What Happens When We Don’t Teach Boys About Sex?

what happens when we dont teach our boys about sex

Jayson Gaddis explores the mess he sees we are in when it comes to male sexuality. How did we get here and what on earth do we do?

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To not teach children about the sacredness of their bodies and their sexuality is one of the CORE abandonments of our time. This post is about the mess we are in around male sexuality. I am here to name it and simply put it in the open for all of us to see.

I received ZERO training around sex or my body until age 34. None. Fortunately for me, I now have excellent mentors and friends who are helping me grow up my sexuality and dive into its headwaters with open arms. But it was almost too late.

My first sexual experience with another person was when my cousin taught me how to masturbate. Naturally, it felt good. But then he shamed and humiliated me, leaving a deep scar. This became my initial sexual imprint, and it has impacted my sexuality to this day. Instead of learning, I went into hiding like most men run by shame. I listened to other peers who were equally immature and confused. Before I sought out help, I was left adrift, aimlessly trying to be a man with this cosmic sword between my legs. No one ever taught me the profound power my cock could yield. That I could give life or destroy life with its power. My dad dropped the ball as did my culture.

So how did we get into this mess?

I’m guessing there’s more to the story than this, but I’m naming one GIANT dynamic if not THE dynamic that got us here.

First, let’s acknowledge that some of us (not me) got an amazing, healthy, wise education around sex, our bodies, and our sexuality. If that’s you, congratulations! Seriously. Then, let’s acknowledge that there are a good number of people out there that believe we are teaching are kids plenty, even too much, about sex and sexuality (i.e. conservative religious groups).

Leaving it up to the schools and churches to train our kids about their penises and vaginas and how to use them has gotten us where we are today, ashamed, avoiding, and hoping someone else will teach this complicated stuff for us. If those entities did a great job, we’d be seeing different results.

Because adults have been, by in large, too ashamed or limited in themselves, they have taught our boys a very watered down version of sex education. That’s the best case scenario. It’s either nothing at all, or a “birds and the bees” talk in middle school or high school, likely from a teacher who is filtering information because their hands are tied by a fearful administration.

Think about what you got in terms of sex ed. I got a health class in 8th grade (in Utah) and then my dad talked to me in High school about wearing a condom. That’s it. That’s all I got.

So, what did I do? I learned from peers (well before high school) who were equally as ashamed, misinformed, and confused.

I was completely and utterly abandoned, as was my father by his father and on and on. I get that it wasn’t my Dad’s fault. How could he teach me anything about sex given what was taught to him by a Dad who probably never even mentioned it? Generations of betrayal. Generations of neglect and looking the other way, hoping kids would “figure it out” or innocently thinking it would take care of itself.

So, when I think about my own son, I can see the doorway toward “letting him figure it out.” That door is wide open and would be easy for me to just drop the ball and keep the generations of abandonment alive.

But I won’t do that. No way. Not in my house. I won’t pass the buck to other adults and expect them to deliver. I also refuse to let other 4, 5, 6, 7 year old boys teach my son about his sacred body. I refuse to let another kid shaming him while he’s naked or having hard core porn be his first sexual experience.

I will show up for my son. I’m scared and excited to teach him everything about his beautiful body and its power. I feel inspired to train him to use his penis responsibly. And guess what? My son is 3 years old and needs information now! He is exploring his body right now! Wait until middle school? I don’t think so.

Most of us men received little to no sexual training as boys. We simply learned from other boys. Our first sexual experiences were often either molestation (1 in six boys is sexually abused before age 16), experimentation with ourselves (some kind of masturbation, mostly to porn these days) or other boys (more than one-third of the sexual abuse of America’s children is committed by other minors).

As boys, in order to fit in, we were supposed to make fun of other boys when we were naked. If we were too “good” or too scared to do that, we got quiet and became bystanders hoping some adult would step up and set a boundary. When no one did, we remained silent because speaking up we might have faced ridicule or humiliation.

Anything that resembled being gay or too feminine, we shamed and humiliated in each other and called it “funny.” We were mostly taught that sex is great, but also bad and that masturbation is bad even though it feels good. Hmmm….Our choice? Posture and fake it trying to “be one of the guys,” or go underground with our sexuality and experiment in isolation.

Confused yet?

As teen boys, we taught each other to objectify women and keep score. We were either taught that w0men like strong men that are stoic and hide their vulnerability like any superhero in the movies, or maybe we took the gentleman’s path, (slightly more conservative but still damaging) where we are supposed to take care of women and be “clean” by never masturbating or succumbing to our animal desires, thus being a “good boy.”

