For a biological system programmed for species survival, humans have manage to turn sex into a hideous institution for exercising power over others. This perversion of sex is used by some men to exert control over women, girls, and boys. What should be a partnership between mates, as in the rest of nature, is too often a bludgeon for abuse of power.
Of course, some men have grievances too, claiming that beautiful women (or any women) deliberately drive them wild with desire so that they cannot control themselves. Their solution is to hide women under wraps. Perhaps such men need blindfolds or burqas themselves.
While we are concentrating on the abuse of power by priests in the Catholic Church, there is far worse going on elsewhere in the world.
Religion, one of the world’s most ancient civilizing systems, has always been involved with controlling human sexual behavior. To encourage men to protect and support mates and children, a man wants assurance that the children produced are his and that the loyalty of his wife (or wives) is unquestionable. For this reason, almost all religious systems insist on virginity in brides and severe punishments for women—not men—who commit adultery.
In the modern world, this system has finally been put to rest legally—but is still alive and making women’s lives miserable in the lesser-developed cultures.
An Iranian movie: The Stoning of Soroya M, is based on a true story of an Iranian village in 1986. A wife-beating husband of 20 years and father of four children, lusts after a new 15-year-old bride, whom he can’t afford unless he gets rid of his present wife. He sets up his indignant wife through lies and accusations as an adulteress, and the entire male population of the village gathers to stone her to death. This ugly story got out to the world, and this stoning was just one of many in rural Iran since the Islamic Revolution.
Religion has also been responsible for trying to protect girls from incest. Mandating female virginity and shaming a family that fails to provide a virgin bride to a husband was designed to save girl children from abuse by her father, brothers, grandfathers, and uncles. Unfortunately these men can cover up their crime by “honor killing” daughters not found to be virgins, even when they are the cause. It is a very ugly system and does enormous damage.
Another sexual perversion that puritanical Islam sweeps under the carpet is pederasty—using young boys as sexual toys. PBS Frontline showed an amazing film recently: The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. This practice involves the super-macho warlords and other Afghan power brokers who keep a stable of beautiful young boys, sold to them by their fathers, who are trained as dancers, rented out for all-male parties, and then auctioned off for sex to the highest bidders. This is a very old system—and may have its roots in Ancient Greece, brought to Persia and Afghanistan with Alexander the Great, who himself had such a young male sex slave. This is no surprise coming out of a culture that essentially disdains women. If these men could figure out how to reproduce without women, they would probably prefer it, yet they indignantly deny that they are less than manly.
Another ultimate perversion of religion is alive and well in Afghanistan, where men on motorbikes spray acid from squirt guns into the faces of schoolgirls and teachers as they walk to school. The girls’ sin, in the eyes of their perpetrators, is trying to get an education. Now 80 schoolgirls have fallen ill in Kunduz Province—victims of poison gas used by someone wanting to close the schools. They are just a continuation of the Taliban, which held regular lynchings of women by stoning in the sports arena in Kabul.
In such cultures, it is too bad that women cannot refuse to bring more males into the world. They could, but don’t. How has sex, a delightful gift, become such a terrible bludgeon?
Laina Farhat-Holzman is a writer, lecturer, and historian. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.