The idea of engaging in "Webtribution" is a little alien to me.
Apparently that's the practice of defaming a so-called enemy on the Internet. To me it just seems so public. (I mean really, aren't there more subtle ways?)
So I was only passingly interested in the merits of "The Dark Side of 'Webtribution,'" a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein. Bernstein focused on adults who engage in such online revenge and the devastating consequences for victims and perpetrators.
It all would have remained a yawner for me, except for the story of one woman, Renee Holder. A few years ago, Holder discovered that "dozens of her MySpace friends had received an anonymous e-mail calling her a tramp and a home-wrecker." Because Holder was pursuing a married man? No. The "allegations" came from her new boyfriend's ex-girlfriend.
"Family members called and questioned her [Holder's] morals. . . several friends cut her off completely," Bernstein writes. So, Holder painstakingly tried to explain to all who had been contacted that her boyfriend and his former girlfriend broke up months before Holder came along. "It took me far longer to repair the damage than it took that woman to create it."
Our culture is so warped on this one. There is, or should be, relationship status in marriage alone. Because only in marriage is there a meaningful and legal commitment that deserves respect. That's why if Holder did go after a fellow while he was in a relationship with a woman, I'd say more power to her. (Actually, I'd say that in general women shouldn't pursue men, but that's a different column.)
If she'd won her man she shouldn't have felt guilty about it in the least. For him, if he'd succumbed to her pursuit, it wouldn't have meant anything other than he chose Girlfriend B over Girlfriend A. And he'd have been totally within his rights.
Of course, if he or she had lied or deceived in the process they'd have something to repent for. But on the merits "cheating" in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship isn't possible, because such a relationship has no status that deserves protection.
In other words, Renee Holder had nothing to explain to anyone.
I admit that I think it's just silly when adults note on their Facebook page that they are "in a relationship with So-and-So." Please. Grow up and get back to me when you are married and actually have something to report. Far more seriously, I cringe at how destructive it is to marriage in general and women in particular when Hollywood couples like "Brangelina" suggest that we should respect their live-in honeys as their spouses.
Only after a wedding do all the rules change. Or at least that's when they should change. Because only then is a public commitment in place that is worthy of respect. "What G0d has joined together let no man put asunder." We are called to put up careful boundaries around our own marriages, and to respect and protect the marriages of others.
It's true that sadly, ironically, we often don't do so. But we are certainly not called to protect anything less. In fact to do so trivializes marriage itself.
Look, I've been a wife. Now I'm a girlfriend. And I'm a happy one, because there's a time and place to think through a future together. But I hope I would never, ever confuse the privileges, or the responsibilities, of the two positions.
Our culture would be far better off, and women and children in particular far more protected, if it didn't confuse the two, either.