Why do guys like to hurt girls

Dr. Hanna Permien

Of exuberant feelings and girls' dreams

On their journey through time through puberty, girls have many new experiences: with their own bodies, their friends, their parents and, last but not least, with love and sexuality.

Gender roles and gender realities -
are there still worlds between girls and boys?

The girls today like to think of themselves as equal and do not want to be "emanciers" under any circumstances. But gender inequality - and with it structural disadvantages for girls and women - persists and continues to have an effect - through the Principles of polarization of the sexes, i.e. the emphasis and promotion of gender differences from an early age, the gender-typical division of labor and the power imbalance between the sexes (cf. Hagemann-White 1984; summarized Permien 1997). These principles are conveyed to the children in the family, kindergarten, school, after-school care center and of course also by the media almost continuously and without gaps. For example, children experience the division of labor simply because the upbringing of children is still a "woman's business" and children up to the age of 10 hardly ever have an educator or teacher. However, these inequalities are so natural that they are only noticeable if you look closely: For example, the educators interviewed in a study were predominantly of the opinion that girls are now equal and that girls and boys are treated equally by them. However, this corresponded neither to our observations nor to the perceptions of the after-school children surveyed: girls and boys had long since learned the lesson that girls have to be beautiful and boys strong, that boys are taken more seriously than girls, that girls are physically inferior to boys and participate in conflicts they often lose out (Permien / Frank 1995).
The aforementioned developmental tasks of puberty also differ in terms of what they actually contain for girls and boys - even if only at second glance. In the following, I will focus on the girls.
Gender inequality may be different in the families of origin of girls and boys - but it is still the social norm from which the individual families deviate more or less. "The parents" are also not a gender-neutral double pack: the father or stepfather, usually little present, but perhaps all the more important for this reason, is often referred to as "the first man" in the girl's life. He can recognize and promote her as a whole person or only confirm her femininity, but he can also restrict, disregard, abuse and abuse her. The girl also experiences how the relationships and power relations between her parents are shaped and whether the mother behaves towards her as loving and supportive or as weak, disinterested or lacking in solidarity. Without the girl being able to exert a great deal of influence on these family relationships at first, she is very strongly influenced by this in her image of herself and her role as a girl and future woman, but also in her image of the relationships and power relations between men and women .

Puberty as the phase in which girls have to deal even more intensely than before with the female role, which, in addition to their promises, is also linked to a multitude of ambivalences, devaluations and restrictions.

The heroine's journey through puberty: a journey with obstacles

Barthelmes and Sander (1997) compare the departure from childhood to puberty and growing up with a "journey of the hero" or "the heroine", who - like the heroes and heroines of old sagas and fairy tales - have to pass adventures and trials until they do are finally at the self-imposed goal. If we take up this picture, it becomes clear that the heroism of the girls is shown less through victorious battles with spectacular monsters, but rather through the fact that they have to skilfully navigate through a jungle of contradictions and traps for their self-esteem when they become self-confident Want to become a woman.
Renate Luca, for example, states that the physical changes during puberty for girls "rather - unlike boys - form the basis for various injuries and impairments of the ego than they contribute to strengthening the newly acquired womanhood" (Luca 1993: 46) . The author makes this claim based on two points: on the one hand, menstruation, which irrevocably symbolizes belonging to the female gender. Experienced and treated as a taboo and restriction, in our culture it does not enjoy any social appreciation as a pleasant sign of femininity. For the girls at the beginning of their journey, there is hardly any pride or joy in becoming a woman. So for many girls it starts badly at first - a "confusion of identity", says Luca, "which is a massive opposition to answering the central question in adolescence: Who am I in my changed body?" (Op. Cit. P. 47). Renate Luca sees another "confusion of identity" in the fact that the girls' developing "sexual selves" - their relationship to their bodies and their own sexual desires and feelings - are still too little seen and emphasized and thus an overall positive ego identity too little funding is given. Instead, girls in puberty have to constantly grapple with the external view of their bodies (Luca 1993; Barthelmes / Sander 1997). These often critical, often intrusive looks from outside - as well as unsolicited, perhaps appreciative, perhaps scathing comments - become central to whether a girl can accept her sexual identity or not.
Of course, many girls are proud of their new forms, proud to be considered attractive and - perhaps - to have a figure that corresponds to the ideal images of this society for female beauty. Of course, they also like to rush into the fashion stores that specialize in customers between 12 and 20. When it comes to applying makeup and body-hugging, daring outfits, the girls also show less inhibitions than their mothers and grandmothers. Of course, they also enjoy the new attention, they test who they will be well received by and whether they will be mistaken for 16 at around 13. They also play with the power that grows for them from their attractiveness to others (Breidenstein / Kelle 1998). But this "I like - therefore I am" (Olivier 1987) also has its catches.

