On Views From The Couch comes this essay, You Didn’t Thank Me For Punching You in the Face, which questions the idea that boys tease, bother, and harass girls because they like them:
I will teach my daughter to accept nothing less than respect. Anyone who hurts her physically or emotionally doesn’t deserve her respect, friendship or love. I will teach my boys the same thing as well as the fact that hitting on girls doesn’t involve hitting girls. I can’t teach my daughter to respect herself if I am teaching her that no one else has to respect her. I can’t raise sons that respect women, if I teach them that bullying is a valid expression of affection.
There is definitely an important lesson here. Harassment is not acceptable as a way to express affection.
I think the lesson goes deeper, though. We as a society often fail to teach children (or adults) good interpersonal and relationship skills, period. It’s not just about boys using harassment as a way to express the interest or affection they feel, though that’s an especially odious manifestation of it. It’s also in the fact that we don’t seem to place a high priority on teaching people the tools for expressing any kind of emotions–especially intimacy and vulnerability–in healthy, constructive ways.
I personally would like to see a society that values open, constructive expression. Ceasing to excuse bullying behavior with “Oh, he’s only doing that because he likes you” would make a great place to start.