Boys Will Be Boys?

Did you catch that?

And now I’m telling you lies,
All because I hate to see the tears in your eyes.
Of course I want my cake, and eat it too,
i’m a guy
And of course, you don’t understand,
But you would if you thought like a man in love
[Chorus]But in love, in love,in love, in love You gotta act like a woman but think like a man
But in love, in love, in love, in love You gotta act like a woman but think like a man

This is the title song from a new movie that hits theaters tomorrow. Think Like a Man is a movie based on the New York Times Bestselling book by Steve Harvey called, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man“.  I first heard this song last week while watching American Idol with husband and our 10 year old son and 9 year old daughter. Jennifer Hudson and Neo were the guest performers. When the song was over. We paused the DVR and had a talk with our kids about men, women and relationships.

Our sons are being told they have no control of themselves and their thoughts when it comes to girls and women. That they are slaves to their hormones and their eyes. Society shrugs and says, boys will be boys. The church tells young men. Distance yourselves from girls, they are dangerous to your spiritual health. You cannot resist them. This is a lie. And rather than a discussion about self control we have a talk keeping your distance and about how girls should just stop being so attractive.

Our daughters are being told by this song, this book and this movie that they need to understand these “truths” about men and learn how to “play the game”. They need to learn how men think so they can be a “fish” he’s going to want to “take on home, scale it, fillet it, toss it in some cornmeal, fry it up, and put it on his plate” instead of one he will take a picture of “admire it with his buddies and toss it back to sea”. (Believe it or not being scaled, filleted and fried is supposed to be a good thing). Girls and women are also told by the church that they are to dress modestly, and make sure that they are unsexy enough not to “cause a brother to sin” (Never mind the mixed signals of the “modest is hottest” [great article on this HERE] campaign or the fact that they are somehow supposed to be attractive enough to snag a husband but not too attractive so as to “cause” him to sin in the process).

So on the one hand we have Steve Harvey and his book which sets people up for heartache and failed relationships because it advocates manipulation and totally belittles men and puts all the responsibility at the woman’s feet. Behold a few gems from the book:

“Newsflash,” Steve writes, “it’s not the guy who determines whether you’re a sports fish or a keeper—it’s you. (Don’t hate the player, hate the game.) When a man approaches you, you’re the one with total control over the situation. … Every word you say, every move you make, every signal you give to a man will help him determine whether he should try to play you, be straight with you, or move on to the next woman to do a little more sport fishing.”

So women it is your job to be careful about every word you say and every move you make because it determines whether a man treats you with respect or just tries to sleep with you. In other words, if he doesn’t treat you like a man of character it is your fault. You obviously said or did something wrong.

Men have affairs because they can…

Dress it up any way you want to, but men don’t view sex the way you women do, plain and simple. For a lot of you, the act of intercourse is emotional—an act of love. … By contrast, when it comes to men and sex, neither emotions nor meaning necessarily enter the equation. It’s easy—very easy—for a man to have sex, go home, wash it off with soap and water, and act like what he just did never happened.

A man can love his wife, his children, his home, and his life that they’ve all built together, and have an incredible physical connection to her, and still get some from another woman without a second thought about it, because the actual act with the other woman meant nothing to him. It was something that may have made him feel good physically, but emotionally, his heart—the professing, providing, and protecting he saves for the woman he loves—may be at home with his woman.”

I am going to call bullshit on this one. Seriously? Men, you should be offended. Let me remind you Steve Harvey claims to be a follower of Jesus.

That’s the truth no woman wants to face. … Men can cheat because there are so many women willing to give themselves to a man who doesn’t belong to them. … Yes, these are women who have no standards and requirements and who suffer from serious self-esteem issues, making themselves willing to cheat and available to be cheated on.”

So men cheat because there are women who will do it with them. “I mean she was there and she wanted to so I had to do it.” What???

