Boys Will Be Boys, Eh?

A message for dads: You can’t impress on teenage boys their responsibilities to prevent teen pregnancies in a culture where women are seen as mere objects of male sexual desire and sex education is deficient or non-existent.  

After writing my last piece on teen pregnancy that emanated from a new government study suggesting a lot of teenage girls are clueless about their chances of getting pregnant, I felt the need to discuss how boys are also often clueless in their attitudes towards the teen girls they get pregnant.

There is a mentality in our culture that presumes any young girl or woman who dresses “seductively” is asking to be raped.  This is a standard defense when a young man has been accused of rape in this country where two legal age individuals are involved.  There is also the notion that has been exaggerated by males who insist that when women say no, they really don’t mean it.  “They want it is as bad as we do” is the common refrain with young testosterone-energized males.  There’s an old tune popularized by Dean Martin in 1949 that may have helped create this perception with the men who fathered the baby boom generation.

You fooled me dear, now for a year

My heart you tantalize

But without a doubt 

I have found out

The secret in your eyes

Your lips tell me no, no

but there’s yes, yes in your eyes

I’ve been missin your kissin

just because I wasn’t wise

I’ll stop my scheming and dreaming 

Because I realize

Your lips tell me no, no

But there’s yes, yes in your eyes

Dino’s song was perhaps innocently enough referring to the seductive wiles we attribute to women but it was never meant to be anything more than a suggestion on how women communicate their attraction towards men.  To ascribe to it some implicit right for men to force themselves on women is an uncivilized response by the stronger sex who simply can’t control their sexual urges.

But if such suggestive lyrics led to misconceptions for young men at that time, today’s lyrics often heard in rap music and hip hop leave no doubt how women are viewed by some male teens.  Rap and hip hop is the music genre that evolved from that socio-economic culture where teen pregnancy rates are at their highest.

Psychologists said their findings from a three-year study presented a worrying picture of how popular music affected the attitudes of boys and girls to sex.

Rap music and hip hop, with their particular emphasis on sex and demeaning depictions of women, were blamed for encouraging early sexual behaviour, leading to the spread of disease and underage pregnancies.

Dr Steven Martino, who led the US study published in the latest edition of the journal ‘Pediatrics’, said that “sexually degrading lyrics” – many graphic and filled with obscenities – caused changes in adolescents’ sexual behaviour.

He said, “These lyrics depict men as sexually insatiable, women as sexual objects, and sexual intercourse as inconsequential. Other songs about sex don’t appear to influence youth the same way.  SOURCE 

In his NY Times opinion piece, “The Ways of Silencing”, Jason Stanley was describing how political operatives in today’s partisan charged environment “undermine the ability of a person or group … to employ a speech act by representing that person or group as insincere in their use of it.”   In doing this he used the findings of Jennifer Hornsby’s 1993 paper entitled “Speech Acts and Pornography” that addressed how “men are led to believe that when women refuse a sexual advance they don’t mean it.”

Women, then, will not be understood to be refusing, even when they are. If certain kinds of pornography lead men to think that women are not sincere when they utter the word “no,” and women are aware that men think this, those kinds of pornography would rob women of the ability to refuse. Using “no” to refuse a sexual advance is what is known as a speech act — a way of doing something by using words.

This is the environment that some teen boys find themselves in today.  Many have been raised without the proper training from their fathers or some other dominant male figure in their young life that teaches them to respect women.  Couple this with various forms of media that portray women as mere objects of male sexual desires and it’s not hard to imagine how males will often fail to meet traditional social expectations, taking advantage of those girls who want to please them and avoid spurning them.

Just saying no is not a preventive measure when aimed at a boy who thinks he knows you don’t mean it.  Sexual urges are strong human instincts that, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,  disregards “maintaining a birth rate adequate to survival of the species”, but because civilized society revolves around family and community, restraint of these urges is required.  This restraint has to be impressed upon young males by those male authority figures early in their life.  Too often this expectation has fallen on the female and allowed boys to be seen as victims of a woman’s perceived body language;Your lips tell me no, no but there’s yes, yes in your eyes”.

