Boys Power Over Girls
      by Ashley Grisso  



In our culture men and teenage boys are deciding for girls if they are women. Many experts believe that an adolescent girl's doubt and depression appears in tandem with the growing realization that women have little power other than to be adored, submissive appendages to men (Wolf, 1987). When power is borrowed from learning to please a man, girls often start to lose track of their own interests and talents. The desire to be popular and the energy invested in attracting boys or men often far outweigh other expressions of creativity. It can develop into an almost single-minded myopia. Many girls "lose themselves" entirely in their struggle to achieve an unrealizable sexual allure. Anorexia, bulimia and self-mutilation are serious and sometimes fatal afflictions caused in part by this fixation on fitting our culture's definition of beauty and becoming an object of men's desire.

As long as adolescent girls feel unhappy with their looks and specifically, their bodies, it is unlikely that they can achieve sexual agency that will provide them satisfying lives in contemporary society. Girls who do not feel good about themselves need the attention and affirmation of others, and that need, unfortunately, almost always empowers adolescent and adult males (Brumberg 1997).

This abdication of power goes so far because as a society and as reinforced through the media, we elevate the loss of virginity while stereotyping the state of being a virgin. We are basically telling girls that what boys do with them is more significant to their maturing than what they themselves choose to do. This further solidifies the pervasiveness of boys' power and control. Boys' sexual agency can be negatively manifested through perpetrating unwanted sexual advances or outright harassment.

As reported in the Atlantic Monthly (Summers, 2000), the American Association of University's Women's report, Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America (1991) has come under attack. Summers suggests that boys are less engaged in school and are more often overlooked than girls are. Boys are considered by teachers to be more difficult and are considered less compliant. This attitude from teachers promotes a crisis of confidence for some boys. Despite girls' reduced self-confidence, recent statistics indicate that they often perform better in school than boys. While recognizing that boys face different and difficult academic challenges from girls, it is unwise to lose sight of the pre-occupation many girls have regarding their sense of self in relation to their place in our patriarchal system. In short, girls feel pressured to lose some of their agency in order to be attractive "objects" to boys.

Girls' academic achievement, coupled with the widely accepted notion of girls' emotional maturity, can serve as a threat to boys. Power struggles lead to difficulties for both genders. The incidence of sexual harassment that begins when some students are in middle school might be a reaction to boys' perceived self-reflexive deficit and their need to assert power as both society and mass media often deem to be appropriate. When boys interpret media messages as reinforcements to objectify women, this compounds the problem. Middle-school-aged boys' lack of maturity and judgement, coupled with a heavy exposure to sexually exploitative media images, might conspire to motivate some boys to harass girls. The need many girls possess to be admired and desired confuses some into accepting boys' torment because they perceive it as acceptable attention and affirmation of their sexual desirability. There is a lack of clarity and understanding among some girls this age between flirting and harassment, consensual sex and rape (, 2000). This confusion is reinforced specifically in media and music videos.