All parents worry about failing their child. But a disturbing number of parents with access to opinion pages are worrying that their children, specifically their sons, will grow up to be awful human beings. Namely, they’ll obviously sexually harass women. Intentionally or unintentionally, it doesn’t matter; what matters is these people are sure their sons will grow up to be perverts. And they feel a desperate need (driven, no doubt, by the 15 minutes of fame they can garner off of the #MeToo hashtag) to share their fears with the entire world. (Alexa, can you say “Wayback Machine” and “personal humiliation”?)
Writing at The New York Times, college professor and parenting author (that’s right, the guy wrote a book on fatherhood – not the book, thank God) David McGlynn expresses the dread of many a contemporary liberal American:
The thought of either of my two sons harassing or assaulting another person, or being victims themselves, is enough to keep me up at night. Any parent is likely to share my worry.
Actually, as the parent of two sons, I’m pretty sure most parents worry that their kids will keep them up at night. You know, goofing off in their room past bedtime; needing to pee; stressing out over finals. Not, necessarily, contemplating how they’ll target and sexually harass women five, ten, or twenty years down the road. But, okay McGlynn, whatever floats your strange boat.
He cites experts who claim that the majority of girls leaving middle school have been sexually harassed. His sons, both middle-school age, are therefore prime suspects of perversion. As I can recall, middle school was an age of gross awkwardness where sex was concerned. While every class had its share of gross boys and girls, it could easily be argued that the fault lay squarely on the shoulders of an administration far too anxious to see 11-year-olds apply condoms to bananas. I can only imagine that in the #MeToo era, one goofball boy so much as giggling over a condom while making eye contact with a girl across the aisle is grounds for sexual harassment. If so, God help the kid whose parents actually let him watch Animal House.
McGlynn takes political correctness one step further, citing yet another expert who says we need to stop teaching boys to be “chivalrous”:
…the idea that women should be cherished and put on pedestals fosters what’s known as benevolent sexism, which subtly demeans women as fragile and less competent. It reinforces a sexual script in which a man takes charge while a woman remains passive.
That’s right: Stop teaching boys that women are to be valued and cherished to the point that you’d want to do things for them. That’s rude.
Speaking of quality films I’d recommend to McGlynn’s crowd, at this point I’d like to quote from the excellent ’90s cult flick P.C.U. Specifically, the moment when a womynist observes a frat boy who brings her a beer at a party: “It’s like, if you’re nice to them, they bring you things.” This act of subjugation was as much of a turn-on then as it is now. And it was sure as hell a lot more innocent than a boy who feels free to verbally harass women because they are supposedly just as competent as he is to take a locker room barb.
McGlynn’s thought-filled analysis is filled with the same old arguments: End gender norms, de-masculinize boys, “male entitlement” somehow equating to a half-naked Megan Fox in Transformers (didn’t Lena Dunham make a career out of arguing that female nudity on screen is feminist?), blah, blah, blah. His punctuation point is the same cop-out overtly politicized parents have taken for generations: My kids don’t want to talk to me about sex. Jeez, maybe because you can’t shut up about it? In public? Hey, my dad thinks I’m already a serial rapist in the making. Don’t believe me? Check out The New York Times.
Eventually he concludes that children generally do adopt their parents’ values, even if it isn’t until they’ve reached adulthood themselves. (He cited research. I’ll just cite Proverbs and tell you he’s right.) Which leads one to wonder if the real problem isn’t so much the worry that boys will sexually harass girls as it is that those boys will grow up to suspect themselves and their own sons of being subconscious perverts. Now that’s some scary stuff, indeed.