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What should sex-ed teachers be teaching boys that they aren't already?

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  • What should sex-ed teachers be teaching boys that they aren't already?

    The following should probably go in an education forum. But since I don't think there is one, I'll put this in the relationships forum.

    I've been thinking about how our education contributes to problems between men and women in our society. We often talk about teaching boys to not rape. But how do we do so? I would say that we must first teach boys to respect, protect, and defend their own personal, private, sexual, physical, and emotional space and boundaries. If we do that, we won't even need to teach them to not rape since the rest would naturally fall into place from there. Some men don't know how to respect, protect, and defend their own personal, private, sexual, physical, and emotional space and boundaries and so will not know how to respect others' either. A man who does, will. My story might illustrate this to a degree. Before I start though, I'd ask that you please not judge my actions. I in no way defend my actions that I shall describe below and fully accept that I acted wrongly. I'm sharing the below simply to illustrate what was missing in my education that led me to do some of the things I'd done.

    My babysitter abused me when I was around eight years old and I soon afterwards started making sexual advances towards a classmate. The sexual abuse of boys is not unique: statistics show that around one in 6 boys experience sexual abuse. This was before I was physically developed enough to even have an orgasm or understand sexual pleasure. The school suggested I see a therapist. My dad thought I just needed more of the back of his hand. I always feared my dad and still fear him to this day even though there no longer is any rational reason for me to do so: it's just a learned and habituated emotional response to certain actions of his. He lectured me about never hitting girls, always respecting girls, never raising my voice against a girl, and always acknowledging a girl's feelings. Because I feared him, I did not dare tell anyone and especially him what was happening. What he doesn't know to this day is that I'd transferred those teachings to my adult babysitter herself. Fearing my dad, I soon learnt to fear authority figures, and my babysitter was an authority figure of sorts. Being taught to respect girls as the 'weaker' sex only made me even more submissive to my babysitter.

    When I was twelve years old, my father had given me a glass of wine on Christmas eve. I didn't like the taste of it, but soon realized that it relaxed me more than I'd ever felt relaxed before and so I started gulping it until he raised his voice and hand at me telling me to slow down. I've feared alcohol ever since since I know how it can hook me and so have become a teetotaler. I was raised in an emotional pressure-cooker throughout my childhood.

    I left home young to get away from the trauma. Though I could befriend women, I could do so only within an organized group. I simply never learnt to respect my boundaries and I knew it, so I took precautions accordingly to protect myself from myself. I could never see a woman alone and especially not in private. I broke the rule one day. A young Muslim refugee woman around 17 years old (I was 19) whom I befriended called me a few times to invite me to her home for dinner. I'd read the Qur'an and so went on the stereotype that even if she should have any sexual interest in me, she'd keep it to herself since I wasn't even a Muslim and Islam did not allow fornication.

    After dinner, she begged and nagged for me to stay at her place. She didn't want sex necessarily, but she did want me to sleep over at her place anyway. Even though I was physically stronger than she was and she was merely begging and pouting, I literally froze emotionally and didn't know how to defend my boundaries and refuse her. The tension was physically palpable in that I could uncomfortably feel myself tensing up physically. I acquiesced just to rid myself of that tension.

    Trying to manipulate her into agreeing to let me go, I made an unwanted sexual advance towards her. Ironically , I did not want to have sex with her at all and so I was violating both of our boundaries. Instead, I was trying to scare her into letting me leave. For reasons that I cannot explain, when she begged and pouted for me to stay, I froze at the prospect of putting my foot down, turning my back to the door and leaving; yet I could somehow make an unwanted sexual advance against her even though I did not even want to have sex with her. I believe that there were a few reasons for this. Firstly, I bought into the narrative that a heterosexual man always wants sex even though my own personal experience contradicted that. I simply concluded that I must be an exception. Misguided with this stereotype about men in my head combined with my education to never talk back to women, the stereotype that women can't handle rejection, and my desire to not hurt her, I thought on some level that for me to ignore her begging and pouting and to turn my back on her might insult her beauty (and she was beautiful) and so could offend her. Instead, making an unwanted sexual advance towards her would acknowledge my physical attraction to her while still, based on my stereotype of a Muslim woman and that women fear sexual aggression more than anything else, cause her to push me away which would then give me my queue to leave. Though she did push me away, she did so only sexually. As soon as I took that as my queue to leave, she immediately returned to begging and pouting for me to spend the night.

    The next morning, she begged me to promise to return to her home that evening. I did. Since I promised, I felt an obligation to return to her home, had dinner there, and again repeated the struggle of the previous evening as she begged me to stay, I made an unwanted sexual advance in an attempt to get her to push me away, and again she pushed me away only sexually while still begging me to stay and making me promise the next day to return. This cycle went on daily for a week.

    On a Saturday morning, I left to go clean my home. She followed me to help me clean it. Evening came, and I tried to convince her to leave. She begged me to walk her home; but since I knew she'd want me to stay again, I refused, so she refused to leave. I again started making sexual advances towards her and she silently and gently but physically resisted as she had before. This time though, since I was already at home and had nowhere else to go, I decided to push her boundaries in the belief that I'd cross a Rubicon beyond which she would finally want to leave. I removed her trousers. While she still resisted, she was not escalating the resistance in any way. I then removed her panties, then my trousers, and finally my underwear yet while she continued to resist, she still was not expressing any desire to leave. Not knowing what else to do, in utter confusion, and still not really wanting sex but slowly losing sexual control, I began to spread her legs when she cried her first words since my advance: 'Please don't rape me.'

