In the age of the #MeToo movement and Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, sexual assault and consent dominate the American political radar and conversations at GDS.
In addition to a day of school devoted to lessons about consent with health educator Shafia Zaloom, regularly scheduled classes spent discussing the Brett Kavanaugh controversy and whispers fluttering among students, there are a number of student-run groups at GDS focused on addressing issues of sexual assault and consent. One of these groups, Boys Leading Boys, has grown into a club with about 20-30 regular members and many plans for the future.
Boys Leading Boys (BLB) was started in 2017 by Jacob Gaba ’18. BLB was led by Gaba and Alexander Thompson ’18 through the 2017-18 school year. Gaba was inspired to start the club after attending the Sexual Assault and Consent Summit in 2016 and realizing that the summit was lacking a sizeable male presence.
“When we were brainstorming as a group after hearing speakers and going to workshops, I decided that I wanted to do something in order to bring more guys into the conversation and get more guys aware about sexual assault, consent, and bystander intervention,” Gaba said.
After an independent study with Counselor Amy Killy in the spring of 2017, Gaba worked over the summer to develop the club. BLB had its first interschool meeting in the fall of 2017 with Tahir Duckett, the founder and director of ReThink, a group dedicated to discussing healthy masculinity, consent and communication.
Both Gaba and Thompson graduated in 2018, but the club has continued on to the 2018-2019 school year with seniors Owen Killy, Jacob Greene, Allan Ebert, and Connor McCormick taking over as leaders. Owen Killy described the club as discussions “about gender roles and masculinity, consent and sexual assault, and how those all work together and intersect and how those play into our lives.”
According to Owen Killy, their current plans include setting a “cornerstone to really make educated conversations” and “trying to connect with other schools, have other chapters at other schools, and really just reach out more and have more opportunities to teach at the middle school.”
Junior Nathaniel Rosenberg, a regular member of the club, thinks BLB allows for productive conversations without the pressures of always being right. He said students at the club are “willing to say ‘I was in this situation or this hypothetical’ and then we can debate it and figure it out and better educate each other without the anxiety of being labeled as wrong,” he said.
“Part of that’s on fragile egos, part of that’s on a lack of security in being challenged, but, regardless, it’s a beneficial step,” Rosenberg added.
However, junior Rebecca Stern, an organizer for the GDS Summit on Sexual Assault and Consent, disagreed.
“I do think having a space for boys to talk about masculinity without having to be walking on eggshells is important, but I have trouble wrapping my head around boys talking about the assault of girls,” Stern said. “I understand that a boy assaulting a girl is not the only way things happen, but work with me here—in a space without girls, how are they supposed to know how girls and women feel about their actions if there aren’t any girls or women in the space to attest to those feelings?”
In addition, Rosenberg conceded, “I think you need to include a female voice in the narrative, and, not just one, a multitude of them, so guys can understand the real-world implications of what we’re talking about.” Rosenberg also pointed out, “it’s opt-in, so the people who go are probably passionate, or at least interested and engaged in the topic.”
In addition, during her time working with the Consent Summit Team, Stern has noticed a lack of diversity in terms of identity, gender and race among the participants. Although she does not identify as male and cannot attend BLB, Stern pointed out that “a lot of the time people come to club meetings, presentations, or discussions not necessarily because they are interested in the topic, but because their friends are involved in leading whatever the event is. I don’t think this is wrong; it just means that if you don’t have a diverse group of leaders, you’re not going to have a diverse group of listeners.”
However, Stern said that “just by looking at who the heads [of BLB] are, I think they are heading in the direction we need to be heading in terms of a more diverse group of leaders.”
Although Boys Leading Boys appears to have both many advantages and disadvantages, the club has sparked conversations about sexual assault, consent, and masculinity that were previously nearly devoid of a male voice at GDS. And, with the controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, current American politics have shown the importance in discussions about sexual assault and consent both across the country and within GDS.
By: Abby Murphy’20