When I first watched Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, I wasn’t shocked by the content or behavior of people on the screen. In the work I do at Baylor as a prevention educator, and the work I have done as a victim’s advocate, I sit with people who’ve experienced the very same events the audience witnesses during Liberated. Yet for many of us, this film can be a difficult one to watch.
The majority of our faculty, staff, or administration who gave me feedback on this film were shocked and disturbed by the content—some even skeptical that this could be an accurate depiction of reality. In contrast, almost every student, when asked if this was shocking to them, said “no.” Many students had either witnessed similar things in their community or knew someone with that experience.
In the film, what was even more shocking to me was when the students were discussing sex and the way that women are treated today. They would admit what they were saying and seeing was “terrible.” However, it was quickly followed up with “but that’s just the way the world works.” They were quick to say, “it’s all about looks” and “sex sells.” It seemed they were aware that these behaviors weren’t healthy but they didn’t feel empowered to choose a different path.
Our culture is quick to teach that exploiting our sexuality, casual sex, and sex on demand is freeing but Liberated leaves us questioning whether the very title is true of our society or not.
In the bikini contest scene, we see this play out as the women feel pressured to perform in ways they otherwise would have never considered. How imprisoning that must feel! Our culture is quick to teach that exploiting our sexuality, casual sex, and sex on demand is freeing but Liberated leaves us questioning whether the very title is true of our society or not.
Many movements for fair treatment throughout history have focused on women—likely because, statistically speaking, objectification and violence is overwhelmingly happening to women. But this documentary also peels back the curtain to show us the perspective of the male. The film offers no justification for the men’s actions but it gives a glimpse into why they may behave the way that they are.
One among many scenes that screamed for my attention was when the guys were discussing how they lost their virginity. The stories were saturated with an immense amount of pressure to “get it over with.” The men didn’t seem to look back on those memories in a good light.
This path of destructive behavior in our culture is the fast track to sexual violence and the dehumanization of individuals.
When we brush away violent and misogynistic behavior by upholding mentalities such as “boys will be boys” and “don’t cry like a girl” we hold men to a terrifyingly low standard. The pressure that society places on them to live a lifestyle of toxic masculinity is damaging to everyone. When our culture decides that this is not worth addressing, we pave the way for the objectification of people to have its way with our world. This path of destructive behavior in our culture is the fast track to sexual violence and the dehumanization of individuals.
Join the conversation
To those of us tasked with educating, mentoring, and discipling this generation I caution you to not turn away. We must be willing to look at the harsh realities our students face and reach out our hand. The Church will do well to remember that Jesus, throughout His time on earth, directly engaged the culture around Him. He was relevant, He didn’t shy away from uncomfortable issues, and He brought light and truth to the dark places. All too often we see these important conversations shut down in Christian communities. But even in communities of faith, we are not immune to the effects of our fallen world.
Liberated doesn’t shy away from the truth. It reveals in such a loving way so as not to heap shame, anger, or aggression toward the people who may be taking part in these destructive behaviors. And it leaves us with questions. It causes us to take a hard look in the mirror and at our culture. We must decide what to do with that information. Have I turned a blind eye? Am I part of the problem? What can I do to make it better?
What encourages me the most in the work that I do are the voices of this generation who have said: “I’ve had enough,” “Me Too,” “Times Up.” They are ready for a change, they are asking for it. When they see people like Kimmy and Shay, from the film, share their stories they feel empowered. Let us continue to encourage and empower them to keep asking “what else is out there?”
So, who will respond?
I am so grateful for Exodus Cry and projects like Liberated that are committed to bear light in dark places (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). I share this commitment and support this mission.
Elizabeth Wellinghoff is the Training and Prevention Specialist with the Title IX office at Baylor University. She works on campus to lessen the stigma and challenge the stereotypes surrounding power-based violence, providing resources to prevent sexual assault and interpersonal violence.