Self worth

The focus is not on the "use value" of your body for yourself (e.g. its strength, health and mobility), but on its "exchange value", its attractiveness for others. This often makes the girls' whole self-esteem dependent on the assessment of others: "I'm only beautiful when others think I'm beautiful". Even in sport, which many girls do as a hobby, grace is sought (in gymnastics and dance) and competition is avoided. When girls play soccer, that is the exception (Sygusch 1999) and not the rule. But where attractiveness becomes so important that it dwarfs all other qualities, some girls have no chances - or at least see none for themselves.


For many girls, fashion is a fun game, a hobby. But a willingness to please turns into a compulsory favor all too easily - and that with ruthless standard norms for female beauty that only busty anorexics can actually fulfill. These norms mean, for example, that every second girl between the ages of 13 and 14 thinks she is too fat (Brigitte 17/2000). These other supposed physical defects - the legs that are too short, the breasts that are too small - can become so central for girls that they hardly dare to leave the house. Understandable if girls take the following quote from the magazine "Mädchen" seriously: "Too fat? Then do a little sport. If you love yourself and your body, others will love you too!" (20/2000, p. 31) . But if neither the love for one's own body as it is nor losing weight succeeds, then the female body remains an unloved collection of "problem areas": These must then be concealed as well as possible according to the instructions of BravoGirl etc. The only question here is: for the benefit of girls or the media and beauty industry? The female body, defined as a show object, can - so the conviction of many girls, in which they are strongly encouraged by the media - be put on display only after they have "prepared" and "dressed up" it. 13-year-old Marleen told us: "Some girls my age still walk around like children - but I would never go to school or the street with no make-up or branded clothes." For many girls, it is not simply "I am me", but rather "I am only me when I put on my make-up and style" - they practically lead a facade existence. Because, according to 15-year-old Julia: "Most girls don't take BravoGirl and things really seriously - but a little sticks." But it is doubtful whether the many hours in front of the mirror really help to find and reassure yourself. This is not only because many girls - whether it suits them or not - copy what is currently fashionable down to the smallest detail: until they finally walk around in uniform. Also the growing number of eating disorders (which of course cannot be attributed to the beauty dictation alone) or the fact that 30% of 10-year-olds and over 60% of girls over 15 years of age have experience with diets (Brigitte 17/2000), does not suggest self-discovery, but rather self-depreciation and even self-destruction in a not inconsiderable proportion of girls. This also applies to smoking: at the age of 15, more girls smoke than boys - 63% of girls and 57% of boys (Hackauf / Winzen 1999). Many girls cite the main reason for wanting to reduce their weight (Youth Welfare Report 3/2000, p. 25).


It should also be remembered that after puberty, many girls are exposed not only to comments about their appearance, but also to sexual innuendo and harassment, including sexual violence - from boys at school, from strangers on the street, but also from people from their acquaintances or even closest family members. Instead of strengthening their physical and sexual self-determination, girls often experience the (over) power of men in such a way that they are degraded to and reduced to sexual objects. For girls who have experienced sexual violence, not only is dealing with their increasingly feminine bodies particularly difficult and painful, they also often suffer from further severe psychological damage (Heiliger 2000).
For fear of sexual assault by strangers, girls are much less able to expand their range of motion in public space than boys (Deutsches Jugendinstitut 1992). They are therefore more restricted than boys in their development towards independence and autonomy and learn to see themselves (also) as potential victims. Renate Luca (1993), for example, shows that girls - especially if they have experienced violence from men in their family and environment - identify much more strongly with the victims and their powerlessness when watching violence and horror films than the boys for them mostly the perpetrators are the heroes and idols. Horror films - material for the impotence fantasies of girls and for omnipotence fantasies of boys?
"Watch out, men only want one thing" - a hint that mothers are sure to give more discreetly today, but which has certainly not completely lost its validity. On the one hand, girls no longer have to and should no longer be "so prudish". On the other hand, they still have to be careful not to be called a "slut". The girls should thus achieve a "balance between morality and sensuality" (Trauernicht 1992), for which, in turn, it is not themselves but others who set standards. So girls - although they are certainly allowed to do more than their mothers - are still subject to stricter rules than boys when it comes to starting times and their first steadfast friends. In individual cases this can lead to such violent conflicts that girls run away from home and end up on the street or in youth welfare homes (Hartwig 1990, Permien / Zink 1998).


