounds nice, but upon reflection I find that I disagree with it more than anything else in his episode. It’s not that I disagree with the sentiment that men should do the right thing because it’s the right thing. Indeed that’s what they should do, but saying that is not what’s most beneficial to society.
Here’s my analogy: Despite our problems, we still live in a society that’s more free of violence than in centuries past. And I feel safer living in our society than I would feel living in one in which the laws regarding violent crime were lifted, but in which everyone was given instruction that violence is wrong. And, in case this needs saying, I care more about the safety of potential victims than I do about, for example, the purity of methodology by which people are dissuaded from doing bad things.
So I think it’s great that we’re having this discussion. It’s important. But I don’t think it’s as important as the fact that, for example, Matt Lauer got fired. And I don’t think it’s as important as whether future generations expect to get caught and be punished if they do similar acts.