A new version of this title is now part of my new book, 'The Secular Fundamentalist'.
|As it developed, iIt was far too complicated, sensitive and expensive a matter to ever adopt on a really wide scale. Getting the practice legalised had been long and hard. Even before that however, in some circles, it had been discretely buried amongst the trappings and ceremony of a boy’s coming-of-age, at around thirteen.
For nearly a generation there had been much anguished debate as to how boys could be helped to catch up the ground lost to girls in the latter twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The unwillingness of males to adapt to meet steadily advancing female agenda left them increasingly disabled, hostile and in the end, redundant. A fix was needed and quickly
The problem with institutionalised education was that it only got to the surface of the problem. Parents often noticed that the bonding process between young males during the pubescence period was based around group aggression (no matter how sublimated, such as in team ball sports) and contempt towards females. No amount of discussion and counsel seemed to have much effect against the powerful group dynamic of young male fellowship. So the question began to be asked if this process could at least to some extent be headed off by inserting a powerful female agenda up front, at the first stirrings of manhood.
Such a strategy would mean going full tilt into the process of gender construction at its most vulnerable and sensitive development moment and so was always going to be a dangerous and controversial pioneering effort. It would be justified on the basis that nothing else seemed to be working very well, that anything short of such radical cultural intervention was merely leaving the field open to peer group pressure and to do nothing would ensure continuing deterioration in relations between the sexes.
In previous centuries, after he had left school, an upper class young man might be sent by his father to a ‘suitable’ prostitute or courtesan to be trained in matters of sex. The upper classes could do this because they were rich and powerful enough to ignore public morality and sexual taboos, albeit discretely. However, since the boy’s gender construction was already in place, the training agenda was one of merely gaining some refinement in sexual manners, a degree of sensitivity and confidence in his performance .
The reappearance of this practice not surprisingly came from a similarly better educated and better off strata of society. They equally did not feel so constrained by the prevailing social and legal paranoia surrounding the progressive defacto collapse of the notion of ‘childhood’ and ‘age of consent’ back to where it stood in the pre-modern period (from as early as practicable after the onset of pubescence) as a result of protracted laissez-faire social practice .
Social elites do not like any of their progeny sliding down the social scale and/or becoming gender dysfunctional, so they were therefore more prepared (and had the money) to be pro-active. Clearly first class formal education was not enough to secure their sons against later marital collapse that would financially ruin them and disrupt their relationship with their children and (indirectly) their progress up the slippery pole of career success. Worse, a worrying and increasing percentage of them had stopped marrying and reproducing because it had all got too hard.
Thus it was decided in a quite unorganised and spontaneous fashion that establishing protective boundaries around and directly intervening in the sexual lives of the young males made more sense than denial, prohibition or negligent laissez-faire. That the move in this direction was made on males rather than females was not so much discrimination against females, as recognition that it was the males who needed the fix.
[In this matter I have a firm conviction that in matters of sex, much older women are very good for men/boys in ways that that older men with women/girls are definitely not and can’t be.]
The women who became involved in inducting boys into manhood had a quite different training agenda to the courtesans and prostitutes of old. ‘Their boys’ would live with them for a period that might last for as long as three months. He would have to learn how to look after his ‘sistermentor’ in the live-in working environment.
The initial emphasis would be on establishing a workaday domestic relationship not dissimilar to that within his own family. He would get the opportunity to display the skills he had learnt at home and in the formal educational setting. His duties would be of the humdrumly domestic kind; cleaning, cooking, shopping, gardening and such like. Only through pleasing her in these matters would he get to even first base of intimacy.
He would learn that intimacy is the art of successfully managing numerous small but demanding things consistently over a long period. They add up to the big thing of a domestic relationship built for life and the raising of a succession cohort in security and amity.
He would learn to make conversation around their developing relationship and to articulate his feelings. He would have to take a real interest in her, listen carefully to what she had to say, remember important social and emotional information and develop appropriate responses, using that information to get closer to her. She would prompt and lead him through the labyrinthine map that makes up the matrix of intimacy between a man and a woman. She would build his confidence and cut him down to size as needs be so that he could negotiate its roads and alleyways in safety for both himself and ultimately the partner(s) that he would eventually take up with later in life.
To make any headway with her at all he would have to make an honest attempt to win her respect and affection by investing effort in her happiness and well being. The standard required would not be the same as might be expected of a fully mature male adult, but if he managed to grasp the basics, and more importantly, showed a commitment to trying to meet the needs of a woman, that would be enough. When at last she decided he had won his way sufficiently into her affections, it would be time for her to deflower him.
That would be the end of his ‘in house’ training and the trigger for his coming of age ceremonies. From then on she might coach his relationships with female peers, give him away at his wedding, mentor his marriage and take on the role of ‘auntie’ to his children. A successful sistermentor would become a key individual in his life.
Failure by the boy to gain his sistermentor’s respect and affection would mean being ‘sent home’ to much ignominy. Peers would find out and add their derision. No coming of age ceremony would be forthcoming. Failure with the sistermentor would be at least as disastrous as formal educational and job failure.
Many of the Sistermentors, especially in the early days, did the job as a labour of love for families they were close to. Others were ‘professionals’ who would in the end be trained, accredited and audited by public authorities and have to make their way in the market place through a reputation for success in making men who made good and lasting marriages. Parents of prospective clients would inspect their track records with the same critical eye as for selecting any other training and formal educational process.
Some of these women might have a career in other fields and do the sistermentoring after work. They might only ever take on a very small number of boys before they married themselves and then have them as part of her extended family. Others might make sistermentoring their career and would be dependent for their incomes on a continuous client stream and ongoing gifts from grateful parents and grown up ‘boys’ (for they would always be ‘her boys’). ‘Neglect’ of ones sistermentor would be considered as odious as neglecting any other member of one’s close family.
Interventions of this nature in the lives of ‘children’ were a product of a failed sexual revolution that delivered sex without intimacy, or emotional responsibility, or any sense of what sex is really for.
It was an intervention that reminded young men that the women in their lives are there because the species needs to reproduce and requires stable arrangements to make that happen to the highest possible standard. It isn’t just about sexual pleasure or making babies, but the very substantial labour of love that is involved in growing them into mature adults, who can take their place as reproducers in their turn, with confidence, mature judgement and secure characters.
And that requires behavioural modelling, which is why Sistermentors were of such an inestimable value, both in their social status and the social product they facilitated.
It was a transitional arrangement, for as the society evolved, the lessons that the Sistermentors gave were increasingly shared with families and the broader community, as they increasingly grasped the essentials of a post-modern reality, abandoned sex-on-demand as a social custom and started to reregulate social behavior.
Social and reproductive capitalization became a subject of neo-economic domestic business practice, and never again would sexual conduct become the laissez-faire plaything it became in the later twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Good quality and robust reproductive relationships became a non negotiable bottom line for everybody, at a time when no community could afford the costs, both tangible and intangible, of a fifty percent failure rate in marriages. (See 'Post-Modern Heroes: Michael and Giordana' for how that might be worked out in practice).
The price of mainstreaming the sistermentor role beyond the circles of the more affluent was that she no longer lived with and ‘deflowered’ her boys. She became more involved in the community administration of youth affairs, as her and its charges were groomed for intimacy and pairing on the same mass scale as the rest of the system of socialization and education.