Like 23 million other people I was extremely touched when a video emerged online of a social experiment in which young Italian boys refused to slap a girl when asked to do so. As one of the boys put it: “Girls should never be hit, not even with flowers.”As heartwarming as this video is, it asks an important question: Are men born with a predisposition towards violence against women, or is it taught to them at a young age?
Granted some might argue that when the boys are asked why they won’t hit her a few of the responses are quite sexist: “Because she’s pretty”, “Because she’s a girl”. This might not be the ideal answer to give, but at least they know it’s wrong.
The boys in the video are all from Italy; if the study was replicated somewhere else such as small town USA or in less developed countries, the boys might not have been so definite in saying no, or might not have said no at all. In these places domestic violence isn’t seen as domestic violence; it’s seen as controlling your woman or exercising your power over your wife.
Carrying out the same experiment with different demographics could provide some interesting information about how domestic violence has embedded itself in our society. For example, due to their age, children are very susceptible to influence, but also do not have the skill to determine what is socially acceptable or not. That’s what makes this video so heartwarming, these boys aren’t saying no because they think it’s the right think to say, they’re saying no because they truly believe it’s wrong.
I’m sure this would not be the case if this study was replicated with older boys, or with adults. As adults we are fully aware of what is socially acceptable and what isn’t, hitting women isn’t. So regardless of whether the men think hitting women is wrong or not, they will certainly give that answer to appear as part of the acceptable norm.
The difference in attitudes towards domestic violence between High Income countries and Low Income countries is openness and education. I’m sure that if the same experiment had been recreated in High Income countries 60 or 70 years ago, those boys would not have had such a problem with hitting a girl. But times have changed. Even since 1995, there has been a greater increase in awareness of domestic abuse and what it entails.
These boys showcase what should be, and hopefully is, happening in our society. Educating children about domestic violence is, or should be, an integral part of our society. If we don’t want to see it happening anymore then we need to teach our children that it’s wrong.
During childhood our brains are still developing and this developmental stage is when we are taught some of the basic social rules which we live by for the rest of our lives: “Stealing is wrong”, “Say please and thank you”. Surely it’s not that much more of a stretch to include “Never hit the people you love”. Obviously not everybody adheres to these rules, but the more people who learn it’s wrong; the more it becomes a social irregularity.
It’s only a small step, but it’s a step that needs to be implemented by more people. The boys in the video all say no, but there’s only six of them. Maybe if more boys had been interviewed there would have been one or two that would have hit the girl. That could be prevented by teaching children that domestic violence is wrong. They are our future, and it would be a better future without domestic violence in it.