I feel completely satisfied gorging on the beautiful Royal Wedding—rising at five o’clock on Friday morning for the live ceremony and catching reruns throughout the weekend. I thought no one, especially William and Kate, made a wrong move throughout the entire timeframe.
Last week, several morning show anchors—who not only talked nonstop from Thursday to Sunday morning, but had to fly home to face their Monday morning audiences—were asked to name the most memorable wedding moment. It was a challenge, but each came through with one. One mentioned William and Kate’s departure from Buckingham Palace in his brilliant blue, balloon-and-paper festooned Aston Martin, complete with the JUST WED license plate and another named, not surprisingly, THE KISS!
I’ve spent a couple of hours thinking how I might have distilled the wedding into a single moment. It was a hard decision that came down to one that reflects my commitment to writing about sexuality in the wider world.
My choice was the words that followed the key ceremonial moment when Prince William slipped the thin gold ring that blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury over the fourth finger of Kate’s left hand. Standing tall in his scarlet military uniform coat, he made this vow to her: “with my body I thee honor.” (For the BBC's full transcript of the vows, click here)
These are extraordinarily powerful words; how different the world might be if every man said the same six words to every woman in every marriage ceremony and believed they applied to all women around the globe including those who do not choose to marry and understood their profundity. Men’s honor and respect for women’s bodies is sorely lacking in our world. A vow to “honor women’s bodies,” as William pledged to Kate, might help us to become more cognizant of sexual violence against women and more willing to end it.
Honoring a woman’s body means that a man respects her decision about when, where, and why to have sex. There would be no force, assault, or violence. A man’s willingness to honor a woman’s body would be a great step forward in women’s struggle for full equality.
If spoken more often, understood and practiced more faithfully, the phrase “with my body I thee honor” might lessen the control that so many men worldwide have over many women’s and girl’s bodies. It might lessen our inordinate preoccupation with protecting women’s virginity and demanding their abstinence from sexual intercourse until marriage. Rather, women and girls could control their own bodies.
If men were truly to honor women’s bodies, it might lessen the scourge of child marriage and the custom in some countries that a man marry a virgin; it might lessen the scourge of female genital mutilation that removes parts of the female anatomy so that women cannot enjoy the pleasures of sexual intercourse; it might reduce the number of arranged marriages, where women’s desires and feelings are overlooked; and it might lower the high incidence of sexual molestation, sexual assault, and sexual violence, including rape.
The words “with my body I thee honor” were particularly meaningful to me, because the day before the royal wedding, I read an appalling news story, “CBS Reporter Recounts a ‘Merciless’ Assault.”
It related the horrific sexual assault in February on CBS news correspondent Lara Logan by 200 to 300 men in Tahrir Square in Cairo. What happened to Logan is a grisly example of what can happen to any woman anywhere around the world. It is the complete antithesis of the concept of honoring a female’s body.
Logan told her graphic story again last Sunday night on 60 Minutes. I can still feel the chill of it. She was speaking out against sexual violence “to break the code of silence,” which she believes exists among female journalists. She thinks her fellow female journalists are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs or being removed from dangerous, fast-breaking news stories, like the uprising in Egypt, which they want to cover to advance their careers.
(However, “the code of silence,” has far wider application and affects many other groups of females from little girls who are abused by family members to college students and older women who feel intimated about speaking out about assaults on their bodies out of fear that the charges will boomerang and they will have carry the burden of proof.)
Logan explained that the night when President Hosni Mubarak capitulated and the rebels triumphed, the Square had “the look of a party.” She reported for an hour until the “cameraman had to change a battery.” Then the celebration turned into “a frenzy”; she was pulled into the crowd and her attackers began pulling and tearing at her body. They ripped off her shirt, her bra, her pants, her underwear, and began to rape her with their hands. She said someone called out that she was an Israeli, and that that cry became “a match to gasoline.” While she was being assaulted, men in the crowd took pictures on their cell phones and laughed.
“I thought, not only am I gonna die here, but it’s gonna be just a torturous death that’s going to go on forever and ever and ever,” Logan recalled.
Logan was saved by an Egyptian woman in a full-body chador from which only here eyes were visible. She and other Egyptian women “closed ranks around me” and called for soldiers to beat back the crowd, which they did. With these women as a protective shield, Logan thought, “I have a chance to live.” She felt “like a rag doll.”
She was hospitalized for four days, during which the “more intimate internal tearing injuries” that she sustained were repaired. Unbelievably, she had no broken bones. She came out of the attack—in which the attackers faded away and no criminal charges were pressed—grateful for “a second chance” with her kids.
Perhaps it seems inconceivable to many American viewers that a crowd of men in an instant can turn from celebrating the advent of more democracy to become such violent sexual predators. But sexual assault and violence are “endemic and rife in Egypt,” according to the 60 Minutes correspondent who interviewed Logan and confirmed by other sources such as a report by Rachel Newcomb in the Huffington Post.
Following the attack on Logan, surely there must be some way the U.S. can bring pressure on Egypt, an ally, to start taking actions to stop this reprehensible behavior. Perhaps the State Department can offer those of us who care the name of an organization in Egypt working for change. We could start with Amnesty International.
Lara Logan is a heroine to have survived and spoken out about such a physical and psychological attack on her person. I hope she keeps speaking out against rape in all countries and all situations.
William and Kate chose 26 charities to which dignitaries and their friends could contribute in lieu of sending gifts. Although hailed as covering a range of impeccably liberal causes such as “mentally ill ex-servicemen, young offenders, former gang members, bullied youngsters, refugee students, homeless people, teenage drug addicts and children in care,” reported the Guardian, there does not seem to be any specifically concerned with assault and rape.
Perhaps in years to come, they will become concerned with organizations specifically focused on this grave problem. It would be fitting indeed if they take honoring a woman’s body beyond a marriage vow to a new level of consciousness.