Straight Talk Advice

Feb 22, 2006

“Boys will be boys” mentality destructive

Dear Straight Talk: I read your column out loud to my eighth grade son each week and it’s a great way to discuss sensitive issues. Recently you covered groping, where middle school boys get away with groping girls in halls and classrooms. I must say, I was shocked! I told my son if he engaged in behavior like this I would be absolutely appalled.


I’m writing because you did not put the blame on those boys. You handed the responsibility to the girls even though they were the victims. I don’t care how developed the girl, how low-cut the blouse, how much the girl is flirting, or whether or not she says “no”, boys need to be taught that groping is wrong under any circumstances.—Appalled


Dear Appalled: You’re right. I did the boys no favor. I got so involved empowering the girls to not be victims (i.e., to notice how they are dressing, notice their body language, defend themselves by saying “no”, or going to a higher authority), that I failed to speak to the boys. Boys have no more right to grope than they do to commit date rape, another crime that gets scant attention. Our “boys will be boys” mentality is very destructive—and I will say, at this point in history, it is our boys who are the biggest victims of this mentality.


Boys today are in big trouble. Of all adolescent suicides, 86% are committed by boys. As those boys grow to be men, the trend continues. In 2001, of Americans of all ages who committed suicide, 81% were male. Suicide experts argue that the statistics are misleading because just as many females attempt suicide but their methods are not as effective (they tend to use pills and knives as opposed to guns and rope). However, I find it significant that it is our boys and men who overwhelmingly complete the job. The girls are crying for help—and getting it. The boys are beyond crying


This may be a stretch from where we started (groping in middle school), but I see a thread. How can we protect our sons from falling victim to the idea that it’s okay to impose your will on someone you perceive as weaker, and then laugh about that person afterward? (This was the description of the groping.) Psychologically, you have to feel weak and powerless yourself to engage in such behavior.


I would like us to start paying more attention to our boys. Female oppression is blatant and this transparency led to the women’s movement some 60 years ago—with incredible results. But oppression is an interlocking system between parties playing roles of “perpetrator” and “victim”. These opposite roles cloud that fact that the whole system is oppressive. In our zeal to label women as victims, we have ignored the fact that men, too, are victims of a system that conditions them to act as perpetrators.


Thank you for writing and for reading the columns to your son. Our children are listening, looking to us for guidance. Our boys need it more than ever.

——-

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