Saturday, September 7, 2013

Boys Are Not Animals: My Response to Mary Bowen's Article, "Exhibitionist Modern Culture Breeds Exess"

Good day Blogger world,

Below is a letter to the editor of the Chronicle Herald, in response to the article I have linked to above.  As you will find in reading my letter, this issue is of extreme importance to me.  Something tells me there will be many such letters in the Voice of the People section tomorrow.

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to an article by Mary Bowen, titled Exhibitionist Modern Culture Breeds Exess. I sincerely have a problem with the statements made in this article:
I'll start with the paragraph that struck me as the most troubling: "Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the prairies and I was a teen, there were names (which can’t be repeated here) for girls who paraded their wares and talked the talk, then wanted to bail when the car windows at the drive-in were thoroughly steamed and boys couldn’t have walked to the concession stand for the popcorn if they’d wanted to. "

So these girls talked the talk and walked the walk, flaunted their "wares" and then "bailed"? It wasn't that they were scared or confused? Did they in fact owe it to those boys deliver sex, and then renege on a transaction? I really don't think anybody "owes" anybody sex in these situations. The boys in these cases are quitee capable of ending the night, and the relationship, right then and there if they feel they are being toyed with. Intimate relations are not business transactions. Furthermore - those words Ms. Bowen made reference to? They are very much in use today. They are the reason girls like Rehtaeh Parsons are dead.

Another paragraph I found disturbing: "'No means no' is a catchy slogan, but is it really fair to spread out the goodies and then snatch them off the table at the last second when the bait is taken and the hook halfway down the fish’s throat?" Is this is a matter of offering goods, not a human relationship? I noticed Ms. Bowen felt that the young men in these situations are not "wholy to blame" for their actions, "At a time when hormones are raging". Does this mean that the boys should get slack on account of their raging hormones, but not so much the girls?

One thing we can agree on is that different things need to be taught by parents and society in general. Not just teaching girls that they are not valuless bodies meant for pleasing boys, but also teaching boys that they are not animals at the mercy of their hormones. Really, I don't think Ms. Bowen or the people who fail to teach these boys about boundaries are giving them enough credit. I think they can (and do) learn to control themselves, to the extent that they know regardless of whether their partner is a) purposefully leading them on with no regard to their feelings or b) just a scared, confused teenager, that the course of action should be the same - it's time to stop, realize what's happening, and get out of the car. But people have to be taught to have and respect boundaries. Otherwise, they'll find things out the hard way - like those girls to whom certain names were applied back in the day.

I hope I've made it clear that this issue is of grave importance to me, and many other people. I am not trying to instill hurt feelings, but just as Ms. Bowen felt the need to write this article, I feel the need to answer it. Her comment at the end of the article, "bring on the burka", points to something I have felt before: that "slut shaming" here shares roots with the abuses of women around the world, where the very fact of being a female in public can be enough to condemn a person. Please let's not go down this path.


Robyn MacKinnon