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The Carletonian

    What it means to me to be a good man

    <ty-six swim coaches banned from USA Swimming for sexual misconduct.” The headline didn’t shock me. Instead, it scared me that I had mixed motives in clicking the link on to read about the scandal. Like many men, I am titillated by female sexuality and even an investigative report of sexual abuse encouraged illicit thoughts. A father described the pain he felt each day when he thought of how his daughter’s coach had taken advantage of her; I thought of how many times I have violated other women by viewing voyeuristic porn.

    I am to discuss my understanding of the good man, but too often I think of bad men. The best image of the bad man that I know is me. While I was in middle school my family lived in Moscow near an enormous city park.

    Warm weather brought sunbathers out in force and I would amble down the park trails daily glancing left and right at the barely-clad women who fed my sexual fantasies. One afternoon I was cut to the quick – a middle-aged woman saw me walking by her spot for the third time and yelled at her child, who for some reason was walking toward me, “On bezdel’nik! Ne obrashchai na nevo vnimaniya! (He’s a deadbeat. Don’t pay any attention to him!)” That phrase, “He’s a deadbeat,” stuck with me, a searing reminder of my crude, vulgar nature.

    I am a good man when I accept how far short of integrity I fall. A Christian, I draw on the humility of the saints to inspire in my weakest times. The apostle Paul wrote that he was “the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8), and that “[God’s] power was made perfect in his weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). I know that I will never attain “goodness” because I am human and flawed.

    Nonetheless, as Jesus taught, I believe that some few will enter through the small gate and find the narrow way that leads to life (paraphrase of Matthew 7:14). One of the paths less-trodden, especially for men endowed with power by society, is the path of humility and respect for women. I, along with other men, can commit to affirming life by foregoing the abuse of women through pornography and sexual promiscuity, not to mention outright sexual violence.

    I’m reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s infidelity. It is problematic to me that one of America’s greatest advocates for justice was so unfaithful with his wife and his family, when they were the human beings he should have loved the most. Sadly, I understand his shortcomings far too well: I am so quick to rationalize and compartmentalize my sexual misconduct and continue with my good deeds elsewhere. Without condemning those who fall (I know that I am one of them), I believe that a good man whole-heartedly seeks faithful relationship, characterized by integrity, honesty, and humility, with his fellow human beings.

    Most pertinently, I believe that good men are characterized by sacrifice. Our culture encourages us to objectify women’s bodies and rack up hook-ups. Norma Ramos, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, in her convocation address on April 9 asked men to resist this culture and to provide leadership on women’s rights issues. A good man sacrifices what culture and his selfishness says is rightfully his in order to meet the needs of others. As someone who struggles with sexual violence I look forward in my process of becoming a good man to refusing sexual violence in these areas and exposing the areas to which I am still blind. 

    -Andy Shenk is a third year student.

    This essay is part of an ongoing series established by Chase Kimball. If you would like to have your own reflections published, please respond to the question “What does it mean to you to be a good man?” in an essay of 400-800 words and e-mail it to [email protected].

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