Here you go, my thoughts on the new and improved ways we should be talking to boys about sexuality. Just like girls, there’s a bunch of old rules that need to be junked so all kids can grow up to be whole and healthy adults.
1) He’s the boss of his body.
Boys need to hear they are the “boss of their bodies” from an early age because it keeps them safer from sexual abuse. They need to know it is just fine for them to say “no” to any kind of touch that feels uncomfortable to them, no matter how old they are. This means you need to request permission before touching them (even hugging); teach them to wipe their own damn butts by the time they are four; and make sure they know their privates are not to be shared with anyone, even someone they know, love and trust.
2) Boys are sexually abused and assaulted too.
Our initial assumption is that girls are the ones who are at most risk for sexual abuse (which is true), but the stats on boys are just as horrible. Especially if you consider ANY sexual abuse of a child a horrific act. This means you need to talk openly with your son about what sexual abuse is, how to protect himself, and just as importantly if he’s taken advantage of someone or is thinking about doing this. The sexual abuse of children will end if we step up and start talking openly about it.
3) He should be prepared for puberty to start around age 10.
Most boys start puberty at about age ten, but everyone is on their own schedule. He needs to feel confident and informed about this change of life so he can be ready for all it’s weirdnesses. Be sure to assure him that everyone goes through this and that his body is normal. If he has questions about puberty or worries about his body, let him know he can talk to his doctor. Someone at my house suggested that it would be really great to have pre-addressed envelopes available for a boy so he can write to his doctor if he has questions. This makes it less embarrassing and much more private to get the info he needs. Or so someone over here thinks. And yes, we have envelopes ready to go.
4) It’s normal for him to be emotional and feel all the feels.
Boys are social and emotional first; physical second. Boys get shortchanged in the emotions department so be sure to allow him to feel all of his feelings, no matter how loud and door slammy he may get. The more he can talk about how he’s feeling, the better for everyone, especially his future partner. Help your son identify his feelings as he’s experiencing them so he can learn to use his feeling words. And don’t every tell him he is wrong, bad or weak for being upset. You wouldn’t do this to your daughter. Don’t do it to your son.
5) Consent. Always.
Consent means saying YES wholeheartedly. “No means no” is officially dead. “Yes means yes” is the new and improved model for consent. Your son needs to know it’s very important he asks his partner if she (or he) is okay with what they are doing when he’s fooling around with someone. “Yes” is clear consent and he needs to be 100% okay with the behavior too. If alcohol or drugs are involved, consent cannot be given. This excellent little video does a great job of explaining consent. Feel free to watch it with your son. It’s great and funny. Tea!
6) Porn lies about sex.
Boys and girls use porn as “sex ed” and believe what they see is real, live, actual-factual sex. When, in fact it’s real, live actual-factual acting. He needs to know porn starts in the middle of a sexual encounter and it’s usually a man’s fantasy of what sex should be like. Sure, the various parts are getting stuck in a variety of holes, and women really do have sex with other women and men and another man, and then one more woman, but this is fairly rare and definitely not the norm for most people.
7) When he watches porn it can mess with his heart, mind, and, frankly, his dick.
It is too much for him to process emotionally and psychologically because he is not mature enough to fully understand the ins-and-outs of sexuality. It can mess with his dick because he can become so dependent on it for masturbation that when the real thing comes along, he can’t get off because it’s not stimulating enough. Real sex involves communication, clear consent, give-and-take, and, especially in the early days of learning how to have sex, mainly oral and vaginal sex, unless he’s gay, then anal may be on the table. Make sure he knows this.
8) Anal sex is varsity level sex.
A whole rule devoted to anal sex! Yay! The reason I had to include this is because porn makes it look like every and anyone is having anal sex and LOVING it! This is just not true. Some people have anal sex. Not everyone and when they do, they know what they are doing. Your boy needs to know that anal is not for beginners and requires time, attention, lots of communication and lube.
9) Guys lie about sex. All the time.
Most boys would rather have a girlfriend than sex, no matter what they may say. If they are given the choice between these two things, the girlfriend (without sex) wins. They say the status of having a regular girlfriend out ways the bragging rights about having sex. That being said, make sure your son knows that boys lie about their sex lives because, culturally, they (still) “look cooler” if it’s known they have had sex. Never mind the fact that the girl they had sex with is (still) considered a slut for “putting out.” The double standard is alive and well. Talking about it will help it go away. Maybe.
10) Let him know how much is too much masturbation.
