Let Boys be Boys;
BSA No Longer Fosters Male Bonding

boy scouts, masculinity, virtue


So God created man in his own image, in the image of God
he created him; male and female he created them: 
Genesis 1:27

The Boy Scouts of America diversification

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) decision to “diversify” by allowing girls to be members is another politically correct step in the ongoing demise of that once great organization. It reflects the mistaken notion that men and women are all the same and that there is no need for separate male or female bonding, especially for the young.

The nature of differences between the sexes, as given by God, has been clearly defined over the centuries, with cultural rituals and social structures to aid boys and girls to achieve separate and unique development. The Boy Scouts have exchanged that historical clarity for the new theory of diversity and gender neutrality.

The false notion of gender neutrality

American culture is deemphasizing male and female differences by advocating gender neutrality, a neutrality that maintains there are no real differences between the sexes. This false assumption is being applied more and more to education, especially at the elementary level.

Now It is being infused into traditional youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts.

Anyone who has raised both boys and girls, taught or coached them, will have noticed there are significant differences.  Boys are biologically predisposed to behave in certain ways that are defined as masculine. For example, boys like to wrestle and roughhouse more than girls do. When boys do roughhouse, the time-honored response by adults has been “boys will be boys”. It is a cultural expectation. It is one reason why a separate Boy Scout organization has lasted for approximately 100 years. There may be many common elements and learning experiences, but the context is different for each sex, which is important. Because of the differences in the social dynamics of boys and girls, integrating them into a Scouting environment takes away the opportunity for natural male peer bonding.

Male bonding

An interesting PBS parenting article provides some insight into masculine male bonding in youth. The essay notes that the very first discrimination that young children recognize is that between boys and girls. Starting in preschool, they begin to play and socialize separately and this lasts well into the elementary school years.

Historically, cultures have had gender specific rituals and social organizations for the young as a means to educate them in their cultural heritage and to learn their unique cultural roles. An example is the Native American tribes who had age specific youth clans separated by gender to serve as developmental experiences to teach their cultural heritage and their gender specific skills needed for tribal survival.

This bonding can endure across a man’s lifespan. For many, it starts with Cub and Boy Scouts then graduates to athletic team camaraderie, then for some, to college fraternities. For others it is one’s military unit. In the adult years, it may correspond to male service organizations such as the Knights of Columbus. Throughout it all, the camaraderie of such experiences serves to meet developmental masculine needs. The bonding situations provide for common experiences with subtle and specific rites of passage.

Male bonding, however, gets a “bad rap” these days as being sexist, too aggressive and anti-social. Yet both males and females learn about their unique and special traits and roles through same-sex bonding experiences. Many of the old cartoons and movies about boys would often have a boy’s clubhouse they built with a “No girls allowed” sign. Why weren’t girls allowed? Because then as now boys need their own space just as girls do. That “space” serves as a developmental necessity for peer bonding.


The culture through the media, movies and books provides for boys an image of masculinity that is all about traditional male sex roles such as assertiveness, self-reliance, and risk taking. It is easy to see that for boys those images can provide a major influence in a thought pattern, as described in that NPR article: “I am a boy,  therefore I want to do boy things and (hopefully) look for socially acceptable boy activities with boys.”  Traditionally, the Boy Scout organization has served that purpose.

Unfortunately, there is a growing alternative image projected by contemporary culture that, for want of a better term, is trying to “feminize” masculinity. David French of National Review magazine provides a series of articles outlining the de-emphasis and devaluation of traditional male traits within schools and other arenas. The Boy Scouts have served in the past to confront that mindset by emphasizing traditional masculine traits.

The faith connection

Catholic churches historically have been major sponsors of Boy Scout troops. Church based Scout troops offer a unique opportunity to teach a faith based ethic for masculine development.  That issue has given rise to much discussion over the last several years, as shown by the many books published on Catholic masculinity and its development. The Boy Scouts have helped to meet that need.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.:
—Proverbs 22:6

Another faith-based factor is the influence of the father. Boys want to grow up to be like their male role models.  However, the lack of male role models and male parental direction is a major cause of many problems in a boy’s development, including crime and drug abuse. The Boy Scouts have served to fill that void, especially within the context of a Catholic scout troop environment. Boys and girls will have ample opportunity to experience diversity as they get older, within education and the work place. They do not need a diversity imposed on them that denies them the male bonding experiences found in the Boy Scouts.  They need  to experience male “brotherhood” just as girls need to experience “sisterhood”.

Dismantling a cultural training organization?

The Boy Scouts started to alter its position on sex roles when it allowed, in successive decisions, gay men and transgender persons to be scoutmasters. A noticeable decline in membership followed these decisions. Thus one can conclude that one of the reasons to admit girls is to increase Boy Scout enrollment. However, any such increase in Boy Scout membership would be at the expense of that of the Girl Scouts; clearly Girl Scout administrators are not happy about this decision.

Because of this turn to secular norms by the Boy Scouts, one faith community—the Mormons—have decided not to sponsor Boy Scouts; the BSA stance on gay scoutmasters and allowing girls into the ranks obviously play a part in this.  A parallel phenomenon is occurring with the Girl Scouts: some Catholic parishes (mine being one) are no longer sponsoring Girl Scouts because of their questionable ties to Planned Parenthood.  American Heritage Girls groups are being set up in many parishes as an alternative to Girl Scouts.

The future

What will be the fallout from the current Boy Scouts decisions?  What will happen to Church based sponsorship of scout troops? Church groups are arguing whether they should continue or not to cooperate with the national Boy Scout organization. One thing is clear; boys need the opportunity to be boys in bonding settings. The scouts have been a valuable organization over the years that has helped boys develop into manhood.  Consequently, I often hear those involved in scouting say they are sad over the recent decisions. Nevertheless, there is always hope that some kind of dialogue will come about that does not compromise common sense and the beliefs of our Catholic faith. Perhaps the BSA will allow partial local autonomy in defining membership guidelines?  I pray that they do.

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1 thought on “Let Boys be Boys; <br> BSA No Longer Fosters Male Bonding”

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