People always think of the "boys will be boys" defense in the context of rape, where it certainly rears its ugly head almost invariably. But "boys will be boys" often comes up in the context of plain old physical assault involving male victims. It sometimes takes the even more grotesque twist of "this is how gentlemen resolve things."
I saw a classic example of this when I prosecuted a prominent local citizen for a misdemeanor assault. This guy (we'll call him "Big Man") was the manager of an organization that was active and beloved in the community. One day he was meeting in his office with two members of the board of his organization. The discussion became heated as the three men argued about budgeting issues. Big Man was sitting on one side of his desk and the other two men were sitting on the other side of the desk. At one point, the soon-to-be-victim said, "I don't effing care about last year's budget." Big Man then grabbed a paper weight and threw it in in the victim's general direction. Big Man then stood up, walked around to the other side of the desk, grabbed the victim around the throat and started throttling him violently. The other board member pulled Big Man away from the victim and held him back. As the victim left, Big Man was trying to struggle away from the board member and trying to grab at the victim.
The victim immediately reported the matter to the police. There was no dispute as to what occurred. Big Man himself eagerly gave a statement describing exactly what he had done, as did the board member who was present. I duly charged Big Man with misdemeanor assault. My plea offer was very lenient in consideration of the fact that this appeared to be an isolated incident -- twelve months in jail all suspended for five years on the condition that Big Man complete anger management counseling and pay a hefty fine. But oh my gosh, you'd think my even charging the guy was the most monstrous miscarriage of justice ever perpetrated in the history of civilization. I got zillions of calls from Big Man's cronies who all argued that it was ridiculous to treat Big Man's throttling of another citizen as a criminal offense.
Even the board member who witnessed the assault (and had even characterized the throttling as "violent") thought I was being too hard on Big Man. Big Man was provoked, he said. The victim was a pain in the ass, who had been a thorn in the side of the board for years. If I only knew the history of how the victim tried to argue all the time about the budget, I would understand that it was completely appropriate to throttle him. "Wait 'til you see the documents that show the whole history of the dispute," said the Big Man's Crony.
"But this isn't about whose view of the budget is correct. It's about the fact that in a civilized society, we don't throttle people who disagree with us, even if they are unreasonable and a pain in the ass," I said.
"Well," shot back Big Man's Crony. "You just don't understand because you didn't grow up having to fight in the playground."
At this point, I started contemplating violence myself. First off, who is this guy to assume I never had to fight anyone in the playground? (I refrained from sharing the story -- of which I am not proud -- of the little boy who got a bloody nose after he kicked me in the butt multiple times during a spelling bee.) More importantly, why on earth does this guy think the way little boys behave on the playground is an appropriate model for adult interactions, especially when the criminal code says otherwise?
Big Man's Crony went on: "This is typical of how overzealous prosecutors behave. Who are you to interfere? This is how two gentlemen resolve a disagreement. You're not their mother."
I have a feeling that if a black man had started throttling Big Man during a verbal altercation, Big Man and his pals would have been singing a different tune-- because then it wouldn't be a case of "gentlemen" resolving a dispute. The sexism, misandry, and classism inherent in the attitude of Big Man and his friends was staggering. (And I note that it was obvious from Big Man's written statement to the police that he felt the same way as his friends. He honestly felt completely entitled to throttle this guy!) What was also staggering was that Big Man didn't have just one crony making these arguments on his behalf, but scores of them. And his defense attorney still goes around telling everyone how unreasonable I am, not because of the sentence I recommended, but because I even brought the assault charge at all.
In the end, Big Man had to plead guilty because he had no legal defense to his actions, but we left the sentencing up to the judge. Big Man wanted some arrangement whereby the charge would be wiped off his record after 2 months of good behavior. The judge, a woman, agreed with my view of the case, particularly in light of Big Man's lack of remorse. To this day, I am sure Big Man and his pals see this case as an example of how women are ruining the justice system, since we just don't understand how "gentlemen" resolve disputes.