September 23, 2014

Boys, Boobs, and Saying "Yes!"

I still remember my first touch of a naked female breast. It was in the back row of a dark movie theatre when I was maybe twelve. I was on an early adolescent date of sorts and I didn't really have a clue about what I was doing. I remember it took all the courage I had to make my way through a long run up of incremental steps to get to the object of my desire . . . that breast. I was with a girl just a little older than me who somehow managed to pretend none of it was happening, didn't say "no," and seemed to like the attention.

The breast, . . . was indeed
wonderful and otherworldly for me . . .

The breast, while it was indeed wonderful and otherworldly for me, was really just another player in the drama. I was already being propelled by my young male biology and in the grip of an ancient gender dance. Up to that moment in my life, I had NO actual experience with breasts or any other element of female anatomy. I also had no real understanding of what was going on in my body. In short, I didn’t know what I was doing or even why I was so magnetized by those breasts. I was simply operating on pure male instinct and loving it.

In my young male world at that time, there were early rumblings about girls' body parts, "scoring," and things vaguely sexual. Those ideas were mostly joked about in my young boy pack. The fact the guys a little older than us were very focused on girls wasn't lost on us, but no one in our age group really had a clue why. We knew something was going on but it was all a vague and exciting mystery.

The internet has changed everything. Today, kids with even a little sexual curiosity can go online and find all the information on the topic they can handle. An unsupervised adolescent male today can easily find enough information to become an amateur gynecologist. The good and the very bad information is all easily available. Because of how much questionable and blatantly bad information about sexuality is out there, adult guidance is even more important now than ever.

Sadly, too many parents are not having "the talk" with their kids . . . in time. A recent survey of parents and their 13 to 17 year-old kids published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (as reported in U.S. News and World Report), speaks directly to the need for an ongoing conversation about sexuality with kids. In the Talking Parent, Healthy Teens survey, just some of what they discovered included:
  • Almost half of teens had intercourse before their parents got around to talking with them about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.
  • More than half of the teenagers had engaged in genital touching before discussing birth control effectiveness, resisting pressure for sex, and the importance of condom use with their parents.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to have had talks with parents about sex.
We all know someone has to talk with our young guys about these issues. Mark Schuster is one of the authors of the Talking Parents, Healthy Teens survey and is a co-author of a helpful book titled, Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid They'd Ask). It's perfect for parents trying to gear up for having "the talk" with their kids. If you're a parent of a young male, read a book, if necessary, and start the conversation with your young man. There is just too much at risk to pretend our young guys aren't going to be sexual.

When considering these conversations with young males, the questions of how to talk about sex, when to bring up the topic, who should be having the conversations, and what the content about sexuality should include, combine to create an extremity complicated matter. These questions are beyond the scope of this post, but I do feel those of us working with young males should be talking among ourselves and with the parents of young guys about how to raise the topic.

That all said, there may be a conversation parents and those of us working with the young dudes can have right now.

The California legislature has just passed a bill that clarifies what it means to have consensual sexual activity. “Activity" means not just the act of intercourse, but all the steps that lead up to two people getting it on. Here is a lot of information on that legal initiative.

This legislation begins to move the discussion out of the realm of someone having to say “no” and instead now requires both parties to say "yes," and keep saying yes as things progress! That means, "continuous, affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement by each party to engage in sexual activity.” Now that kind of agreement would have made my approach of a long run of incremental steps to get to the object of my desire, unacceptable. I’m thinking that would also be true of a lot of the strategies used by young guys these days.

. . . our young guys will need to know
how to have a
sexually intimate personal conversation.

Adolescent male sex impulses can be a lot like a snowball rolling downhill, gaining mass and momentum along the way. Given that fact, it’s going to take considerable guidance to make sure our young guys and women are safe in this new day of positive consent. In addition to managing powerful personal biological drives, our young guys will need to know how to have a sexually intimate personal conversation. We can and do need to teach them how to do that.

In our school-based and other circles with young men, personal truths are often spoken. When trust has been formed, there is a level of personal honesty, emotion, and real vulnerability that is often shared. The challenge will be to get young guys to bring this form of intimate exchange into their relationships with women . . . and to do so in the heat of a sexual moment.

There is plenty of grey area remaining between the California law’s legal consent requirements and the reality of human sexuality. But requiring a series of yes's along the way is a good start. Laws regarding consent won't stop someone intent on dominance, manipulating a partner, or committing sexual assault. Just having this issue in the public view can be a good reason to bring up the topic with our young men.

If all the barriers to having these intimate conversations can be overcome, discussions about having a healthy, mutually respectful, and positive relationship with a sexual (or any) partner can be launched with our young men. I say "Yes" to that!

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1 comment:

  1. That was a good post, Earl. One of the issues you didn't mention was hormones. Young people are developing their hormones and a younger and younger age all the time. Studies prove this out, and I think it needs to be addressed as boys and girls develop at an earlier and younger age all the time. It is true parents do not give "the talk" until it is often too late; if it is given at all! It is also true among boys they are considered to have scored and it is a positive thing. On the other hand, girls are considered to be loose or tramps if they "give it up." Sex education is critical at an early age and it is not being done.


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