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Eight Ways Men and Boys Are Helping to End Gender-Based Violence

Men and boys are already involved in and leading efforts to end gender-based violence, and more are joining the ranks of gender justice activism every day.

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3. Making sex about pleasure not danger: Coalition for Positive Sexuality

Imagine what the world would look like if we no longer framed discussions about sex and sexuality from the standpoint of what people, especially youth, don’t like or shouldn’t be doing, but instead approached them from a place of what makes us happy and feels good. This is exactly what Coalition for Positive Sexuality does with their “Just Say Yes!” (or “Di Que Si!”) brochures and online forums for teens of all genders and sexualities. In an abstinence-only nation, models for positive sexuality are scarce, but a comprehensive approach to sex education that validates the diversity among and within gender, sexual identities, and expressions can help intimate partners recognize, name, and fulfill authentic desires and pleasure. At present sex, sexuality, and relationships are largely constructed as sites of risk and safety, which establishes a predator/prey dynamic among the people involved. Coalition for Positive Sexuality encourages openness, exploration, choice, respect, and enthusiastic consent in a language that is inclusive and reflective of youth culture.

4. Creating new ideals for young black and Latino men: Brotherhood/Sister Sol

A core element of Brotherhood/Sister Sol’s multi-year youth development program for black and Latino men and boys ages 6 to 22 years old is a commitment to deconstruct sexism and misogyny, promote sexual education and socially responsible relationships, and reduce gender bias. Its aim is to use a strengths perspective to empower black and Latino youth to develop into critical thinkers and community leaders. They do so in a neighborhood plagued by the challenges of poverty, such as drug use, lack of affordable housing, overcrowded schools, and environmental toxicity. Using a combination of mentoring and community organizing, Brotherhood/Sister Sol participants are given the space and guidance to question rigid standards of masculinity and femininity and promote a new ideal amongst their peers.

5. Deconstructing men’s relationship with pornography: Robert Jensen

In Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity media scholar Robert Jensen uses personal anecdotes along with academic research to build upon the work of radical anti-pornography feminists and argue that men who consume pornography are robbing themselves, and women, of authentic sexual pleasure and their humanity. He criticizes the way masculinity is used as a tool of dominion over women and men, and advocates charting new terrain in the 21 st century that goes beyond paternalistic protection notions of gender equality. Jensen actively tours North America speaking to audiences about destructive masculinity and sexual commodification.

6. Bringing gender education into public schools: The Boys Project

During the years I worked with Girls for Gender Equity, there was one request I received from parents more than any other: when will you begin a program like this for boys? Luckily, I had a local resource to refer them to – The Boys Project. Developed in three age cohorts – elementary, middle, and high school – the program provides a trusted adult and an accepting boy-only environment in which young men can examine the unhealthy messages boys internalize about gender, connect social expectations to changing physiology and psychology throughout adolescence, develop an understanding of sexual harassment and violence (including LGBTQ bullying and boy-on-boy abuse), and challenge gender norms in their own personal growth and development. The Boys Project runs in schools and community-based organizations in tandem with The Girls Project so that the program participants can reinforce each other’s understanding.

7. African men preventing violence against women: Ebonyi Men’s Resource Centre

In collaboration with Men’s Resources International, Ebonyi Men’s Resource Center (EMRC) in Nigeria was started to identify ways men can partner with women to end gender-based violence. Among the goals of EMRC is the establishment of a group of men with social capital who can intervene in situations of domestic violence and change social attitudes men hold that perpetuate violence against women and children. Once the program has proven successful, EMRC will send male delegates to other organizations to help them to replicate the model and build an African men’s network for violence prevention and positive masculinity.

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