    I recoiled, threw my clothes back on, stormed out of my home, and reached the nearest intersection on foot before she finally caught up to me. I tearfully and angrily told her that we were in an unhealthy relationship and that we had to break up. She apologized and then begged me to walk her home. Feeling guilty, I went back home, locked the door, and walked her home. As expected, she again begged me to stay the night. Too emotionally exhausted to resist, I didn't make any sexual advance towards her and instead just went to bed.

    The daily cycle repeated itself the next morning and the next evening. That evening was different. She again begged me to stay the night, I again made an unwanted sexual advance hoping to get her to let me go, but this time she didn't resist. Before I started to unbutton or remove any piece of clothing, seeing that she was no longer resisting, I broke off to leave. This time, she started to make unwanted sexual advances towards me. Scared, I started to plead with her to let me leave, but she started to cry as she continued to kiss and hug me. Emotionally exhausted, depressed, and resigned, I acquiesced. That was the beginning or our sexual relationship. I never initiated any sexual advance towards her in the hope that she'd push me away again since now she was making unwanted sexual advances towards me and I acquiesced out of emotional exhaustion, depression, and resignation. As I continued to try to break up with her every now and then as I mustered the emotional strength over the next few months, she escalated the pressure until she'd eventually threatened suicide if I broke up with her. I resigned to my fate, the relationship continued to degenerate into marriage (dysfunctional as you can imagine), divorce, and finally attempted suicide on my part.

    with statistics showing that one in six boys suffer sexual abuse, it would probably make sense for a public-school sex-education teacher to approach the class on the assumption that at least one student has probably suffered sexual abuse already and so will probably need to learn more systematically how to identify, respect, protect, and defend his boundaries.

    I believe that what was missing in my education was how to respect, protect, and defend my emotional, physical, and sexual space and boundaries even against female coercion. Ironically I could have fought a man off more easily, not only because I am a heterosexual male but also because I would have been less fearful of hurting his feelings or even of using physical force against him if necessary. For example, if a man that I didn't even know well begged me to stay the night or even threatened suicide, while I might empathize with him, I'd probably just have found him a phone number to call for help, left, and not felt guilty at all about hurting his feelings or whatever he might do to himself as a result. I might be willing to give him some of my time, but at my own chosen time. Additionally, I would have thought of him as being emotionally tougher and so able to handle my rejection anyway. Because she was a woman and I a heterosexual man, and I had bought into the stereotypes of all 'normal' men always wanting sex and of women being emotionally more vulnerable and so unable to handle rejection, I had effectively been taught a form of emotional submission towards women from an early age and so my superior physical strength against her was of no use when I did not know how to defend my emotional, physical, and sexual space from a woman's intrusion into it.

    The above is not to excuse my behaviour but simply to try to understand why I made the mistakes that I made and what I would have needed to learn to not make those mistakes. My ignorance of how to simply defend my own boundaries without needing to violate hers to do so, combined with how I was taught to deffer to the 'weaker' sex, emboldened me to violate both of our boundaries in an attempt to force her to defend my boundaries for me by pushing me away from her. Ironically, out of a fear of hurting her by rejecting her, I hurt her more and me too by violating both of our boundaries in my attempt to hurt her less. to the best of my extremely limited knowledge at the time.

    Since men are usually physically stronger than women, I agree that boys must learn to restrain their physical actions to reasonable limits. However, the ability to defend oneself is not limited to physical strength alone but instead extends into defending oneself emotionally and mentally too. I could imagine sex education teachers in public schools teaching boys, maybe through role play, how to say 'no' to a woman and walk away without needing to use physical force. Teachers should perhaps teach boys more explicitly too that it's normal for even a heterosexual man to not always want sex, how to recognize coercion, how to firmly but kindly reject a woman's advances, that a healthy-minded woman can handle kind rejection, how to recognize the symptoms of emotional instability and how to respond to that (such as giving her phone numbers to contact for help), etc.

    I think it's also important to teach boys to identify trauma and to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy sexual urges. Often even a trauma sufferer might deny that he's suffering trauma and might overlook even obvious signs that he is suffering trauma and might have been doing so for years. Perhaps due to the sexual abuse that I'd suffered as a child, I tended to swing from one extreme to another in my sexual behaviour. In early adulthood prior to my marriage, I not only tried to avoid sex but even feared meeting a woman alone. After the divorce and attempted suicide, I had turned to sex as an analgesic, as a drug of sorts as a way to turn to sexual pleasure as a way to distract from my emotional pain. Though I never sexually assaulted anyone after my divorce, I did start to womanize and certainly disrespected women. I don't mean that I treated women rudely on the street but rather that I essentially used them for my own masturbation; though I grant that the abuse was reciprocal. I think it could make sense for sex education teachers to teach boys about the causes, symptoms, and potential consequences of and remedies for sex addiction too.

    What are your thoughts on what public school sex education teachers should teach boys that they probably aren't?