Part 2/3 (TW: rape, sexual violence) "What does it mean to give men the social space to harm? This means to create a social setting that does not penalize cis heterosexual men for harmful behavior imagined as sexual desire, when directed at women. It is in allowing straight men to do to girls – to stare, harass, catcall, follow, grab, feel – what they would kill gay men for even thinking of doing to straight men.
It is in setting expectations so low for men, that we expect them to rape in any instance where an opportunity presents itself, and responding to instances of boys’ violation of girls’ autonomy with “boys will be boys”. This phrase exists because society refuses to assign boys with integrity, self-control, respect and empathy for girls. It is a phrase that laughs off, trivializes, and accepts as normal, instances where boys violate the bodily autonomy of girls ( eg. “copping a feel”, grabbing a wrist to physically force women into men’s presence so they can talk, slapping asses, obstructing women’s pathway with their bodies so they can “holla” etc. )
Not everyone is granted this freedom.
Allowing straight men the social space to harm girls exists both in the lack of criticism, punishment, and negative reinforcement of cis straight men’s behaviour when it is directed at girls and women, and in the acceptance of this behaviour as instinctual and uncontrollable...
Cultural quips such as “boys will be boys” allow men to have the social space to be violent precisely because heterosexual male desire is constructed as naturally and inherently predatory.
Heterosexual male desire transcends many social boundaries, even if they are important ones. We live in a society where girl’s consensual sexual activity and expression is shamed, while boys’ harmful harassment, demeaning of girls, slut-shaming, and sexual assault is accepted as an inevitable manifestation of heterosexual male desire. Cis heterosexual boys are positively reinforced for having sex with many women, being antagonistic towards LGBTQ persons, and for demonstrating an ability to exercise control over women. As they grow, ideologies about being a “real man” prioritize a show of dominance..