Teach boys self-respect

Why do we promote such negative images of boys?

Kudos to Tricia Bishop for her thoughtful and wide ranging column on proactively raising boys to understand that respecting girls' and women's boundaries is of paramount importance, especially in the midst of a culture that disrespects those very boundaries ubiquitously ("Raising respectful boys," March 17).

I'd like to add another dimension to the discussion. Certainly, girls and women are devalued in our society, even to the extent of being portrayed as objects and, therefore, not fully human, but let's also consider how deeply the culture demeans and dehumanizes boys.

I often ask students and adults to name the innate characteristics of "boys" embedded in the phrase, "boys will be boys." With few exceptions (brave, athletic, adventuresome), the list is pretty ugly: messy, impulsive, irresponsible, insensitive, sex-crazed, self-centered, troublemakers, rule breakers, tough and even violent and animalistic.

Why on earth do we continue with this kind of thinking to set the bar for boys so low? Is this perhaps who we think boys by nature really are? And, if so, aren't we telling ourselves and them that they're inherently incapable of being held accountable for their actions?

More than anything, I think we need to be telling boys in every way possible that we absolutely view them as inherently valuable, good and fully capable human beings, and that in accordance, we will be holding them to the very high standards we know they can meet.

The key to boys respecting girls is cultivating within them a deep and abiding respect for themselves. After all, what kind of self-respecting person pins a defenseless person down on a school bus or a bathroom floor and commits sexual assault?

Deborah Roffman

The writer is a human sexuality educator at The Park School of Baltimore.

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