Fed up with Dehumanization? #MeToo.

If you’ve ventured onto social media at all this week, you have probably encountered the viral #metoo campaign, jumpstarted by actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet encouraging victims of sexual harassment and assault to reply with the hashtag #metoo. Millions have responded by sharing their stories and raising awareness about the issue via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The idea behind the campaign was to highlight the magnitude of the problem of sexual abuse and foster the solidarity, mutual understanding, and cultural conversation so necessary for positive change.

The roots of this impressive #metoo crusade reach back about a decade, originating with an activist named Tarana Burke. A young victim of sexual violence had confided in Tarana regarding the trauma she was trying to deal with– but Tarana, a victim herself, remained silent about her own painful story…and went on to regret that decision for years to come, realizing what a difference the simple phrase “me too” might’ve made.

In the United States of America alone, 321,500 people age 12 and older suffer from rape or sexual assault each year, most of them women or girls, according to RAINN. As I was reading through some of the heartbreaking #metoo stories, I couldn’t help but ask myself: What is it going to take to restore a culture free of the horror of sexual abuse? In other words– what is at the core of this problem?

I do think we have to realize that all of us, in one way or another, are complicit in the dehumanization that is sexual assault. Anytime we fail to recognize the infinite value of the human person, we contribute to a broad cultural trend of dehumanization: treating human beings as if they are merely objects to be dominated, controlled, manipulated, used, for our own emotional or physical gratification– rather than persons with intrinsic dignity who deserve nothing less than love.

Anytime we desensitize ourselves to the inherent beauty, the breathtaking uniqueness, the inexhaustible mystery of another human person, we are complicit in dehumanization. If we really want to tackle this issue at its core, it’s about time we resensitize ourselves.

I remember standing at an intersection near my house as a senior in college, waiting to cross the street for an afternoon meeting on campus. I was especially pumped for this meeting, and had curled my hair and thrown on one of my favorite black dresses that had “classy, modest, sleek” written all over it. I remember feeling beautiful. In a whirlwind of bitter irony, a white pickup truck came roaring across the intersection, 3 rowdy guys loudly blaring music and laughing as one of them boldly popped his head out the window, stared me down head to toe, and sneered, “You’re beautiful.”

I remember the moment vividly. I stood there frozen on the street corner, bewildered and humiliated…and, to my surprise, a tear rolled down my cheek.  

“Whatever. It’s not a big deal” was my first thought.

“Then why is it such a big deal to me right now?” was my second.

I’ve had some time to admit to myself that, in fact, such a derogatory comment is far from trivial. Now, I want to be clear that I am in no way attempting to place my street corner incident on the same plane as some of the assault experiences I’ve read about this week. However, I wonder if a first step towards resensitizing myself to the dignity of other people might be reconnecting with my own worth and beauty– to the point that I actually let myself feel the pain of being objectified.

What I mean is… Abstracting from the tone and intention, the words spoken to me – “You’re beautiful” – were, and are, actually true. Wounds inflicted by our culture’s airbrushed, filtered, celebrity-obsessed, hypersexualized conception of beauty make it way too difficult for me to write that. But it’s still true. It’s true because I’m not just flesh and bone; it’s true because I am absolutely unrepeatable from the moment of fertilization; it’s true because I have a story that has never been told and will never be told again in this universe; it’s true because no one will ever think, smile, cry, fake-laugh, dance, sing, or love exactly like I can; it’s true because I am a beloved daughter of the Most High God, known and loved into existence for a great purpose.

Naturally, then, hearing those words uttered demeaningly, was an awful mockery of the reality and gift of feminine beauty– a mockery that, to some degree, colors all acts of sexual abuse towards women.

And that’s why I dream of a world where any woman standing in my shoes at that moment, any person experiencing OR witnessing any level of sexual harassment, assault, abuse or violence, would have the courage to not think “Whatever. It’s not a big deal.” If we want to get this right as a culture, we’ve got to stand in solidarity, agree that our own and others’ dignity is actually worth defending in every instance, and do something about it.

If you don’t think dehumanization is real, consider that in 2016,  nearly 92 BILLION videos were viewed on Pornhub. In case you were wondering, that’s 12.5 videos for every person on planet earth (1). About 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women experience an addiction to pornography– the “new drug” that literally trains viewers to objectify, dominate, control, and use people for the purpose of receiving sexual pleasure from them. Porn is destroying relationships and marriages right and left. It is the monster of our times fueling sex trafficking, sexting, sexual violence, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.

