14 Things You Must Teach Your Son about Sex

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Andrew Smiler highlights 14 aspects of sexuality that every parent should teach their sons.


Talking about sex with your kids is difficult. In part, that’s because so few of us had good conversations about sex with our parents so we don’t know how to do it. And in part, it’s because most of our knowledge about sex comes from our own experience, stories shared by friends, and what we’ve seen in the media. That’s not how we learn about history, for example. This means there’s a lot of stuff that we know, but most of us don’t have a larger framework for thinking about sex. We’ve got a little knowledge of this and a little knowledge of that and it’s all about sex, but somehow those pieces of knowledge don’t really seem to connect.

Talking about sex with your kids is difficult. In part, that’s because so few of us had good conversations about sex with our parents so we don’t know how to do it.

The results are hardly surprising. In survey after survey, only about half of high school seniors or college students say their parents ever talked to them about sex. Even worse, most of the kids who are lucky enough to have the talk had a conversation that lasted less than 10 minutes. Things are worse for boys than girls; they’re slightly less likely to have any conversation with their parents and when they do, it’s shorter and covers fewer topics. So here’s a short list of things your child needs to know. For simplicity, I’m going to write as though you’re talking to a son, but everything here applies equally in conversations for daughters. As you read, remember that the average American boy or girl loses their virginity around age 16 and only a minority are virgins at their high school graduation. Given that the typical age of first marriage is now in the mid- to late-20s for Americans, your child will probably date and have sex for about a decade. This means your son will probably have more than one partner before marriage.

1. Your values. Part of your job is to help your son develop sexual ethics that will guide his behavior. The most effective way to do this is to connect it to the values you’re already teaching, like respect, honesty, and care. And just like those things may look somewhat different when practiced with immediate family, extended family, friends, and strangers, they’ll probably look somewhat different here.

2. Focus broadly on sexuality. Talk about “sexuality” instead of “sex” because it’s a broad term that includes relationships and a variety of sexual behaviors. The word sex refers to both a specific act and also the broader set of things related to sex and that can get confusing at times.

3. Dating and Sexuality are connected. Dating inherently includes some level of sexual contact, even if it’s just kissing and holding hands. Doing those things in public is one way that we let other people know we’re dating someone. Kissing, holding hands, and other “pre-coital” sexual behaviors include implicit messages about trust and exclusiveness; talk to your son about the messages that a kiss sends.

4. Acceptable age of first sex. Related to your values, you should specify an age at which you think your son will be both physically and emotionally mature enough to have sex. To the best of your ability, be clear with your son that the age you give is based on who he is — his maturity level and values — in combination with your broader experience and perspective. Be realistic; he’ll use what you say to gauge his own behavior, and that includes deciding if he’s really ready at the age you specified. I recommend 16, which is the average.

5. Acceptability of hookups, FWB, etc. Related to your values, talk about sex in terms of various types of partners and relationships. Is romantic love necessary? Love for a friend? Trust? Lust?

6. Consent. Your son needs to be able to tell his partner that he gives consent and he needs to be able to hear consent from his partner. Make sure he understands that consent is reasonably specific and that he should use terms like “sex” and not nebulous expressions like “let’s do it.” Frankly, if your son can’t explicitly tell his partner that he wants to have sex, then he’s probably not ready to have sex with that person.

7. Refusal. Your son needs to know that he’s allowed to say “no,” “not yet,” “slow down,” or any other term that means he’s not willing or not ready. This is another aspect of consent and one that runs contrary to our stereotypical expectations that boys are always ready for sex and are the ones that initiate sexual contact. Ultimately, he needs to know what his options are when his partner is moving faster than he’d like.

8. Biological basics (genitalia): Your son needs to know the correct names for his external anatomy, that sperm live in seminal fluid, and that urine and sperm (and seminal fluid) all come out through the same part of the penis. If you and he aren’t quite sure what the vas deferens is or what it does, don’t sweat it. If you really want to know, find a website or book and go through it together, but remember that you probably don’t discuss his gall bladder or spleen in any detail either. If you’re lucky, he might even learn about those internal structures in health class.

9. Reproduction basics. He needs to know that any time his erect penis enters someone’s vagina, there’s a chance that pregnancy will occur. Your son needs to know this, even if he’s gay. After all, a surprising percentage of gay boys and men have sex with girls and women at least once (for a variety of reasons).

10. Contraceptive basics. Your son needs to know the odds of pregnancy can be changed through a variety of contraceptive strategies and devices. The specifics and level of detail are entirely up to you, and I realize that some people will talk only about tracking ovulation and the rhythm method. Help your son understand that contraception will help him control when he becomes a father (and you become a grandparent), although no form of contraception is 100% perfect.

