Miss California, Carrie Prejean, has vented her righteous indignation. She should not be penalized for her public opposition to gay marriage. America is a place for freedom of speech. There should be no politically correct litmus test to be a beauty queen. Indeed, she is right. Big Brother is not our leader; we do not live in a 1984 America.
But what puzzled me was how adamant Ms. Prejean was that her Christianity prevented her from supporting gay marriage but did not prevent her from posing topless for men or having the Miss Universe pageant pay for her breast implants. It seems that some of our Christian brothers and sisters have arrived at the curious conclusion that the only qualification for being religious these days is battling gays. Similarly, well-meaning Christians like Ms. Prejean hold gays accountable for undermining the institution of marriage when, in truth, we straight people have done a fine job destroying it ourselves. (Indeed, gays seem to be the only men in this country who still want to get married. While the straight guys are dating their girlfriends for a millennium and hyperventilate whenever she brings up the subject of marriage, the gay guys are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to get hitched.)
Time for a reality check. Whether one opposes or supports gay marriage, one thing is certain: The heterosexual divorce rate is more than 50 percent, and it has been so well before gay rights ever came to the fore in this country. Sure, we can search for scapegoats to blame for the loss of love in our time. But we heterosexuals have seen the enemy and it is us.
The greatest danger to marriage in our time stems from the wholesale degradation of women in the popular culture. In magazines, on television, and especially on Internet porn, women are continually portrayed as the libidinous man’s plaything, not an equal to be taken seriously but a subordinate who is a means to salacious male ends. On college campuses rampant male womanizing is an expected right of passage. On ridiculous shows like “The Bachelor,” men start to believe that it’s the woman who has to impress the guy and get his attention. Women who engage in pornographic offerings, like Miss California, become complicit in their own degradation and further the male view that a woman exists for the satiation of their erotic needs.
Miss California also reportedly accepted breast implants from the Miss Universe pageant. Now, aside from the fact that beauty pageants are an asinine and primitive relic that is out of place in a post-feminist age where men are rightly expected to appreciate a woman for her mind and not just her legs, surely modeling dissatisfaction with one’s body and implanting foreign objects to enhance one’s perceived physical shortcomings totally negates the Christian spiritual message that beauty is something more than skin deep. Surely, if asked, Jesus would have said that a woman is more than male eye-candy. Is Miss Prejean really saving marriages by doing topless photo spreads that married men drool over in neglect of their wives? Is Miss California being a proper role model for young girls who are already riddled with perilously low body image by being exploited in a bikini on Donald Trump’s Miss Universe contest? And how is any of this congruent with Christian values?
Look, I’m not here to condemn this young woman when I can at times be just as religiously inconsistent. But crying out against gays when there are bigger and more toxic fish to fry is what makes religion ineffective and irrelevant.
My friend Patti Stanger, of Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” whom I recently debated in Los Angeles in front of 1,100 young people, believes that women should marry a guy who is bursting with cash. But how could someone as authentically kindhearted, compassionate and brilliant as Patti be guilty of perpetuating the stereotype of women as greedy gold diggers and parasitical prostitutes who are prepared to exchange their beauty as a commodity to snare a rich man? Does she not realize that this caters to the most misogynistic stereotypes that men have of women? And the less men respect women, the worse they will treat them. And the worse they treat them, the more women will simply abandon empty and loveless marriages, or choose not to marry in the first place. Therein lies the real reason that marriage is dying in our time.
Right now in the United States, three-quarters of all divorces are initiated by women. Many of these wives are prepared to jettison a marriage where they feel neglected even though divorce will often leave them in dire financial straits, or, as studies show, alone for the rest of their lives. But it’s a heck of a lot better than picking up after a guy who doesn’t give you the time of day. The most influential television show over the past decade was “Sex and the City,” where four female friends are, in essence, married to each other and have nearly given up on men. As for married women in America, approximately 30 percent are on an anti-depressant and no less an authority than Maureen Dowd of The New York Times published a book just a few years back essentially arguing that men are superfluous in a woman’s life.
All this has resulted from a culture that has reduced women, through nude photo spreads and childish beauty contests, into male masturbatory material. And Miss California should use her crown to condemn these assaults on spirituality and marriage even more loudly than she did gay marriage.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has just published his newest best-seller “The Kosher Sutra” (HarperOne). He will speak with Newark Mayor Cory Booker on June 2 at UCLA Hillel.