Boys will be boys – but when will they realise how damaging their behaviour is?

The awkward thing is that I get the “boys will be boys” thing. I understand it so well, because it might as well have been our school anthem at the girls’ grammar I attended as a teenager. When we joined the boys’ school down the road for sixth form, it was what the few girls in my class would giggle to one another – even in response to the boy who flashed people while the French teacher was looking away (the girl who reported him was considered a bit uptight – it was only “banter”).

It was all harmless fun – boys having a “slight” obsession with hardcore porn, so-and-so being a “bit” rapey at parties when he started kissing an unconscious girl.

But then – at some point – it becomes scary. Not so much when you’re the boy, but when you’re the girl covertly recorded on a cameraphone during sex, like one of my peers, and the video’s passed around the boys’ school. Or if, like another classmate, you’re told boys at the local grammar planned to set fire to you because you slept with more than one boy over the course of a year (passing the 11+ is clearly not the watermark of intellect). Or if, like one friend, you’re the girl who is held down and raped and, back in the classroom, you can’t face the boy in question anymore, nor your peers, nor your thoughts when you’re left alone – because you know they’ll turn to that thing which you can’t push out of your mind.

Women and girls get so frustrated because it’s all fun and games – until it’s not. We get het up because, for every 10 guys joking about rape, there’ll be one who actually goes on to rape someone. Somewhere between the locker room chat and the haze of alcohol, it all goes very wrong; if you chat all day as though girls’ bodies are just a human piñata, yours to derive the spoils from for your own pleasure, why wouldn’t you have a bash at one when you’re drunk?

Sure, trial by social media is no way to resolve this – innocent boys will have their lives ruined. But what about the girls’ lives ruined by the trauma of sexual assault?

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