11. Condoms. As the only form of contraception that guys control, it’s key that he knows what a condom is and how to use it. If you have that conversation with him before he has sex for the first time, there’s a greater chance that he’ll use a condom the first time he has sex and every time after that.

12. Diseases exist. Most of the discussion about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that we hear today focuses on HIV/AIDS and HPV. Syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes haven’t gone away, they’re still out there. They won’t kill you the way that AIDS can, but nobody wants sores on their genitals or pain when they pee.

13. Pleasure. Sex should feel good, for him and his partner. Yes, there may be some embarrassment, funny noises, and odd smells, but the experience should be more positive than negative. It should be fun.

14. Porn. The odds are good that your son has seen pornography. Approximately 1/3rd of 14 year old boys say they’ve voluntarily watched porn online. Among 18 year olds boys — whether they’re high school seniors or 1st year college students — nearly all say they’ve seen porn. Help him understand that porn is about as realistic as an unscripted “reality” TV show and as healthy as junk food. If you’re willing, send him to MakeLoveNotPorn.tv for a more realistic view.

Feeling overwhelmed by this list? I’m not surprised. It’s definitely too much for a one-time talk. His sexual upbringing needs to involve a series of talks – call it a conversation – over years. After all, it’s not like the learned to say “please” and “thank you” after a single talk.

His sexual upbringing needs to involve a series of talks – call it a conversation – over years. After all, it’s not like they learned to say “please” and “thank you” after a single talk.

Most of us wouldn’t dream of sending our kids out into the world without some knowledge of who they are, how to manage their money, and how to manage their time, so we talk about those things with our kids on and off over the years. Sexuality is just as complex a topic, but we don’t do nearly as good of a job with it. As he develops, his mental abilities increase, he becomes more emotionally mature, and he gains sexual experience, so will your conversations with him about sex.

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About Andrew Smiler

Andrew Smiler, PhD is a therapist, evaluator, author, and speaker residing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (USA). He is the author of “Challenging Casanova: Beyond the stereotype of promiscuous young male sexuality” and co-author, with Chris Kilmartin, of “The Masculine Self (5th edition)”. He is a past president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity and has taught at Wake Forest University and SUNY Oswego. Dr. Smiler's research focuses on definitions of masculinity. He also studies normative aspects of sexual development, such as age and perception of first kiss, first “serious” relationship, and first intercourse among 15-25 year olds. Follow him @AndrewSmiler.


  1. Andrew, I liked your article but I’m not convinced about number 4. I’d agree that a 16 year old boy is physically mature enough to have sex but I think we need more discussion about preparing the emotional maturity of a 16 year old boy concerning sex and simply just in general. 16 year old boys aren’t exactly known for their emotional maturity. Neither should they be at that age. But we shouldn’t claim they are emotionally mature just because they may be physically mature. And this should be explained to the boy. That he needs to understand his emotional maturity separately from his physical maturity.

    I’d also add “Communication”, with the actual person he wants to have sex with, to this list. While number 6 “Consent” covers important ground, there needs to be a larger communication happening. What things are okay to do, what things aren’t. And I think we need to include “consent” in the context of drugs and alcohol.

    There also needs to be a discussion about consent regarding picture or video sharing. If there are intimate pictures or videos shared between a couple, they need to be respected as much as the act. It is not okay to share intimate pictures or videos with other friends or strangers unless you have the “consent” of the other person.

    I would also suggest a conversation be had about not making girls, women and sex a barometer for his worth or manhood. That not all girls will want to be with him, just like he doesn’t want to be with every girl and that, that’s okay. His worth shouldn’t come from his ability to have sex with a lot of other people. And his worth doesn’t come from how hot is partner is.

    Finally, I totally agree with “Biological Basics”. Yet I would also add that he should also know how a woman’s body works and the correct names for her body as well. Which could also tie into “Reproduction basics”. I think it’s more affective for boys to (and girls) to know how each other’s biological systems work. It makes the risk for pregnancy more real. Also, there are a lot of grown men and women out there that don’t even know how their or the other bodys work. This might even help him sexually pleasure his partner better, knowing the physical make-up of her body.

  2. courage the cowardly dog says:

    Sorry, but our system has recognized you may be a spammer. Your comment has been held in our spam moderation queue. A human will review it shortly and if it’s not spam, we’ll publish it.If you believe this hold to be in error, please first ensure that you have Javascript and Cookies enabled in your browser. If after checking that you are still having this problem please contact us so that we can rectify the situation. – See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/andrew-smiler-14-things-you-must-teach-your-son-about-sex/comment-page-1/?spammer=confirm#reply-title

    Why do I get this when I try to post something?

