I got an email, and it was a stumper. It was also depressing, and I know we have had plenty of depressing thoughts about men this week, even though they are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life and the good ones make our lives sing. But this is serious.
The question was one of those ethical issues akin to "I have two healthy kidneys. Should I give one of them to a complete stranger who might die if I don't?"
To reduce a sad--and not unusual--story to its basic parts:
A young woman met a young man who had recently split from his fiancee. Although she came from a Christian background, over the course of time, after some ordinary dating and hand-holding, they began sleeping together.
This changed the young man's behaviour towards the young woman, and he sent her nude photos of himself electronically and encouraged her to send him nude photos of herself. This (I am told) she wisely refused to do.
Then she discovered that her boyfriend had not broken off with his "former" fiancee. His fiancee is still looking forward to their wedding day. It is soon.
Our heroine confronted him and he asked her if this fact had to change their own relationship.
Our heroine dumped him.
Now our heroine is unsure what to do. She realizes that this man probably slept with other women during his long relationship with his fiancee. She believes she should warn the fiancee, who is a complete stranger to her, that this man, on least one occasion, has had sex with another woman--a woman who did not know he was still engaged to the fiancee because he lied. And lied. And lied.
She has never met the fiancee, but she has contact details. And she pities the fiancee, who might innocently marry a man she wrongly believes to be faithful.
However, she is frightened about what her ex-boyfriend might do to her if he thinks she revealed all to the fiancee. She certainly did not feel brave enough to say, "If you don't tell her, I will."
The clock is ticking.
What should she do?
And what should she do if she did send him those photos? No insult intended, but sometimes I get letters from girls who tell me half the truth and then only later, because of complications, tell me the real, much more horrible, story.
I will make a few remarks about vulnerability.
I read a lot of feminist literature in the 1990s when I was at the University of Toronto. This was at a time when the dominant voice of feminism began to shift from anti-porn to pro-porn. Women were simultaneously encouraged to protect ourselves from sexual violence but also to seek sexual adventures. There was a huge, heavy, ginormous emphasis on sexual pleasure, on "transgression," on experimentation, on politicizing our sexuality and sexualizing our politics.
Feminist voices told women not to be sexual objects but to present ourselves as sexual subjects. The look, however, was the same.
What got lost in the conversation, outside traditional religious enclaves, was the fact that sexual intercourse makes women (and to a certain extent men) vulnerable by its very nature. All the wishing in the world, all the tracts on empowerment, all the workshops, all the condoms, all the abortion "rights" cannot change that.
It is dangerous to have sex outside of a long-term relationship to which both people are deeply committed. Even marriage, unfortunately, is no guarantee in itself: both husband and wife have to WANT to be faithful.
Sex is like the sun: it gives life and warmth, but it can also burn and kill. People have sacrificed human beings in worship of both.
It is also incredibly dangerous to ever, EVER allow electronic photographs of yourself in naked or risque poses to be taken unless you do not care if everyone in the world sees them and sits in judgement upon you. A artist's model, for example, might not care. But everyone else should care.
(Parents should talk to their children about it. One thing they might want to underscore is that it is ILLEGAL for even underage children and teens to possess or send sexy photographs of naked underage children and teens.)
And even if you trust (rightly or wrongly) the person to whom you send such photographs, you should understand that the internet is not secure, and that mobile phones and cameras and computers can be lost or stolen.
To give you an idea of how secure the internet is, I will reveal that the apparently anonymous young man who has sent me four simple-minded, obscene and (in one case) illegal "comments" in the past two days, is a Facebook friend of a Facebook friend of one of my regular readers. He lives in Toronto and his service is provided by Bell Canada.