Letter to my boys – 3

On love, sex and relationships

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

There has been much talk in the British press, following the killing of Sarah Everard, of the social responsibilities of men and their behaviour towards women and the role that parents play in instilling responsibility. As a mother of three boys well on their way to manhood, I naturally felt concerned and targeted. Two of my three boys have been in relationships for a while (longer than I did at their age at least) and the third one looks to be following in their footsteps. And while the chimp in me is saddened to have my boys turn their attention elsewhere and love other women, my sadness is more than compensated for by my satisfaction at having raised normal social beings, capable of loving and relating. In other words, I am happy that I have not reared mama’s boys, incapable of leaving their mother’s petticoats. 

For some obscure reason tradition has dictated that fathers speak to their boys about sex. That tradition has well and truly broken, with boys now probably more knowledgeable than their fathers about such issues. And if it hasn’t yet broken, I am breaking it now. And while I understand that this is only one perspective, that of a heterosexual woman, it is the only one I can offer with confidence.

On the subject of love, I say to my boys: “Trust yourselves.” When you love you will know. Do not shy away from love, on the contrary, lean into it, embrace it, for without it nothing has meaning. Do not be afraid of love on account that it may hurt you, for it is the lack of love that hurts a lot more.

You can love your friends, your parents, your pet or your partner. Love comes in many tastes and flavours but the recipe is always the same: Respect, attention and empathy. Do not mistake love for anything else. Love is not lust, love is not anger, love is not envy. Recognize love for what it is, and when you do, throw all caution to the wind and dive headlong into it. 

Respect, attention and empathy

If you love, do not be distracted. If you choose to love, and it is always a choice, do not be distant. Do not enter into a relationship if you will not engage. You are never trapped in a relationship—leave it physically if you must but do not choose to remain and disengage mentally.

On sex, I say to my boys: it is not PornHub. There are two forms of sex: sex as a physical expression of love and sex as a form of release. Sex for love is usually between two people, any other number becomes sexual play. Which is fair enough, both forms are natural. But do recognize them for what they are and more importantly, understand the difference. How will you know? Again, I would say trust yourselves. But I will give you a hint, sex for love is not on YouPorn. (Though you may want to check out Bridgerton).

On dealing with women. 

No means no. Take it as it is. It is not your problem, or prerogative, to decide if no means something else. If your partner is being coy, or unsure of her desires, it is her problem, not yours. Give her space and let her deal with it. Accept the no. Walk away. Take a cold shower. Watch porn. And never touch her without her prior consent. And by the way, women also watch porn though they may be too shy, or socially conditioned, to admit it.

On relationships I say to my boys: In any relationship there are two equal partners. I stress the equal because a successful relationship can only be made through an equal contribution from both partners, a sort of dual carriageway, if you will. You are two separate entities and only as separate entities can you stand stronger, more solid. Do not meld into each other. If you become the same person, sharing anxieties, worries, and neuroses, then you become boring to one another. And to everyone else.

But do share your dreams if you can.

Do not let your partner’s fears and insecurities drag you down. You can be a support, but you cannot be the answer.

Do not fall into the trap of the “fragile” woman. Neither your trap nor hers. A woman has made you, borne you, carried you, and fed you and in many cases, raised you. Women are strong, resilient creatures, you do not need to treat them as fragile but you do need to treat them like anyone else, with respect, attention and empathy—just as they should you.

Do not lay your weight on her either, for as strong and resilient as she is, she cannot carry both of you. Stand up tall and be responsible for yourself. Ask nothing less of her.

And whatever you do, do not try to be the strong silent type. That never works. Even in the movies the girl ends up leaving him.

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