  3. Theorema Egregium: Unfortunately, there are men who believe that women “owe” them sex for paying for dinner. It only takes one time of fighting one off in the driveway to learn that it is better to go dutch until you know you can trust him. And yes if you have a lot of sexual experince as a woman, being completely honest about it with a man is a good way to end a relationship with him. Whether the word “slut” is used or not, there are plenty of men who still judge harshly along those lines in this day and age. Those attitudes do get passed on to too many young boys, so best to be open and explicit about such topics.

  4. Tom Brechlin says:

    Since I’m off for the next few days “Triduim,” I’m gonna take a stab at addressing some of what’s been written here. I already mentioned the hormone that is generated with so called “casual Sex” and I think it’s important that people understand, especially with kid, that sex in their developmental stages can be detrimental. Ever know a teen that is devastated when they break up with a partner? Too many people take this casual sex thing too lightly.

  5. Tom Brechlin says:

    Even though casual sex is extremely common nowadays, the partners involved in the act are creating a significant bond. I would be as bold to say “casual sex” is not possible because of the bond that is created.
    Oxytocin has been dubbed the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” because it does simply that. It creates bonds, trust, and generosity in us. (DeAngelis) In fact whenever you feel comfort or security, oxytocin is involved. It is involved in every form of human bonding. (Horstman, 23)

  6. courage the cowardly dog says:

    Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. How about the concept that when you spill your seed it should only be in the context of a life affirming committed relationship dedicated to the creation, development and raising of new life. I tell my son his seed should only be spilled in a loving, life time committed relationship with a woman and that it should never be spilled in the waste disposal cavity of another man and that to do so is an insult to God and God’s plan for life. The reason we have the problems we do today is because God is left out of the equation. Man proposes and God disposes. I don’t expect this view point to see the light of day, because despite your assertions that the goodmenproject is having the conversation no one else is having some viewpoints are being excluded from that conversation.

    • Tom Brechlin says:

      Courage, I wish you would take “cowardly dog” out of you’re name because there is nothing “cowardly” in you presenting your views.

      I too am at a loss as to where to start. But what first came to mind was the thought of “contraceptives” and how “abstinence” was left out. “although no form of contraception is 100% perfect,” was mentioned but the truth is “abstinence” is 100% effective. It worked for my wife and I, my daughter who now married with two kids and my son who is still single.

      There was plenty of advise as to a son having an active sex life but nothing with respect to it being okay if he chooses abstinence.

      With respect to “STI’s” which I’m not sure what it’s been changed from “STD’s” other then “disease” makes it sound more ominous, there is data that shows that there is an increase in STD’s in adolescents. For example, chronic hepatitis B is something that a person may have for all their life. Hepatitis IS a “disease” and youth should be educated on all he STD’s and not minimized.

      How many of you know “The scientific community has been growing concerned over a strain of gonorrhea that, in 2011, was discovered immune to antibiotic treatments. Now, doctors and scientists have come out saying that Gonorrhea H041 (previously the clap) “might be a lot worse than AIDS.”

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        The name is a dichotomy. I can’t claim I originated it though. It is the name of a cartoon character that my son and I watched together when he was younger. Courage was an elderly couple’s dog who despite nearly paralyzing fear in the face of intimidating opposition always did the right thing with heroic results. In today’s atmosphere I find occasionally doing the right thing is mocked and ridiculed. Like Courage, the dog though sometimes intimidated by popular culture, I try to do the right thing.
        Excellent points. And points that the author utterly failed to make in the 14 things I MUST teach my sons about sex. This is not the place I will look to get advice on how to teach my children however, but what is unfortunate is that some fathers will ill advisedly. Sex is not free under any circumstances and the author wants readers to believe it can be engaged in irresponsibly and without commitment. Thank you for you contribution to “the conversation.”

  7. wellokaythen says:

    It would be great if boys got some of the same sexual empowerment talks that some of my women friends say they got from their progressive feminist sex-positive moms or aunts. Teach boys like these women taught their girls:

    speak up for what you want from your partner
    don’t be ashamed of self-pleasure
    don’t let other people dictate your sexuality
    challenge society’s prejudices against your sexuality
    own your orgasms
    sex toys are tools of liberation and exploration

    That would make sex better for everyone all around.

