The saying “boys will be boys” is still trotted out with depressing regularity to excuse the bad behavior of males of all ages.
From the playground right through to adulthood, this phrase is designed to shield males from the consequences of their actions and imply that anyone who can’t accept the basic fast that boys have aggressive, loutish and sexist tendencies, is uptight, humorless, or worst of all, a feminist.
When you think about it though, the saying “boys will be boys,” is just as damaging for men as it is for women because it feeds off negative stereotypes about masculinity that are so limiting. These stereotypes revolve around the idea that men are by nature crude, insensitive and have only one thing on their minds.
Turns out though that males are just as interested in connection and communication as the other half of the species, even when it comes to sex. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy conducted a survey in 2009 which showed that teenage boys would rather have sex with a partner they loved than a “random girl.”
By perpetuating damaging stereotypes about gender, modern culture does a great disservice to men by denying them access to their own emotions. Every day in countless ways children internalizes expectations about gender, love and sex that are very detrimental for them.
Sex education in the U.S does little to combat this by focusing on the physical side of sex and completely ignoring emotions and intimacy. Considering how pervasive porn has become these days, and how much of it portrays men as dominant and women as mere objects for male pleasure, a more holistic approach to sex education is badly needed.
Another simple thing that everyone can do to challenge gender stereotypes is to be aware of the power of words. Sayings like “act like a man,” have real consequences because they shape children’s understanding of the world and how they should behave.
Men need to learn from a young age that love and friendship are just as vital to their happiness as they are to girls, and that it’s OK to be vulnerable. They need to be taught that sadness and anger are OK too and the strategies for dealing with negative emotions.
The end result can only be a better world for everyone.
Image via Pixabay.