It strikes me that some of you need some guidance and advice. Whilst I’ve split my guidance and advice into sections for your convenience, I’d suggest you read everything in order to have the full benefit of my boyish experience.
I am not going to lie to you and tell you that walking away from a fight and being the ‘bigger man’ will make you feel good. Because it won’t. In fact, in my 31 years of experience, walking away makes you feel weak and ashamed. This is because we live in a sexist society which places too high a value on physical strength as a sign of maleness. Walking away means you’re less of a man, and for some of you, becoming a man is all you want to do.
Walking away may save your life. Being punched hurts. Sometimes, being punched kills. I’m always reminded of a story in which two boys in Year 9 met at a park to have a fight. One of the boys got punched, cracked his head on the pavement and died. Now the other kid is doing time. That’s two un-lived lives.
I’ll say it once more, because it’s important. Walking away may not make you feel good, but it could save your life.
It is never okay to call a female a slut, slag, or a tart just because she might be more sexually experienced than you are. People might think that ‘might’ is the key word here but, actually, whether or not a female is sexually experienced is irrelevant so long as she is of appropriate legal age. Nor does it matter how sexually experienced a female is so long as she is of appropriate legal age. The fact is, women think about, want, and have sex just as often-or as little as often-as you do. Whether a female has slept with a hundred people, only one, or maybe two, all this points to the fact she’s human, just like you.
It’s not okay to joke about rape. Nor should it be used as a verb as part of your banter or vernacular. Rape, when a man is the rapist and a female is the victim, is the forced insertion of a penis into the vagina of a girl who has never, ever deserved it. That’s what rape is. It’s not a verb for getting beat 15-0 at FIFA like your mate did.
I hear a surprising number of you use the word ‘paedo’, or ‘paedophile’ incorrectly. So let’s be clear: Paedophiles are adults who have sex with children under the age of consent. That is sixteen years old.
16 years old.
Paedophiles are not your mate in Year 9 who fancies Sophie in Year 8, nor are they the teacher that smiles at you when he or she sees you at the school gate. Bandying around terms like ‘paedophile’, ‘perv’ and ‘stalker’ only serve to normalise and trivialise these terms, and paedophiles and perverts and stalkers should never be normal, anywhere, ever.
Whilst, we’re on the topic, staring like a love-sick fool at someone you ‘fancy’ doesn’t automatically make you a ‘perv’. However, if your staring is making another person feel uncomfortable, stop it. Now. And also, the fact that you once sent a clumsily worded Facebook message declaring your undying affections to someone doesn’t make you a ‘stalker’, either.People use terms like this loosely and if anyone ever calls you ‘paedo’, ‘perv’, or ‘stalker’ and you feel it is not fair, you should report it. It’s not acceptable.
Chivalry is not sexist; it’s kind. Lift stuff and open doors wherever you can. If people object, don’t get angry; apologise and know that you were only trying to be kind.
Jokes about the size of a man’s penis are not okay. Phrases like ‘Size Matters’ and ‘You know what big feet means don’t you?’ all contribute to the idea that maleness is achieved simply by having a big penis. The fact that these phrases are stitched across novelty t shirts like gore, or declared with a wink by girls who watch too much Loose Women, does not make them acceptable. They are sexist. Do not tolerate them.
Being a man does not make you stupid, but daytime TV will try to tell you otherwise. Adverts abound with clownish buffoons whose domestic ability is limited to burning, staining, and failing. The sad irony is that your belief in these gender stereotypes will only help big businesses peddle their products to women, which in turn reinforces the sexist notion that the domestic sphere is the province of the female. Which it isn’t.
Objectification is the process of making another person feel as though they are less than human; an object to be used as others wish. Women are objectified every day. They are whistled at, and they are grabbed, and they are pinched. Whatever your intentions, making non-consensual physical contact with a woman is unacceptable. So don’t do it. Talking about women as some of you do, using crude and unsavoury sexual language, is also a form of objectification. Stop it.
You’d do well to remember that men are objectified too. When female panelists on daytime chat shows whistle and leer at that geezer from Poldark or Benedict Cumberbatch, they are objectifying him. When Sunday supplements lead with articles like ‘Britain’s Sexiest Scientist’, they are objectifying him. When females say things like ‘come and give us a hand with this muscle man’, they are objectifying men. There’s more to men than their physicality.
Speak. Always Speak.
7 thoughts on “Dear Boys”
I’m sprinting for the school gate so can’t give this the time it deserves, but as a mum of boys, thank you for this; it’s good and true, especially the bit about kindness.
LikeLiked by 1 person
These are the discussions we should be having.I Work in a boys school and this will make a really strong PSHE discussion base. Thank you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Well said. Also, excellent writing. As a father myself, I hope to pass on these messages to my son (and my daughters) as clearly as you have expressed them here. Keep it up. Keep speaking.
LikeLiked by 1 person