The physicality and attractiveness of girls are overemphasized - and this at an age when their intellectual, emotional and social skills and interests are also developing. These are just as important - or at least should be - for their identity formation and also for their later professional opportunities. But many girls experience that interests, intelligence and self-assertion are increasingly encouraged in family and school - physical attractiveness and "typically feminine" skills such as empathy and adaptation to others still bring more recognition from outside: a dilemma and further "identity confusion" . The attempt of many girls to constantly balance femininity = attractiveness and striving for harmony on the one hand and the will to perform and assertiveness on the other hand is exhausting and can lead to lazy compromises. Girls still "forego" math or computer courses too often. In the case of boys, on the other hand, physical attractiveness can easily be reconciled with performance and assertiveness; yes, they make boys really attractive. It is therefore no wonder that girls' self-confidence tends to decrease rather than increase during puberty and that girls base their self-confidence much less on their own achievements and interests than boys (see e.g. Horstkemper 1987; Hurrelmann 1990 Nuber 1992), although they do could be really proud of that. The fact that girls at this age complain much more often about psychosomatic complaints such as headache and back pain, nervousness, etc. - and swallow significantly more tablets than boys (cf. Kolip 1999; Sygusch 1999; Glaeske 2000), should not only be due to their greater sensitivity to her body, but also has its cause in these contradictions, which easily turn the heroine's journey into the promises of life as a young woman into an obstacle course.


Even and especially puberty hardly allows girls a learning field for dealing with their own aggressions, which are often suppressed at an early age, as well as with competition and conflicts openly, constructively and in the sense of self-assertion. Especially at this age, girls are seen as "bitchy" and "scheming" and are often portrayed accordingly in the media - for example in a photo novel by the magazine "Mädchen" in which one of the other does not allow her boyfriend and she gives him a sneaky one Kind of relaxing. Lyn Brown and Carol Gilligan (1994), who examined the development of girls between childhood and puberty, even speak of the "lost voice" of girls.There is a small, albeit increasing number of girls who are shirking the cliché of the "good girl", who no longer want to be afraid of others, but instead teach others to fear by becoming violent themselves and seeing this as a liberation ( Bruhns / Wittmann 2000). However, imitating failed male behavior cannot be the goal. It would be desirable for the girls to have far more opportunities to self-confidently find their own way, to approach conflicts openly, without hurting others and not being restricted by false norms. More "strong" female role models - in reality and in the media - would be important here in order to strengthen the feeling that "I am me - and I am ok".

New social worlds: girls between self-will and adaptation

The mother as a role model? Rebellion - give in - be independent!

The "hooks", obstacles and contradictions that the overemphasis on and normalization of the physicality of girls bring with it affect girls from different social, family and ethnic backgrounds to different degrees. But balancing acts between externally determined femininity and independence as a whole person as well as between morality and sensuality - including falling - are performed by all girls, albeit often unconsciously. This must be taken into account when we now turn to the often fluctuating and exuberant feelings of girls and their relationships with their parents on the one hand and their peers on the other.
Girls today do not always have it easy with rebellion and the striving for detachment and autonomy: the mother is often too close for them and the father too far away. Because fathers, even if they still live with the family, are still much less involved in everyday upbringing than mothers thanks to the prevailing social division of labor. Nevertheless, of course, the good or bad experiences with real fathers in childhood also shape the attempts at detachment. The same applies to the mothers, although it is often difficult for the girls to differentiate themselves from the mother as the main reference person from childhood, as a sexual companion and a figure of identification.

