CW: Article contains talk of sexual assault.
‘Boys will be boys‘, they say. If you look up the official definition of the term ‘boy‘, it reads ‘a male child or youth’. That’s it. Contemporary society, however, has strayed from the parameters of this definition to cultivate an expectation for boys to behave violently, disrespectfully and suppress their emotions. This is detrimental to all genders and society as a whole.
According to 2018 Crime Survey statistics, one in five women have been sexually assaulted since the age of sixteen. One in five women have been violated, traumatised and abused. Furthermore, the women who summon the courage to speak out about their experiences are often subjected to even more abuse in the form of victim shaming or blatant disbelief.
When a woman leaves the comfort of her home, whether for a night out or a trip to the corner shop, her existence becomes a risk assessment. Has my drink been spiked? Am I being followed? Whose hand was that? Side streets and sweaty dance floors have been infected with wandering hands and watching eyes, catcalls and paranoia.
That’s not to say men are not also victims of sexual assault. In fact the Office for National Statistics stated that in the year 2016-17, 12,130 offences were reported in England and Wales, demonstrating a radical incline since 2006-7, when 3,189 were reported. It is crucial to add that according to a 2015 survey, an estimated 96% of offences against males go unreported. This illuminates the harsh truth that these statistics reveal only the tip of the iceberg and therefore men must not be excluded from this discourse.
Men (and women) are often ignored when they speak up about their abuse as they may have been physically aroused at the time. This is not a grey area. Physical arousal does not constitute for consent.
Furthermore, sex is a recreation, not a currency; it is never ‘owed’.
That said; it is undeniable that this topic plays host to an abundance of other grey areas that make legal sanctions difficult to enforce. Despite this, much more can be done in terms of preventative measures. This does not entail telling people what they should or should not wear; rapists are not picky, they are predators. This does not entail telling people how to behave, either, as nobody is ever ‘asking for it’. Instead, the narrative should be subverted to encourage an overall shift in attitude. There is a significant lack of education surrounding consent and indeed sexuality as a whole so when adolescents become sexually active, areas that should be black and white appear grey and abuse is prone to occur.
Boys must not be boys. They must be kind. They must be able to express their emotions without fear of humiliation. They must serve as an integral part of the feminist movement. In pain there is solidarity, and with solidarity comes positive change.