"Boys Will Be Boys"

April 11th, 2017

Content Warning(s): Rape Culture, Rape, a Phrase that Personally Tends to Trigger Me

Day eleven! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!

Today, an unplanned instance of victim-blaming popped up in the textbook I was proofing. Just a passing case of, "How can the risk of victimization be reduced?"

I also found someone on my personal Facebook feed say, "If you're triggered by my use of the word triggered you should probably delete me." It doesn't take much for me to notice these things daily regardless of what month it is, but I thought I'd share them with you as part of this writing experience. Microaggressions toward survivors and their needs are real and shockingly everywhere.

On to the real topic: teaching "don't get raped" over "don't rape" because the phrase, "Boys will be boys" still exists.

As a general rule when I educate, I try to avoid the use of negative words ("don't," "not," etc.). In children, it's proven to incite more undesirable behavior. However, when all of the "victim" education boils down to "don't get raped," which is an absurdity I can barely tolerate, I find the only proper response is "don't rape."

Have any of you ever had a class or a "discussion" about what measures you can take to "avoid" assault? All I can remember is being told things like, "put your keys between your fingers so you can stab his eyes," "carry mace," "get mad if he comes toward you and fight back." But as I've previously discussed, this isn't possible for how most assaults occur. But nothing is taught to the degree of "don't do it to others." There's not enough implicit or explicit teaching of the fact that rape doesn't occur in a bubble where "victims" just pop up out of nowhere and accuse imaginary alleyway rapists who'll end up in prison. What we teach about rape is buried in, "He's just teasing you because he likes you," "he's just pushing you because he likes you," and all the other lies we tell to little girls (especially, but not exclusively) to help them cope with the reality that rape and assault are kind of a given for us. This is all along the lines of the most harmful and hurtful phrase I'll ever know: "Boys will be boys." Completely dismissive of any responsibility a boy or man could take, it encourages everyone else to allow things to happen.

And it was the same thing my father told me one Monday in May of 2014, about a month before I would be raped by someone I thought was a friend. I'd called him to tell him I was upset when two sets of strangers had catcalled me the day before, and you know what he did?


I'll let that sink in.

Laughed, then said, "Boys will be boys."

Boy will get to live his life free of the pain he caused me as a result of raping me. He was never taught not to rape. My father went on to suggest that I carry mace and take self-defense, all of the "don't get raped" tactics in the book. So naturally, when I visited him across the country mere days after it happened, "boys will be boys" echoed so loudly in my head that it numbed me. And to think, I have a brother who was raised to think the same way; but at least he's since learned the error of this way of teaching.

It can be reversed. All of us can call out anyone who participates in rape culture like that. It isn't just men who rape, and it isn't just women who become survivors. It shouldn't be just teenaged girls in a classroom learning "how to avoid the alleyway rapist," but rather every student in an all-age-encompassing discussion of consent and respecting others at various age-appropriate levels. Maybe if that had happened, my own father wouldn't have pre-emptively victim-blamed me for what happened, even if he walked out of my life before I told him what happened to me.

Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be dedicated to Elizabeth Smart, whose recent interview about the concept of "virginity" after sexual assault is an important watch.


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