Young men get a bad rap, not only in modern narratives, but in assumptions that portray them as the aberrant sex, rather than the normative one. Neither sex is normative, of course; humans come in two basic varieties, and both are equally necessary.
My personal experience with young men ran counter to the narrative and assumptions, and I think it’s time that the boys of the West should be defended. Most of them are good kids, and they deserve to be seen that way… to be portrayed that way.
Puberty and the surrounding years are inherently the craziest of human moments; that’s when floods of hormones hit us, spawning all sorts of instincts and drives. If you want to see humans acting as hybrid primates, look at them during this passage. But even as I passed through those confused times with my friends, I saw young men behaving fairly well.
The young men were clumsy, of course, as they tried to warm up to girls. But the girls were a little nuts too, as they encountered their own floods of hormones. We were all confused, driven, and erratic, but so it goes in human lives. Adolescents have always been that way.
All that said, I saw some abuse as we all grew up and learned how to subdue our craziness, but not a tremendous amount. And the one significant case of abuse I witnessed involved a girl trying to make a boy abuse another girl. I hardly knew what to make of that, save that I found it horrific. (There was one other nasty incident in our neighborhood, though I didn’t see it. Everyone was upset about it, and it was, thankfully, a one-off.)
Most of the young men in my world behaved fairly well. And I was by no means living in a tiny corner. My high school class consisted of more than four hundred kids, and I knew most of them. I had friends in other places as well.
Now, returning to my defense of young men, I’ll give you five stories from my adolescence of young men behaving well… things that I personally experienced.
This was the world that I knew:
- I was once at a party with my good friend John. Our host informed us that one of the girls had too much to drink and was laying half-conscious in a spare bedroom. We stood guard in front of the door for a couple of hours and felt righteous about it…justifiably, I think.
- One of my friends (a girl) once confided in me that an old man had groped her. I volunteered that John and I could beat him up, so he wouldn’t think of doing it again. (I figured that two teenagers could handle one old guy.) She thanked me and declined, but I kept my eyes open for that guy and I have no doubt that John would have joined me.
- We had a young man in our neighborhood we called Crazy Joe. (He called himself Crazy Joe too.) Joe was developmentally disabled, in today’s vocabulary, and everyone in the neighborhood looked after him. I never heard of anyone taking advantage of Joe. He was, in fact, routinely invited to parties and so on. When we saw Joe on the street, we’d see if he needed help with anything. I’m pretty sure the girls helped Joe too, but from my vantage point, it was boys… young men… reaching out, helping, and being ready to defend a “retarded” kid, as they were then called.
- George was a young man who intervened when a group of us were foolishly talking about another boy. George explained to us the background of the situation and why what we were doing was hurtful. And not only did we all stop immediately, but we thanked George for explaining things to us.
- Eric was a kid who moved into the neighborhood from somewhere else. He was an excellent athlete, and so he got some immediate respect from us… sports-crazed as we were. But Eric soon went out of his way to be kind to the boys who weren’t very good athletes. He gave advice and never ridiculed, as some of the other boys did. Decades later, I still carry respect for him, and I doubt that I’m alone.
Other people had different experiences, I have no doubt. But my experiences were real, and some jackass somewhere else doesn’t negate them.
More than that, the good things I experienced get more or less zero play on the platforms people plug into. And that’s a major slight. There are good young men in the world, and there always have been. They deserve equal time, and they don’t get it.
I think we should start talking about that. The boys deserve it.