Nearly everyone masturbates, especially adolescent boys and thank goodness! Can you imagine the mess we’d be in if they didn’t take matters into their own hands when it comes to their raging hormones? Let him know that he’s doing it too much if he’s hurting himself or finds himself wanking rather than doing other things, like hanging out with his friends or gaming or playing basketball. Also, if he’s only masturbating with online porn, he should switch it up so that he can handle the real deal when it comes his way. And he shouldn’t be watching the porn anyway, but that’s another conversation. Go old school and get him a Playboy magazine.
11) If he messed around with a same-sex friend or watches porn with male friends, it doesn’t mean he’s gay.
Boys engage in sexual play and behavior with their same-sex, close-in-age pals all the time. Not every kid, but this happens very frequently and will continue to happen forever and ever, amen. It’s how they learn about their own (and other’s sexuality). It’s smart for you to causally mention that this can be a normal part of childhood, it happens all the time, should be consenting, and it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s gay or bisexual. It could, but probably not. If he’s worried about who he’s sexually attracted to, this a great way to open the door to that conversation. It also may open the door to a conversation about sexual abuse, so be prepared for that.
12) Condoms are required for sex. No excuses.
No matter who they are doing it with, their steady girlfriend, boyfriend or some one they hook up with. Most guys don’t have any symptoms when they have an STD. So when you say “sex” say “condom” and buy them for him. By 7th grade, you should have condoms in your home for him to practice putting on and masturbating with and so there are no excuses about not having one. I get it, this sounds like you are giving permission for him to have sex. You aren’t. You’re giving him permission to not be a dumbshit about his sexual health. He should be able to put one on blindfolded and left handed waaaaaay before he really needs one.
13) He needs to know about the most effective kinds of birth control.
Your boy needs to know what the most effective kinds of birth control are and where to get them. He will have platonic and romantic girlfriends. The more informed he is about birth control the better partner and friend he will be. Birth control is required for heterosexual sex, so your son should be fully engaged in this part of his sex life.
14) No one “owes” you sex or “asks” for it.
You need to talk about this explicitly, even though you think he knows this because it’s obvious. Nearly every bit of media he consumes with regard to women and sex will have some element of this in it. His friends will think this, too. You need to make sure he understands that no matter what she wears, says or even does, it doesn’t mean she wants to have sex or fool around or anything unless she SAYS she does. Also, there is no such thing as “blue balls” and even if he’s got an uncomfortable erection, he’ll just have to deal with it.
15) Oral sex goes both ways and is not a commodity.
Oral sex is something most people engage in because it feels great! However, many boys don’t get the message that it’s a two way street: if she goes down on him, he should be 100% game to return the favor. Also, blow jobs are not a commodity and if a girl offers him one and they are not in a relationship of some sort, including a consensual, sex-for-fun, one-time romp, or she wants something in return (like a ride somewhere) the answer is “no.” It’s disrespectful for your son to accept the offer of a BJ if he’s not going to return the favor or it’s in exchange for something. Amen.
16) No one is good at sex the first time (or the second time) and he won’t be either.
He needs to know that having sex is a learned skill and it takes time to figure it all out. Everyone is all beaks and feet at first. This is why it’s so great for your first time to be with someone you know, like (if not love) and trust. Porn makes it look so easy! And fun! And orgasmic! This is only a tiny bit true. Make sure they know that it takes time to get to know their partner and themselves at first. Communication is key.
17) It’s not okay to brag about your sex life.
Guys like to brag about their sex lives and it is not okay. They sound like sexist, insensitive, asshats, when they do, so make sure your sweet boy understands that sex is private. He should know that it’s disrespectful to his partner to talk openly and in detail about what goes down in the bedroom. And if he’s a real stand up guy, he’ll tell his friends to shut up when they are openly discussing their sex lives like it’s a football game. Gah.
18) If his friends are harassing a girl, he needs to step up and stop it.
The same rule as above applies here. If your son is with a group of guys and they are in anyway harassing a girl, he needs to step up and step in to protect her. Yeah, he’ll get some flack, but he will survive. And the guys who are in the group but are too chicken to do anything to stop it will be relieved and envious. And ashamed, especially if someone gets raped or otherwise hurt. And the girl he protects? Well, let’s just say there’s it doesn’t get much better than looking like a hero.
Wait! That was a few more than 15 rules. And there are even more!! Like they need to start the HPV vaccination by age 11 because they are the primary HPV delivery system to women and girls. I’m sure there are more, so use these to get the conversations started. And please, please, please remember to talk about your values about sex, love and relationships. They need to hear this too. Good luck — you’ve got this!