Beyond the Supreme Court Hearings: There’s An Important “Third Thing” Here

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The hearings for Supreme Court justice have offered more “third things” than I can count. (In case you missed my explanation of how to use a “third thing” for conversations with your teen, look for my blog entitled, “A Third Thing for Your Dinner Conversation” from 2015.) This past couple of weeks parents with whom I work have called attention to SOOOO many topics brought forward by the testimonies a few of which are:

  • How behavior as a teen can come back to haunt one’s adult life
  • How alcohol can blur judgement
  • What constitutes “consent”
  • Whether or not what one does as a minor should be taken into account as an adult

A recent article in The New York Times, “We Can’t Just Let Boys Be Boys” (Sunday Review, Sept 30, 2018) offered so much for parents of teens to think about. Still, it is a response by Deborah Roffman in the “Opinion” section of the NYT, October 10, 2018 which I would like to duplicate here in its entirety. Roffman has been a leader in sexuality education for decades; her response is one which resonates:

TO THE EDITOR:

Re “We Can’t Just Let Boys Be Boys” (Sunday Review, Sept 30, 20188): Peggy Orenstein is right. Too many parents_ and schools_ abdicate responsibility for talking with boys about sexual ethics and emotional intimacy, in effect turning them over to the default options of peers, older boys and siblings, misogynistic locker room banter and digital street corners.

The “boys will be boys” stereotype certainly gives license for boys to disrespect, devalue and mistreat girls, but deeper analysis of it also reveals the fundamentally demeaning ways in which we think about boys.

I often ask adults and students what words come to mind when they hear this phrase. The characteristics they list are overwhelmingly negative.

Teaching boys to “respect girls” as an antidote to mistreating them actually misses the point. First, we must own the harm we do all boys by setting the bar for their characters and behavior so low, as if they don’t have what it takes to behave well and be held accountable. Only when we begin to treat boys with the kind of respect they deserve will they develop the self-respect they need to raise the bar for themselves. And people who respect themselves are much less likely to mistreat others.

DEBORAH M. ROFFMAN, Baltimore – The writer is a human sexuality education teacher and the author of “Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ ‘Go-To’ Person About Sex.”

I encourage you to be in conversation with your sons and with other thoughtful adults on this important topic. As ever, I look forward to your comments.