If we were gay, or wondered if we were gay, we had no where safe to turn to, no one to ask, no place to explore in a safe way. So, again we isolated and felt shame and guilt. Then we might have played along with the straight boys thus adding more self-abandonment and confusion.

Then we found oursevles in an oversexualized culture where women’s bodies were everywhere for us to gawk at including in video games, TV, magazines, and even in men’s sports. We went to college where our sex drive was through the roof and we sprayed it around like a fire-hose with no supervision and little consequence. Or we were so confused, we shut down and got quiet. If we wanted to be “one of the guys” we tried to get laid a lot and talked a big game, thinking that might win us friends. If we didn’t take that path, we stayed a quiet bystander letting our brothers off the hook over and over as they objectified and used women over and over again while we isolated and went inward for answers.

Pile on more confusion….

Of course, then we became adult men (whatever that means), and even though we have the power to seek out a therapist or professional to get help with the confusion and power between our legs, we didn’t. Either because we didn’t even know it was an option, or because we might have faced silent judgment or ridicule from our peers–more shame and humiliation, all part of the gender straightjacket.

Now that we are officially confused and ashamed about our penis and sex, and live in a culture that supports our dis-embodiment, we paradoxically find comfort in our isolation and disconnection. It’s the new norm. We mask over any whisper of shame or fear so we can fit in with the guys and then we hope to meet a cool woman that likes us despite our insecurities.

Then in our isolation, while no one is looking and with the door locked, we finally find relief in our sexually confused state–porn. It’s quick, easy, cheap, with an endless variety where we don’t have to deal with the complexities of interpersonal relationship dynamics. We can stay alone and keep it locked away in our inner sanctum. It even gives us temporarily relief from the stress in our lives and gives the illusion of keeping our shame at bay.

Whew.

Once again, the boy code has conditioned us into a little, tiny corner where we remain angry, alone, confused, and isolated. Our conditioning is a trap. Be a certain way, and don’t act outside the box. If you do, we will humiliate you. Don’t speak up or intervene, b/c that too is gay, weak, or feminine. So, stay put, stay a bystander, stay in your box.

So this is where we are today

Like it or not, the state of male sexuality in this culture (and probably the world) is that of a sick, neglected, and deeply abandoned child, and we can see the wake of it everywhere in our lives. The way boys treat girls, the way men treat women. The way boys treat boys. The bullying and shame, coercion, and intimidation to be a certain way sexually. The gay jokes, the “small penis” jokes, the “pussy” jokes, the rape, misogyny, misandry,  the violence, Matthew Shepard, Penn State, Steubenville Rape, The Catholic Church, and the shame and self-hatred toward our own bodies.

All taught by who? Boys.

That’s right. We adults have put boys in charge of teaching other boys about the most sacred parts of their bodies. Boys are teaching other boys about sexuality in this culture. And because adults are unable or unwilling to step up, this is the mess we are in.

Wow.

So, this is on the table for us to examine and see clearly. How about we pause and take this all in.

Breathe.

The next question for me is “okay, what do I do about it?

In my own home, I will take on the responsibility to teach and train my son about his penis, his body, and his sexuality with unwavering respect and love.

In terms of the global problem, the questions are rolling in. From single moms to new dad’s like me.

How are you dealing with your own confused sexuality and how will you/are you teaching your son about it? Because wherever you are ashamed and stuck, you will block your son from learning and embodying a healthy sexuality.

What I am doing about it?

Read this awesome breakdown The Healthy Sex Talk–Teaching Kids Consent Ages 1-21

I am teaching him about his sacred body. Where I’m stuck, I’m getting help, hiring mentors, going to classes and learning about how to appropriately (factoring in age and brain development) and truthfully talk to my son about his body and his sexuality. And, if enough parents ask, I’ll probably offer tele-classes or write more on the subject. I’m open to suggestions.

Please share below how you are navigating this critical terrain.

If you are a parent of a son, or are actively involved in raising boys in your life, join our facebook page Raising Boys.

 

Photo: By crdotx/ Flickr

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About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis — householder, former psychotherapist, teacher, speaker, writer, relationship specialist, & soul guide is using the vehicle of his marriage and his children to become who he truly is, while expanding his capacity to love. He’s on the planet to help people master the soul lesson burning in their heart, through the vehicle of intimacy and relationship. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two cosmic kids.