  8. Jon Jay Obermark says:

    I would add some stuff, basically about how emotion is the center of sex.

    To talk about men and sex and say almost nothing about shame, in this culture, where boys are taught ‘rape-culture feminism in school’, is irresponsible. We need to deconstruct the idea that MERELY THINKING something, anything is never evil. We need to acknowledge how much of a man’s emotion is hormonal, how anger works, and how sex is really, really likely to hook anger, jealousy. and shame in men much more than it does in women. We used to admit this, but now that is labelled as excusing male irresponsibility. But pretending it is less real makes for MORE irresponsibility, and extra shame.

    We kind of play with female jealousy in this culture, but clamp down hard on men’s, as ‘objectification’. Guys need to know that some irrationality is to be expected, how to avoid getting owned or owning, that it will pass, and it is OK.

    Somebody in the world occasionally needs to discuss ‘afterglow’ and there might be really negative immediate reactions to sexual satisfaction before it feels good, like irrational panic, guilt or defensiveness, in addition to flushing and a lot of weird physical hypersensitivity. But that those things should never ruin the experience, and you don’t have to apologize for them. Unless you are gay, shows that mock guys who cry after sex are the only clue any boy gets as to how this works.

    • Sex can be with or without emotion. Both are good but they are very different. A one night stand hookup as a male teen was one of the most awesome experiences I had during that time of my life. My long term relationship with my now wife is totally different. One if spiritual and rewarding (with my wife) the other is like riding you favorite roller coaster (exhillarating and then over with).

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        Sex can be with or without emotion. Both are good but they are very different. A one night stand hookup as a male teen was one of the most awesome experiences I had during that time of my life. – See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/andrew-smiler-14-things-you-must-teach-your-son-about-sex/#sthash.i1fLFfFi.dpuf

        Intercourse is a potentially life creating event with or without condoms. It should never be engaged in in such a frivolous way–one night stand can turn into a human life, think about that before you climb into bed with a woman. Yes she can abort the child – think about that too – could be your only opportunity to have a child. If God blesses you and your wife with child, and I pray if that is what you want, He does I hope you will teach him/her about the act of lovemaking and its meaning. BTW, You might look at that one night stand thing a little differently if you have a daughter. One night stands can turn into an abortion (not pleasant even for those who believe in it or a 9 month pregnancy and 18 years raising a child). For women that one night stand can turn into a life time roller coaster ride.

    • Excellent Post Jon. You are correct. Boys should also know that they are not “wrong” to want to pursue a girl for sex. Sex is fun. We don’t want to take advantage of another person, but if the other person is willing then go for it and there is only one way to find out if they are willing.

      • courage the cowardly dog says:

        I think one night stands are the most sexist things a man could do. He is placing a young woman at risk of pregnancy — which can compel an abortion or a life altering birth and raising of a child, no matter how you figure it it is traumatic for the woman and for what so a guy can have a night of fun???!?!?!? I mean I am shocked that the feminist publisher and editors of this site aren’t up in arms over Josh’s frivolous attitude toward women– use’em and lose’em is that the idea? I am not a feminist but I find your attitude toward sex is offensive to women. Makes me believe that I have greater respect for women than do the feminists. BTW, Josh stay the hell away from my daughter.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I agree. I’d like to see something on the list about never letting other people make you feel bad about your sexuality, what you enjoy, what you think about, etc. Meanwhile, making it clear that this is not a license to do whatever the hell you want to or to act irresponsibly. My parents never gave me a sex talk. I picked up a lot of information on my own as I went through life, but no good healthy skills when it came to dealing with sexual thoughts or fantasies. Are they good? Are they evil? Are they necessary evils? Does Jesus really cry every time I masturbate? Yay, repressive religious childhood!

      • wintermute says:

        Thank you for that message!
        Shame is such a harmful feeling to bear, especially when it’s related to something as deeply personal as your sexuality. When I was a teen, the fact that I was bi-curious made me hate myself, and my interest in what I later learned is called BDSM left me terrified that I’d end up a serial killer. Luckily, a thing called the internet came into common use, and I learned that I wasn’t alone, or a sick evil freak. I learned the code of “Safe, Sane and Consensual”, and how to negotiate your desires with a partner, something that I wish every mainstream sex-ed class would teach! An extremely high level of communication is necessary for any BDSM play, and should be for “vanilla” sex too. Communication is vital, and cannot be emphasized enough. It can also lead to some really fun, hot dirty talk, too!
        These days I march in the Pride Parade almost every year, because I am proud to have overcome the shame and fear of my bisexuality and BDSM orientation. Within consent, sex should never be an object of fear and shame, and everybody should be taught that.