Modern mothers often see themselves as advisers to their daughter and have authority precisely when they are not authoritarian, but rather know the daughter well and have a lot of understanding for her (cf. Barthelmes / Sander 1997). As Leona, 13 years old, says: "When I meet someone new and bring them home, my mother always tells me straight away whether he or she suits me - and she's mostly right, even if I don't hear it at first want." Mothers today allow and enable their daughters to do some things that were forbidden to them themselves or for which they had to fight hard: They may - rightly - feel much more liberal than their own mothers. But for the girls, with their often too stormy urge to get to know as many new things as possible and as quickly as possible - e.g. to go to the disco and not adhere to the agreed night-out times or youth protection laws - they are still not liberal enough. Girls always find material to oppose their mother and to distance themselves from her, because of going out, helping in the household - to which girls are still more involved than boys (cf. Deutsches Jugendinstitut 1992) - because of the Work for school or the expensive branded jeans that the mother doesn't want to pay for. Of course, conflicts also arise when girls smoke, drink or even get caught stealing. In addition, the daughter can turn her own pubertal Weltschmerz, the feeling of her own inadequacy, insecurity and injustice in the world against her own mother or attach it to her. Then suddenly your own mother is only "completely embarrassed", petty and unjust. Suddenly everything is criticized and questioned by the daughter, sharp-sighted and ruthless: what she says and does, and how she dresses. Often the daughter blows up little things in order to confront and hurt the mother loudly, then slam the door to her own room behind her and turn up her newly discovered "own" music at an even higher volume - which the mother (hopefully!) Finds horrible. Once the daughter has pouted enough and found consolation - or reinforcement - in her music for her contradicting feelings, she can suddenly be the little one again, the child who cuddles with the mother, continues to have her as a role model and the confusion and Wants to forget the contradictions of puberty at least for a short time. That goes well until the next round of stormy feelings and attempts at autonomy. Because in order to become something of your own, new role models have to be found: Then maybe a teacher or the heroine of a novel or a feature film will become a role model because they open up new horizons and nourish the girls' dreams of what their own life might look like later. According to Barthelmes / Sander (1997), the media, their stories and their stars play a central role at this age. Because today they fulfill the function of the myths of earlier times, transporting images of "how one can be a woman" and how women can shape relationships and master problems. These templates are by no means taken over completely and completely by the girls, they are rather a patchwork of possibilities from which the girls put together or dream up their own life plans. By the way, girls still prefer love, relationship and problem films, while adventure, science fiction and horror films are more attractive for boys (Luca 1993, Barthelmes / Sander 1997). Presumably, in the next generation, too, women will be primarily responsible for relationship work and men for technology. Gender stereotypes and the gender-specific division of labor will continue to have an effect - it is to be hoped that the girls and women will demand more respect and consideration for themselves and their areas of responsibility. Even if the life plans of the girls, realized later, may not be that far removed from the life of their mothers - between 10 and 15, demarcation and cutting off the cord is the first thing to do. This is the only way to finally meet the mother as an independent young woman and then - perhaps - choose her as a friend on the level of equal rights.

The best friend, the clique, the first friend: who do I like, who likes me, what do we do together?

The focus on peers and cliques goes hand in hand with the demarcation against parents. At least that's how it should be, because the daughters of the same age find the support, the substance, but also the power to differentiate themselves from their parents.


First of all, it's about developing and deepening friendships with other girls, i.e. with them "best girl friend" - as important today as ever. In elementary school, the girls are often quite unconcerned when they face conflicts with other girls: "Then you are no longer my friend!" (cf. Permien / Frank 1995), but between the ages of 10 and 12, relationships with "best friends" become more permanent and reliable and are no longer easily questioned. With your best friend, so the cliché and the hope of all girls, you can talk about anything, giggle, gossip without being betrayed, share the previously unknown, conflicting and rapidly changing feelings that nobody else understands: "I have a boy met you, he's so cute! ". Characteristic for girl friendships are fewer common activities and hobbies, the main thing is talking about relationships - with girls, with boys - and about self-portrayal and the effect on others. Best friends usually develop a lot in common, a similar taste in music and style of clothing. Despite all the similarities, "working on the differences" is also important (Barthelmes / Sander 1997) for the development of independence: the examination of the slightly different style, the slightly different opinion, the slightly different interests of the girlfriend are encouraged individual development of both girls precisely because what they have in common offers so much support. It is very important that the best friend is in the same class if possible, or that girls also have a good friend there. For many 10 to 15-year-olds today, class is the only reasonably continuous social place, while the importance of peers from the neighborhood or from relatives has fallen sharply and membership in youth groups, clubs, etc. is often only short-term and less has social significance (cf. Deutsches Jugendinstitut 1992). However, the class is a social microcosm in which the climate is often harsh and by no means always warm. In pairs, one can better shield oneself at school from the occasional meanness of other girls, but also from suggestive remarks, teasing and attacks by boys on the property and bodies of the girls - or counter them confidently. A best friend - especially if she is popular - also increases your reputation, and you can come into contact with other girls who are friends without being the "fifth wheel on the car".