Comments

  1. i was thaugt the same way i felt the shame and guilt abused by a male cousin i keep any thing to do with sex isulated by porn or mastorbation was never thougt sex ed at any school mean while my school friend all took some sex ed i still cant figure out how this happed? i mean missing sex ed

  2. So many men think their own body as dirty and disgusting, and its so weird to me. My friend said to me, how could all women are not lesbian and how could they sexually attracted to men, since men are so ugly, hairy, and repulsive, and women are so beautiful. I said to him, for women men are also beautiful and sexy, and he cant understand it, even joking, ” Are you gay??” lol. This type of thinking from most men are weird to me. Because how they could respect their women who love them and sexually attracted to them if they think their own body is ugly and disgusting? For me, if you cannot respect your own body and sexuality, you cannot respect other people body and sexuality, including heterosexual women who most of them attracted to men. And I think that’s also the reason so many straight men cannot understand why there are gays who can feel attracted to men, because for them, men are ugly and disgusting . And yet they expect women to like them and aroused for them ( only when having sex ) even if they think their body is ugly. Its so weird to me. I think this is because society, like some parents, teacher, teach to us that male body is ugly, not beautiful like women.

    And this goes back to Hugo’s article : http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/the-male-body-repulsive-or-beautiful/

    I think we should teach young boys that male bodies are also beautiful and sexy, and its not weird for straight women and gay men to lusted for our bodies, because men and women are beautiful, just in different ways.

    If we want boys to respect women and their bodies, first we need to teach them to respect their own body .

    • Most fantastic point John.

    • Exactly. That’s the point I would speak to. When it comes to heterosexual interactions and understandings in our society, body image seems to be so one-sided. Physical attraction is so largely man toward woman. Many people view this as natural sexual behavioral difference and dimorphism, like you see in many animals. I’ve heard more than one woman refer to normal men’s bodies and especially their penises as useful but not beautiful (as opposed to women’s bodies). But even though that seems to me to be the general rule, there are all sorts of reactions and assertions which belie that dynamic: for instance, women enjoying male strippers, or straight guys who put all their energy into improving their bodies (indicating they believe that women will respond to it). The question is, I think, what IS the natural balance of physical attraction, and how much does social conditioning move us out of balance? As a self-perceived loser of gender role conditioning, I am determined to believe that men and women are far more naturally alike than our cultural expressions show. I think the expression of sexual desire in our society is galvanized for men and squelched for women, and I think that results in many negative social consequences. The author speaks of teaching about the “sacredness” of his son’s body, but doesn’t expound on it much. I think that’s exactly what society needs, is that boys think more about how precious their bodies are, both for their own self-esteem and for their interactions with girls: it might lead to a little more discrimination as they decide who’s good enough to share their penis. And, honestly, maybe, teach girls to think of their own bodies as NOT-so-sacred, at least in that sense, such that they don’t consider sexual feelings and interactions from boys that aren’t “perfect” to be therefore wrong and dirty, and an insult. Also, teach them that their own sexual feelings and interactions do not “stain their souls,” for lack of a better phrase. I think this would also go a long way to lessening the incidences, and mitigating the effects, of rape: angry men would be less likely to view women as “enemies who think they’re too good for me,’ and victims would be less likely to feel shame and blame themselves.

  3. Jayson, thanks for bringing this to light. I’ve often been ahsamed, even angry at how little my father communicated to me about sex and sexuality. I felt lost and alone, and like you in my 30s I feel like I’m just starting to figure it out. With a young daughter I’m worried for the kind of men that she’ll come across, men like me who are good guys but who don’t have a clue about what is going on in that part of their lives, or how to teach her that it could be different.

  4. When I was eight, I was molested by my stepdad. That is where I learned about my body.

    Ever since then I have been confused and I am 31! Been married for almost 9 years now and we have a 2 year old daughter. When I found out we were having a daughter I was relieved that my first child was not a boy. I mean, I did not have a father to raise me, how do I know how to raise a son?

    Glad the Good Men Project shared your blog, I will be reading up.

    Thank you for having the balls to write this.