Viktor Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, directs us to what he feels gives true meaning to life – purpose.  Without a purpose, life is pretty much meaningless and will determine how honorably we will behave under stressful conditions.  This was something that became pronounced for Frankl during his own imprisonment and torture in Nazi concentration camps.  He overcame the brutality of this existence and lived to talk about it because he gave purpose to every effort he used to defeat the inhumane treatment he experienced.  At the base of this drive to find purpose was a spiritual and moral belief that held all humans in respect.

It could be understood and forgiven if Frankl failed to live up to this virtue, which there were times when he did.  The urge to violate every character strength he had been raised with was tested under the worst possible conditions.  The strain of such life and death situations however are not what young boys in our society face today but many do lack an empathetic, dominant male figure to help mold and enhance a moral set of values by which to guide their interaction with the so-called weaker sex.

It’s  a shame that some boys are raised without a father due to divorce, abandonment or death of the father.  But it is a greater shame where there are fathers who raise their son’s with the dysfunctional notion that getting laid is more important to their son’s value than teaching them how to respect women and create a loving relationship where sex is much more fulfilling than simply “getting your rocks off”.

As a society we would hope our adolescent children would abstain from sexual intercourse until they were older and married or at least had a meaningful relationship where they were willing and able to take on the responsibilities of having a child that results from their natural urges.  This simply isn’t going to happen and time has shown us that all the threats of religious taboos and promotion of abstinence-only programs have had little influence on teenage sex.  We will continue to experience unnecessary rates of teenage pregnancies unless we couple our efforts to develop principled kids with the information they need to prevent a life altering event they are unprepared for.

Sons will mimic their fathers. Make sure they don’t get the wrong message.

10 responses to “Boys Will Be Boys, Eh?

    • It may offend the evangelical conservative mentality of some but it does indeed take a village to help properly develop children so they can more easily fit into their social structures.

  1. Such important messages are contained within this post – many of which are lost on parents in some households. So many parents have just given up on parenting, which involves way more than making sure the kid goes to bed at a decent hour. I agree with your comments on rap music – it created an entire mindset of dominance and submission. Hope we can turn this all around.

    • Thanks Jean and you’re right. Proper development of children entails so much more that many of us take for granted like a steady home life, sufficient income and health care services and nutritional meals. When you consider all that it entails it’s remarkable how some kids who live under dire circumstances in this country make it through to productively assimilate into society. I suspect they have picked up on Frankl’s notion of targeting a purpose and live everyday, every moment trying to achieve it, despite their adverse living conditions.

  2. sadly there is a terrible disconnect and our “moral betters” do nothing to correct the problem, indeed they actually help it continue. “Just say no” is an utterly failing mantra from about any perspective you care to take. As a woman, I know that boys don’t get “no” and they do indeed think that they “just haven’t approached it right” so they stop, and then start all over again. This misunderstand “no sex” for “no anything” and when the girl wants to snuggle and kiss, well, he thinks the game is back on.

    Yet, unfortunately, little or no effort is made to have conversations with boys and girls separately and then together, to discuss these “signals” gone awry. There were be far fewer pregnancies if only boys and girls understood each other, and that only comes from talking with an expert at the helm. Wish it would happen, and soon.

    • Sherry, you made an interesting comment that urges me to ask a question from a purely sociological interest. From a woman’s perspective, do you think some women or hesitant, or even refuse to be cordial with new male acquaintances, like at work, or a casual acquaintance on the street, because they are afraid some men may misread it for anything more than a courteous acknowledgement? In other words, would a woman avoid a smile and a polite hello to a man they barely know for fear he might think “she likes me” along the lines of beginning a relationship?

      Some male neanderthals may write such women off as lesbians but I am wondering if there hasn’t been an event in their lives where women are fearful to draw any attention to themselves for fear they might be inviting an unwanted approach later.

      I ask this because I am confounded by those women who go out of their way to ignore a courteous greeting from me in passing; a behavior I was raised with. Common courtesy would dictate that you at least acknowledge that someone has addressed you but I get the distinct impression from some who act like you weren’t even there that a response of any kind is asking for trouble.

      Or am I just being paranoid.

  3. I remember when I had to give my teenage son a condom before going on a camping trip with his girl friend. I told him it wasn’t so much about whether he was going to have sex, as much as I didn’t want to become a grandfather.

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