Column: Boys will be boys

Celine Engel
“As long as ‘boys will be boys,’ some will grow up to be men that act on aggression and assault but are never held accountable.”

In elementary school, some boys shoved girls and pulled their hair. Teachers would try to discipline them, but it often ended in giving a defeated shrug and muttering the same four words.

“Boys will be boys.”

In middle school, some boys would whistle at girls in the hallway and engage in “locker room talk.” Again, discipline would occur, if teachers even noticed. However, the same excuse was normally given.

“It’s because he likes you. Boys will be boys, you know.”

In my PSAT prep class, a boy sat at a table group near mine, loudly announcing which girls in our grade he finds attractive and saying that they were there for him to look at.

“He’s young. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. Boys will be boys.”

This all-too-common mentality has been around for decades. While “boys will be boys” was originally used to excuse their tendency to track dirt into the house, its use shifted over time to dismiss any of their inappropriate behavior towards others. Instead of reprimanding young boys, adults could simply brush off any blame and convince themselves that’s just the way things are, normalizing their behavior.

However, as long as “boys will be boys,” some will grow up to be men that act on aggression and assault but are never held accountable. Every time a girl is told that a boy acts inappropriately because he “doesn’t know any better,” that boy is being told that that is how he should express his emotions.

It’s not that every elementary schooler that finds “teasing” girls funny will end up assaulting women. Most of them will mature and grow out of this behavior with time. But this is in spite of the constant use of “boys will be boys.” When a boy doesn’t move on, the phrase is used to excuse them for actions like sexual assault.

For example, in 2014, the mother of a 5-year-old girl asked a Montana County prosecutor why the teenage boy who sexually assaulted her daughter was only punished with two years of community service. He responded with “boys will be boys.”

Covering up sexual assault with this excuse is like putting on a Band Aid on a bullet wound. These boys are being given a get out of jail free card. Whatever they do wrong isn’t their fault.  But as teenagers and adults, they knew the weight of their actions and can’t play dumb anymore.

While their decisions were driven by countless factors, the “boys will be boys” mindset is part of the core of the issue.

Baylor is only two hours away from our community and is the home of the biggest sexual assault scandal at a university. Most of the rapes were committed by football players. University regents told the Wall Street Journal that former Baylor football coach Art Briles knew about an alleged assault but didn’t report it.

As long as ‘boys will be boys,’ some will grow up to be men that act on aggression and assault but are never held accountable.”

He was fired as a result in 2016. Three years later, Briles was hired to coach at Mt. Vernon High School. Apparently, it didn’t matter that the numerous girls that were raped by his players were still going to therapy. The victims weren’t even contacted. Briles was hired because when the school looked at him from a football standpoint, he was golden. They focused on the number of wins he had and ignored the number of assault cases that took place.

There has been a fight against this type of behavior in recent years. The #MeToo movement empowered women to speak up against sexual assault. Gillette’s 2019 Superbowl commercial promoted men defying toxic masculinity. These were both huge steps in the right direction, but it’s not enough. People moved on but the problem remained. We have to continue to fight against this “boys will be boys” mentality if we’re going to have a chance at reversing the decades of damage it has caused.

Being male is not an excuse for aggression and violence, so we need to start holding them accountable for their actions. We owe it to that 5-year-old girl, the Baylor students and every other female that has ever been told “boys will be boys.”