“Boys Will Be Boys.”
I haven’t delved deeply into the Harvard Soccer scandal. The basic allegations are that members of the men’s team produced (at least once, probably annually) a document which speculates pruriently on the women’s team recruits. The press is having a great time detailing the specifics of the copy from 2012 which has been uncovered, but I think it’s in basic poor taste to rehash it all. It is exactly what you might expect a group of 18-22 year old boys would write about a group of 18-22 year old women.
You know what? This is “boys being boys”. And this is actual “locker room talk*” (though, writing it down takes it into another, darker, realm). Boys around the world objectify women, view them as sex objects, and jockey with other boys about what they’d do, or what they’d say they’d do, if they ever caught one. Boys are like that. We’re all like that. Very nearly every heterosexual boy has engaged in this kind of thing. I have. All of the men who are currently pretending to be horrified that this document exists and was produced have done it too.
But let’s be clear about “boys being boys” and “locker room talk”. Just because these things are common, that does not make them acceptable. When people say “boys will be boys” they tend to say it as an excuse meaning, “this is common, understandable, and normal behavior which – while potentially harmful and mildly destructive – can be overlooked.” And I’m sorry but that’s bullshit.
There is a reason that I’m saying “boys” and not “men”. We don’t say, “men will be men”. This is juvenile behavior. Boys are horrible. When we are boys we are destructive, entitled, rapacious, self-absorbed, cruel, and domineering. We need to be taught that these things are not acceptable. And the teaching needs to be serious, heavy-handed, and unequivocal. Because sadly, too many of us never learn or internalize that these are unacceptable behaviors, and never change.
Boys do these kinds of thing. And every generation will need to be taught anew – that’s how development works. We need to take the opportunities we find to confront boys when they behave like this, and correct them, in order to help them develop into men. Men don’t do this kind of thing. Men treat women with dignity and respect, because they have been taught to recognize women as independent humans and not just as sex organs.
There are places for ribald, men-only jocularity even among men (rather than boys). In my AA men’s meeting, we vent about the women in our lives, often using humor, when we need to. But then, immediately thereafter, we begin talking about how to approach our difficulties with them as grown adults who respect the women who’ve chosen to be part of our lives. And when boys show up and don’t recognize that dynamic, we fix it, by teaching them.
So I’m happy that Harvard has now chosen to cancel the remainder of the men’s soccer season. Because it is apparent to me that Harvard didn’t have a men’s soccer team. They had a boy’s team. And that group of boys needs a harsh lesson before they can take the field as men.
*What Trump said on that tape was not “locker room talk”. It was a recording of him confessing to serial sexual assault. As I understand it, the Harvard document was explicit, prurient, and pornographic. But it was not a description of past sexual assaults, nor a detailed manual on how to commit future ones.