“Boys will be boys,” the mother says as her son pulls a girl’s hair because he wants her toys. “Boys will be boys,” the teacher responds dismissively as they hear high school boys objectifying a female student. “Boys will be boys”: a phrase used to excuse the intolerable behavior of boys instead of trying to correct the problem. At surface value, this phrase does seem innocent. Sometimes, it may be easier to say “boys will be boys,” rather than trying to fix the problem. But as boys get older, this phrase continues to grow even more unacceptable. It’s phrases like this one that scream male entitlement and let boys think they don’t need to be held accountable for their actions. Starting from birth, privilege is thrust upon boys in all aspects of their life. When a boy pushes a girl, we say “boys will be boys.” And then when they get into their teenage years where they treat women like objects and touch them without permission, we say “that’s just what teenage boys do.” But now, we have adult men sexually assaulting women, men who don’t understand the meaning of “no,” and we’re all here scratching our heads, as if we don’t understand how they could have grown up this way.
The truth is, men have always been entitled. It’s how they were raised and unsurprisingly, it followed them into adulthood. This isn’t the fault of one specific set of parents, but rather a teaching that continues from generation to generation. Boys who don’t learn that not everything belongs to them, don’t understand it when a women is feverishly against his sexual advances. In our world, rape and sexual assault are all too common. Consent is actively taught and reinforced on college campuses because men just don’t seem to get it. There is no reason anyone should they have the right to touch someone who doesn’t want them to. Which oddly enough, doesn’t seem like a difficult concept for most women to understand. It’s primarily men who struggle to understand that women don’t owe them anything and consent is part of common decency.
This leads us into the world of the #MeToo movement. The movement gained international publicity as women came forward to expose the men who sexual assaulted them. This movement has sparked a conversation on sexual assault and the reasons for it. For some reason, men perceive women as objects available for taking. Too often, they feel the rules don’t apply to them and if they have a sexual urge, there’s no reason not to fulfill it. The case of actor Aziz Ansari sparked controversy in the movement when the story broke that he sexually assaulted a woman. Critics claim that the woman just had a bad date and wasn’t assaulted like other #MeToo stories. Ansari is a “nice guy” and they just had some “miscommunication,” people said. But according to her story, she said no and he kept advancing on her.If only boys weren’t taught that they can act however they want without consequences, maybe we would have a world with fewer men who feel entitled to a woman’s body.
If we want to reduce the frequency of sexual assault for future generations, we can start by teaching accountability to boys and enforcing it as they grow up. In order for us to have a sustainable culture that extends farther than environmental sustainability, we need to actively fight to end a world that accepts sexual assault as normal.
Not just little boys, either, as these recent articles show: