To Raise a Boy: Classrooms, Locker Rooms, Bedrooms, and the Hidden Struggles of American Boyhood

Atria. Mar. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9781982128081. $28. SOC SCI
Inspired by #MeToo, her work with Christine Blasey Ford, and her own infant son, journalist Brown investigates sexual violence and its connection to the myriad ways that boys are boxed into a damaging set of expectations, assumptions, and stereotypes regarding masculinity and behavior. In this outstanding work, she uncovers the profound harm caused by sexual violence against boys and men, and its invisibility relative to the plight of women. While Brown’s research centers on schools, where social skills are forged and sex education efforts have dwindled, she also considers home and community life and touches on childhood trauma, race, implicit bias, and LGBTQ+ issues. Constrained by restrictive gender norms and by the need for peer approval, boys often engage in homophobic teasing toward other boys and sexually aggressive behavior toward girls. In response, adults often say, “Boys will be boys”; but in the best cases, some proactively create environments and opportunities for boys to consider the impact of their behavior and open up to trusted people.
VERDICT Brown’s reporting on a variety of such initiatives tempers the gut-punch of stories documenting the ubiquity and ugliness of sexual harassment and the harm of sexual violence to people of all genders. A groundbreaking exploration with clear recommendations on how to better raise and support boys.
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