My son’s love language is tackling. During those moments in which he finds himself consumed by affection and/or joy (moments that are frequent) he will lovingly launch himself at the individual who is either responsible for or the specific object of his amour. Sometimes that’s ok; sometimes it’s not. For example, Mommy doesn’t always like it when little boys attack; Daddy, on the other hand, generally finds such expressions of exuberant love endearing and fun. It’s taking time and patience on the part of my wife and myself, but our son is gradually learning the concept of appropriateness in regards to his little boy behavior. And by “gradually,” I mean that he usually realizes his unintentional and good-hearted error after the fact.
Over the last few years, there have been many articles, blog posts, and social media rants shaming adults who tell girls that boys are “being mean” because they like them. “Being mean,” in these posts, is most often defined as teasing, pulling pigtails, general boyish physicality, etc. The social justice warrior class has decreed that this type of behavior is akin to molestation, and is predatory in nature. Little boys being little boys are compared to those who commit domestic violence. With words like “bully,” “abuse,” and “rape” being bandied about in conjunction with boys acting like … well … boys, I fear that being a boy is going to eventually be illegal and punishable by being sentenced to a gulag in our brave new world.
One post goes so far as to wag its finger in the direction of all masculinity and declare that “it is never appropriate to hit anyone, even if it is fun [emphasis mine].” Taking the scathing judgment of boyish masculinity far outside the range of poorly-communicated crushes and into the land of the very general, that author is connecting my son’s love of play-fighting (and my love of reciprocating his love of play-fighting) with domestic violence. One day, society is going to need good men to physically overpower bad men, but they’re going to find that all the good men have been neutered by society’s agreed upon disdain of masculinity.
The thing is, when our son demonstrates his love in a physical manner, he’s not trying to express power and domination; he’s simply being a little boy. Further, as a little boy, everything that he puts his hand on becomes a gun or a lightsaber. We didn’t teach him that; it’s innate.
Most often, his imaginative play involves him physically conquering evil. Recognizing the difference between good and evil, he feels the need to make things right. Enacting stories of good vs. evil is the positive outworking of his natural desire to wrestle and fight. And he loves and enjoys fighting. This makes it tricky to teach him how to appropriately express himself physically, but without teaching him that being a boy is shameful.
It’s one thing to recognize that little boys need to learn that it’s not ok to express affection through unwanted physicality. It’s another thing to stigmatize boys as sexual predators because they pull the pigtails of the girl that they like. Learning to channel their physical energy into appropriate avenues without squashing their identities as boys isn’t helped by social justice warriors who have taken it upon themselves to demonize being a male. When our son tackles someone he loves, it’s genuinely because he loves them. In his mind, he loves tackling, and, of course, so do they.
My wife and I are committed to raising our son in a manner that will help him become a man who expresses love through gentleness, but who also understands that defeating evil occasionally requires physical strength. At his age, he doesn’t understand the distinction; he only knows that fighting is fun. But the next phase in the war on masculinity has me worried that our son is going to be branded a sexual predator before he even learns his multiplication tables.
Declaring boys rapists because they pull girls’ pigtails isn’t helping them become men. It’s teaching them that masculinity is shameful and undesirable. If they’re not careful, when true evil threatens, the social justice warriors are going to be hard-pressed to find anyone who is able to enact righteousness and actually promote justice.