Right now a video is going viral of some little Italian boys who were asked to caress a girl and, without exception, all of them did. Then the boys were asked to slap the girl and they all refused. It’s been held up as an inspiring example of how to stop violence against women.
But before you hit ‘share’ or begin praising this video, it’s time to stop and think.
Because what the message needs to be right now is this: just because you didn’t slap a girl doesn’t mean you respected her.
Not hitting a girl, does not mean you respect her.
In fact, these boys don’t need medals. What they need is a lot more help and support from the adults around them in understanding communication, boundaries and the basics of consent.
After all, not one of these kids actually asked the girl if she was OK with being sexually caressed. They just went right ahead.
The viral video in question (post continues below).
There is actually a lot that’s wrong with this video, and I’m going to go so far as to say that this clip pretty much encapsulates all the mistakes we currently make when educating boys about violence against women.
We assume that as long as we teach boys the basic “don’t hit girls” (a line which also runs the risk of reinforcing the view that girls are inherently feeble) that we have then done our job in teaching respect.
And we assume that as long as a boy doesn’t physically assault a girl, that he will then automatically know the ins and outs of communication, respect, boundaries, physical autonomy and consent.
This clip is problematic on other levels too: the way the videographer trains the boys to objectify the girl; the way the narrator emphasises the girl’s beauty and appeal as the intrinsic basis of her value; the way the boys then explain that they wouldn’t hit her because “she’s pretty”, and so on.
One of the boys explains why he likes the girl in the video.