Guest post by Steve Siler
Not long after I produced Somebody’s Daughter: A Journey to Freedom from Pornography it became clear to me that pornography was a personal issue for everyone whether they wanted it to be or not. That’s because the culture is pornified. I wish it wasn’t. But anyone who thinks it’s not simply isn’t paying attention or is in denial.
Think of the world we live in as a swimming pool. We’re all in the water. If someone is pouring poison into the deep end of the pool it doesn’t matter if you’re swimming in the shallow end. You’re still swimming in poison. By staying away from the deep end—as in not watching hardcore pornography—you may be able to mitigate the damage done but you can’t escape the effects entirely.
This is especially true for our children.
So how do we stop poisoning the water? In a world awash with free and easy access to all kinds of media from a variety of sources what can any one man do that’ll make a difference? Well, for starters guys, we can apologize.
You might say, “Hey, wait a minute! I’m a faithful husband and a good dad. I don’t watch pornography. I treat women with respect. Why do I need to apologize?”
Even if you only watch movies on the Hallmark Channel, listen only to classical music, Field and Stream, and never tell off-color jokes you still owe the women of this world an apology. Why?
Because you participate in a male-dominated culture that has created a climate of objectification. A young girl growing up today gets the message loud, clear, and early, that nothing—not education, not athletic skill, not musical talent, not her work ethic, and certainly not her character—matters as much as how she looks.
An apology is needed. I’m not talking about corporate guilt. I’m talking about individual accountability.
An apology is an acknowledgment that we haven’t always gotten it right, that we’ve participated in that objectification. Of course, it’s only meaningful if we are willing to follow up by trying to change things. But an apology is a good place to start. Nothing will change until men are willing to say to our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our co-workers “I’m sorry. There is so much more I could be doing to combat the objectification of women. And I’m going to do better.”
Once an apology is given all kinds of things can happen. Instead of being defensive, men can take responsibility for their actions and for the kind of community they want to create. They can help raise awareness by talking with friends at school, in the workplace, at the gym, and in their houses of worship. They can make different choices about what they watch and listen to. They can treat the women in their own lives in ways that honor and serve.
Once an apology has been given it creates the opportunity for forgiveness to be offered—for dialogue to happen. Reconciliation can take place. Healing becomes possible. Of course, each situation and relationship is different. These things won’t happen instantly or always in the same way. But they won’t happen at all without an apology.
And guys, apologizing isn’t just good for the women in our lives. It’s good for us. In my faith tradition, it says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. By humbling ourselves, asking the women in our lives how our words and actions may have wounded them, and then being willing to apologize, we find ourselves in a position to receive grace.
Unfortunately, for some men much more than an apology is needed. In cases where there have been incidents of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence an apology is meaningless unless accompanied by a commitment to change behavior. In some of these instances counseling will be necessary, or in cases where crimes have been committed, jail sentences served. And even if one is successful at turning their life around they should not expect an apology to easily restore what has been damaged.
As the perpetrator of the wrongdoing, one must accept that the apology should be given with no expectation placed upon the one receiving the apology. Forgiveness must be on the timetable of the one who was wronged. And even if ultimately given, forgiveness does not mean “what you did was okay.” Relationships may or may not be restored.
Wherever you fall on this spectrum—whether you’re a kid who’s used your smartphone to share pornography in the locker room with the guys, a husband who’s been secretly watching Internet pornography, a good man who doesn’t stand up when he sees objectification taking place, or someone who is actively abusing someone—you’ve got a reason to be sorry. And when you’re sorry, it’s time for an apology as the first step to change.
One of the ways I decided to apologize was by co-writing a song called “The Apology” which expresses my sorrow over the wounding women experience as a result of sexism and objectification by men. I hope you’ll listen. And, I hope that whether you are a woman or a man, that this song will touch you and help you on your healing journey.