When the ‘Bois Locker Room’ news flooded the media, it raised many eyebrows and caused many hush hush whispers. Perhaps most parents were probably thinking how bad and out-of-control those other boys were, maybe even questioning their upbringing and shaking their heads at the poor parents who had to put up with the shame. Some may have felt their hearts skip a couple of beats wondering what if their own children were into similar discussions without their knowledge! Let me ask a question right away, irrespective of whether or not you are a parent.
As a parent, how would you react if your son was one of the boys in that chat group?
Consider it to be a phase of flowing hormones which would ebb away with time?
Spank him black and blue?
Cut all access to mobile phones and computers?
Blame yourself for having given birth to such a son?
Blame technology, peer group or lockdown confinement?
Ground him for some time?
Do not let him be alone at home any time from now on?
Accompany him whenever he steps out of house?
Ask him why he let you down?
Weep uncontrollably and refuse to speak to him?
Shame him before others?
Act normally as if nothing of the sort ever happened?
Talk it out?
As a parent you could respond in one of the above or a combination of the above mentioned ways as an initial reaction. If you are like most parents who want to see their children lead value-based lives, your reaction to such an incident involving your son would be soaked with disappointment with the present and deep concern and anxiety for the future.
Let us dig into such incidents a bit to see where our boys go wrong and how can such future episodes be prevented.
What drives pre-teens, teenagers and adolescents to cheap sex discussions?
(I use the term cheap here, because the nature of conversations in the Bois Locker Room chat wasn’t mere curious sex talk. It was way more than that.)
The driving factors can be sheer curiosity gone too far or pornographic addictions or a desire for that occasional dopamine kick that their now growing bodies beckon them to or simply to appear cool in a peer group. Behind these surface triggers however, lie some much deep-rooted issues – skewed gender role stereotypes, societal objectification of women and poor role models.
In a largely patriarchal country like India, most households are comfortable with the age-old division of labour between men and women, i.e., the man earns the bread and the woman cares for and nurtures the family. Except for a handful of exceptions most households religiously follow this functional pattern. No problem to this. However, what contributes to the disturbing trend is the exclusivity thereof. Involvement of a man in household chores does not make him any less of a man. Neither does participation of a woman in the competitive workforce rob her of her femininity. Women very easily slip into myriad shoes when the need arises or out of personal ambitions/ choice. But, what makes most men stick to the cut-out-roles that they perceive to be theirs? Why is it that most often a tired man returns from work only to freshen up and relax, while a woman tired from work starts right away with snacks or dinner preparations and looking after children’s homework, at times even scarcely getting time to sit on the couch and sip a cup of tea? Such skewed stereotypic gender roles create the notion that a male is expected to boss over women and that females are made for male recreation and caretaking. Our boys grow up with these skewed impressions. That brings me to my next point.
Do you enjoy the popular item songs of movies? May be some of you have even performed on a few of them in social functions or competitions. No matter how melodious the music, there is no denying to the lechery evident in them, the irony being that there is a female lisping and dancing to those songs. How many of us have taken determined decisions neither to sing nor watch lewd songs with obscene lyrics and vulgar dance moves? We don’t even hesitate to use and popularize derogatory phrases such as ‘item girls’ for the heroines performing the ‘item songs’, and we lament how on earth can our boys talk cheap of women!! When women don’t hesitate to objectify themselves, where do you think our boys would learn to hold women in esteem? I don’t buy into the argument that objectifying women is an essential part of certain characters, scenes and roles. There definitely are other successful marketing strategies! What would happen if sensual scenes are censored from our movies, daily soaps and advertisements? I am not saying that by such steps, our boys would start according women the dignity they deserve, but they would definitely be saved from an erroneous depiction of females that restricts them to being mere erogenous objects. Women are neither ‘mast cheez’ (good objects) nor ‘classy maals’ (classy products), just the way men are not too. Females do not add colour to social gatherings so that men can have free access to ogle at them. Once the societal objectification of women is largely addressed, our boys will learn to respect women for ‘who’ they are and not enjoy them for ‘what’ they are.
And this needs to start from home. How a man treats his wife will show his son how a man needs to treat women. Most boys who speak cheaply of females are those who are exposed to ill-treatment of women (mostly their mothers and grandmothers) by men. In rural India most of the Sarpanchs (village heads) are women, because they fetch more votes when contesting against male opponents. But, that’s where their role ends. After the election results are out, the baton belongs to their husbands (either by happy free choice or by coercive humiliation). What role model does this set before the boys who are witness to such societal patterns? Very few rural women raise their voices against this. Children do what they see you do, more than doing what you tell them to do. As a father you may tell your son to treat his mother with love and respect, but the day he hears you abuse her, your years of teachings are wiped off clean.
So yes, let us not blame parents alone when their children (sons in this context) go wrong. We as a society have a cumulative responsibility in what generation we are raising to leave behind. We cannot on one hand hold on to mindless practices which glorify males at the cost of the self-esteem of females, in the name of preserving traditions, and yet expect the younger generation of today to treat females with equal dignity.
Men and women turn each other on. It is a fact! That is how we are designed by the Creator. And this ‘turning on’ begins right from pre-teen years – now-a-days even much before, considering the media exposure. How we train ourselves and others to respond to the stirring of hormones within, is crucial. The jostle of hormones and neurotransmitters is normal. To suppress the natural development by oppressive disciplinary measures is to pave way for abnormality. Also, to think that the activation of such hormones before nuptial ties is premature, is foolishness. For this reason, helicopter parenting doesn’t work in this issue.
The one best way to help our boys, or for that matter even our girls have the correct gender descriptions before them is to talk it out with them and live it before them. This serves as both the preventive and punitive response to issues such as the Bois Locker Room chats. You cannot lock up hormones, but you can train yourself and your children how to deal with them. Sex education has always been and is much more now the need of the hour. Children know and discuss way more than adults think they know. When we allow our children to be exposed to all types of information, then why not start conversations on this vital topic? When we leave our children to discover sexuality on their own, we extend towards them the scope for cheap chats.
How many women suffer because of the sexual acts they are forced to perform by their husbands, boyfriends or partners! These are bedroom stories which maim many women internally for life while they continue functioning pretty much normally on the exterior. The origin of all these start from childhood. And so, while the onus lies heavily on parents, it does not lie solely on them. To be vigilant is our collective responsibility.
The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
But, what would you do if he does depart from the right way at an older age? Train him again.
Though we cannot stop certain shows from running or certain people from behaving the way they do, we can train our children to exercise discretion while we are still with them. Having done our part well, if they still choose to commit deliberate blunders, the consequences alone will be their best teachers.
The fact that God has designed males and females in such a fascinating way needs to be celebrated, not misconstrued to the peril of society. As adult men and women, we can start with ourselves by resolving not to participate in flirtatious conversations, functions, deliberate male attention-seeking behaviour, laughing at demeaning adult jokes that degrade anyone for that matter. Humans are the crown of God’s creation. Each one needs to be treated with esteem. To belittle a female is to belittle God in whose image she is created!
When our bois understand this, their locker room chats will definitely be different.