Yes, the entertainment industry has seen horrible stories about young men, even boys, who say they were exposed to certain kinds of sexual practices when they were younger. But it can’t possibly be coincidence that in the same week, two young men in high-profile British news reports revealed that they experienced childhood rape and molestation.
In the aftermath of such events, we talk a lot about the imbalance of power between women and men in the entertainment world, and how the old rule that boys will be boys no longer holds true.
Too little is said about the imbalance of power between men and boys. Boys aren’t inherently rape victims. Although they aren’t yet men. Although they aren’t nearly as powerful or influential or mature as girls. But no one would put a 13-year-old girl in a position where a 51-year-old man is the primary authority figure who can just take their underwear. And yet, they almost always do. And no one would call that a problem.
One of the first lessons boys learn when they are children is that our parents are always right. They are always saying the right thing, always following the rules. Our boys are taught at such a young age that you need to trust your parents because no one else can. All of us boys suffer from that kind of fixation on our parents because we are so dependent on our parents. To say that that sends the wrong message to boys would be an understatement.
And it isn’t just me who brings that up. On Twitter, some parents often explain the importance of having a good father, a strong brother, a big sister, or even a big brother-in-law. We often talk about how crucial it is to have supportive male role models in our lives.
And yet what if our culture, which is as obsessed with men as it is with women, teaches men that everything our fathers say is the right thing? And what if you might have to rely on your father to teach you important life lessons?
What message are we sending our children when we project how important it is to have an impressive father on your side?
The pressure is onto boys to come up with an answer for what we tell our daughters, and that usually comes back around to “We must always act in a way that is respectful.” One prominent television actress was set up to drive a Range Rover, and apparently her answer to the male chauvinist insult “You’re just a pretty face” was, “I have a Range Rover and I don’t take no for an answer.” And she was the latest in a long line of women to publicly declare that she had always worked to make sure that her career wasn’t “damaged.”
That’s fine when it’s aimed at women. But I’m not sure I’m so sure it’s relevant when it’s aimed at boys. I think that the male ideal here is one in which men are just completely and naturally able to raise babies, woo a woman, and then stick around to raise a few more girls. That’s not the ideal man. It’s also not the ideal father. And it’s not even the ideal man who can handle being around a high-achieving woman like a director or producer. And that’s not the ideal kind of celebrity.
Men are supposed to do men’s jobs.
I’m a father, and one of the things I worry about when I’m at work is how much I care about my boys. How many times do I say, “Come on, let’s try to get the football together.” Or, “Let’s watch The Lego Movie.” Or, “We’ll start this building thing, and you’ll help me with the stairs.” And I think a lot of that is because when I was growing up, my parents said the right things, but they also said the wrong things. And I never figured that out until my son asked a question at the dinner table one night. He said to me, “Why don’t you get all the boys and make the games out of Legos?” He said it so halfheartedly, and made the point so vaguely, and I didn’t answer, but I can tell you what I said. I said, “Well, we’ll have to think about that.”