A few days back, a friend and I were having a discussion about the things we wished our parents had taught us. The list grew longer as time passed. It included menstruation, sex education, the importance of financial independence, learning to differentiate “good touch” and “bad touch” as young girls, holding our own in a world dominated by men, among many others.
After a while, the conversation steered to the things we wished parents taught their boys but didn’t. Surprisingly, this list grew even longer than the first. My friend and I shared our stories and it surprised me that even though we worked different jobs and spent our childhood in different cities, our experiences were so similar. This made me wonder if this was because we were women, or was it something universal.
In this article, I am listing the most important things women wish men knew. Or, in other words, here are the things parents should teach their sons, but don’t.
1. Sex isn’t about making babies
It is important that parents should talk to boys about the pleasurable aspect of sex. That it is one way of celebrating love and not merely a duty to be performed on your wedding night.
As a man, it is not enough to climax, then roll off and fall asleep. Sex is less about enjoying yourselves and more about making sure your partner is comfortable and is having a good time. Talk to her, pay attention to the little signals she sends out, be spontaneous, and let it be known that you are willing to go to any lengths to make sure she finishes.
2. Most of what is shown in porn doesn’t happen in real life
Women in real life don’t have perfect bodies and alabaster skin. They might have scars and stretch marks, acne and birth-marks, cellulite and fat in unexpected parts of their body. They might have hair between their legs, under their arms, on their belly, around their nipples, and on their back. Don’t expect them to be flawless.
Women in real life might not listen to whatever you say and answer with ‘Yes, master”. They might have inhibitions dating back to childhood trauma. They might be physically incapable of contorting their bodies to your desired position. They might have different ideas in mind about how the night should go. They can’t (and shouldn’t — unless they have explicitly asked for it) be thrown around the bedroom like they are rag dolls with no minds of their own. Don’t expect them to obey your whims.
Sex in real life can be clumsy and complicated. There will be misses and accidental pokes in the belly by elbows. There will be moments of “Don’t put all your weight on my body” and “You have my hair pinned under your knee”. There might be giggles and unexpected bursts of conversation.
In truth, learning about sex from porn is like learning driving by playing Grand Theft Auto. You wouldn’t want to be in a car with somebody who does that, would you?
3. Consent is tricky, but, it is essential
There is a difference between a woman agreeing and her enthusiastically being into you. A woman saying ‘okay if you say so’ might not be consent. It might be that she is playing along because she’s afraid to say no because of her social conditioning. Maybe she wasn’t taught by her parents that it is okay for her to have a husband and not have sex with him unless she is absolutely ready for it.
If your woman doesn’t say “Hell yes, I can’t wait to see what’s in there,’ maybe you need to take a break and talk it out with her. What is it about her psyche that you are missing? Is she afraid of or worried about something? Has she got other things on her mind? Is she just too tired after a long day at work?
Get to know your woman and understand her moods. This is not for her benefit alone. An enthusiastic woman in bed will make your sexual experience infinitely more pleasurable than a woman who is just playing along to avoid confrontation.
Consent is tricky. But, it is a game-changer.
4.It is okay for a man to cry
In India, there is a common saying in Hindi that is perpetrated in Bollywood movies and television shows — “Mard ko dare nahi hota”. In English, this can be translated to — “A man feels no pain”.
Forget what bullshit the media has been feeding you. Men are human beings, and, do you know what happens if a human being suppresses their feelings for too long? Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and a growing resentment of the world around them.
If you feel sad, find a shoulder to cry upon. It is okay, it wouldn’t make you weak. Being responsible for your mental health would only make you a stronger human being.
5. Choosing a career of your choice is important but choosing a good partner is even more so
In India, 90% of the marriages are arranged marriages. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, here is what happens: when the parents decide that it is an appropriate age for their son to marry, they start looking for a suitable partner. The basis for this selection of the bride is family background, looks, skills in the kitchen, and her willingness to have children. Once the choices of available women are narrowed down to a few, the family of the man visits the family of the woman and they have a long discussion about their expectations for the future. During this, the prospective husband and wife are allowed to spend a few minutes in isolation and decide if they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
In such a situation, it is easy to get your priorities mixed up. Selecting a wife based on her looks or her cooking skills can be a grave mistake. Your partner will affect everything in life, including your physical and mental health, your peace of mind, how you take care of your children, how you get through tragedy, how you embrace success, and so much more.
Take time and spend more than just a few minutes getting to know each other before taking the plunge. Ask your prospective bride about her goals and expectations from life and see if they align with yours. Choose wisely and don’t let anyone else make that decision for you.
6. Periods are normal
When I was growing up, my mother impressed upon me how important it was to hide the fact that I was bleeding from my father and younger brother. She implied that it was shameful and it is best for me if I pretend that everything is normal.
But, as I grew older, I have come to the realization that parents, especially mothers, should not hide the existence of periods from boys. They should be taught about it, encouraged to read up on their own and learn more, so they can respect women for going through it every month.
Boys should be taught that menstruation is a bodily function like breathing. It is something many women go through. There is nothing to make fun of a bloodstain you might see on a female classmate’s skirt. Just like you don’t ridicule someone for breathing, you shouldn’t ridicule a woman for bleeding either.
7. Men can be sexually harassed too
In India, there is a lot of stigma surrounding the sexual abuse of men and young boys. Society tends to laugh at men who complain, asking them what is the reason for their discomfort when they should have just “enjoyed” the experience.
In truth, there should be no shame in opening up and putting the sexual offender behind bars. There should be power in speaking up, and not in hiding the trauma. Boys should be encouraged to learn to draw their boundaries and not hesitate to call out on someone who dares to cross them.
These are some of the points from the point of view of an Indian woman. If men were brought up with the knowledge of these aspects, they would be more caring, more loving human beings, and better suited to deal with the problems their partner faces. Not just that, they would themselves be able to lead a more fulfilling life, rather than clinging on to a facade of “masculinity” that does not let them breathe.
When an attack on a woman takes place anywhere in the world, everyone talks about how men are responsible for the situation. If men were sensitized towards women right from their childhood, maybe the crimes against women would decline. Maybe the way to change a society is to change the children when they are at their most impressionable age.