Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, I'm a writer here at BuzzFeed, and according to my friends and family, I'm pretty darn good at giving advice.
So I've invited readers like you to message me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places) with your biggest problems — and I'm solving 'em right here on BuzzFeed, one DM at a time. Let's get right to it.
Today, we've got this woman, whose brother keeps making sexual "jokes" about her. Naturally, she's very uncomfortable with this:
Your brother's comments are gross, worrisome, and totally unacceptable. I'm so sorry you're going through this, but I think you're right to keep lots of distance from him while you take further steps to protect yourself. So let's talk about what those steps should be.
It's not clear from your DM whether you've ever asked him outright to stop this behavior. Now, to be clear, you should not have to ask your brother not to make sexual comments about you. That is not your responsibility. It should be plainly obvious to him, and this situation is 100% his fault, whether you've ever asked him to stop or not. But since he's put you in this horrible predicament, I think your best move here is to address it head-on.
Let him know, clearly and firmly, that what he's doing makes you uncomfortable and that it needs to stop. Reflect his behavior — and its impact on you — back at him so that he can see it for exactly what it is: "You're making sexual comments about me, your sister. Can you see how creepy that is? It makes me so uncomfortable, and I actively avoid you because of it. You need to stop right now."
This conversation will likely be painful and awkward. And it's natural, in moments like that, to want to break the tension by cracking jokes or assuring him that it's actually no big deal. Please resist that urge if you can. He's probably going to feel bad. He absolutely should feel bad. Make him sit in that discomfort, and don't let him off the hook.
If that sounds daunting to you, you can make it easier on yourself by having the conversation over the phone or via FaceTime, where you have an easy escape if things go south. You could also choose to put your thoughts into an email or letter, if speaking to him directly makes you nervous. And you must consider your physical safety here, too — if you think your brother might have an explosive or violent reaction to being called out, please do not have the conversation in person. Ultimately, however you're most comfortable doing this is the exact right way to do it.
And going forward, I think you should enlist some allies within your family to back you up here. If you have any parents or siblings who are, y'know, reasonable and normal people, they should be horrified by your brother's behavior. Fill them in on what's going on, ask them to never leave you alone with your brother at family gatherings, and to intervene if he ever makes an inappropriate comment in front of them. There's strength in numbers. You should not have to navigate this alone.
My hope is that your brother, when confronted with the reality of his behavior — not only by you, but by others in your family — will be properly shamed into apologizing and stopping these comments. Sometimes people who make "jokes" like this are enabled by the people who laugh at them (including those who fake-laugh out of discomfort). If you and your family can present a united front on this, and ensure that his "jokes" are met with nothing but anger and disgust, I think there's a good chance he'll shut the fuck up, quick.
But if he still refuses to stop, the distance you're putting between the two of you right now will need to become permanent. Sometimes the only way to establish emotional boundaries with a person is to establish physical ones. That would be an unfortunate outcome, but it would be his fault, not yours.
At the end of the day, your comfort and safety matter so much more than protecting a shitty man's feelings, so please do whatever you need to do to not be subjected to his creepy comments anymore. I'm so sorry you've been put in this position. Good luck.
That's all the advice I'm giving today, folks, but if you've got any words of wisdom for our DMer, share them in the comments! And here's ONE MORE THING before you go...
Do you want a behind-the-scenes look at how I come up with my advice? I recently filmed a video where I answer a certain ~scandalous~ question you might remember from a previous column — and I call up one of my best friends to get her expert opinion on the matter, too! Check it out below:
For more advice and updates on previous DMers, follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@StephenLC in both places). And if you want to submit a question to be featured in the column, DM me — just be sure to read the rules below first.