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Maren Sanchez and the Gender Gaps No One Is Talking About

We have a national problem with not expecting or teaching boys to control themselves when they are quite clearly biologically capable of doing so. That's a gap no one is talking about on Sunday morning news programs.
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We know all about the Confidence Gap. So let's talk about the Self-Control and Entitlement Gaps no one seems to keen on delving into.

Maren Sanchez, who was 16, was stabbed to death by a classmate in a stairwell at her Connecticut High School on Friday. He, unnamed, is also 16. His alleged motive was that she said no to attending a prom with him.

She was, by all accounts, a happy, kind, ambitious and able girl who woke up, went to school and didn't go home because she made a boy angry. She died as much from our apathy and basic contempt for the lives of girls and women, as from the knife he used to kill her with. This contempt is expressed not only in the routine beatings and deaths of girls and women at the hands of men they know, but by our refusal to acknowledge this violence as the product of pervasive, violently maintained, gender hierarchy. These assaults happen every day and regulate the lives of all girls, women and non-gender conforming people who often face heightened violence.

There is something really jarring when the people involved are young. For example, last month, 17-year old Je'Michael Malloy confessed to killing his 15-year-old girlfriend, Danielle Locklear during a "spat." Two months ago Matthew Bolton, 15, stalked and shot Anastasia Greer, 16, who'd broken up with him. It was a murder suicide, of which there are 12 each week in the United States, 69 percent involving a male murderer. We absolve boys of responsibility at these ages, and we should, they're children still. However, I won't absolve the adults around them, the promoters of xy entitlements and the boys-will-be-boys mentality that infuses family dynamics, school interactions and the legal system. That sentiment and all it implies is a fundamental building block of the aggrieved entitlement that routinely results in tragedies like Sanchez's death. It's a given that in our increasingly polarized cultural landscape, we are going to see many more dead girls and women before the era of this particular aspect of American masculinity comes to an end.

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Oregon found that "Girls in the United States had significantly higher individual behavioral regulation than boys." Not only did they appear to have more self-control but teachers and parents expect them to, so they attribute greater self-regulation to girls. They found that this is not true in Asian societies (the study included children in South Korea, Taiwan and China). In other words, we have a national problem with not expecting or teaching boys to control themselves when they are quite clearly biologically capable of doing so. That's a gap no one is talking about on Sunday morning news programs.

In the United States, 25 percent of teenage girls report being physically assaulted. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 9.4 percent of high school students surveyed reported that they'd been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend. The one-in-five women and almost one-in-seven men who experience intimate partner violence are between the ages of 11 and 17 years of age when they have their first abusive encounter. An Avon Foundation study conducted by the No More coalition earlier this year found that one in 10 people between the ages of 14-21 have already committed an act of sexual violence, most but not nearly all of them, boys. However, 80 percent those on the receiving end of violence were girls. (18 percent were boys and five percent were transgender youth.) Here's the interesting and most important part: the likelihood that a teenager would engage in this violence was not the same across all socioeconomic groups, but the teenagers with the highest propensity to sexually assault a peer were white kids, mainly but not solely boys, from higher-income families. The ones with the highest likelihood also consumed more pornography, a medium we do nothing to educate children about and one whose mainstream products normalize dehumanization and violent male domination. But, hey, free speech and money -- it's the American way.

When a boy, maybe out of embarrassment and anger, pushes a girl like Sanchez down the stairs and stabs her to death in their school, status, power and domination aren't the first thing that comes to mind. Just sadness for everyone. In the case of teenagers in particular there is such evident tragedy in the loss of the lives of two young people and the profound scarring of those around them. But, soon after, status, power -- and the institutionalized tolerance for violent male domination -- have to be part of any constructive conversation. Otherwise we ensure the institutional tolerance that enables these crimes and reproduces a violent and misogynistic status quo.

Speaking of which, multi-billionaire tech CEO Gurbaksh Chahal, once called America's most eligible bachelor, was sentenced to three years probation for viciously battering his girlfriend and telling her at least four times as he did that he would kill her. He's 31, which is like being 15 twice with just a bit left over. A video allegedly showing him hitting and kicking her, more than 100 times, was deemed inadmissible by a judge because police seized it with no warrant. Chahal says that protests against his being professionally engaged are a "political witch hunt." Chahal will retain his board seat -- he'll keep working, go to meetings, make lots of money and keep posting feel-good memes because, well, he couldn't be expected to control himself. It does seem to me, however, that believing "Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom," really depends on whether or not you're the one doing the hitting.

The Self-Control Gap is a serious and important one. In the next 24 hours violent men will kill at least three women in the U.S. and thousands and thousands more around the world. We aren't even keeping track properly. I will never stop being outraged by these facts and disgusted by the people who chose, and it's a choice, to deny them. If we decided to close it, fewer of our girls would "find themselves" dead. Aren't you sick of hearing about girls and women being raped by predators and bludgeoned and slaughtered by angry boys and men never taught -- by families, neighbors, religions, schools -- to value them as human beings in their own right?

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