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“Boys Will Be Boys”: The Connection Between a Sex League Scandal and a Domestic Violence Murder

June 13, 2010

Last month I wrote about a domestic violence murder that became national news in the U.S., the death of University of Virginia student Yeardley Love at the hands of her former boyfriend and fellow student George Huguely. Now the private preparatory school Huguely attended, Landon School, is in the news because of an incident that happened there last summer. Maureen Dowd broke the story nationally in a New York Times op-ed on June 8. A group of students created what’s been dubbed a “sex league” game, wherein they divided unknowing girls from neighboring schools into teams named “The Southside Slampigs” and the “Crackwhores,” evaluated the girls’ measurements and attractiveness, and planned a series of parties where they would earn points through sexual encounters with the girls. According to the Washington Post, the “game” was shut down before the first party was held when a parent discovered the boys’ roster and descriptions of the girls posted online. Three freshman boys received in-school suspensions as punishment.

This “game” was demeaning and a brazen violation of the girls’ trust, and it is unfortunately not really all that unusual or surprising. It does provide an excellent opportunity to talk about boys’ and girls’ sexuality—and for me one of the most infuriating things about this whole story is the elements of public discussion that completely miss the point. To be specific, I was dismayed to hear this commentary from Chris Core (audio at the link) about the incident on the Washington, D.C. news radio station WTOP.

Here’s the transcript, interspersed with my initial reactions:

Boys will be boys. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that they have sex on the brain at 15 or so, that’s about all that’s on their brain, that and driving. I know, I was a 15 year-old boy once, and although my buddies and I never organized a sex league, we certainly spent way too much time fantasizing.

Oh great, I thought. A man dismissing this incident because boys’ sexuality is uncontrollable….

Of course, this ‘boys will be boys’ attitude changes quite a bit when you have a daughter.

YES! Here comes the poignant analysis from an enlightened father!

I have a daughter, and as Bill Cosby famously said, “When you have a daughter, the hunter becomes the hunted.” My daughter and I are together traveling in the Midwest. I plan to show her the story on WTOP.com tonight and have a little chat over dinner. One thing that I’ve already taught her, when she’s puzzled by male behavior, is for her to remember that all boys are knuckleheads. They can’t help it, they’re just wired that way. She seems to find that piece of advice helpful.

WTF.

Boys will be boys, but, the more girls know exactly what that means, is a Core value.

So you believe boys just can’t help it? How exactly does this demonstrate a change in your ‘boys will be boys’ attitude? And how is that bit of advice helpful? If all boys are knuckleheads, how are girls supposed to deal with them?

Coincidently, I heard this bit of radio wisdom while driving with my father. “THAT is exactly the problem,” I exclaimed at the radio in exasperation. “Yeah…that does seem to put all responsibility on girls to protect themselves, doesn’t it?” he replied thoughtfully. Yes. Exactly. Thank you, Dad.

Of course, to most of America, the attitude demonstrated in that radio segment is standard thought. It would be easy to dismiss this “sex league” incident in particular as a crazy, silly scheme cooked up by a bunch of hormone-addled boys with too much time on their hands. And to be fair, Chris Core’s heart seems to be in the right place—it’s great that he’s discussing this incident with his daughter, and by deprecating his own gender as “knuckleheads” he’s at least acknowledging the boys’ bad behavior, though by saying “they’re just wired that way” he’s also ignoring their agency in the matter and ( unintentionally?) absolving them of guilt.

However. As Core says, there is a line between fantasizing and organizing a sex league. There is also a line between using girls for sex and social standing as these boys planned to and, say, assaulting a girl because you feel entitled to sex, or murdering a woman because you’re angry and you feel ownership over her.

Which brings me back to the case of George Huguely. Whether or not it’s coincidence that both the sex league boys and Huguely were students of Landon, these two incidents are certainly the result of the same cultural attitude about masculinity and sexuality.

One of the poignant statements that has stuck with me from last week’s Women Deliver conference is actress Ashley Judd’s description of “the continuum of male violence, from thoughts to actions.” The sex league plan and Huguely’s attack on his ex-girlfriend fall on this continuum. The sex league boys didn’t plan violence against the “drafted” girls, but their view of the girls’ sexuality as a commodity to be collected is a stepping stone to believing that it’s acceptable to take and control girls’ sexuality by force. And when someone thinks it’s acceptable to control others by force, the consequences can be deadly.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that “boys will be boys.” There are plenty of boys and men in the world who are respectful to women, and it’s an insult to generalize all men as predators in order to excuse the behavior of some. The more accurate and productive way to talk about the sex league incident is it to acknowledge that some boys chose to treat women disrespectfully, and when they do, they should be held responsible for it.

5 Comments
  1. June 13, 2010 5:27 pm

    Your last paragraph is quite powerful. I think it is very important not to throw all the men and boys of the world into one, generalized, hapless, hormone-charged lot (!), and say “boys will be boys” just to excuse the behavior of some.

    I couldn’t agree with you more: it IS an insult to men. That sort of thinking only seems to perpetuate unhealthy stereotypes among both boys and girls, men and women. It ignores the fact that there are indeed in this world men who choose to trust and respect their partners, and men who also choose to be activists in raising awareness of violence against women. A flippant response–a cliche, about the unsavory antics of boys, is ignoring the very real danger of violence against women. And as you write, unproductive.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  2. Anagha Sarpotdar permalink
    June 14, 2010 1:53 am

    I agree with the thoughts expressed in the post……

  3. June 18, 2010 4:17 pm

    The worst of it is the acceptance of the insulting and degrading language, treatment, attitude toward girls, as if sexual self-discovery for boys necessarily intertwines with contempt for females.

    This is a cultural bind that is invisible to the well-meaning father, who is harming his daughter even as he attempts to protect her, by perpetuating the oppressive terms already in place.

    The idea that women are hunted and men the hunters: hunters kill their prey. In such cases as this, it is soul-killing, or at least injury. For such boys, girls are not human, only things to be accumulated, cast off, and despised.

    This is not how sexuality has to be. It is an artifact of diseased culture.

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