What Lawrence Taylor Reveals About Our Culture

In the wake of more horrific allegations of rape and murder coming out of the sports pages, I've decided to stop asking why we glorify and coddle athletes and instead go back a step or two and ask why we give men in general a pass when it comes to sexual malfeasance. Now, don't misunderstand me: I don't think our culture directly supports the mistreatment of women. Instead, I think it turns a blind eye to certain kinds of "boys will be boys" behavior, even though in some cases we know the consequences are going to be adultery or the transmission of STDs. Call me a prude if you must, but that behavior includes sticking dollars into G-strings, indulging your "sex addiction," sleeping with prostitutes, and allowing athletes, actors, and politicians to get away with God-awful behavior just because they're famous. Men are not sexual sharks, as permanent BMOC Puck said on Glee. They won't die if they don't get laid. Allowing men to express a kind of helplessness when it comes to their desires just allows them to indulge those desires no matter the consequences. I mean, c'mon, I can't open a newspaper without hearing about a woman scorned, or worse.

I am so sick of the idea that men are slaves to their sex drive. Hall of Fame football player (and recent Dancing with the Stars alum) Lawrence Taylor is a married man now charged with third-degree rape for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute—why is no one asking what he was doing with a prostitute anyway? And if Eliot Spitzer hadn't potentially broken some campaign laws while indulging his passions, he might still be the governor of New York—he's also rebounding quite nicely as a media pundit. Why do we accept a state of affairs where as comedian Chris Rock says, "A man is basically as faithful as his options"? Time and time again, we hear that men will do anything to get laid as if that's some kind of medical condition. We heard it as an excuse for Tiger Woods's behavior, as well as the actions of Ben Roethlisberger, John Edwards, Jesse James, Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, and countless others. But the argument that men have no self-control when it comes to their sexual appetites doesn't wash with me. I didn't believe the whole blue-balls argument when I was 15 and I don't believe it now.

What's more, I think men's often casual degradation of women is analogous to the sociologists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling's "Broken Window" theory of crime prevention, which theorized that felonies would flourish in areas where "the sense of mutual regard and the obligations of civility are lowered by actions that seem to signal that no one cares." To me, the actions of each of the above-mentioned men qualifies as a lowered sense of mutual regard for women. Somehow our culture has allowed men to think that life is a never-ending hunt for sexual adventure and women are the prey. No, not all of them ... many men are wonderful, faithful and devoted, but, to paraphrase Chris Rock, so what. That's what they're supposed to be.

Writing about the death of University of Virginia student Yeardley Love, allegedly murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely, Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post says: "What do we mean when we ask whether there was something in the lacrosse 'culture' that led to the murder of Yeardley Love?…It means the attitudes, practices, and values that are implanted and nourished in a group or society." Jenkins is raising a powerful point, but one we can no longer limit to the lacrosse culture or even the sports culture. Why do we have to wait until a woman is raped or killed to demand changes in the way females are treated? Violence against women is alarmingly high—a fact sadly confirmed by recent headlines and statistics. One in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape (compared to 2 percent of men). Almost 75 percent of victims of family violence are female. In order to counter these trends, we must hold men accountable for the consequences of their appetites, not indulge their fantasies that their penis is out of their own control.

Yes, I know women can be cruel when it comes to relationships. We commit crimes too—violent, even sexual ones. But as Myriam Miedzian writes in her book Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence, "It takes very strong blinders to dampen awareness of the obvious fact that violence is a predominantly male phenomenon…The fact is that the baseline for female violent crime was so low to begin with that even with the increases, in 2000, 89.4 percent of those arrested for homicide and 82.6 percent of those arrested for violent crimes were males. So much for the myth that women are catching up." If some of us women are guilty of anything, it's of going along with the idea that treating women like garbage is a biological imperative. Men are not programmed to rape or cheat. As my esteemed colleague Sharon Begley puts it: "To be sure, traits such as symbolic language, culture, tool use, emotions, and emotional expression do indeed seem to be human universals. It's the behaviors that capture the public imagination—promiscuous men and monogamous women, stepchild-killing men, and the like—that turn out not to be."

Like it or not, we need to accept that maybe all these small instances of disrespect add up to a culture where nut cases or lacrosse players think it's OK to beat, rape, or kill women. "Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country, and culture," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2003. "It takes a devastating toll on women's lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence—yet the reality is that too often, it is covered up or tacitly condoned." So call me a feminazi, but consider my argument. We need to keep our girls safe, and I think we should start by no longer dismissing cruel or indifferent treatment toward women as just the way men are.