The myth that boys hurt girls because they like them

Writing in pencil on lined paper with pencil shavings

Every girl has been told at some point in her life that if a boy pulls your hair, hurts you or does things to annoy you when you are growing up, it’s not because they are being mean, its because they actually like you and have no way to express their feelings.

The only thing I can say to this is BOLLOCKS.

This is one of the biggest lies we tell children and this needs to change. Violence and aggression to the opposite sex is no way to show affection.  I am not talking about adult banter and the casual teasing and flirting that goes on among peer groups who are grown up to know that words can actually hurt peoples feelings, I am talking about children and how the behaviour of teasing, aggression or violence in children should not be encouraged or dismissed by a parent or guardian.

A post on Facebook by A Mighty Girl and shared by Louise Pentland, recently brought back so many memories from my childhood and how many times I had been told the simple phrase, “He does that because he likes you, don’t worry about it. Boys will grow up soon enough and know that there are other ways to be nice to women.”

My first year in high school I was harassed and stalked by a boy in my form group.  He was from New York and his parents had moved to Edinburgh so he was an outsider. I had also moved from England to Scotland so was “the English kid” and teased for it. But this boy took it one step further, he didn’t talk to me, in fact, he would if I tried to talk to him, he would ignore me, but every day after school he would follow me home when he lived in the opposite direction.  He would walk about 20 paces behind me and throw sticks and stones – actual sticks and stones. He would stop at the end of my street and turn and walk home once I was inside the door to the flats where I lived. I would cry on my way home because of him. I told my parents, my teachers, my friends.  They all told me I was overreacting and he just liked me but was shy.  I was told that I was intimidating towards him and I should be nicer to him.  I was made to feel like it was my fault. I was made to feel that he, the person stalking me, was the victim.  That year of high school my attendance was 48% because I was too afraid to be in school and to do the 20-minute walk home.  Eventually, I confronted him, he became aggressive towards me and pushed me down the stairs in school. I ended up with a sprained ankle, he ended up suspended but did not return to the school.  Still, the teachers and my parents told me that it was because he liked me and since he was now gone, I had no need to worry about it – no harm had been done.

Fast forward a few years into high school and I am being picked on and bullied again, this time by a bunch of boys who would make obscene gestures and comments when I walked by.  I cried to my mum most nights about it, with her words of “sticks and stones” being reinforced into me all the while, just ignore them, they will get bored if they don’t get a reaction. My Dad, however, had a different approach – punch them and punch them hard, they will not bother you again if you do. I ignored them for as long as I could, then the day came where I did punch one of them, a towering lump of a hormonal teenage boy, that I punched so hard I gave him a dead arm. I was suspended for the day, my Dad on picking me up congratulated me on standing up for myself, but then the bullying continued when I went back to school with all the boys faking being scared of me.  I felt like I could not win. I skipped most of my senior years in school because of this, choosing to spend as much time as I could in the drama department or a local coffee shop and making token appearances in school when I knew I was needed.  I studied myself and though my grades were not the best, I still came out with decent grades. Thank fuck for having a near photographic memory.

My first real relationship out of high school was an abusive relationship which I stayed in for five years.  The words stuck with me that my Mum and teachers had drummed into my head since I was little. This aggression he is displaying towards me is normal, right? Every man is like this when he likes someone because that’s what I have been told growing up. If a boy likes you, he does horrible things.  The horrible things actually being abuse, battery, confinement, isolation, stalking and gaslighting. But in my head I kept telling myself, he likes you, that’s why he is doing this, just give him a chance.

The constant reinforcement of “boys will be boys” throughout my childhood, I believe, did push me into unrealistic expectances of how relationships were meant to work. I admit that it has taken a great deal of time to learn that this is not the way and now, as a parent, we should not be telling girls these myths.  Aggression, violence, bullying, and stalking is not normal behaviour and should be handled in the correct ways by parents and teachers.  It should not be dismissed as normal because this provides a pretense that if kids can get away with it when they are little, they sure as hell can get away with it when they are adults.

Joanna Schroeder writes on her blog – The Good Men Project, “You shouldn’t teach your kids that love equals abuse. Love equals kindness and respect, and it never, ever means touching someone in a way that will hurt them. When you tell your child that they were harmed because another person likes them, you’re connecting pain with love. That not only normalizes being abused, but also abusing others.” And this, more than anything, is why it’s time to put an end to saying “I bet he likes you,” Schroeder asserts. “As parents, we have the ability to change the world by putting an end to harmful old traditions… I’m not sure how the ‘dipping her pigtails in the inkwell’ trope started, but it’s time it ended.”

Now I am in my adulthood – I think back to those boys in high school and primary school.  Peter, the one who took a bite out of my arm while we were sat on the carpet listening to Jennifer Yellow Hat aged 5. Ryan and his brothers that chased us with curtain tracks on Halloween night aged 9 when we were trick or treating and left whip marks around the back of my legs.  My New York stalker, what happened to him? To the French class dickhead I gave a dead arm to – does he realise what effect that had on me later on in life? Are these men now fully functioning adults with no issues? Do they have sons and daughters that they give the same advice to or are they aware that, actually they have the ability now to give the right advice to this generation of kids and show that love means love and violence and bullying, no matter in what form it takes is wrong and should not be tolerated.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Were you told the same about boys when you were growing up, does the older generation of grandparents still impart this wisdom onto children today? I would love to know. Please leave your comments below or on my facebook page.

Love, hugs and kind words

V x

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