I hear it all the time. I hear it from mothers. I hear it from fathers. It's a warning intended to keep a daughter safe that comes with a lot of shame lurking in the background.
"Boys only want one thing."
The subtext is more corrosive:
- A boy only wants you for what he can take from your body.
It is insane. It's dangerous. It's doing the opposite of protecting your daughters.
Most women I know, at some point in their lives, have been hurt by a man. However, here's a newsflash, most men I know, at some point in their lives have been devastated by a woman.
I'm not sure women are fully aware of the impact of passing down their secret, or not so secret, hatred and distrust of men to their daughters. Dads do it too. Fathers think they know what every boy is after. It is very hard to form healthy bonds with someone you've been trained not to trust, but girls form bonds with boys anyway.
Under those circumstances, by default those bonds are not healthy. We need to teach our girls to be so self-reliant and trust themselves so intensely that whether or not someone else is trustworthy is irrelevant. They need to know how to put themselves on a pedestal and stay there, not wait for someone else to put them there.
Boys/men do want more from women than sex. Sure, there are some dudes out there looking to get laid and get out. However, there are way more good guys in the world than anyone might think. Men want to be loved. They want to be cherished. They want to be challenged, and yes, they want sex.
However, women want sex too, and when you teach a girl that giving it up is wrong -- bad -- dangerous, she loses connection with her desire, and sex becomes a bargaining chip. Sex becomes a way girls learn to control boys. Sex becomes a weapon as an adult. Telling a girl she needs to make him put a ring on it, is the equivalent of telling her that her virginity should be up for sale.
It should be safe for a girl to learn to experience sex without having to be the gatekeeper, fighting someone off, until she finally relents and gives up, or "gives it up." A girl should never be taught that sex is a prize, and although a parent might not say that directly, it's pretty often implied.
Boys can and should be gatekeepers too. Boys can be taught to be and expected to be responsible. There are lots of men who respect women. However, they will only be attracted to women who respect themselves. Telling a girl the only thing a boy wants her for is sex, is not a good way to encourage her to respect herself. It is also a terrible way to teach her to respect sex, which is a big deal.
The dialog needs to change. Girls need to be taught self-respect and self-love early, and so do boys. Girls need to understand sex isn't something you give away; it's something you share and experience.
There is a lot of conversation right now about teaching boys about consent and boundaries, and that's way past due. However, there needs to be a discussion about teaching girls that sex isn't a prize to give away in exchange for something, like love and that love comes from inside first and when it does you don't feel so desperate to get it somewhere else.
It's not a war, this thing boys and girls, and men and women do. It's a dance. It's a journey. What we build together is a container in which we can see each other and more importantly ourselves more clearly. Although most of us are going to get hurt at some point in life, there are no real victims. There are only choices. That's what we should be teaching girls, and boys. It's a way more powerful lesson than, someone is out to get in your pants, and you should run to save your precious purity.