When I was 6-years-old, a boy stole my favorite pink shoe and threw it over the fence. The teacher tried to muffle his laughter as he said, “Boys will be boys.”
When I was 10-years-old, I reached over to unzip my backpack and a boy threw a basketball at my face. As I sat in the nurse’s office, with blood dripping down my nose, the nurse handed me a tissue and said sweetly, “It’s okay: boys will be boys.”
When I was 14-years-old, a boy posted comments all over social media about the vulgar and explicit ways he would treat me. When I showed the comments to a school attendant, he looked at me and let out a sigh. “I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do,” he said. “Boys will be boys, take it as a compliment. They notice you.”
When I was 18, a man grabbed me inappropriately in a grocery store. When I told the manager, she simply said, “Oh, boys will be boys, and they do those things, just watch yourself next time.”
The phrase “boys will be boys” has been used as an excuse for boys to toy with situations, to see what they could get away with. I use to be okay with the phrase because, in some context, it made sense for “boys” to act in that certain way.
That was until I had to grow up and face the difficulties of being harassed in the streets by boys or overhearing “locker room talk” of boys explaining things they would do to me if they had the chance. When someone asked me why I expected more from a boy, I paused and asked: “why shouldn’t I?”
Is it insane to want more from a boy than harassment, carelessness and cowardliness?
“Men behave badly,” said psychotherapist and author Joan Kavanaugh. “Because they can.”
Not only can men be bad because they can, but we let them be because they are men.
I believe we give too many excuses for boys to be boys and never to be men. I grew up knowing what a man should be by the standard my father set. He taught my brothers that boys were meant to be men. To be honest. To be virtuous. To be chaste.
There are numerous men who believe in these values. The insult lies in society making boys believe they are too ignorant to uphold higher standards.
When I was 8-years-old, an older boy walked with me and my brother home from school. I tried to get their attention by walking behind them and kicking their heels. The boy turned around and grabbed my arm and started bending it at an unnatural angle. As I screamed in pain, my brother instantly punches him, takes me and runs home.
He was not too ignorant to understand, he knew what he needed to do.
When I was 15-years-old, my father stood at the doorway of my room watching me clean my room. He asked about a specific situation where a boy wanted me to send him inappropriate pictures, I told him casually what happened. The boy kept sending me text messages but I declined at each request. He looked down and walked away.
I found out 2 years later he told the boy and his father, what I was too scared to tell them. He was strong when I couldn’t be and that made him a man.
When I was 18-years-old, I went on a date, we went to Taco Bell and drove to a haystack. As we sat on the haystack he told me of his difficulties with emotion. Through his stories, I could see the innocence of a boy and the journeys that helped him become a man. I married that man.
Boys were boys at one point but there comes a time for them to understand that there are no more excuses. There’s a time to grow up and be men.