Should I whisper? It would seem raising the topic is out of bounds. So is "exotic dancing." It's out of bounds. It's bad for women. It's bad for men. I said it. Nobody else will. Jesse Jackson hasn't. Neither has Al Sharpton.
Instead, they pray for justice, an idyllic type, where civil rights include not a single reference to civic obligations or personal responsibility.
Today's arrest of two Duke University lacrosse players, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, for the alleged rape of a 27-year-old mother of two has every element of intrigue — rich and poor, black and white, men and woman, North and South. It all begs us to take sides. And, in the flurry of passion, in the hustle and bustle of conflicting reports and re-election politics, we can forget what started it all: a group of kids paid a woman to entertain their sexual fantasies.
We've swallowed the term hook, line, and sinker. But "exotic dancing" is not an art form. It may sound like flamenco, salsa, or reggae, but it's none of those.
"Oh so naive, so prudish, and out of touch, Father Jonathan. That's what kids do. That's what we did, and look, we've turned out just fine. Is it right? Well, no, but that's not the point. We're talking about rape, lies, false accusations, prison time, and all of those are a much bigger deal."
The line of thinking on both sides is predictably shallow. Everyone is justified. The woman was just going to work. The kids were just having fun. If only those guys could have kept the party under control. If only she hadn't lied.
The story is too good to go away, and I pray that as it lingers, we reflect. What happened after the music died down was not an unfortunate consequence of an innocent prank. It is a reflection and natural progression of the immorality buzzing in the heads of everyone in the room as the music still played.
We haven't seen the woman's face, but we know what she looks like. Passed out, disoriented, and bruised — and she may have been all of these before her visit to Duke. People don't sell themselves for kicks. Her life was in shambles. Who is responsible? Among others, she is.
The guys who hired her could have cared less what she looked like inside. She danced and they laughed. Or did they? One of the partygoers sent a sickening e-mail minutes after the party ended. In it he outlined his desire to hire more "dancers" and to skin them alive for sexual gratification. That's not healthy.
TV anchors gasped at this weekend's arrest in Oklahoma of a man who allegedly killed, and planned to cannibalize, a 10-year-old girl. So did I. As I gasped at Oklahoma, I looked back at Duke. What unites the two stories is a world that now thinks differently. The Internet's unfettered access to the best and worst of humanity has changed what buzzes in our heads.
If "exotic dancing" was always bad, let's not forget that today it is much worse. For the Internet generation, it is a rung on a ladder that reaches to new heights of despicable behavior.
As parents and pastors take sides in Durham, let's ask them to reflect also on what happened while the music was still playing. And let's pray for justice, not the idyllic type, but the type that invites us to live up to obligations of respect and decency, of ourselves and of others.
The answer to prayer will take the form of parents who teach their children, by words and example, the beauty and dignity of the human person. Women are not objects. Actions have consequences. The Internet is not all good.
God bless, Father Jonathan
Write to Father Jonathan at email@example.com.