I uncovered an old essay of mine from November 2013 in my English Comp I class. It was a group project, which at that time meant that I wrote all of it while everyone else watched.
Boys Will Be Boys
On a hot summer afternoon, two boys sat in a court. Solemn, distraught, guilty looks were cast on their faces. They sat side by side as they were tried and found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl at their school. Together, they had gotten her drunk, raped her, and carried her around to numerous football parties to let other young men do the same (CNN). Thanks to wonderful social media, this scandal was soon nationwide, as many got riled up about these boys and their behavior. Surprisingly, there were few who shrug at crimes such as these and quote a simple, chancy phrase: “Boys will be boys” (The New Yorker).
“Boys will be boys” is literally defined as a phrase “used to express the view that mischievous/childish behavior is typical of boys or young men and should not cause surprise when it occurs” (Dictionary.com). In a nutshell, this phrase implies that all behavior, no matter how vile, destructive, or crude, is just natural boy behavior. We should respect everything they do because it’s in their nature. However, I believe that this phrase has crossed a borderline. It has gone too far. The “boys will be boys” mentality has reached epidemic proportions in our society. We will see how this simple phrase has negatively affected our society through inappropriate behavior, lack of respect, and young men stereotypes. Though the phrase is cliché, catchy, and might even make a person smile, those words are dangerous. And they blind us to a massive issue in our society.
Within the past century, young men’s socially expected behavior was drastically different than it is now. Boys, particularly young men, were expected to be gentlemen (The True Gentleman). TheTrueGentleman.com, a website specifically dedicated to bringing back the Victorian era, describes an old-fashioned gentleman in great detail. “The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause ajar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast— all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment” (The True Gentleman). This only briefly describes his behavior. Even his outward appearance and gestures are superb: “He is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd…he guards against topics which may irritate; never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip… If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder…” (The True Gentleman). Now, this was in the Victorian Era. And many will agree that times have changed to a much greater extent. But you can at least notice the difference between male behavior then and now—more courteous, respectful, and considerate. Today on public internet forums, you see men today make fun and mimic it, as if it was just a stupid phase in history.
Did it change overnight? Does anything? No, you cannot pin-point a date and year to an evolution. Things happen—wars, depressions, and atom bombs. Slowly, our culture found a personality. I believe the change in this dream-like “knight in shining armor” behavior thrived during the most influential, crazy decade of American history: the 1960s. Counterculture popped up nationwide, bringing its drugs, protests, and mini-revolutions (Counterculture). As a result, teens across the country indulged in rebellious music, drinking, and sex. These hallmarks of the 1960’s counterculture were a major influence on young American behavior (Counterculture). 50 years later, we see massive issues with common young men behavior. Now that we’ve explored a little background of where we once were, let’s zoom forward and look at main issues today—issues that many respond to as “natural” and the ever-so-popular “boys will be boys”. Presently we will be exploring today’s young men’s inappropriate behavior, lack of respect, and common stereotypes. Does their behavior affect others? Where did it come from? What should we do about it?
Firstly, let’s look at boys’ tendency to behave inappropriately, whether for desire, satisfaction, or simple attention. Inappropriate behavior, for our purposes, would refer to rape. U.S. Disaster Center holds the total rate of rapes. In 1960 the numbers were in the low 17,000s, and in 2012 the numbers have skyrocketed to a whopping 84,376 (U.S Crime Rates). The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network claims that 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, so these numbers could be so much larger (RAINN). The example I shared earlier, about the football players raping an unconscious girl and carrying her around, is a perfect example of inappropriate behavior. It was August of 2012. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond in Steubenville, Ohio raped a drunk, nearly unconscious girl and carrying her around to parties (Guardian). According to The Guardian, “Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said the girl was helplessly drunk and the boys ‘treated her like a toy’” (Guardian). The New York Times states, “Both boys used their fingers to penetrate her…much of the evidence was ‘profane and ugly’…Rape was among one of the gravest crimes” (NYTimes). There are many other rape cases involving specifically young men. The boys were sent to serve one to two years in jail, and most students at the school thought the girl (the raping toy) as the “bad guy” for witnessing against them (NYTimes). The reason the boys didn’t sentenced to more jail time is because of that “boys will be boys” mentality, as several parents witnessed in their defense (NYTimes).
