It’s about teaching boys AND girls mutual respect

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Despite yet another lesson that anything we say online, about our children or ourselves, remains available for all to see. Despite my disagreement with some sections of the article, my heart goes out to a blogger, Mrs. Hall, another mother who is trying to raise her children in a predominantly sexualized climate.

In all of the discourse surrounding Mrs. Hall’s viral post, about teen girls’ behaviour on Facebook, I admit to being surprised. Surprised at the one-dimensional approach that the critics of her post have taken.

Everyone seems to be missing a major point… but I will get to that.

Of course, discussion remains essential, because for too long we inadvertently communicated to boys that they are simply, ‘rapists-in-waiting’.  It is demeaning to boys, of any age, to presume they can only see a woman as a sexual object once they have seen her in a state of undress, because obviously many men don’t (unless of course your name is Robin Thicke). While girls, by default, have been held chiefly responsible for the way boys treat them, and hence unleash ‘uncontrollable’ urges upon them. (If she hadn’t worn that, if she hadn’t drunk so much…)

There are currently hundreds of articles demanding that young men respect young women — and so they should (I have written, and will continue to write, these myself). Such posts are inundated with approving comments likes and shares. Indeed, for too long our daughters have been served up as brainless eye candy for many men.

However, something has become blindingly apparent, and this is the major point being missed — When parents attempt to request mutual sexual respect for boys, from girls, the gates to the dam of disdain are opened. The flood of ‘slut-shaming’ discourse chokes all who dare speak.

As a mother of two sons and a daughter, and as a psychologist working with boys for almost 20 years, I have become increasingly frustrated with this skewed dialogue.

I have countless stories, by parents, of their sons receiving unsolicited, unrequested naked images or sexual texts from girls they know.

Counsellors report girls grabbing boys’ phones, stuffing them into their underwear, and then daring the boys to, “Come and get it.”stealing a phone

Boys tell me about girls sending images of their breasts, with the caption, “There is more where that came from, here is my account, buy me more airtime.”

The list goes on…

It is with sadness that I witness how we are increasingly encouraged to excuse any sexually nuanced behavior by girls, yet we condemn boys if they do exactly the same.

Here is some of what I see being expected of us:

  • If a boy sends a ‘selfie’ of his penis, to a girl, (despite being illegal) he is a predator.
  • If a girl sends an image of her vagina, to a boy, (despite currently being illegal) we should not discourage her because that is ‘slut-shaming’. We apparently need to tell her she has exercised her ‘right to express her sexuality’.
  • When a boy, on the receiving end of said images, happens to comment on the NoOdz, he is a misogynist, who views girls simply as objects for servicing his sexual pleasure.
  • When a girl, on the receiving end of said images, happens to comment on the NoOdz, we should not discourage her because that is ‘slut-shaming’. We apparently need to tell her she has exercised her ‘right to express her sexuality’.

Boys are damned, while girls (thanks to overuse of the term ‘slut-shaming’) are abdicated of any responsibility for building healthy relationships with the opposite sex.

Perhaps too many girls have bought into the lie that their sexuality is their strongest currency, and that is what boys expect from them? Didn’t Miley Cyrus just convey this message at the VMA?

But the answer does not lie in further self-objectification, or even mutual objectification. Neither of these acts will bring about equality — only mutual respect will.

Hence, I am thrilled at the explosion of strong female role models and women’s movements (such as ‘Brave Girls Want’). These are imperative, for teaching girls about their true value as a whole person, from a young age. While we simultaneously reinforce to our sons, that his penis does not rule his brain, because every boy has the mighty capacity for reason, empathy and choice.

This blogger put it magnificently

“Don’t play the victim. You are not a helpless victim when it comes to your eyes. You have full control over them. Exercise that control. Train them to look her in the eyes. Discipline yourself to see her, not her clothes or her body. The moment you play the victim you fall into the lie that you are simply embodied reaction to external stimuli unable to determine right from wrong, human from flesh.”

teens playing sport

We need to highlight the ability of every teen to exercise self-control, to redirect their thoughts and really look INTO the person, not simply AT the person. To stop seeing objects and to start seeing people.

If we continue to peddle selfish sex, (masquerading as freedom of expression) based largely upon MY pleasures, MY desires and MY appetites, then we sell our teens short. We set them up for a future of broken relationships, heartache and loneliness.

What we need to teach and to expect from teens is relationships based upon mutual love, mutual respect, mutual caring, and mutual self-control.

Because healthy relationships embody two committed people.

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  1. Yep…the caricature of ‘all’ boys as latent sexual predators needs to be challenged. Girls can help young men learn to be more noble and caring by demanding it of them and not buying into a toxic Miley Cyrus vision of womanhood.

  2. Great post, Collett!
    The words you spoke to the students at my school about mutual respect, were what inspired me to write a similar post.
    This is spot on!
    Awesome stuff! :) x

    • Thanks Paula :-) – It has taken me a while to get it down in writing. It is not an easy perspective to articulate. I loved your article after I visited your school.

  3. This is a great post Collett. I admit to being one of the critics of Hall’s blog, but primarily because of the continued one sidedness of it (eg we seem to like to hold girls responsible, or boys, but rarely take on both or the culture they are living in). There’s nothing wrong with expecting young people to be accountable for their actions and the impacts on others, it’s double standards of responsibility & accountability which are really problematic.

  4. RT @CollectiveShout: It’s about teaching boys AND girls mutual respect via @familysmart

  5. I do agree with you that we need to teach our girls and boys to respect themselves and one another. I don’t think that girls have carte blanche to act like over sexualized predators any more than I think boys do. I think both should have more respect for themselves and their sexuality. I only want it to be recognized that the same action done by boys or girls is still the SAME action and if girls are behaving badly for doing it, so are boys. Does that make any sense?
    I appreciate your perspective.

  6. Teach boys respect for girls; teach girls respect for themselves.

    That’s the message our society gives to kids. Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them; never hit a girl.

    That is the type of minefield boys have to navigate now.

    • Yes, it can be a bit of a minefield, for both boys and girls. I think we keep giving them conflicting messages. I find boys almost ashamed of being men, when there are so many positives to being a boy.

  7. Well said!

  8. And a mighty AMEN to this!

  9. This is why I LOVE your posts!! Thank you :)

  10. Absolutely spot on, Collette. Thankyou!

  11. Thank you God! Some one else is saying what I am.. I felt so alone on this and every time I tried I get told to keep my religious morality to myself!! As if only religious people can feel this way . We must teach BOTH girls and boys respect and responsibility! Thank you for this wonderful article!!!!

  12. Peter Maleham says:

    Womens’ Lib would emasculate men if it could. Boys are boys, and girls are girls. Do not let male chauvinism prevail, but guess what: boys and girls are different. Play with God’s plan at your peril …

  13. RT @collettsmart: @thecybercop1 #objectification #sexting