There’s a new meme on twitter called #jadapose. A girl named Jada was at a party and she got raped after being drugged. So her rapist took a picture of her lying on the floor afterwards and called it #jadapose and put it on twitter. Then a bunch of his twitter followers thought it was funny so they took pictures of themselves mimicking the way she was lying on the floor and hashtagging them #jadapose. And it viralized. And that’s beyond disgusting. And it can’t be blamed on the conservative evangelicals and their purity culture.
In the standard progressive narrative of history, things always get better over time as people let go of the antiquated traditions that were the source of oppression. There are many things that have gotten better over the past fifty years for women in our country (I think!). Not as much better as guys like me want to claim, but somewhat better. But it seems to me like rape culture and misogyny have actually gotten worse, and while there is misogyny in the repressive patriarchal enclaves of our society, I don’t think they’re the source of this sick #jadapose rape culture world that has proliferated around us.
I just have a suspicion that boys didn’t grow up indoctrinated the same way that I was back in the day when it was actually a social scandal for teenagers to have sex. I’m sure boys growing up a half-century ago were socialized with a lot of other awful things, but when I was a teenager, I learned that my self-worth as a man was based on my ability to get laid, plain and simple. And I’m just not too sure that’s what all young men at all times throughout history all over the world have always been taught. When I went to parties, my goal was to find a girl with whom I could get as far around the base-path as she’d let me, even though I was simultaneously learning in my Southern Baptist youth group to wait till marriage. In other words, I was a misogynistic potential predator just like every other guy I hung out with. The fact that I never succeeded even remotely due to my social awkwardness is no credit to me.
One of the most haunting memories I have was from middle school dance around 1990. I think it was a bar mitzvah. There was a new type of dancing called the lambada that was really popular. My friends and I were daring each other to “bust a move” on the girls on the dance floor (which was another popular song at the time). So I danced with a girl named Mindy and I started rubbing on her in a way that wasn’t really dancing at all; I was doing it not because it was fun or because Mindy wanted to, but to show my friends that I was a man. When the song was over, Mindy’s friend Julie came over and chewed me out because Mindy was too quiet and sweet to say anything. I’m still ashamed and disgusted with my thirteen year old self to this day.There’s a whole lot of critique that gets written about evangelical purity culture on the Internet. I agree with much of it. I don’t think that purity culture is the solution to “bust a move” culture, but that doesn’t mean that “bust a move” culture is not rape culture itself. Too often, in the critique of purity culture, the absence of it is thought to be a sort of “natural” sexual attraction. When I was young and single, I never got to experience “natural” sexual attraction. I was socialized for sexual conquest. The fact that I happened to develop meaningful friendships with women in spite of that was accidental. My goal until the very late end to my virginity at the age of 22 was to get laid. I often thought bitterly that God was protecting me from sex with my socially awkward personality that kept women away from me. Maybe he was.
Anyway, I’m starting a new season of my life as a campus minister walking right into the thick of “bust a move” culture with all the reports in the media of college sexual abuse, and I feel so utterly ill-equipped and confused about how to cultivate a better kind of community. I think that it requires more than just stating the rights and boundaries that need to be respected really emphatically and sternly to the young men that join our ministry group. If they’re anything like I was at age 18, they need a complete reboot on what it means to be a man. I’m well-versed in all the shitty versions of manhood from purity culture and “bust a move” culture. But I feel pretty clueless about how to cast a healthy vision for manhood that makes us into people that are actually safe and enjoyable for women to be around. I guess I’ll start from that place of complete inadequacy and hope that God gives me something.