  5. Honest to God, I think we are just now starting to wake up to the REAL, TRUE reality that up until very recently, not only women, but MEN have been enslaved to a subhuman condition. It took the feminist movement, and the suffragists before them, to start asking the questions, to start liberating women to be their true human selves, their full human selves. But all along, what has been termed “male privilege” is, at best, an illusion. Some males have truly felt privileged to vote, and yes, it might’ve been a privilege to vote and own property and get an education and have a career, in the past. But at what price? I refuse to accept that hegemonic masculinity, or the ideal of the strong male that every male aspires to be, and everyone enforces, is the true and only “ideal” for the male gender. There is no “ideal”. There is only LIBERTY. That means liberty for the effeminate men. For the weak men. For the gay men. For transsexual men and women, for transgender men. And don’t forget boys. That means liberty of self expression and gender expression. We should let boys, males, play with dolls, cook, wear a tiara and boas if they want to, if girls can wear heels and makeup, why can’t boys? And let the girls play soccer or football if they want to! Isn’t playing supposed to “fun”? Isn’t that the whole POINT? Forcing a boy to “play” soccer, something he hates, or football, is taking the fun out of the thing that’s supposed to be fun in the first place. I think sports are played for fun, and only secondly does it get competitive. We have such a long way to go in society, but I’m looking at the good people, the people who dare to be ALIVE, to be THEMSELVES, because that’s what’s worth living for.

    A lot of what has been “male privilege” is a double-edged sword. The man could make the decisions. But is decision making best done by males as opposed to females, or experienced, wise, knowledgeable individuals, regardless of gender or sex? That would leave it in the hands of less males and more females than it has been in the past, and we are seeing that with more females in government and politics today, but it’s a recent phenomenon. I mean, if we just look around, there are still cages and slavery for men around us. We don’t have gay men being respected. While straight teens can experiment, homosexual teens can’t until much, much later. And they can’t be open about it. Older people are still very afraid of homosexuality. Boys can’t have long hair. They’re expected to be tough, strong, not cry. You can’t hit girls, but girls can hit boys? And boys can hit boys? Does that make sense? Girls can hit girls, they can hit boys, and boys can hit boys, but boys can’t hit girls? That’s sexist, and it’s assuming girls are weak and can’t defend themselves. Let’s make an end all rule that NO ONE hits NO ONE. There, problem solved. I mean, sexism is all around us. Go to the toy store, and there’s an obvious boy section and girl section. The boy section is tough fighter people in dark colors, and trains and construction sets. The girl section is pretty pink dolls, make up, costumes, and home things. Go to the kids clothes section, and you see it again. There are trucks and cars on the boys dark clothes, while on the girls colorful clothing there are fairies and butterflies. THIS IS SOO WRONG!!

    • I couldn’t agree more. I was very lucky to have parents that gave me liberties. I grew up in the fifties and sixties. When I was about four I had a doll that was almost as big as me. When I was in high school people said that I had to be gay because I was very artistic, loved philosophy, and didn’t want to play football. (I hated the idea of hurting people)

      When I worked as a psychiatric CNA I was constantly kidded about being a nurse. But sometimes you need muscle in the wards. But some of my fondest memories were about talking to people about their problems. I’m a healer not a hurter.

  6. “Places like the Playboy mansion will continue to flourish until we raise a generation of men who are genuinely comfortable with their sexuality and don’t need an artificial human zoo in order to get close (physically and emotionally) to a woman.”

    – Antipornmen.org

  7. This may sound weird, but one thing I was never told as a teenage boy was that women can enjoy sex! :) I didn’t even have a girlfriend until college, and I remember coming to the conclusion, while I was in high school, that sex seemed much too violent, and I couldn’t imagine forcing it on any woman I actually cared about.
    When we’re explaining sex to kids, we shouldn’t skip the fact that consensual sex is in fact enjoyable. Otherwise we lose credibility with most kids, and give a warped sense of sexuality to the others.

  8. christine says:

    I am Public Health Nurse in school health program and the mother of two boys. I do a lot of education around sex and sexually. I love this post and think parents are the first and most important educators, but many need more support to do this. It is frustrating that where I work they want us as nurses to do less education in the school because they say it the teachers job and their curriculum and we should focus on supporting teachers to become comfortable (which is also our goal when possible). But ad you said many because of their own upbringing or school politics don’t have the skills or proper support to teach sex ed and therefore it does get done properly or at all. This is a sad situation and it would be a game changer if boys and girls were properly educated about their bodies and sexuality, especially considering the competition is Family guy and internet porn:(

  9. Much to the embarrassment of my children, I have kept an open, unabashed, matter-of-fact dialogue about sex going in our house. I’ve nonchalantly brought up discussions about bodies, masturbation, and all other sex-ed related topics frequently, sharing things I’ve read and encouraging questions.

