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Debunking the 'Homewrecker' Myth after Kristen Stewart's Affair

Debunking the 'Homewrecker' Myth after Kristen Stewart's Affair

Aug 15 2012
There's no such thing as 'the other woman' who acts completely alone.

Among classic literature's great seductresses—Becky Sharp, Lady Chatterley, Anna Karenina, and Madame Bovary—the most irresistible of them all just might be Katie Scarlett O'Hara, the vivacious and impetuous protagonist in Margaret Mitchell's American classic, Gone With the Wind. Scarlett's charm was so compelling that men seldom realized she "was not beautiful," flocking around her regardless of whether or not they already had a partner.

Growing up, I was so smitten with Rhett Butler that I never understood Scarlett's affection for the wimpy Ashley Wilkes, but the recent brouhaha over actress Kristen Stewart's affair with married Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders casts Gone With the Wind's characters in a different light. When Us Weekly splashed photographs of Stewart and Sanders's make-out session on its cover, the bulk of the blame from media fell upon the shoulders of 22-year-old Stewart, not 41-year-old Sanders.

With a single "momentary indiscretion" that left her then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson devastated, the unmarried Stewart surpassed Angelina Jolie as "the most hated woman in Hollywood," but hardly a murmur of accusation was directed toward Sanders, the married-with-children director nearly twice her age.

As trivial as a celebrity love tryst is, I believe the public's reaction to it says something important about our view of both women and men.

Blaming women for sexual transgressions is nothing new. Studies show that both men and women often blame women for rape. Though most perpetrators of sexual crimes against children are men, mothers are often held responsible. Many believe that immodestly dressed women cause Christian men to commit sexual sin.

Fellow Her.meneutics writer Sharon Hodde Miller has written persuasively about how this type of blame-shifting is rooted in negative perceptions about women's identity and women's bodies. But I think our view of men is equally problematic: The blame-shifting reduces men to little more than animals who cannot discern right from wrong or who cannot, in the very least, control their thoughts or behaviors. While we wouldn't explicitly say that Rupert Sanders or Brad Pitt (in his cheating on Jennifer Aniston with Jolie) were blameless in their sexual indiscretions, we imply this when we talk about "the other women" and call Jolie, Stewart, and other women "homewreckers." Didn't these men play an equal part in wrecking their own homes?

I'm not suggesting we expunge women's culpability in sexual transgressions. Even in the case of affairs involving older men and younger adult women, like Stewart, the woman has agency and should thus be held accountable for her actions. I am suggesting, however, that we take a closer look at what these attitudes say about our view of Christian character and the acquisition of virtue. By focusing on the woman, we shift the blame, the epicenter of evil, as it were, outside of the man rather than within his own heart and character. Thus, we focus on external solutions to what are ultimately internal problems.

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