        • courage the cowardly dog says:

          So now you shove your homosexuality and promiscuity in everybody else’s face. It may be the only thing I agree with Vladimir Putin about, public displays of sexual orientation should be outlawed. I don’t need to know your sexual orientation when I interview you for a job or determine your eligibility for a mortgage so I won’t deny you either for your sexual orientation. I find it offensive to have that shoved in my face by these parades. I believe the sexual act should only be performed in the context of a committed life affirming life creating relationship. I am sorry you felt shamed by your feelings. Shaming was not the way to teach you the correct way to deal with your feelings. You are a child of God and are entitled to greater respect than what you received. You can live a fulfilling and rewarding life without acting on the feelings you have.

  9. #3 Dating and sexuality are connected? ~ B S

    That’s what the world needs! ANOTHER guy who believes that because he paid for her evening, she’s obligated to him.
    Calling kissing and holding hands “pre-coital” is very presumptuous.

    • Dating and sexuality ARE connected. I don’t think that he meant what you think he meant. That the two are intertwined, and they are, and maybe even should be. I don’t mean to say that hookups are some awful thing, I’m just saying in my experience, dating and caring and trusting someone prior to sex is important. I feel I need an emotional connection to someone to have any kind of sexual connection, but I realize that is just me. This is much more important at an age where someone is having their earliest sexual experiences. You’re new at it, and very emotionally sensitive about it, nervous etc. At least, I was. I suppose I can’t speak for everyone. But I don’t think high schoolers should be nonchalantly hooking up. Again, it isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t think it’s the way your first sexual experiences should be. But that’s just my opinion.

      In response to the article, I think sexual orientation should be discussed. To let them know that who ever they are, is totally fine.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      ANOTHER guy who believes that because he paid for her evening, she’s obligated to him.

      You know what? I never believed that or know men who believe that. But a few years ago when I was heavy into dating I noticed with amazement that 90% of all women flat-out refused to let me pay for them, and I concluded that the reason was that it was them who harbored this sexist notion. (This was in Europe, btw.) I admit I like to pay after a bad date, because it somehow helps me to save face and let go of the rejection — but that is another story.

      So when you say “they believe” (guys in that case), ask yourself: Are you sure it is really them and not you?

      • Jon Jay Obermark says:

        How about just not saying ‘they believe’.

        Women imagine they have empathy for men, because men dominate our fiction. But those aren’t really men, they are fiction.

        And the idea that women have superior empathy has been debunked — women have superior empathy when, and only when,they are primed to focus on the expectation they are supposed to have it, and then they get worn out and have lower empathy later.

        Basically, men admit they don’t know what you are thinking. Please return the favor.

        • Jon Jay Obermark says:

          I guess I should say ‘women keep acting as if…’ So I have to admit this is hard to do. Still, I am sick of being told what I think.

        • Theorema Egregium says:

          You are of course correct that that would be best. I only wrote what I did, because it seems to me to be a general rule: Many times when we are fighting some dangerous idea that supposedly “everybody” believes, it turns out that those “everybody” people are always somewhere else — we never find any of them. Consequently those ideas only ever get mentioned in terms of negation.

          An example: Have you ever seriously heard real people declare that women who have lots of sex are sluts, whereas men are studs? I have not. (Maybe I know the wrong people.) What I hear very often is people saying “Everybody believes that women are sluts and men are studs and we must fight it.”

          The wisest website of them all calls this a Dead Horse Trope.

          • I don’t necessarily agree, but the reason that men who have lots of sex are considered studs and women who have lots of sex are considered sluts is simple.
            For a guy to have sex with a girl, he generally must pursue her and woo her into sex with him. He is generally forced to compete among other guys who are also attempting to woo her, from which, she will select a person to have sex with.
            For a girl to have sex with a guy, she simply needs to put on a skirt, go to the bar or club, and advertise herself as someone who is looking for an intimate encounter, and bingo there will be a line of guys willing to fullfill the request (even if they aren’t attracted to her or don’t know her there are plenty of willing guys). Now, the guys will usually not carry the relationship on either, he will leave once he has gotten what he wants in THIS type of situation.
            Women report being depressed and having lowered self esteem after one night stands where men actually report being elated and proud of being the “selected” even when they know that no relationship is possible.
            Because of this, it is frequently believed that women who are with lots of guys aren’t skillful or somehow “good” at pursuing men because any woman can have sex any time she wants with zero social skill, thus if she does it all the time, she simply lacks self control. Men are revered because to sleep with lots of girls they have to be very good looking, very wealthy, very socially graced or some combination thereof in order to win out against other guys pursuing the girl of their choice so often

          • wellokaythen says:

            Moreover, there’s a growing sex-positive movement (or parts of it) that’s trying to rework the word “slut” as a positive thing. In some places, there may be more people happily self-identifying as sluts than there are people branded sluts.

