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

About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, host of The Smart Couple Podcast, is THE breakthrough marriage and relationship coach for smart, successful, people. He’s on the planet to help people learn and master intimacy and relationship. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two cosmic kids. Jayson writes his own highly personal blog, and has also written for Integral Life, Digital Romance, The Jungle of Life, Primer Magazine, Recovering Yogi, & Elephant Journal. You can find him here: Jayson Gaddis or sign up for this month's free training If Your Man Unavailable or Shut Down. You can also become a fan on Facebook here: Jayson Gaddis Fan Page.

Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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:(

  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. “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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    • Benjamin Reeves says:

      Such a potent point John. It is up to us to raise the bar on how we raise our and educate our sons, brothers and fellow men.

  13. 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

  14. We also need to teach young boys that male and female sexuality differs greatly. We need to teach them that women are much more selective and have a lot of sexual options.

    • You should probably not teach your boys anything about female sexuality that you do not know to be an absolute truth.
      In fact, it’s probably a bad idea to teach them that anything simply falls under the category of “male sexuality” or “female sexuality”. Making broad statements such as “women are much more selective,” first of all, implies that men will have sex with basically anything, which is not true, is not a fair assessment, and is an unhealthy understanding of sexuality. Second of all, it teaches that there are two kinds of people in the world (especially where sexual activity is concerned): men and women. It teaches that you are either one or the other, and if you don’t fit the description of your category, then you are abnormal.
      Teach your sons, and your daughters too, that people are people, and that people are much more complex than just male or female, man or woman. That is the one of the biggest problems with sex education, and the way that we teach children to identify themselves in general, imho. We teach children in a way that suggests that if you know a person’s sex, you know everything you need to know about that person. “Blake is a man, therefore he has the following characteristics….” That is simply absurd.

  15. I am reading a fantastic book called ‘There Is No Sex Fairy’ by Jan Hindman that details how this whole sex business is a setup and we are so busy reacting to the latest scandal that we fail to see how we actually create this dynamic with our own shame, secrecy, and isolation around sexuality. Hindman’s core thesis is that teaching children sexual respect is the cornerstone needed to prevent child sexual abuse- and as a man who is a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I wholeheartedly agree.

    🙂

    Thanks for your blog post.

  16. Please, define for me the tern “healthy sexuality” and prove that it is the right definition. As a 48yo catholic, I don’t think that repression until marriage was healthy, nor do I think sinful self-indulgence is. But i don’t know for certain if there is a middle ground and I have no basis to teach one!

    • Sandra Mellott says:

      Joe, I think there is no such thing as a “provable” or “right” definition of healthy sexuality except by these criteria: that your sexuality makes you feel good about yourself rather than causing you distress, and that your expressions of sexuality don’t hurt other people. It’s important to recognize that no ONE definition can be applied to all people, in terms of the specific ways to achieve it. Rather, every single person on this planet has to come to their own conclusion–or embark on their own lifelong journey–to find out what makes them personally feel best and safest with their sexuality. Some people may find it very fulfilling and wonderful to abstain from sex until marriage and never feel repressed by their decision. Others may freely and generously partake in sex acts outside of marriage and never feel over-indulgent or sinful. And so long as neither of these practices causes distress to others (or to oneself), who is anyone to say they’re wrong? Moreover, there is certainly middle ground between the two options you listed, and virtually infinite variations on how anyone might embody their own sexuality beyond those two options. One might choose serial monogamy until marriage and afterward decide forevermore to remain monogamous with their spouse (a very common decision). One might choose abstinence till marriage and then enter into a polyamourous relationship with their spouse and a network of loved ones. One might choose to never be married or have any kind of sexual relationship ever, perhaps only partaking in masturbation their whole life long, if even that. I can’t even begin to make a representative list of examples! The task is too big! But I think above all, what is most important is to recognize that ANYTHING is OK, that we need never be ashamed of our own sexuality or the sexuality of others–again, so long as we don’t hurt anyone. Complete freedom for everyone to establish their OWN restrictions, without shame or judgment: I think that would be a SOCIETY of healthy sexuality. As I said, you just have to do what makes YOU feel good, WHATEVER that might mean, and you have to accept and embrace the fact that what makes YOU feel good might not make someone ELSE feel good, and vice versa. Everyone has to make their decisions for themselves.

