Being a Boy
Jimmy’s so happy to be playing on the jungle gym as a special treat at pre-school. He’s jumping and running with his friends. Nothing could be better! He sees his friend, Jenny, next to him and tugs at one of her pigtails. Wow! It bounces just like he wants. He giggles and runs over to Brian and they jump even higher. He notices Jenny leaving the jungle gym and wonders how she could leave such fun. Then, two of his other friends go to the swing set and begin a contest. Jimmy joins them and knows he’s the strongest at swinging. He feels like he’s touching the sky. His teacher, Miss Sally, gathers them to go in for snack. It’s his favorite of cheese and apple slices. This day is the best!
First grade begins and Jimmy’s nervous. He doesn’t know many other first graders and his older brothers have been teasing him for the last few weeks. He walks onto the school yard and sees two other boys he doesn’t really know, but goes and stands with them anyway. They shuffle awkwardly next to each other.
“Hi Jimmy,” he hears and sees Jenny walking toward him. He’s so relieved. He knows Jenny from pre-school and kindergarten. She looks nice and sparkly today. Jimmy sees one of his maybe-new friends moving away from them and wants to get his attention. He really wants to make friends today.
Jimmy grabs Jenny’s dress to lift it up as he knows everyone will laugh. When they do, he’s reassured by another boy grabbing his hand to run into the school. Phew! Jimmy’s first day is better than he thought. School hasn’t even begun and he has a new friend. Wait until his brothers hear about Jenny’s dress and his new friends!
Jimmy doesn’t really like grammar school. He would much rather be outside, but has noticed if he smiles and talks with his teachers, they let him get away without doing all of his homework. Jimmy’s favorite part of school is recess and lunchtime. He loves playing any sports game and is very athletic. After school, he plays football, basketball and baseball on the town teams.
Once in middle school, Jimmy starts playing club sports and gains a reputation for being a jock. He loves it. He’s one of the coaches’ favorites and even the principal is really nice to him. Schoolwork is still a hassle, but Jimmy gets by on his charm and good looks.
In 7th grade, he has to take a foreign language and figures Spanish will be the easiest. He sees Jenny sit down beside him and he’s glad. He’s known Jenny forever and she’s really sweet. He says, “Hi” and notices Jenny looks pretty today. Maybe he’ll ask her to go to one of his games and watch him play.
Then Jenny starts answering a lot of the teacher’s questions while Jimmy is lost in the material. He remembers how smart Jenny is and thinks she probably wouldn’t want to go out with him. Jimmy’s frustrated as the year continues and on a particularly weary day, he mutters about Jenny being a show-off. He thinks ‘It’s just not fair how Jenny knows everything.’
As Jimmy’s reputation for being a stellar athlete and average student solidifies, he relies more and more on his charm and good looks. The teachers and administrators chuckle and shake their heads, then help him get by in class. His coaches urge him to do enough schoolwork to avoid being suspended, but really push him athletically. Throughout middle school, Jimmy becomes one of the most popular kids in school.
Now it’s the summer before high school and Jimmy’s going to another party. He’s invited to all of them, but this one will be fun as everyone he knows will be there.
He notices Jenny looking at him and knows she has a crush on him. She’s just not really his type as she’s too smart and doesn’t really hang out with his group of friends. He tells his friend, Mark, to go talk to her. They’re both smart and maybe they’ll hit it off. It would be great as he knows Jenny’s older brothers from club sports. If the older boys are happy, Jimmy may get more playing time. Jimmy sees Kara, one of his flings, and takes her hand to go somewhere for privacy. Girls are another one of Jimmy’s loves. Between sports and girls, there really isn’t time for much else.
Jimmy dates throughout high school. It’s the typical case of the cheerleaders or popular girls and the athletes. Jimmy doesn’t date anyone for too long though. It’s such a hassle. The girls are willing to do whatever he wants, but then become nagging when he doesn’t do what they want. So, he moves from girl to girl. Sports are his number one priority and with his talent, coach sets him up for all of the right showcases.
Jimmy gets into college on a basketball scholarship and finds his athletic prowess aligns with most of the other players on his team. For the first time in his life, he has to work really hard to keep up with the other players. Academically, he’s struggling and the professors expect him to work for his grades. What a drag!
Jimmy gets by freshman year, but sophomore year is a challenge. He’s put on academic probation and has to go to summer school!
The summer before junior year, Jimmy’s frustrated. He’s working to make money for school, going to summer school and trying to figure a way to get back into the coaches’ good graces.
He goes to another beach party and notices Jenny there. Cool. She looks really good, is really nice and will probably make him feel better about himself. He needs a pick me up so decides to talk with her.