            Calling women sluts is probably the most common among people under the age of 20. Is there anyone over the age of 35 who actually uses the word seriously?

    • So in this article there is this:
      3. Dating and Sexuality are connected. Dating inherently includes some level of sexual contact, even if it’s just kissing and holding hands. Doing those things in public is one way that we let other people know we’re dating someone. Kissing, holding hands, and other “pre-coital” sexual behaviors include implicit messages about trust and exclusiveness; talk to your son about the messages that a kiss sends.

      Brenda here’s my question. Exactly what part of that passage says anything about teaching guys that paying for everything means she owes him sex.?

  10. This is a great list. And while there are many other bits and peices and many ways to cover this material in less or more details, I like this because it’s a bunch of ideas that respond to two main interests: 1) to share your values as a parent with your child, and 2) to equip your kid with comprehensive and reliable information about sex and sexuality.

    As an aside, I agree that many parents didn’t have good sex ed themselves (from their parents or otherwise) and so struggle with what and how to talk to their kids about sexuality. I started a blog to address some of that. http://www.sexplainer.com

  11. The make love site is a paysite, so already it fails. It’s no match to the plethora of free content available so it won’t be seen by people that should be seeing it and can’t afford it.

  12. I was going to post a link to this from our web site, and then I saw the Bacardi ad at the bottom. I’m not going to link to an article about responsible parenting of teens that includes promotion of alcohol use. Can you not screen the ads on your pages?

  13. Average guy, only more so. says:

    I agree that the “economics” of it should be covered. But not as that term relates to money… I’m talking “supply and demand here”. Your son should know that, from a sexual point of view, women are in high demand and men are a dime a dozen. Because of the reality of this “economics”, the smart strategy for women to follow is to sit back, play it safe, and carefully select the best offer that comes along. No inference that this is good or bad. It is just the way it is. Young men have to learn this. It also means that a young man can reasonably expect that women will likely never initiate sex with him or hit on him out of the blue. To make the grade young gentlemen have to stand out and cast their nets wide. My generation, sadly, was taught the Camelot model; That you set your sights on one woman and try to become her knight in shining armour. Pin your heart to one hope only. Wrong, wrong, wrong! A better course of action is to be funny, smart, and easy going and flirt light-heartedly with a very wide group of women. It’s like a writer selling his book… one query letter isn’t enough. You’ve got to send out dozens and learn to not take rejection personally. It’s a balancing act… don’t ease the pain of rejection by objectifying the rejecter (it’s easier to be rejected by an object than a person. Don’t take that route!)… yet continue to play the field in a conscientious way, without becoming a self-absorbed playboy. It’s not easy, son. Be respectful, be upbeat, and –for heaven’s sake—try to show some confidence and humor.

    • Perhaps you are of an older generation than I am because in my experience that advice would apply equally well to women! Particularly if you’re a girl who’s a little shy or quirky and doesn’t do well at small talk. I learned that I had to be assertive when looking for guys. If I sat back and did nothing I’d never be noticed and also I had to learn how to not let a series of rejections cause me to give up entirely. I eventually found someone who reciprocated but not until I was well into my 20s (making for many years of sexual frustration). I don’t think men and women are all that different when it comes to dating.

    • The “economics” is what forces men to always pursue women. If a man sits back and doesn’t pursue women (and usually more than one) he will get nothing, because more men want sex than women, and because of that women can sit back and wait for the right one… if you aren’t attempting it, you will not get selected easily… over time that hurts your self esteem and can isolate you from your peer group. Women don’t have to really do anything other than say ‘yes’ to engage in intercourse, now it is likely the guy will leave her high and dry if she isn’t careful, but simply having sex is easy for them so the guy is forced to become the pursuer to multiple women to increase his odds of selection as a sex partner for the night (which is what most guys are interested in).

  14. C. J. Czelling says:

    It’s not just about teaching sons to be good men but also being a good man myself and teaching daughters. What is there here that I wouldn’t also want to teach my daughters about?

    Also, I am acquainted with a young woman who could have used some of these teachings. She is currently doing a 30 month sentence in a state prison for having sexual relations with a consenting 15 year old girl. Perhaps it’s a price of gender equality.

