The Kissing Bandit

A sexual predator has been caught stalking the streets of Lexington, North Carolina. He is described as male, about three and a half feet tall, with glasses, blond hair, and a cute grin. He has been known to kiss little girls. I'm talking, of course, about Johnathan Prevette, the now famous first-grader who was recently accused of sexual harassment for pecking a classmate on the cheek. For all the publicity the case has received, few understand its deeper significance. It illustrates what happens when old-fashioned moral restraints fall away: They are replaced by what we might call a Puritanism of procedures. When Johnathan's teacher caught him kissing a classmate, she suspended him for a day and banished him from a class ice cream party. Later, the principal handed Johnathan's mother a copy of the school's sexual harassment policy, which federal education law requires public schools to have. When the story of the pint-sized Lothario hit the airwaves, the public was appalled. The Lexington school district was flooded with outraged calls. People sent Johnathan money and told him to buy himself some ice cream to make up for the party he missed. The case of the kiss heard round the world isn't the only example of procedural Puritanism. Colleges now enforce strict procedures governing the relations between the sexes. For example, at Antioch College in Ohio, date rape became such a problem that the college required students to give each other verbal consent during each stage of a sexual encounter. And in the business world, fear of sexual harassment lawsuits has led companies to develop complex policies dictating rules covering all sorts of potential situations between men and women. There was a time when Americans didn't need detailed procedural guidelines to regulate behavior between the sexes. Prior to the sexual revolution, the most important factor in restraining male sexuality was moral. America's moral tradition granted women great dignity. Moral restraints on men spelled out what it means to give women sexual respect. And if the moral tradition didn't impress men, other factors often did. In the 1995 film Clueless, a father collars a boy who's taking out his 16-year-old daughter and says: "If anything happens to my daughter I've got a .45 and a shovel." Young men respected their dates because they knew they had to answer to the young lady's father. But the sexual revolution threw out all these moral conventions. The prophets of this revolution thought that by throwing out traditional moral restraints, they were setting women free to enjoy their sexuality. But it didn't quite work out that way. As we now know, the only thing the sexual revolution set free was men's worst impulses. Instead of rolling back the revolution, we've tried to regulate it with convoluted sexual harassment codes. The results have been absurd, as Johnathan Prevette's punishment demonstrates. How can we bring back respect for women? Only when we bring back a moral tradition that teaches respect for women. Parents need to teach their sons that women should be treated with dignity. And then we ought to teach the teachers that when it comes to a couple of six-year-old children, a kiss is still just a kiss.  


Chuck Colson


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