Along these lines, let’s continue on and explore young men’s lack of respect. This is towards others, society, and specifically women. Take pornography, for example. Some guys are quite open about their sexual desires and activity. Statistics say that 40 million Americans are visitors to porn sites, and 12% of the internet is pornography—that’s over 24 million websites. And these statistics are from 2010 (Chen). But do people find it a problem? Many find it disgusting. But most say that it’s natural. They can’t help it. Boys will be boys. Sexting, similarly, is a common activity among men—even in high school. Westwood High, for example, was caught in a sexting scandal in early 2011, where a cheerleader took a picture of her naked self and sent it to a couple football players (MyFoxAustin). The picture was all over the school by the end of the day (KXAN). At first glance, of course the cheerleader was at fault. She shouldn’t have sent such a picture. But now we see the football players’ lack of respect for the girl and her privacy. They find it amusing to show it off to the whole school. According to KXAN, “Criminal charges are not expected to be filed…the students [involved] were [only] given ISS.” Only the students who were sent the pictures and passing it on got in trouble. The football stars were hardly punished at all. Why? Boys will be boys.
Why are guys like this? Are they taught to be like this? Or maybe they see others to the same. We now move to typical young men stereotypes. Popular TV shows for teens, like “Gossip Girls”, and movies like “Grown Ups” contain groups of young men that are just plain jerks. They describe typical male society today. Perhaps this is what our boys look up to. They are the guys that don’t care about anyone but themselves. They love drugs, sex, and rebelling because they can. Popular songs also promote this type of behavior. Popular rap artists like Eminem, Drake, and Lil Wayne rap lyrics that disrespect pretty much everything. One of Drakes popular songs “Headlines” has this line: “You gonna hype me up and make me catch a body like that, cause I live for this, it isn’t just a hobby like that” (GoodLyrics). In Eminem’s “White Trash Party”: “In the streets of Warren, Michigan we call ‘em tramp stamps, that means she belongs to me” and “I don’t need a white tank top to be a wife beater” (Lyrics4Every1). Do you see a pattern? It degrades women, who should be respected in society, and it also encourages sex desire and activity, as if this is the way they should be. Stereotypes can certainly alter one’s ego and actions. But boys will be boys, right?
Is the counterargument to all my points strong? Absolutely, but I think it’s a little off. In an article from the Huffington Post, there are many popular opinions expressed by people who encourage the “boys will be boys” mentality. Some of them are, “He’s just going through a phase”, “He just can’t help/control himself”, “He’s such a boy—he loves destroying things!” (Huffington Post). He loves destroying things? Could that mean zombies on Black Ops…or a girl’s reputation by forwarding her naked picture around the school? He couldn’t help himself when he decided to rape an unconscious, near-dead teenager all night long with his friends. Pornography watching is only a phase (and then you see grown, married men sneaking a video or ten while “busy” at work). These are excuses, and even false assumptions, that have stood for far too long. Also consider the fact that these boys are our future men. It’s a nerve-wracking thing to think about.
In conclusion, we’ve summed up the background of young men’s behavior in America. We’ve seen it transform and we explored the major issues that now exist today as a result of the disgraceful “boys will be boys” mentality—inappropriate behavior, lack of respect, and common stereotypes. We discovered examples of each of these, including Steubenville, Ohio, Westwood High School, and popular rap songs that shun any kind of chivalry or gentility. Needless to say, it is a massive downturn from the gentlemen era.
Why in the world does any of this matter? Why don’t we just leave the world and society as it is? As a former home-schooler, I was raised in a circle of friends where all the guys were sweet, chivalrous, and never had any intention on sleeping with any girl they talked to on a regular basis. I entered public school in 2012 with stupefying shock. None of the guys would open the door for me if I was right behind them. I’ve been cussed at and cussed around by guys pretty much every class period I attend. Even watching porn on a regular basis was shocking to me—I had never been exposed to that behavior. Additionally, on social media, boys often upload pictures like on Instagram of bikini and Victoria’s Secret models. Women half-naked on a man’s photo stream is demeaning to women, especially if he has a girlfriend! Some of these small things may sound silly and unimportant, but I disagree. These small things are what make a man, generally. It takes humility and respect to become a gentleman. However, the “boys will be boys” mentality relieves young men of that expectation. It alters the way society views our young men. It lowers our standards and expectations of them. It’s just a negative outlook altogether. I’m not blaming the Counterculture. Change happens in a culture. However, it is important to recognize these controversial issues and really think about them—about the path that it has put us on.
“Boys will be boys” is a phrase I have heard all my life. Only recently did I start thinking about what it really means. It should not be an excuse to rape, sext, or disrespect anyone in anyway, whether it’s parents, leaders, or a hot cheerleader. The “boys will be boys” mentality has reached epidemic proportions in society. It is our job to be aware of its danger. As Arthur Helps, an English writer, once said, “Alas, It is not the child, but the boy that survives in a man.” (Izziquotes).