Teaching Boys to Respect Girls: Why It Matters

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Recently, a teen-aged girl in my community took her own life. At the root of the girl’s trauma and desperation was an alleged sexual assault by a group of boys at a party. The assault was photographed and, later, the photo circulated widely on social media. In the wake of the assault, the girl was bullied and teased unrelentingly and needed to change schools several times. Despite reporting of the assault and the best efforts of the girl’s parents, no charges were laid, and the system failed to take action to stop the circulation of the photo. The girl’s mental health deteriorated, while the bullying continued without any consequences to those who perpetrated it. 

I recently read a blog entitled Let’s Stop Shaming Our Girls and Start Teaching Boys to Respect Them.

In her blog, Randi Chapnik Myers writes, “Girls get a message loud and clear: Make a mistake (send a sext, dress provocatively, give in to peer pressure from a guy you like – all mistakes teens make every day), and you’ll likely end up with a reputation you can’t shake, or worse.”

Randi goes on to ask, “Where are the boys in all of this?” She makes a strong case for our need as parents to protect our girls: yes, without a doubt we need to do so! But she goes on to say, “We also have to start teaching our boys how to do the same, both online and off.”

Randi explains that it’s our job to “spell out the basics” for boys. Let’s stop assuming that they know these values intuitively, and realize we need to teach them explicitly. Randi provides some important messages we need to give our boys, messages about respect like:

  • Remember a girl is a person, with feelings.
  • Look into her eyes and talk to her directly, not just by text.
  • Ask her how she feels, and listen.
  • Respect her limits when she says no.
  • Don’t pressure her to do things she is hesitant about or not ready for.
  • Don’t try to be the big guy in the eyes of your friends at her expense.
  • Don’t spread gossip or rumors about her. Protect her reputation.
  • Remember that people change as they grow, and they don’t forget how you have treated them.
  • Never forget that your reputation as a gentleman is part of your character. You build it as you grow. Make yourself proud.

Thanks, Randi for your blog and for these excellent tips!

In another blog on the same theme, Christina Moss writes, “Maybe we’ve focused so much on trying to keep children from becoming victims that we’ve forgotten to teach them not to be perpetrators. Maybe we just thought they could figure that out on their own. Unfortunately, it looks like far too large a number of 12-17 year-old boys have not figured this out. So what can we do, then? How do we keep our sons from hurting our daughters in such a devastating way?”

Christina notes, “From the time they are little, boys interact with female peers and authority figures. They can–they must–be taught as soon as possible that they have to listen to those women.”

The excellent tips Christina shares are:

  • Teach boys to respect a girl’s wishes and boundaries from a young age, including in their interactions with girl siblings. Is a brother pulling his sister’s hair or taking her belongings? Teach him not to.
  • Teach boys to ask a girl’s permission before invading her personal space in any way.  Does a boy want to borrow her classmate's pencil? Teach him to ask her permission. Does a boy want to give his soccer teammate a high five?  Teach him to ask her permission. (“This may seem excessive when the stakes are so low, but the stakes get higher before you know it,” explains Christine.)
  • Particularly if you are a man, model respectful treatment of women.  “Never undermine [women] in front of [your children]. Solve disagreements in such a manner that both parties are treated respectfully.  If any of your actions do become disrespectful, apologize in front of your children,” Christine says. 
  • When your children hear a story about domestic abuse, take the opportunity to talk to them about abuse and why it is not OK.
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Guide

Just thinking about some of the school shootings in the news over the years . . . seems like these lessons are equally applicable for how to treat boys as well as girls.

Most certainly, respect knows no boundaries! Everyone needs it and deserves it. However, in this blog I am specifically trying to draw particular attention to a big concern in many of our communities, which involves teen girls being assaulted by boys.

Participant

Thank you for sharing this, Rachel. As the mother of two daughters and a son, I find this to be an important reminder to have these conversations. I particularly appreciate Christina's tips. 

Participant

Having recently read numerous blogs/articles related to the sovereign grace ministries lawsuit, as well as becoming aware of a number of situations where (all kinds of) abuse and inappropriate sexual behavior have been covered up in the Church, I have found several headlines that I believe sum up what is going on:  "Abuse thrives in a cultures of shame and silence" and "protecting the powerful at the expense of the weak" 

it is time for honest transparency in the Church, to stop covering up and saving face...

it's time to follow I Timothy 5:20 so other leaders will be warned.

and it's time to deal with the sexual objectification of women that is so prevalent in our culture

 

It's time to speak up on behalf of the weak and vulnerable, that are the victims of abuse!

 

Community Builder

Thanks for the post and the comments!

Check out resources at http://www.acalltomen.org/ - An organization dedicated to creating a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.