Life without a best friend
is very hard for girls

Since friendships usually enjoy unquestioned recognition in class, the "possession" of a best friend can also protect against having to sit next to unpopular children, for example. In addition, girls often stage their friendship in such a way that they both gain even more prestige and popularity in the class. A tried and tested means of doing this are secrets that are as exclusive as possible, but of which one reveals as much to others as is necessary to appear interesting (cf. Breidenstein / Kelle 1998). Of course, there are occasional close friendships between three or four girls, but that increases the complexity and thus the instability of these relationships. In any case, it is clear that life without a best friend is very hard for girls. On the one hand, for girls, popularity and less performance are the main currencies on which external recognition and self-confidence are based. On the other hand, a girl without a girlfriend runs the risk of further exclusion.

The Clique

In two or more girls, girls take the next important step in their development Clique affiliation easier, which then also brings movement into the relationships between the sexes: Because up to the end of the 4th or 5th grade, the children are usually grouped strictly according to gender (see Breidenstein / Kelle1998; Eder 1995; Oswald / Krappmann / v. Salisch , 1988; Permien / Frank 1995). There is a certain amount of "borderwork" between girls and boys, but "couples" are very rare. If a girl and a boy have "too much" contact with each other, they are all too easily annoyed and ridiculed with sayings such as "in love, engaged, married". With the development of cliques, which initially often only consist of girls or boys, there are stronger distinctions within the gender groups. Girls with similar interests or in a similar development phase get together. For example, cliques of "cool" and "calm" girls are formed, although both groups do not think too much of each other. "Cool" are the girls who put on make-up earlier than others and "dress up" than others. They eagerly read "Bravo", plaster the walls of their room with posters of male stars, gossip and gossip about "the others", but no longer hide their interest in boys and in their own self-portrayal as "attractive girls" (see above), but also put this down as "cool". The "cool" think the "quiet girls" are "small children", but they for their part strongly reject make-up, silk stockings and female self-portrayal (still or in principle), as does the eternal talk of the "cool" about boys and love and alleged couple relationships: "In the 6th school year the competition of styles broke out" (Breidenstein / Kelle 1998, p. 130). In the "cool" cliques, people not only talk about music, films and TV series and rave about this star and that boy group and despise others as completely "uncool". Rather, and above all, the rapprochement between boys and girls is prepared under erotic auspices. Again and again it is played through who could be "in love" with whom - whereby it is initially more connecting than separating for the girls when they are all raving about the same boy. Then there are sexual allusions and the allegation of sexual activities between (alleged) couples, which girls and even more boys do on all possible and impossible occasions. However, this also has to be "cool", i.e. with clear personal distancing. Likewise, a girl must be able to counter allegations as "cool" as possible that she has a crush on the - completely unattractive - X or Y, because such allegations are extremely embarrassing. Fortunately, there are enough suggestions in the media for this "coolness" too. A girl must also be able to counter the claims made by boys that she is lesbian, frigid or a slut or that she looks impossible. With such gruff and sexist remarks, which boys like to see as "fun" - they annoy all girls, but especially offend those who are low in self-esteem and in a poor position in the class or group. For their part, the girls largely forego such comments towards the boys and - unfortunately - have far too few effective and solidary means of resistance. The girls are more likely to split up: they withdraw - as far as possible - to themselves and their best friend, while others manage to stay away from the boys and their ridicule in the girls' clique and pursue their own interests.