He grabs a fresh beer for himself and another for Jenny. “Hey, Jenny. You look great! How are you?” he asks as he walks toward her.
“I’m great Jimmy, how are you?” Jenny replies.
He sees her doing that flirty thing with her hair that most girls do and decides to spend some time with her. After a few moments, he suggests they walk over to the big rocks by the dunes. There’s more privacy there.
Jimmy and Jenny go toward the big rocks at the edge of the dunes to catch up. Jimmy notices Jenny’s attraction to him, so decides to kiss her. She’s a pretty good kisser. Jimmy’s getting all the right signals and makes his move. He vaguely notices Jenny seems to be a bit put off, but he pushes right through it. She’s has a crush on him for so long, how could she resist?
Jimmy laughs, “Seriously, you’ve like had a crush on me forever.”
Jimmy’s into the moment and wants to feel good. Jenny’s here and has pulled back, but Jimmy knows he’s irresistible. He laughs to make it playful and continues until his release. Man, what a relief! Maybe all of the teachers and coaches giving him a hassle at college will realize that he really is the best. A few minutes later, he watches as Jenny mumbles something and scrambles away. ‘Girls can be so weird,’ Jimmy thinks. He feels a lot better now. He returns to the party ready to take on his job, summer school and the rest.
Jimmy would be so surprised that Jenny left the scene feeling violated, in fact, she has just been date-raped. She doesn’t say anything, so Jimmy will never know.
You may be surprised that Jimmy will never know, but maybe not.
You see, Jimmy has never really been held accountable for his actions. He’s never been taught to put himself in other people’s shoes. He’s never had to think beyond his own needs.
At the beach, Jenny wasn’t forceful in her reactions and she would have had to be because Jimmy is so into himself. He doesn’t really see anyone else, even when they’re right in front of him. He also doesn’t hear about any issue after the fact, so doesn’t know one exists.
Jenny isn’t a virgin. Jimmy knows of Jenny’s sexual relationship with one of his good friends in high school, Mark. Jimmy is more attractive than Mark and a better athlete. So, why would Jenny have a problem having sex with Jimmy? She shouldn’t, therefore, in Jimmy’s mind, she doesn’t.
Jimmy’s known about her crush for years and has taken advantage of it throughout school. She was really helpful to him in 7th grade Spanish class, especially when she stopped being teacher’s pet. She was so annoying raising her hand all of the time. It was so much better when she stopped and could pay more attention to him.
Over the years, Jimmy could always rely on his charm, looks and athletic prowess to get by, so why would that ever change? His coaches love him, his teachers adore him and his mother says he has a ‘killer smile’. He uses it all to full advantage.
Jimmy is so popular he doesn’t even remember his first day of school when he was insecure about not knowing anyone. He has no memory of pulling Jenny’s dress up and has never known that she cried in the bathroom.
He was never told about Jenny being upset when he pulled her pigtails in pre-school. The teacher never said anything to him. What Jimmy doesn’t know won’t hurt him – or will it?
You see, Jimmy’s a typical boy. He sees what he wants and goes for it. He uses his strengths to his advantage and ignores any weaknesses. It’s completely normal and not unhealthy. However, no adult or other child expands Jimmy’s viewpoint beyond himself. The teachers think he’s charming, the coaches rely on his athletic abilities and his parents are so happy he doesn’t get into trouble. The other boys look up to him and girls have crushes. No one is expecting him to be a Rhodes scholar as he’s never shown the intellectual acumen. Jimmy’s lucky enough with his looks and physical abilities. He learns early in life to use them to get ahead and not to develop anything beyond his natural prowess.
It’s natural for boys to be self-centered and focused on getting to the next goal and for girls to be motivated to look externally to stay connected. It’s completely natural, but can be knocked out of balance so easily. If boys aren’t given direction to look beyond themselves and girls not to be more self-centered, the interaction between the two sexes is unequal with the girls naturally looking to support the boys and not vice versa.
We need to adjust the thinking, change the conversations, alter the education of both boys and girls. This effort needs to be led by the adults, not the children.
The status quo is unhealthy for everyone. Especially with the current statistics of violence between the sexes as 1 in 5 women who are raped and 1 in 3 who experience sexual violence.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
We need to change our culture as typical boys shouldn’t be raping or sexually assaulting. No matter our age or gender, here’s what we can do:
- Have lots of conversations.
- Watch our words to both girls and boys.
- Review our own biases.
- Redefine masculinity.
- Get enthusiastic about enthusiastic consent.
- Tell our stories. Stop the silence.
- Reject rape culture.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
Who’s with me?
Click here to read Jenny’s version.