I am proud to be part of a generation of young people who are, frankly, fed up with porn. If you are reading this blog and you stand against sexual violence, you should know that, according to the fantastic research supplied by Fight The New Drug, “among the effects of the use of pornography are an increased negative attitude toward women, decreased empathy for victims of sexual violence…and an increase in dominating and sexually imposing behavior.” (2, 3)  Porn normalizes verbal and physical sexual dominance and coercion. (4, 5, 6) In fact, it is extremely rare that a porn film does not contain any aggression.

So, what’s it going to take to restore a culture free from the horror of sexual harassment and abuse? We need to speak out against assault and rape, but also against all inappropriate, demeaning comments or physical advances. Practically speaking, we desperately need to educate ourselves on the reality of pornography and to fight the new drug. More generally, we cannot underestimate the power of resensitizing ourselves to our own splendor as well as the pricelessness of every human person.

A group who does this well is the band For King and Country, who were outspoken in the #metoo campaign. They’ve made it their mission to raise awareness about sexual assault and offer women the hopeful message that they each deserve to be honored, loved, treated with chivalry, cherished– because they are priceless. (This was the inspiration for their film entitled Priceless, which specifically focuses on exposing the issue of sex trafficking) 

Speaking of the word “cherish”… I recently heard a radio show host literally asking his listeners “what the heck” this apparently antiquated word, used in the traditional wedding vows, is even supposed to mean. To my horror, he received a general consensus that it’s really not that important anymore.

[Cherish: v. to protect and care for (someone) lovingly; to keep, cultivate, or treasure with deep care; to hold dear; to feel tenderness for.]

Humor me for a second– replay the sidewalk incident. This time, rowdy guy sees me, and decides to cherish me. He realizes that feminine beauty is a gift to be protected, cared for, cultivated, treasured, held dear. He holds back his comment, perhaps resists a temptation to dominate or use me for entertainment, and instead expresses reverence for my mystery through a genuine smile. I find myself filled not with humiliation or bewilderment or the desire to erect impenetrable walls around my heart– but with respect.

What if?

What if we re-trained our hearts and minds to use our freedom for love, rather than self-destructive pleasure seeking? What if we saw our sexuality as an avenue for reverencing and honoring others, rather than manipulating them? What if the sexes stopped battling each other and started seeing and serving each other? What if we had the courage to put another person’s good before our own desire for gratification– to live for real love and refuse the cheap counterfeits so frequently held out to us?

Maybe we wouldn’t have to say #metoo.


  1. http://fightthenewdrug.org/by-the-numbers-see-how-many-people-are-watching-porn-today/
  2. Layden, M. A. (2010). Pornography and Violence: A New look at the Research. In J. Stoner and D. Hughes (Eds.) The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (pp. 57–68). Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute; Berkel, L. A., Vandiver,
  3. Bridges, A. J., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., Chyng, S., and Liberman, R. (2010). Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update. Violence Against Women 16, 10: 1065–1085.
  4. Boeringer, S. B. (1994). Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Associations of Violent and Nonviolent Depictions with Rape and Rape Proclivity. Deviant Behavior 15, 3: 289–304
  5. Check, J. and Guloien, T. (1989). The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Sexually Violent Pornography, Nonviolent Dehumanizing Pornography, and Erotica. In D. Zillmann and J. Bryant (Eds.) Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations (pp. 159–84). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
  6. Hald, G. M., Malamuth, N. M., and Yuen, C. (2010). Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship in Nonexperimental Studies. Aggression and Behavior 36, 1: 14–20

 

Lauren Benzing
Lauren Benzing
Lauren Benzing is a 2017 graduate of Benedictine College (Atchison, KS) with degrees in Theology and Philosophy. She grew up in eastern Iowa and ran cross country and track throughout high school and college. She was encouraged by a friend to reach out to CP for advice amidst her endeavors as a One Love chastity speaker and founder/coordinator of "Love & Responsibility BC." She hosted the Culture Project for a series of talks and hung out with the staff and missionaries during a summer break-- all of whom inspired her to love more boldly and to live her adventure with purpose & passion. At the end of her senior year, Lauren answered the call to embark on a year of mission with the Culture Project. "I want to share with other young people the most pivotal discovery of my college years: Chastity is the sure way to happiness."
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