From the Archive — From the April 2017 issue

Nice Girls

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I was a strong-willed child with a lot of aggressive impulses, which, for various reasons, I was actively discouraged from developing. My early attraction to aggressive boys and men was in part a need to see somebody act out the distorted feelings I didn’t know what to do with, whether it was destructive or not. I suspect that boys who treat girls with disrespectful aggression have failed to develop their more tender, sensitive side and futilely try to regain it by “possessing” a woman. Lists of instructions about what’s nice and what isn’t will not help people in such a muddled state.

I think men and women will always have to struggle to behave responsibly. But I think we could make the struggle less difficult by changing the way we teach responsibility and social conduct. To teach a boy that rape is “bad” is not as effective as making him see that rape is a violation of his own masculine dignity as well as a violation of the raped woman. It’s true that children don’t know big words and that teenage boys aren’t all that interested in their own dignity. But these are things that children learn more easily by example than by words, and learning by example runs deep.

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