Updated: Feb 26
Challenging our stereotypes about boys and men through her research study spanning three decades on adolescent boys, Niobe Way reveals the intense intimacy that exists among teenage boys, especially during early and middle adolescence. Boys not only share their deepest secrets and feelings with their closest male friends, but they also claim that they love them and without them they would go “wacko.” However, as boys become men, they become distrustful, lose these friendships, and feel isolated and alone. The notion that boys are emotionally illiterate and don’t want intimate friendships is false.
Deep Secrets reveals the ways in which our US culture has been telling us a false story about boys, friendships, and connection. In her interviews with black, Latino, white, and Asian American boys, Way finds that their descriptions of their male friendships sound more like “something out of Love Story than Lord of the Flies.” However, in late adolescence, there is a shift where boys feel they have to “man up” and go against their nature and submit to the demands of our culture that equates vulnerable emotions and intimate friendships with girls and gay men. "No homo" becomes their mantra. As a result, boys become independent, stoic and often isolated and more susceptible to risk factors like depression, anxiety, and suicide. Given what we know about the scientific links between friendships and health and even longevity, these findings are very alarming and in need of intervention.
Way argues that the problem is not a “boy crisis”, it is a “crisis of connection” because they live in a culture where human needs and capacities are given an age (young), a sex (female) and a sexuality (gay), and discouraged for those who are neither. Way proposes that the solution is in exposing the inaccuracies of our gender stereotypes and encouraging these critical relationships and the universal human need to develop these critical skills. We need to turn the phrase "boys will be boys" to "boys are human too."