There is much more, not the least of which is the title, Act like a lady (a woman of refinement and gentle manners), think like a man (not sure what this is supposed to mean except for in the book and the song it would imply “of course I want my cake, and eat it too, i’m a guy” after all boys will be boys.

Do you see the difference? On the one hand we have, “boys will be boys”.  And on the other we have to the women,”you must have done something, or said something, or worn something unladylike to be treated that way.”  From the time we are little, girls are told we must do certain things to “act like a lady”.  The implication being if you don’t do the right things, say the right things and/or wear the right things, you will not be treated like a lady. The sad part is, it is an ever changing standard that varies from person to person.

Let’s look at an example from the headlines. This week there has been a story in the news about the Secret Service and their use of prostitutes in Colombia in advance of the President’s trip there.

Consider this from the LA Times:

Is there something different about guys in law enforcement and the military? Since they are required to exude an intimidating kind of macho in their daily work does that dictate a high testosterone ethic in every part of their lives? When you are expected to put your life on the line at any moment, does that automatically instill an “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” attitude? Are they like members of a football or rugby team who revel in male bonding rituals that almost invariably include proving sexual mastery?

I’d say yes to all of the above. So, while we should demand restraint and professionalism from these kinds of men when they are carrying out official duties for our country, we should not be shocked if, occasionally, they fail. We did not hire them to do flower arranging or assist in the kindergarten classroom (or to draw cartoons, for heaven’s sake). We hired them to use a gun and take a bullet whenever necessary.

And this from NPR’s Talk of the Nation where Jeffrey Robinson, co-author of “Standing Next to History: An Agent’s Life Inside the Secret Service”, asserted that this is just what guys do:

“When you get 11 guys together with a lot of testosterone, things happen,” he told host Neal Conan. “It happens in the Secret Service, it happens with the New York Yankees, it happens in fraternities. I suspect it would happen in the House of Representatives.”

“I don’t honestly think that they, at any time, exposed the president to any sort of real danger,” he continued. “I think it was simply boys being boys, and I’m afraid boys will be boys. I know, because I was one. I still am, I guess.”

Contrast that with the headlines about the prostitutes involved, they are referred to over and over as “the women who took down the secret service” as if the men had no chance or choice. Now I know that these men are being punished and are losing their jobs and the one’s who are married are (I am sure) having consequences at home; However, there are many who say they shouldn’t because after all, “boys will be boys” and “Hey, it was legal”. Like that makes this okay. Oh, it is legal in Columbia? Consider this from the U.S. State Department web site:

Colombia is a major source country for women and girls subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution in Latin America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, Asia, and North America, including the United States. Within Colombia, some men are found in conditions of forced labor, but the forced prostitution of women and children from rural areas in urban areas remains a larger problem. Individual cases of forced marriage – a risk factor for trafficking – involuntary domestic servitude, and forced begging have been reported. Some children are subjected to forced labor in mines and quarries or as domestic servants. Groups at high risk for internal trafficking include displaced persons, poor women in rural areas, and relatives of members of criminal organizations. Continued armed violence in Colombia has displaced many communities, making them vulnerable to human trafficking. Guerillas and new illegal armed groups forcibly recruit children to join their ranks; the government estimates thousands of children are exploited under such conditions. Members of gangs and organized criminal networks force their relatives and acquaintances, and displaced persons – typically women and children – into conditions of forced prostitution and forced labor, including forced work in the illegal drug trade. Colombia also is a destination for foreign child sex tourists, particularly coastal cities such as Cartagena and Barranquilla. Migrants from South America, Africa, and China transit Colombia en route to the United States and Europe; some may fall victim to traffickers.

So what is the solution? Does the church have the answer? I think the recent article from RELEVANT Magazine, Beauty vs. Sexuality handles it best:

Our contemporary cultural dialogue about men emphasizes the decisive role that biology plays in driving behavior. Evolutionary psychologists, brain researchers and TV doctors regularly produce studies “proving” men are hardwired to be visually stimulated or to cheat on their wives. The emphasis is on men’s helplessness in the face of their own physiology, an emphasis many women find disillusioning and many men find disheartening.