  15. Just Love the list. Porn isn’t there as a negative thing, it is there for entertainment only.

  16. Paul Susac says:

    You left out the economics of sex. This is a huge and dangerous subject for men.

    As a man, your sexuality is less valuable than a woman’s. This is simply a product of the fact that SHE pays all the costs for reproduction. Because of this, it is MUCH easier for a woman to get sex when she wants it than a man.

    This makes men vulnerable. A man is likely to pursue sex for pleasure and think of the consequences later. If he gets her pregnant he will have no say in her decision to carry the child to term, but will certainly be made to pay child support if she does.

    For this reason there are two huge questions a man should ask himself before having sex:
    1) Is she trustworthy? Will she try to use sex to extort money out of me?
    2) What does she have to offer me other than her sexualty? What does she have to offer that will enrich my life?
    If I am taking the risk of sleeping with a woman, I had better consider the answers to these questions, or I am being blind to the consequence of my actions.

    I have known MANY men who have been the victim of poor judgment in choosing sex partners. Don’t let your kid be one of them.

    • While good points, you forgot to include:

      3) Am I ready to be a father? In addition to the financial aspects, am I mature enough to help raise an emotionally healthy child, sacrificing some of my current freedoms to make this child feel loved, and sharing the parenting with this woman whom I CHOSE to have intercourse with.

      • wellokaythen says:

        That ought to be covered, certainly, if and when dad talks about vaginal intercourse. There’s plenty of sex that simply cannot lead to pregnancy. I really hope the father-son sex talk doesn’t assume that sex always means penis/vagina intercourse.

  17. Pearl Wheeler says:

    Brilliant – hits exactly the right note.

  18. “Focus broadly on sexuality…”

    Even if my 13 year old son watches something foul or crazy on youtube, like Smack-Cam, Smosh, or Ray William Johnson, I try to watch with him sometimes to see what he is laughing at…sometimes it makes me squeamish or disgusted…sometimes I laugh despite myself….sometimes their inappropriate behavior is a good opportunity to talk about various things, like cross-dressing, boy-girl relationships, or why Miley Cyrus is acting out on a wrecking ball….it’s having all those daily conversations about anything or everything that keeps the lines of communication open…he has to relate to women of all ages in our family so he understands what is proper behavior on the outside…..plus he is closely supervised in his extracurricular activities….he is still immature in a lot of ways….

  19. Thanks for this great list. I’ll add that I have told my son that I suggest he practice masturbating with a condom on so he can get used to how it feels. Many women talk about how men don’t like to wear condoms because of how they feel, so my thought is that if my son is used to how it feels then he won’t be one of those men.

  20. Pretty much perfect. Thanks for this article, it’s exactly in line with what I will teach my own kids.

  21. My No 1:
    How to get sex.
    Look, i love your list. But if a boy can’t get any, and he sees other boys, boys that don’t care about rules 6,7,11,12(or the others) and they are getting laid, all of those rules might as well be hot air, he will try to get into that friend circle and emulate them. Trying to keep it real man.

    • Nick Jurczak says:

      This is why the first rule is so important. Teaching one’s child your values when it comes to sex and teaching them that it doesn’t matter what other people are doing are key ideas they need to know. I feel it should be up to the individual to decide how they actually get the sex that they want but you should instill values in them that make them not care about how fast others are having sex.

      • Values that are unrealistic are damaging. It takes practice to be a good lover. It is important for inexperienced to know what to expect. It is in the treatment of one sex partners that is important.

    • To elaborate on your point, I would say I hope to teach my son how to talk to women, make them feel safe and comfortable and how to be respectful to his partner(s) needs and desires. When I started dating I went on two dates with a pretty young lady. Being the “respectful” young man I was, I didn’t make any moves beyond hand holding. The result? She felt like I didn’t like her and wasn’t attracted to her because I didn’t kiss her. I hope to help teach him how to read signals better than I could at his age.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I would also suggest something I heard from a sex advice columnist. Roughly paraphrased: “Don’t focus on getting your teenaged self laid. Think about getting your 22 year old self laid, and work on becoming a good person (and good future sex partner) in the meantime.”

    • So, you just want to use young women for your own selfish ends? They’re just sex toys to you, not complete human beings? Rape is okay just as long as you get your way? My older daughter got married this summer. I wouldn’t want you to be around my younger one.

      • Women are people, yes. I am talking about sex and relationships. If it’s hard for you to get laid or date you start to look at matters in a practical light. That doesn’t mean that you will become an animal or a rapist. But, as a young guy, it’s hard for you to get dates while it’s easy for other guys, you start to gravitate to the ones that get results. The best way to help your son to keep these good rules and lessons in sex, is to make them relevant to him by making it easy for him to navigate dating and sex and get it.