    I hope one day my kids will thank me.

  10. Jade Falk says:

    Mature, poignant and thoughtful article. Shame people are using the comments section to embrace misogyny and the “men vs women” or “feminism is bad” myth rather than really taking in the meaning of what you’re saying. I feel sorry for our boys, taught that sex is their right, and that they should ‘take’ it at every opportunity, and indeed *want* it at every opportunity, that aggression is a good way to get sex (and they have to ‘initiate’ it because women won’t) etc. Then suddenly they are grown men who haven’t been taught about consent, relationships or any of the more nuanced parts of sex – and they’re somehow expected know what to do when they get into adult relationships?? Why, does the Sex Fairy come down and bestow upon them the self-acceptance, knowledge and understanding that has been denied to them their whole lives?

    Shame on us, as a society. Boys deserve better.

  11. I understand the principle behind this article; however, it is perpetuating the idea that all men are raised to be horrible people who treat women poorly. Therefore, all this article does is offer an excuse for what culture is telling us about men, as if the idea of the abusing, sexual predator that all men are needs some reinforcing. I am a Man AND I AM NOT A BAD PERSON. There are millions like me; I am not an anomaly. Lastly, I hate the needed prefix of “Good” when discussing Men like myself. Maybe a campaign of men saying “I am not a bad person” is what the world needs to hear right now.

    • Agreed. Wouldn’t it be great if it was renamed the Evolved Men project, or Awakened Men, or Conscious Men… ‘Good’ makes me cringe.

  12. Great post! I teach sociology and women studies and ask my students if their parents ever talk to them about sex. Hardly any of them do. I don’t know if the parents are just uncomfortable or think they’re protecting their children but they certainly aren’t doing the latter. And to be responsible parents they really need to do former.

  13. Sexual activity is a vital principle of human living that connects the desire, energy, and pleasure of the body to a knowledge of human intimacy, for sake of erotic love, intimate friendship, human mating, and procreation.

  14. Right on Jayson.A large percent of men in western society are left to struggle in “no mans’ land” of ignorance. My explanation is that western society is run by about 30% alpha women and 20% high performing males. That’s 50%- very democratic , but—
    Since the 50’s several irreversible, never before changes have happened to men and women. The average male , say 20%, has got to be lucky to achive a stable relationship with a women. In many ways you are lucky to be gay.

  15. I taught my nephews that sex is nothing special.
    Just one of our animal instincts like eating and sleeping.
    And it has many variations ranging from asexual to pansexual.
    I taught them that safety and responsibility were very important so as to avoid the downsides of sex such as STI’s or unplanned pregnancy.
    That they should be honest wityh themselves and partners and enjoy it.

  16. Sex is special and is much more than eating and sleeping.

    thanks for adding to the chaos.

  17. Peter T says:

    Sex is special, and so are eating and sleeping. We shouldn’t dishonor our bodies by stuffing them thoughtlessly with bad food and by not giving them enough sleep.

    We teach our boys to respect their bodies and to name them right (penis, not weewee, not wiener): you can go naked at home and inside the swimming pool’s locker room, and nakedness is nothing to laugh at; you can’t go naked outside, because in our world people dress; you should respect others’ privacy when they want it. We have spoken about the biology of reproduction and read a book about it..

    I don’t know what I will do when my boys get older and the emotional side of sex gets important. May God give me the right words at the right time.

  18. Good words as far as they go Pete!

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  6. […] My sense of early masculinity was that it was inseparable from sex. I had to prove something, to myself and to the world. My quest was to seek out and experience the treasure that was being offered. It seemed pretty clear that that was what was on the mind of many of my friends too. How could we authenticate our ‘manly’ power? Dishonestly and ego-driven? This was the way the world worked and men worked the world. ‘We adults have put boys in charge of teaching other boys about the most sacred parts of their bodies. Boys are teaching other boys about sexuality in this culture.’ (Jayson Gaddis – ‘What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex‘) […]

  7. […] What Happens When We Don't Teach Our Boys About Sex? […]

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  9. […] So You’re Tired of Hearing About “Rape Culture”? The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex […]

  10. […] What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex […]

  11. […] Exploring the mess we are in around male sexuality. How did we get here and what on earth do we do?  […]

  12. […] Exploring the mess we are in around male sexuality. How did we get here and what on earth do we do?  […]

  13. […] The Good Men Project: What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex […]

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