My wife and I have two children. Our son is 12 and our daughter is 9.
Now I won’t pretend to be “Holier Than Thou” here. Our daughter is a “Daddy’s Girl,” big time. She’s my princess. Nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for her. As much as I fight it, I know she has me wrapped around her little finger and then some.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t love our son dearly. I’ve always wanted to have children and even though my preference was to have a girl first, you couldn’t hose me down when I found out my wife was pregnant and even after we knew our first child would be a boy. No excitement was lost whatsoever. I was telling people for the fifth and sixth time that a boy was on the way.
I feel like I needed to add that part, because in talking so lovingly about our daughter, it is natural for it to seem as though I may favor her at times over our son. A “Daddy’s Girl” is far from a new thing. The concept has been around forever.
However, when it comes to “favoring” our girls over our boys, there is one area in particular where we may be hurting them severely.
And that is, when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.
We know exactly what all we say to our girls when it comes to boys. We tell them how to dress. How to “sit like ladies” when wearing a dress or a skirt. Classes on etiquette. We enforce manners (in some cases) more strictly with them than we do with boys. When boys hit them in grade school, we laugh and say things like, “Oh…it’s because he likes you.”
So what do we say to our boys when it comes to all this?
Do we talk to our boys about how they are to dress in the same manner as we do girls? Do we tell our boys that they are NOT to look up a girl’s dress or skirt? Why are there not more etiquette classes for boys? Why do we NOT tell them that they shouldn’t hit girls? Why do we laugh when we hear about it? Why do say how “cute” it is?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an intelligent man. I know some things are said. Your son hits a girl and makes her cry. Then it’s not so “cute” and we might say something to him. But when she doesn’t cry…what then? When a girl tells the teacher that a boy looked up her dress, then we might say something. But why aren’t we thinking that before our sons even see a little girl wearing a dress? Or if you’re like us and have boys and girls in your family. The first time you put a dress on your daughter(s) and tell them how to sit “like young ladies,” how come we don’t also tell our boys right then and there that they are not supposed to be looking there? We also let lack of manners slide with our boys more than girls.
There’s the expression “Boys will be boys.”
So what exactly does this mean? And why isn’t there a similar expression for girls?
We’ve been programmed as a society to let certain things slide with boys that we simply will not with girls. That’s why there’s no expression for them. Not unless you count that “sugar and spice and everything nice” deal, but that pretty much sums up exactly what I’m talking about here.
Our little girls learn about sexual harassment and assault long before our boys do, even if we are not directly speaking to them about it in exact terms, which is pretty much most of the time. As much as I don’t want to think about this, imagine our girls as teenagers when they become interested in boys.
Right away, we prepare them by telling them a number of different things:
Dress like this.
Don’t dress like that.
Don’t say that.
Act like a young lady.
Don’t do this.
Don’t do that.
And the list goes on. But how much do we say to our boys? How much do we tell our boys NOT to do when they become interested in girls?
I was even guilty of this at one time. We as fathers (mothers too) joke about not wanting our little girls to ever start dating, mainly because of how we think the boys will be. However, do we give that same attitude to our boys once they become interested in girls?
Nah. Most of the time, we’re proud of it. Some mothers out there may be the same way we as fathers are about our girls, but for the most part, not really. If you don’t believe me, just look at how we as a society react upon hearing a story of a male teacher who sleeps with a female underage student.
THEN…how we react to that story of a female teacher sleeping with an underage male student.
Which teen is more likely to feel that they are “wrong” in those situations? The male or the female? This matters because the same situation the male is praised for, the female would not be. What kind of toll do you think that would take on the female?
Females have all sorts of “rules” they need to follow when it comes to the opposite sex. But the males? Not so much. I mean, there are rules coming from us as parents, kinda sorta…maybe. After this or that happens. But the female is the one we grill the most, often long before anything takes place. So naturally…if something happens that is “wrong,” the only person who had any set of rules among the teenagers is the female. So naturally, all she will understand is that she broke the “rules” she was supposed to follow for certain things to NOT have happened. As the boy is being “high-fived” for being the same exact situation, he won’t believe for a second that anything wrong happened, at least on his end.
A grown man hardly decides to sexually harass or assault a woman for the first time as an adult, nor is that the very first time they’ve ever been exposed to it. They learn it as little boys. The way we treat our little girls is how they learn it.
What boys do you know will do the right thing when few rules are present? And how many will take it upon themselves to “counterpart” the rules that are given to the girls, i.e., if a girl is supposed to sit like a young lady, how many boys would decide on their own with no help from parents that they are NOT to look in that area? How about those boys who, when they are NOT trying to hit on certain girls, would automatically exhibit manners just because they see the girl doing so?
If that’s a little too theoretical to accept, then let me try it this way.
Let’s say you have two 10-year-olds; one boy and one girl. You put them in a room full of toys and video games. You give the girl a strict set of rules where she basically must sit and cannot touch anything. You say next to nothing to the boy. What are the chances the boy, on his own, will follow the same rules you gave to the girl?
This is what happens and how that “seed” of sexual harassment and assault get planted into a child’s mind. And I haven’t even mentioned what happens when there exists sexist family members. You know, those creepy uncles who will hit on anything and everything moving, no matter the age. The way males are when it comes to attractive females and the comments made.
It may be a little difficult to understand how this affects a child, but it’s simply like this. We spend so much time telling our little girls how to behave and what to watch out for, but we are NOT telling our boys the same things and what NOT to do.
As they get older, girls obviously become women and all they know is everything they are supposed to do and NOT do in order to not be sexually harassed or assaulted. Boys become men (sometimes) and there are no “rules” for us. Even when sexual harassment and assault aren’t involved, think about how we treat women who have had multiple sex partners as opposed to how we treat men. For men, the more, the merrier. Three or four in the same week deserves a trophy. For a woman to have two partners in the same month makes her an absolute slut, whore and everything else under the sun. Her vagina should just fall off then.
Again…something that isn’t learned for the first time in adulthood. Not the vagina part, but how eventually, males learn that it’s more on the female to stop bad things from happening than it is for them to NOT do it. After all, she’s the one with all the “rules,” right?
So…you have everything to say to your girls about how to prevent sexual harassment and assault.
What are you saying to your boys?