The word that keeps going round my head this week is CHAPERONE. Synonym words are, supervisor, companion, duenna (Spanish) and minder. We are looking at this word because, I suggest, we bring it back, into the modern lexicon.
Because young people, when left to their own devices, often don’t behave well. Young people are not yet fully civilized. Male or female. Young people need chaperones.
Women of all ages are vulnerable to sexual attacks. Doesn’t matter how loudly, how often you shout out how women are to be liberated, the facts are, there are predator males out there. Always have been. Always will be.
In the past, men and women had rules of conduct that were based on respect for family and family life. A woman was someone's family member. Mother, wife, daughter, sister. Family ties were important. Messing with someone's family member could result in negative ramifications.
These sorts of traditions are still prevalent in Eastern societies. In the world of Islam, women are protected by their families. We, in the West, think it outrageous that women are so restricted. Nevertheless, we used to restrict women in the West. Because unscrupulous males were out and about. A woman alone could not be expected to fight off a male because our ancestors understood the obvious. Men are stronger.
They still are.
Looking at this even deeper, it needs to be noted that both males and females were protected. In times of war, little boys were targeted for the kill, while little girls were targeted as slaves.
Rich and poor alike followed the system. Family was everything. The point is, if you insulted or tried something funny with a female you didn't just deal with her. You had to deal with her family. Ergo, the men followed the dictates of decorum and kept their hands to themselves. For the most part.
The elders of the families always had chaperones or companions for their children. In the rich social life of the pre modern world, there were many events to attend. And the events were not arranged by age. There were no parties for teens. Everyone attended. Including the family’s chaperones. Recall Juliet’s parent’s party. Juliet’s nurse is constantly watching out for her.
Girls and women did not travel alone. They traveled with their family. Or with another family, usually friends to her own.
It wasn't that men were regarded as toxic. They were men. And no one knows and understands a man like another man. Fathers and brothers and uncles, they understood the way of the world. Keeping the girls and women safe was a primary undertaking. Even in the palaces of kings, young women and girls always had a companion with them. Lonely was not a word most understood. Companions even shared beds.
Rape was not the only concern. There is that thing called seduction that was the number one concern. As one of my male business associates admitted to me many years back, “Men lie to get what they want from a woman.”
Thus fathers and brothers were aware of the lies that can be told. Mothers and fathers tried to alert their daughters to the charms men could exude.
Back in the day when a young woman looked forward to marriage and having her own household, she was easily led by false charm. The result could be she ended up married to someone inappropriate for her. In an era when divorce was extremely rare, this could be a disaster.
Nonetheless, stuff happened. That said, don’t think there weren’t consequences for such things as attempted rape, rape, and just a plain old roll in the hay. When that stuff did happen, the family did its work in finding and bringing the perpetrator before the law.
The consequences and penalties to be faced and paid depended upon the circumstances. Who was the woman connected to? Who did the deed? A peasant raping anyone faced death. The wealthy paid fines. Raping above one’s station was death. Or marriage. And sometimes the “rape” happened so the couple could force their parents to accept their desire to marry.
A bit complex, yes?
Yet most rapes happened because a woman was left alone, and as ill luck would have it, she came across a nefarious brute. That’s why women tended not to be alone. Not even the lady in the castle was alone.
How did men, before modernism, control themselves? They had concubines and prostitutes to keep them out of the beds of other men's wives and daughters.
Modern women are much more vulnerable because they are alone so much of the time. They live alone. They go to the local bar and have a few drinks. Alone. All unthinkable before the modern age. However, that places modern men on the defensive themselves. Modern men don’t get it, that sleeping with strangers can lead to unwanted consequences.
Modernists accept the idea of sex between unmarried persons. The modernist also believes that women want sex as much as men do. To alleviate any “misunderstandings,” a list of “consents” was devised. However, men and women are consenting to two different things. And there’s the rub of it.
Our ancestor knew that teenagers had to be chaperoned. It is madness to think otherwise. Madness. And irresponsible. I suggest we get over these modernist rules, and go back to being real about men and women. And for your children’s sake, be a parent. A nosy, bossy, parent.