Boys’ Schools Are Letting Down a Generation of Girls

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Etonian boys walking on campus (Image Credit: The Telegraph)

This article was written by an Etonian pupil.

“An article written by a teenage boy about rape culture?” I hear you cry. “And he goes to a boys-only, private, boarding school?” I can only apologize in advance.

Every few weeks, the whole year is summoned to a lecture hall for a presentation on respect, healthy relationships, etc.. But as we leave the hall (painfully slowly), hungry for dinner, I wonder how effective these talks are within the context they are delivered in.

It is easy for boys at schools like mine to ignore teenage sexual assault and absolve themselves from blame. The boarding school environment means that proportions of men to women in teaching and domestic positions are heavily skewed. Students’ understanding of women is thus distorted by seeing women either as domestic helpers and relatives or unrealistic media representations. Normal interactions with female peers are not facilitated by schools – girls become a mystery and uncomfortable attitudes are bred. How can these absurd perceptions be challenged? Firstly, boys should understand what misogyny is themselves, rather than being fed a curriculum by teachers, so we can understand sexual assault for what it is – a crime. Over 14,500 people have described their experience of sexual assault on the website Everyone’s Invited, which contains countless references to schools like mine, showing a worrying trend in boys in these schools.

Secondly, there needs to be more discussion among teenagers. Why is sexual assault lauded by our peers? Why is refusing to objectify women correlated with being gay? These sentiments are blindly accepted by boys today to the detriment of women. Are these outdated stereotypes worth the damage they cause to both boys and girls alike? Reinforcing the idea that girls are social equals, not sexual conquests, can be achieved through dialogue. Regular socialization with teenagers should be facilitated for all single-sex schools, in environments that don’t encourage boys to meet as many girls as possible, then leave – take note, school discos. It’s not the job of girls to educate boys, but dismantling the sexism ingrained within private school boys through friendly dialogue with girls is a good starting place. After school, I will emerge into society as an adult – schools should be just as concerned with creating respectful, well-rounded adults as they are with university admissions statistics.

The statistics are horrifying. 97% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed. Millions have been assaulted. 64% aged 13-21 experienced this at school or college. The hierarchy in top boarding schools encourages the mystification of women. Everyone’s Invited demonstrates the extent of the problem, and schools and boys alike need to act immediately. Today’s boys grew up with #MeToo – if we can’t treat girls as human beings, then what will it take?

Written by Lyndon Chen

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