Building Better Men

This article was originally published on Huffington Post.

As a senior administrator at an all-boys’ school in suburban Philadelphia, I spend each day with 1,000 boys, many of whom, by virtue of their gender alone, occupy positions of privilege and power at least one step removed from the important issue of sexual assault. To state the obvious, while it is women who are overwhelmingly the victims of this crime, its prevention is not a women’s problem — and boys’ schools have a unique opportunity and responsibility to be part of the solution.

The challenge has been well chronicled: from our earliest days, we boys bask in marinades of hyper-masculine stereotypes. From the sandbox to the locker room to the high school dance to the conference room, we are conditioned to compete: relationships, we learn, are zero sum games to be won. Of course, where there are winners, there are also losers, but it does not pay to consider their fate too carefully. Keep your eyes on the prize. Act hard, and tough; be logical and remote, witty and distant. And then become boyfriends and husbands and fathers… of sons.

But by placing relationships at the center of everything we do, we can break the cycle. Witness the first day of school here: a senior takes a new kindergartner by the hand and walks him to opening assembly. Without thinking, the young boy crawls into his lap, and the young man responds by instinctively wrapping a pair of gangly arms around him. “It’s safe here,” the arms say. “I’ve got your back.” Or witness the last day of school, some twelve years from now, when that same kindergartner, now a grown man himself, will cry in the arms of a classmate, a teacher, or a coach.

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