I was in a public restroom the other day when I overheard two teenage girls talking:
“When do I get to meet your boyfriend?”
“Tomorrow if you want. He’ll say you’ve got great boobs and grab them, though. Don’t worry about it. He does it to everyone.”
Needless to say I was stunned by this exchange, all spoken in a very matter-of-fact “That’s just boys” kind of way.
My initial thoughts were: Why do these girls think this is ok? And, Haven’t their parents taught them anything?
It was all I could do to stop myself from rushing out of the loo to give them a lecture on self respect and personal boundaries.
Then it occurred to me.
Why does this BOY think this is ok?
Haven’t HIS parents taught him anything?
As a mother of boys (before I had a girl) I heard more than once about how teenage boys are easier because at least they can’t get pregnant.
What sort of misguided, misogynist view is this? That if you have a girl child you need to teach her to be safe and protect herself? But boys you can just send out into the world with a packet of condoms and a wink?
This “boys will be boys” attitude is so damaging. To both girls and boys.
When I think of some of the things I endured as a teenage girl I cringe. Admittedly, I had a keen interest in boys, but I allowed myself to be coerced and pressured into things far beyond my level of comfort.
And to what end? To impress them? To make them interested in me? Because I was scared? I can’t fathom why I thought they held this power over me. And for that matter, why THEY thought they held that power over me.
Now, as I watch my boys approach adolescence there are so many things I want to make sure they know.
But above all, is that they have no right to impose themselves onto anybody. Ever.
In the playground, they don’t get to let their curiosity get the better of them and flick up a girl’s skirt.
When they have a girlfriend, they don’t get to hug her, kiss her or even hold her hand without her express permission.
They don’t get the excuse of misreading the signs and pushing things too far.
When they met random girls with “great boobs” they certainly don’t have a right to touch them!
Her body is hers and they do not get to touch it or even comment on it, unless she invites them to do so.
If there is any doubt in their mind that the female, or male for that matter, in their presence is less than 100% comfortable, they need to check their behaviour.
I will definitely be teaching my daughter how to protect herself and keep safe. But I will also be teaching my boys how to be someone that is safe to be around.
Something that I tell my kids frequently is that our behaviour is one of the only things in life we have full control over. I’m determined to raise young men who know how to control theirs.