One woman at the gathering shared that virtually all the men she spoke to, including some respectable guys, said that “all men are alley cats”. (I take “alley cat” to mean that the person can’t control their sexual desire and will always indulge themselves when the opportunity presents itself.) This was disheartening for her to hear, and she wondered, as many women probably do, just how rare honorable men are.
I think it’s important to point out that there are different levels of temptation. Most men aren’t so out of control that they’re tempted to run out and find a random woman to rape. Many would be tempted to make advances if, when feeling lonely, they got drunk and ended up alone in a dark bedroom late at night with a woman they are attracted to and who has agreed to be with them.
It seems that conservative evangelicals have fallen into the same fallacy as the Pharisees in Judaism. The religious Jews of the first century recognized the importance of following the Law. One of the more important commandments to them was the keeping of the Sabbath. In order to keep people from breaking the Sabbath, they came up with numerous rules as to what one could or could not do on the Sabbath. These teachings weren’t the Law themselves, but over time a trespass of these teaching became viewed as a trespass against the Law itself. This went so far that they couldn’t be thankful when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. Because of their insistence in holding on to their own rules, they took something good—people being healed—and turned it into something bad. They were so blind that they saw good as bad, to the point that they sought to kill Jesus. (This, by the way, is what Jesus was referring to when he talked about the “unforgivable sin”; if a person sees the work of the God as evil, what else can reconcile them to God? If they went to heaven, they’d think themselves to be in hell.)
Similarly, sexual sin is one which western conservative evangelical Christians focus on as one of the most important to avoid. The conservative evangelical culture has created rules in order to protect people from sexual sin. Those who are promoting friendship between men and women are suggesting that some of these people-made rules aren’t actually “Godly wisdom”. We aren’t suggesting throwing all boundaries out the window. We’re simply suggesting that the boundaries lines have been drawn too broadly. We’re suggesting that some of these borders have encompassed land which is actually good and healthy to occupy.
To return to the early dialog, temptation to enter into an inappropriate relationship with another may be viewed as a continuum from little to great temptation. Now it is my impression that a high percentage of men (and more than a few women) have a reasonably strong sex drive, which is no doubt inflamed by our overly sexually stimulated culture. If this (a relatively strong sex drive) is what people meant when saying men are “alley cats”, then I would have to agree. However the term would suggest a more animal-like state in which a person has little to no control. To say that all men can’t control themselves to any degree is not fair. I would guess that a majority of men have not engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct as understood by our culture.
Friendship between men and women falls some where in the middle of the continuum of temptation. What we’re suggesting is that friendship between men and women isn’t such a great temptation that few if any people—men or women—can resist the temptation of inappropriate behavior. To say that people can’t control themselves is dishonoring to everyone. I want to believe that men can develop friendships with women without acting inappropriately, especially if they are taught that these types of relationships are possible and how they can be done in a healthy manner. Having some good role models in this area would definitely be helpful.