Couple relationships

Still others, however, do not care much about the boys ’nasty remarks and pave the way with the help of their clique first couple relationships - for example, by actively getting closer to their "dream boy" as part of clique activities. However, you can then withdraw quickly and inconspicuously if it does not "bite". Some girls - mostly with high status in the class or clique - suddenly admit with pride that they are in love with a boy: this revaluation occurs around the age of 12 or 13. Being in love is no longer frowned upon, but can become a generally accepted, yes, a desirable state (Breidenstein / Kelle 1998) - but by no means for all girls. In this phase of the first pair formation, there can of course also be a break between what were once "best friends" if the pace of development of both girls is suddenly very unequal, or if - even worse - there is rivalry over the same boy.

The first couple relationships, however, now lead beyond mere falling in love, raving about more or less distant "dream boys" and stars, and beyond the sexual hints. Sexual behavior of your own is required, even if in the first relationships it is often still a matter of making out. The approach to "the first time", the first sexual intercourse, sometimes takes place over several relationships and can take weeks and months, but also years (Stich / Dannenbeck / Mayr 2000).Because, as recent studies show: Sexuality and above all sleeping together are traditionally linked to love, affection and tenderness for boys and even more so for girls. "Getting on well with your partner" is right at the top of the list of goals in life for 14 to 17 year old girls - but also for boys. Boys and even more so girls continue to dream of "great love" - ​​also or especially in view of commercialized sex. Girls are therefore also very afraid of being exploited, hurt, disappointed or cheated by their partners (Starke 1999). However, according to this study, more than half of the 15-year-old girls have already experienced "great love". According to the studies by Kurt Starke and also according to the study by Stich / Dannenbeck / Mayr (2000), it is less age - although this varies according to class and culture - or a formal status, such as an engagement or even a marriage who decide when to go for the "first time". It is more the feeling of having found "the right" or at least a trustworthy partner. Finding places to cuddle and sleep with each other is no longer as problematic as it used to be: Many parents now prefer their daughter and their boyfriend - if he seems tender and reliable enough - to be under their own roof rather than somewhere in the house Park. However, there are still plenty of mothers and fathers who have "forbidden everything" from yesterday. Starke (1999) comes to the conclusion that both girls and boys have little interest in the de-intimated sex of the media and in sexual techniques; Barthelmes / Sander (1997) also state that (soft) porn films are predominantly rejected by the 13 to 14 year olds surveyed. This may be a sign that, despite or perhaps because of the flood of sex images and films, they are looking for their own, very private way of expressing love and sexuality.

The right one

According to recent studies, girls seem to play a more active role than before. As I said before, many girls don't necessarily want a boyfriend at any cost, they want "the right one". There is certainly the pressure that comes from peers and from girls' magazines to have first sexual experiences by the age of 15 or 16 at the latest. Probably far too many girls still sleep with a boy, mainly because of this pressure - without being happy (Stich et al., Op. Cit.). On the other hand, girls today tend to break the gender stereotype of the "passively waiting woman" when they think they have found "the right one". They are then not afraid to give clear and, if necessary, persistent signals. Girls today also tend to be less "messed about". They determine more strongly when the "right time" has come for which step on the way to the first cohabitation - and some of the boys also seem to respect this (Starke 1999; Stich et al., Op. Cit.). So do girls have more self-confidence and communicative competence? Apparently, because the magazine "Mädchen" thinks it has to admonish the girls again: "Your self-confidence with all due respect, but boys usually can't take it if you chatter them. Let him believe that he is your strongest half "(20/2000, p. 30). Sexuality is maybe - hopefully! - For girls and boys it has become a bit more a matter of negotiation between two actively involved and less of a matter of a decisive man and a passive girl. However, precisely because the girls have become more active, the studies mentioned reveal new insecurities and girls' fear of doing something wrong during sex - and in relationships in general. Again, the media offer girls a thousand role models and advice - and they are eagerly consumed. It is precisely here that soaps and series such as "Big Brother" have their meaning, which suggest taking up "everyday life and everyday conflicts" and offering solutions for it (cf. Barthelmes / Sander 1997). Thanks to the media, for some 12 to 13 year olds there is hardly a sexual topic that is alien to them. But does that help against insecurity? Despite all the obstacles, girls have to find their own path for themselves: balancing acts between self-discovery and self-expression, between love, lovesickness and the next math work, between rebellion and reconciliation with parents, between self-will and adaptation are required. Let us wish the girls a lot of self-confidence for their "journey of the heroine", not too many pitfalls, understanding parents and good friends!