As I sit down to write this letter, I can feel anger boiling up within me.
I am angry that some of our nation’s most important male role models degrade and sexualize women and yet retain their place as role models for you, me, and every other man in this country.
I am angry that the world your little sister is growing up in so often chooses to turn a blind eye to sexual assault and, even when discovered, chooses leniency when issuing consequences.
I am angry that there aren’t more men in the world who treat women the way they’re supposed to be treated: as equals.
The truth is, son, our world desperately needs you. Your sister and your mom need you. Your future girlfriend, cousin, and wife need you.
They need you to be a champion for women, to treat women with such dignity that others hold your treatment of women up as the ideal. They need you to fight against the boys in your school who will mock girls’ bodies and who will try to portray women as nothing but an outlet for a man’s sexuality. They need you to fight the uphill battle alongside women for equal pay, equal representation, and equal opportunity.
I want to prepare you as best I can for the journey ahead of you, starting with this list.
Son, this is how to treat women:
In the big ways
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT treat women as sexual objects
A woman is a whole person with feelings and intellectual thoughts. I know that you know this, but an entire current runs through our culture will tell you otherwise. You need to be prepared to stand up to it.
Do not dramatize and trivialize a woman’s emotions
As you grow up, you will hear other men write-off women’s emotions. “It’s that time of the month.” Do not join in. Whatever emotions a woman feels are real to her. Therefore, they are real to you.
Learn to control your desires
One day, you’ll (most likely) discover that you are attracted to women. This is a good thing. But you must never violate a woman’s physical boundaries nor pressure her to pull any of her boundaries back. Doing so is degrading and damaging.
Do not force gender expectations on a woman
Do not place expectations on girls to be the cheerleader in neighborhood football or to relegate their playtime to dolls or, when you are older and married, to cook, clean, and take care of the children.
If she wishes to do these things of her own volition, then by all means, she has every right to do so. But women are not subject to our expectations of them.
Learn to keep your emotions in check
There will be times when a girl in your life makes you angry. Learn to recognize your own anger so that you can take a time out before you unfairly lash out at her.
At the same time, show emotion
If you want to capture a woman’s heart (and keep it), show her your true self. It’s okay and, I would argue, a wonderful thing to be emotional with your girl.
Do not look at porn
I don’t say this from up above, perched on my high horse. Rather, I have seen and studied porn’s damaging effects on one’s health and personal relationships.
Many people will disagree with you and may even mock you for refraining from using porn. But it will be one of the most important decisions that you make in your life (and I do not say this lightly).
In the small ways
Always compliment your date.
If you’re sitting down, insist – not just offer – that the standing woman takes your seat.
When walking on a sidewalk with a woman, walk on the side closest to the curb.
Open the door for a woman.
Learn to notice the small things about the important women in your life, like a new haircut.
Always say “please” and “thank you.”
If a woman needs to walk somewhere alone at night, offer to walk with her.
If a woman is cold, insist that she take your jacket.
Before you ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, ask her parents for their permission and blessing.
Do not swear at a woman.
Pay for the date unless you think it will offend her.
Son, if you can make this world a better place for the women around you, you will have lived a good life, and one that I can be proud of.