The Globe and Mail ran an interesting article on a various programs that are trying to teach boys to be good men. I tend to be suspicious of programs that teach boys to be good men, because they make me wonder why we aren’t teaching kids to be good people. Being a good person has very little to do with what gender you are. However, biology or socialization might make one gender more likely than a different gender to express certain forms of crappy-ass behavior, and it’s appropriate to have programs to address this.
Several programs are discussed in the article: WiseGuyz, which is a sex education program for male teenagers; MOST, run by Men Can Stop Rape (gah worst name EVER), an anti-rape program for male teens and college students; the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Campaign, which enlists frat boys to walk in high heels to raise money for rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters; Coaching Boys into Men, which teaches athletic coaches how to take advantage of teachable moments to talk about rape and domestic violence. The goals of these programs– lessening the incidence of rape and domestic violence and STI transmission, promoting healthy relationships and masculinity– are all, of course, laudable, and the idea of doing so through education instead of shaming is a very good idea. In particular, Mr. Spencer, the teacher of WiseGuyz, seems remarkably sensible, assuming you read “the script about what sexual relationships should be has been written for young men” as meaning “society has prepared a script about how sex is supposed to work,” not “the script has been written for the benefit of young men.” As we’ve covered on NSWATM ad nauseam, the current sexual script disadvantages many men too– the low-libido, the shy, the passive.
I think the identification of the problem– frat-boy culture and artificial ideas of masculinity– is extremely important. For too long people haven’t realized that, as damaging as misogynistic ideas are to women, the mindset that makes misogynistic ideas possible is also damaging to men. It cuts them off from their humanity and from real relationships with women and with other men. Honestly, a model of sex built around mutual pleasure is much more enjoyable for everyone involved than a model of sex based around conquest. (I do wish that these programs would cover that men can be raped and in fact make up almost a quarter of rape survivors, but such is life.)
There is one element of this article that makes me facepalm– the demonization of porn. Look, I’m the first in line to say porn is sexist as all hell. So are romantic comedies. But you wouldn’t have horrified statistics about how 75% of men have seen romantic comedies by the time they’re fifteen, would you? That’s rooted in anti-sex sentiment. What we need is both unrealistic media like romantic comedies and porn, and education that tells people exactly how unrealistic they are and gives people tools to discover a healthy relationship.