Boys to Men


The last time the Boy Scouts of America made headlines was when their policy of excluding gay youths was being challenged in court by LGBT organizations. This time it’s because the national BSA has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it faces an avalanche of sexual abuse lawsuits from former scouts. The group representing the plaintiffs, Abused in Scouting, says it has 2,000 clients with claims in the $500 million to $1 billion range. It would be hard to miss the irony of these lawsuits in light of the BSA’s epic homophobia. Or perhaps there’s more to it: the dogged adherence to its exclusion policy seemed oddly anachronistic in 2010; wouldn’t it have been easier just to allow gay kids to sign up? But if we assume the BSA knew about the ticking time bomb of potential lawsuits, then reasserting the ban on gays becomes more of a legal strategy—akin to the Catholic Church digging in its anti-gay heels amid its own sexual abuse scandal. It would be tempting if depressing to conclude that sexual exploitation is unavoidable in an all-male environment of men and boys. Or it could be that its underlying cause is puritanical sex codes that create the conditions for secrecy and abuse, whereas a policy of tolerance and free speech about sexuality could still save both organizations.