In my personal experience, I’ve often found that men who have older sisters respect women more – because they’ve seen firsthand that women can be badass bitches, maybe? Or they just have the tools to better empathize with women, as human beings? Dunno.

This guy, the one who respected my boundaries so well in the last post, has two older sisters. I can’t help but think that having strong female influences in his life, females he respected and looked up to, helped him value women more as people. But I also think sisters can have a lot of influence on the ways their brothers learn about women and learn to treat them.

Last week, I was talking to a male friend (who has no sisters, for the record, but gets it) about active consent. I think it seems like an easier topic to understand, even to teach, than “no means no.” Because too many men believe that one “no” really doesn’t mean “no.” Which I can’t understand, and it makes me super fucking angry, but it’s apparently the case.

So how about active, enthusiastic consent? I love that as a standard. Make the litmus test whether she says “yes” three times, not “no” three times before giving in. It’s definitely the standard for the relationships I’ve felt safest and happiest in, in the past.

When my brother started high school, I bought him a box of gifts. In it were two super cool new t-shirts (my brother used to love anything I picked out for him), and a few stereotypical high school things; red plastic cups or something.

I also included condoms (because, duh), and a book entitled “She Comes First.” The cover featured a cross-section of a papaya in the foreground, and an out-of-focus banana in the background. I chose it because it was an absurd cover, with a few stupid double entendres that I knew would have shock value. But I also chose it because I wanted my little brother to respect women’s sexuality and their bodies. I knew that he would laugh at it, but read it in secret – learning how to be not just a man who sleeps with women, but a good and generous man who sleeps with women. And, the first time he encountered a pussy, he’d at least have some idea of what to do with it.

Similarly, when I was 11 or 12, my mom gave me a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves (ostensibly, “For the New Millennium,” but there were a lot of grainy 70’s pictures of naked nursing mothers and very hairy vaginas [Note: nothing wrong with a hairy vagina. I’m all for women doing whatever the fuck they want with their pubic hair and not being shamed for it or told that they’re gross. But that’s a digression]).

Anyway. Our Bodies, Ourselves.

I sat in my attic room and devoured it, eager to learn about how my body worked. When the book said to sit in front of a mirror and look at my vagina, I did. When it told me to feel around and explore, when it told me that women’s bodies were not smelly or weird or ugly – I listened. And, later, when I became sexually active, I could consult the book with any question, and it would be answered. The pros and cons of using the pill vs. condoms vs. spermicides vs. IUD’s? All there. Yes, sometimes nipples had little bumps on them, and that was normal. The great tome first published in 1971 was still so relevant in 2001 (And I just looked – last edition was released in 2011).

If I had a daughter, I would absolutely give her Our Bodies, Ourselves. It was invaluable to me when learning to understand my body and my sexuality. And if I had a son? I’d want to give him the same information – yes, about women’s bodies. Obviously, I’d want to educate him on his own body and sexuality. But I think we miss out on an important part of teaching men about respect in relationships if we don’t teach men about women’s bodies and consent from a really early age. Teach them to see women’s bodies as complex and fascinating, at the same time as we teach them to see women as human beings who deserve to have their wishes respected, without pressure or coercion.

Teaching men to respect and understand women, our bodies, and our varied, exciting sexualities seems like a great start to teaching men not to treat those bodies like masturbatory aides. Because there are just too many damn times that my “no’s” are overruled, my pleasure is dismissed, or my comfort ignored.

What do you think? How do we help the men around us – our brothers, friends, everyone – to respect women’s boundaries as much as this guy did mine?

 

 

 

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