The Vagenda

The Penis Perspective: Boys Will Be Boys

Men can’t help themselves. That’s the message that’s been drummed into us since Adam fancied a tarte tatin and needed someone else to take the blame (probably.) Perhaps you’ve heard that ‘boys will be boys’, or even that your catcaller was ‘thinking with his other head’. As a man, though, I find this a particularly disturbing categorisation of my gender. Because while I stand at the mercy of my own John Thomas, it seems to follow that if something goes sexually awry, I can easily absolve myself of any responsibility.
What’s most shocking about all this is how little has changed. Ever since a cabal of men with beards once got together in a cave somewhere and wrote down their universal ‘brethren before ho’s’ caveat for male misdeeds, women are damned if they do, damned if they don’t (and double-damned if they change their mind.) When even the affable voice of Crimewatch comes forward to equate a woman’s body with a mobile phone left on the backseat of a car, it’s clear that we’ve still a long way to go. 
And the double standard runs very deep. Put men in a situation where they might be taken advantage of, and a very different story emerges. Just this month, the UK’s most successful web export, the Daily Mail (more’s the pity) ran a story about drunken English stag parties in Riga. 
Soliciting barely an eye-roll from the journalist who wrote the piece, one British partygoer explains that he and his mates had rented an apartment and “captured” a pretty, blonde Russian girl. The boys had tied her to one of their beds for the night and then “let her go” in the morning. According to 29 year-old Matthew, who as a trainee lawyer really ought to know better, the girl was “quite happy” to play along. “We did not do anything to her. It was just fun,” his friend helpfully explained.  And it doesn’t even seem like the lass had the good grace to thank them before taking her leave in the morning.
The Mail’s article about rowdy revelry in Riga shows an almost maternal concern for the wellbeing of our boys abroad. “The stag hunters: Hordes of British men are flocking to Latvia for cut-price parties. But they are easy prey for mafia beauties who seduce them, spike their drinks and empty their bank accounts”, screams the headline, thus pretty much summing up everything that’s wrong with the mass media’s understanding of gender politics, not to mention its unwillingness to edit unwieldy text. These poor innocent lads are just out to have a good time, take in a few strip shows and hold the occasional captive against her will (they are “lured” to Riga by the twin pillars of laddism that no modern man should be expected to eschew: cheap booze and cheap strippers.) There’s a genuine concern here that they’re going to be exploited by canny Latvian beauties. Haven’t those wily minxes even heard of the men’s rights movement?
This story reminded me of an awkward exchange I’d had in a pub a few years ago, when catching up with an old schoolmate. “It’s fucking terrible up here…” Scott lamented. “Honest. A mate of mine went out clubbing last week, left the missus at home. He cops off with some bird and goes outside with her, only to find her brother’s waiting for him. He gets the shit kicked out of him, and his wallet nicked. ‘Course, he can’t tell anyone can he, or the missus’d find out. So it doesn’t get reported, and they get away with it. Fucking Lithuanians.”
Now, I’ve always been the suspicious sort. So when Scott began spinning this yarn about the blight of predatory Eastern Europeans in my hometown, I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely convinced. In essence, it was little more than a contemporary reworking of those old urban legends about serial killers hiding in the backseat of the car, just gussied up with some reactionary anti-immigration rhetoric. Long story short, I called bullshit, and we let the matter drop.
It didn’t take a genius to spot a lazily racist conspiracy theory, albeit one which cleverly turned its own unsubstantiated nature to its own advantage in the retelling. But in retrospect, what should have worried me more about my former classmate’s cautionary tale was how easily he’d cast the apocryphal man as the blameless victim of a sexually alluring succubus. This poor dope was clearly at the mercy of a wicked enchantress, who wanted to coax him into an alleyway, only to leave him battered, robbed and, worst of all, with his nuts still full.
This ‘benefit of the doubt’ culture for the dudes might be seen as merely misplaced optimism, but for the fact that it doesn’t extend to their female counterparts. On a depressingly regular basis, women are warned not to dress provocatively, flirt, drink to excess, use minicabs, post information on social media, walk home alone or answer the door at night, for fear of “inviting” attack from a potential rapist. Apologists for this point of view can’t seem to understand why the incessant need to ascribe the victim with responsibility for their own safety and security is so offensive. Maybe someone ought to point out that their perspective is as fatuous as those gun advocates who believe that the best way to eradicate school shootings is to give the kids Kevlar backpacks and arm the librarians.
And as for those poor lads who are finding themselves preyed upon by Latvian temptresses in overpriced strip clubs, I feel for them; I really do. But maybe, y’know, they just need to learn to say ‘no’. It’s a powerful word – providing the other person listens.  

5 thoughts on “The Penis Perspective: Boys Will Be Boys

  1. It’s not about “inviting” an attack from a potential rapist thought, is it? The kinds of men who would attack or violate a woman’s personal space don’t care about whether they’ve been ‘invited’ or not, rather than an invitation they probably see it instead as an opportunity or an easy target.

    Also vis a vis the double standards, does the ‘benefit of the doubt’ culture not extend to the police? There are all sorts of charges that will get men locked up for years which women get off from with a slap on the wrist. Furthermore there are plenty of instances where women have made malicious accusations, especially around rape, where men are immediately locked up and humiliated (DNA swabs, full body searches etc) even when subsequently proven to be innocent.

    I’m not a misogynist but equally I am not for the kinds of extremely politicised (read Left wing) feminism that passes for feminism in this country.

    On a tangent though there would be virtually zero risk of rape if women had the right to concealed carry permits, but I do not see the feminists pursuing this. Also other forms of egalitarian self-defence such as pepper spray and tasers are also illegal now. So what is a woman supposed to do to protect herself? Be prepared to read The Vagina Monologues to her attacker? Only go out with male company for personal protection?

  2. I’m not sure what Turnip’s point is either….typical response to a feminist issue of ‘well men suffer too’….At no point in this post was it suggested that all rape accusations are true. YES, unfortunately there are some women who make fake accusations and that’s certainly an issue, but it’s not the issue being discussed.

    The issue is that when it comes to sexual harassment and rape, the focus is always put on the victim rather than the attacker, which creates an implication that the victim is partly to blame. We’re told not to get drunk and not to wear short skirts, therefore if you are drunk or in a short skirt and you get attacked – isn’t it your fault? Apparently so (according to Joanna Lumley, anyway)

    Instead of constantly telling women what to wear, how much to drink and how to behave, why don’t we focus on teaching teenage boys how to respect women? Women are constantly presented as sexual objects to teenage boys, from Rhinanna gyrating in no clothes in her’innocent’ pop videos to porn, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is having an effect on how they think it’s appropriate to treat women. We need to address this issue in our education system and make sure boys know it’s not ok to treat women like an object. This whole ‘boys will boys’ attitude doesn’t help at all, it further supports the notion that it’s ok to grab a girls bum on a night out, it’s ok to be a bit forceful if you’re a bit pissed, and apparently it’s ok to tie up a girl for the night for ‘a bit of fun’!!