    • Teaching your son that sex is something you “get” rather than something you share reinforces toxic cultural messages that teach boys to be dishonest and manipulative at best and predatory and dangerous at worst. No one is entitled to sex. Not you. Not your kid.

      • Is there some form of entitlement for those who are married?

        A large basis of marriage is the subset of sexual convolution. A sexless marriage is like having an arm of nothing more than dead flesh, but still attached to your body.

        • no, there isn’t a form of “entitlement” for those who are married. and i am disgusted by your description of a sexless marriage. many people in serious long term relationships dont’ have sex anymore, for a variety of reasons. you have a very narrow and limited, and really really disappointing view of marriage if you think that a lack of sex makes the whole thing null and void.

        • Marriage vows typically state to HAVE and TO HOLD, foresaking all others.
          To have and to hold means to be intimate with and that is why you must foresake all others. If your partner will not be intimate with you, find someone who will and you are justified in doing so because they are breaking their marital vow by not allowing you to “have and hold them”.

          Tom, You are absolutely correct. Boys are naturally programmed to pursue sex. They want it, they need, they need it as much as they need food. They need it more when they are teens and their biology is telling them, “Now is the time to procreate!” If their friends are using a methodolgy that girls like and respond to, they will emulate it in order to achieve the same success… every time.

          • If a boy goes without sex he will not die. He may be unhappy or sexually unsatisfied, but no, he doesn’t need it like he needs food. If he goes without food, he dies.

            I am really sick of this “Male sexuality trumps everything” nonsense.

            How many people are there even within marriages who are fantasizing about other people and looking at porn? Are they “foresaking all others”? (Notice that it doesn’t say “only physically foresaking all others”. Marriage vows are broken all the time and not just in the case of someone not having sex with their partner. “Foresaking all others” doesn’t mean lusting after your young hot neighbor while your wife is cooking dinner and then expecting your wife to be recepitive to your advances.

            Lastly, I am disgusted by the lack of personal accounability some of the men here are advocating for when it comes to sexuality. If your son is doing what all his friends are doing, that’s his fault. He’s also not a leader, he’s a follower. What kind of people do we want our kids to be? Do we want them to be the kind of people that follow others or the kind of people we can build into making their own choices and being leaders of their own life? It’s not easy but it is possible. And it’s no one else’s responsibility but his own. It’s not his friends fault that may be doing crappy stuff, thats on them. and it’s not the girls thought either for not having sex the second he wants it. Young girls have their own pitfalls they need to navigate and things they need to be taught and learn from within sexuality. Young girls especially need to be taught how to draw boundaries that protect their own desires and needs. They also need to undrestand that unfortunately, girls are much more prone to feeling deeper feelings for a boy after she’s slept with him then the boy is.

            Stop treating girls and women as commodities to your personal sexual happiness. I am so upset right now about how far this discussion hasn’t come.

    • At Nistan:
      “How to get sex”

      That is NOT the way to look at it. No one owes him sex. Life and other people do not owe him sex. “How to get sex” leads to how to coerce others into sex. This doesn’t necessarily mean sex without consent, but this implys that his actions with a potential sex partner should ultimately lead to sex and that if it doesn’t he has failed. This can lead to manipulative behavior like lying.

      • This is moot if he never gets to have sex because he is to shy or akward. How to get sex is exctly how he will think because sex and intimacy is a need, even if it’s not politically correct to say this right now, and if he starts to feel deprived his brain will automatically start to think like a hunter.
        This is not about gender, women do the same thing when their needs feel threathened.

        The only way to have a positive and natural outlook on sex is to be secure in the notion that they can get their needs met. Preferably this is done by having had experience in getting it before.

        This is extra important to guys because the risk of not getting it is higher form men. You have more chances of fucking up and we are socialized to take much more responsibility in making sure that sex happens in an interaction. This is a double whammy: you don’t get your needs met, it’s mostly your fault because you didn’t do X.
        Because of this he will think even more of “getting/aquiring” it.

        If you want a more egalitarian view start with your gender and make sure that more girls unburden guys in approaching and making BOTH parties comfortable and then escalate the relationship to sex.


  1. […] at the Good Men Project, we’ve suggested 14 things you must teach your son about sex and written about how to teach kids consent from age 1 to 21. We’ve also published open letters […]

  2. […] by Andrew Smiler for  The Good Men Project. Originally published November 14, […]

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