…The response of the Church has been to reframe basic male decency as Christlike heroism.

…This reframing fails both men and women. It fails men by insisting they can’t gaze at an attractive woman without automatically lusting for her; it denies any possibility that the average man can appreciate female beauty without desiring to possess it. If a man claims to be able to “look” without lusting, he’s too often accused of denial at best and rank dishonesty at worst. If a woman says she believes men can gaze without carnal desire, we call her foolishly naïve. A self-fulfilling prophecy is created; if men are taught they can’t separate a delight in beauty from a longing for sex, they won’t.

…“women are victimized by the soul-crushing weight of having your motives (or even personal worth) judged incorrectly on the basis of something as simple as an article of clothing. A huge percentage of women within the Church are silently battling eating disorders, self-harm, pornography addiction and depression—all stemming from misplaced shame, a shame they feel because fellow Christians have equated their beauty with intentional malice or deliberate seductiveness toward men.”

…To put it another way, we shame men by insisting they’re fundamentally weak, constantly vulnerable to being overwhelmed by sexual impulses. We shame women for not being better stewards of that supposed weakness. That shame doesn’t just lead to unhealthy sexual relationships (including between husbands and wives); it leaves too many men feeling like potential predators and too many women feeling as if they’re vain, shallow temptresses.

…While it would be absurd to deny any link between beauty and sexual desire, it’s even more preposterous (not to mention spiritually toxic) to assert the two are so inextricably linked they can’t be separated. A broken worldview that reduces human behavior down to a predictable set of gendered, inevitable physiological responses shouldn’t be the framework for a Christian discussion of beauty, desire and the longing for affirmation. If grace is real, it is strong enough to give us the capacity to distinguish the delight in gazing at beauty from obsessive lust. If grace is real, it is also strong enough to give us the capacity to distinguish between the longing to be validated as beautiful and the longing to cause another person to be overwhelmed by a desire so strong he or she forgets their commitments.

Too often, the Church talks about beauty and desire in ways that suggest the Church doesn’t believe grace is quite that real.

We must begin to believe and to teach that a man can look on a woman and a woman can look on a man with an appreciation of their attractiveness without sexually objectifying them. Beauty is not something to be feared and possessed, hidden or blamed but rather something to be celebrated and admired. When we start believing that and stop blaming women for men’s sin and vice versa; when we stop arbitrarily deciding when a woman is too attractive; when we stop separating boys and girls in Sunday school, youth group and college ministry; when we stop teaching men and women, boys and girls to to fear one another; when we stop teaching girls their bodies are a source of sin and shame; then we will begin the healing process.

More reading:
Raped too much
Some Are More Equal Than Others 

How to Get the Right Guy to Like you? Really??

I Don’t Like the Word Slut and You Can’t Make Me Use It 

Today My Daughter’s World Changed and It Broke My Heart

8 thoughts on “Boys Will Be Boys?

  1. Absolutely wonderful article, I completely agree! More work needs to be done to help get this message out there, that there is no shame in being a woman and men cannot be excused based on their gender while women get victimised for it.

  2. Vince says:

    It’s this same thinking that places the blames for being raped on the victim. Saying men cheat because they can find women who will facilitate cheating and that the women are the problem is like saying someone will steal because a store makes it easy for them to steal and that the store not making it harder for their goods to be stolen is the problem.

    This type of argument really makes me angry, and that anger increases when it’s made by people calling themselves Christians.

  3. krwordgazer says:

    Yes, the church buys into this too, while insisting that it is these weak, unable-to-control-themselves beings who are designed by God to be the spiritual leaders in the church and home. Women’s job, once they have been “caught,” is to build these poor guys up and help them feel like real men– because they can’t feel like real men unless some woman is submitting to them. Boys will be boys, but women have to be ladies. So the women get responsibility with no authority, and the men get authority with no responsibility. That’s why she’s the one who gets blamed for the ensuing divorce.

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