How To Teach our Sons Respect For Women
So much has been in the news lately surrounding men forcing sexual advances on women that as a mother of two, pre-adolescent boys, I have been thinking a lot about how I can instill respect for women into their development. (Reference: #metoo.)
On a certain level I feel like I’m working against nature itself. Looking back on my adolescence and experience with young men, I remember how incredibly persistent and determined they were to engage me in sexual behavior.
One night during my senior year in high school, I recall making out with my Spanish, foreign exchange student boyfriend, Javier. As we laid in the grass together kissing, his hands were working a mile a minute to get up underneath my shirt and tennis skirt.
“No, Javier!” I told him, pushing his hands away from my shirt and skirt.
“Pero, no intiende este palabra ‘No.’” He replied, with an attempted look of total innocence.
“That is bull s*#t!” I replied with a laugh. “‘No’” is a universally understood word!” I insisted.
As I settled into womanhood, I faced countless scenarios exactly like this one. I grew to understand this common exchange as the norm. Men would simply do all they could come up with to persuade me to have sex and it was my job to put on the brakes.
There have been times when I have given in out of sheer exhaustion. There have been many other times as well when I am sure I sent a mixed signal, alternating between verbal and non-verbal cues that said both “Yes” and “No.”
As a mother of two, preadolescent boys, and as a woman, I worry about my sons. I understand how incredibly strong teenaged hormones are for both genders, as well as how society has pretty much loaded the responsibility for slowing or stopping sex solely onto the female.
So how do I get across to two pre-adolescent boys the importance of respecting a young woman’s boundaries? After thinking about this as their 50-year-old mother, I realized that if I wanted to have any real effect, I had to go back and recall all of my experiences at their age and construct my lesson from their prospective.
First, I reminded them that although they are itching to be all grown up and thereby rushing into adult situations, they are still young. I encouraged them to hold onto being kids as long as they could.
“Adulthood will come soon enough.” I told them. “Don’t rush it. Be kids as long as you can be.”
Second, I warned them about their use of the Internet.
“There is a lot of adult content on the Internet, written for adults by adults. A lot of this stuff will only be confusing to you at the ages you are now, and a lot of it can be a true, very scary danger to you. Stay off sites you know you aren’t supposed to be on, even though it is tempting to have a look. Stuff like that will cause you harm and put you in danger.”
Third, I talked to them about the young women they will come across and have relationships with.
“Boys, very soon the majority of your thoughts each day will be on girls. You will daydream about them, about kissing them, about touching them. This is normal. But there is one thing you must always remember.
When you are sharing a private moment with a girl, and are engaging in intimate contact, if the young woman says “No” to your advances, or even if you feel like she is hesitating and not comfortable in any way, you stop. Stopping your advancement toward her, while it is very difficult to do, is absolutely critical.”
I went on to explain that women are such sacred, important members of our species. We create and carry life. We nurture and protect. We are the Earth Mothers of society.
“Women always deserve your highest level of respect. Because you will always be physically stronger than the female, you must always treat them with the utmost respect and consideration. Listen carefully to what they are telling you or showing you with their non-verbal signals, and never allow your own enthusiasm or desire to force them into any situation with which they are not totally at ease and onboard.”
I plan to continue to reiterate this important life instruction to them over and over as they embark on adolescence. My hope in all of this is both personal and global. Personally, I hope that neither of my sons will ever make a young woman move faster intimately than she is truly ready for, and that they will become men who demonstrate the vast respect and understanding women deserve, putting it well before their own desires and needs.
On a global level, I cannot go back and change the millions of women who are victims of unwanted sexual advances, nor can I lesson the pain for all of those who have bravely signed the #metoo movement.
All I really can do is rear two young men who have been told repeatedly how important it is to acknowledge and respect all others’ wishes. Changing the world we live in is a monumental undertaking, especially when deep-seated beliefs or practices have been operating as the norm for generations. As parents all we can do is listen, educate and demonstrate to our children how the world could be, and should be, and hope they take it from there.
© 2018 Elisa Fortise Christensen