      Beyond that, I think it’s only important that we all–regardless of our chosen ways to embody healthy sexuality–be well-educated about the biology of sex and reproduction so that we can make safe, informed decisions about whatever we’re doing.

      Does that answer your question?

      • Sandra:
        Your capacity to affirm each person’s genuine feelings is beautiful. If I had lived that way I might have been happier – maybe. But if God or karma exists I still better choose what is moral not what is comfortable or you won’t be able to keep me from getting it in the end. Worse still if I steer my kids the wrong way…

        • Sandra Mellott says:

          Thank you very much, Joe, for your kind compliment. <3 I would also like to say that, if your faith is important to you, you can certainly incorporate it into your own embodiment of healthy sexuality. As I said, we all must take our own paths; all that matters is that we feel good and not hurt others. As for the distinction between what is "moral" and what is "comfortable", try to be at ease about that, because I don't think there has to be any struggle between them. For one thing, if something makes you feel good and makes others feel good and just generally promotes positive feelings, acceptance, tolerance, and love, how could it possibly be immoral? And for another, if immorality is repulsive to you, how could it possibly be comfortable? So you see, it's self-regulating. Good feels good, bad feels bad. The only thing that could possibly help us even MORE than this hard-wired regulatory system is EDUCATION. After all, a good feeling may have a bad consequence if we step into our actions without knowing what we're getting into. That's where learning about biology comes in.

          But as for higher powers, I think any man-made moral code designed to keep us on the straight and narrow for the sake of a higher power may be very well-meaning, but as I said, no ONE way of living could possibly suit EVERYONE, so we all have to maintain some level of openness and uncertainty. But I have faith that, if you truly pursue a life a good and positivity, no matter whether your actions adhere to any previously prescribed "moral code", no all-knowing higher power could possibly punish you for it. <3 So I hope that helps you a little bit.

          I wish you the best!

  17. Sandra Mellott says:

    In response to the little flare-up over whether the boys-in-underwear picture is appropriate, I would like to say this:

    1.) It’s not an erotic photo and not seemingly intended to be erotic. It’s demure and innocent, just a couple of clothed boys’ body parts.
    2.) If you think a photo of clothed, non-suggestively posed body parts is exploitative or provocative, that sounds more to me like generalized fear of sex rather than sincere compassion. And fear of sex is exactly what this article is trying to do away with, so this photo is incredibly appropriate here, and I commend you, Jayson, for leaving it up. (I see no reason a photo of a waist or crotch should be any more inflammatory than a photo of hands or knees or faces or backs of heads. They’re just bodies. We all have them.)
    3.) If a picture of girls would be taken down, that would indeed show an unfairness, because a picture of girls should be left up, too.

    Again, as the article says, our own bodies and body functions are not something we should be ashamed or afraid of. Rather, they’re something we should be free and happy to openly communicate about. Taking down a picture does not communicate a message of respect and appreciation for our bodies, it communicates fear of our bodies. And fear of sex = not talking about sex = serious problems for everyone.

    Thank you, Jayson, and well done.

    • “1.) It’s not an erotic photo and not seemingly intended to be erotic. It’s demure and innocent, just a couple of clothed boys’ body parts.”

      That is the point of the article is boys and sex; so, it obviously is a picture of the boys’ genitals in a sexual content. If it were a picture of similarly aged girls’ genitals in an article about sex, it would not have been permitted. Boys aren’t considered worthy of the same level of care and protection as girls. Sadly, that is true throughout society and is reflected here.

      “3.) If a picture of girls would be taken down, that would indeed show an unfairness, because a picture of girls should be left up, too.”

      A picture of girls in this exact setting would never have been posted here. Articles on girls and women reflect great respect and concern for the dignity, respect, and protection. Sadly and ironically, as this example illustrates, there is far less so for boys and men.

      • Sandra Mellott says:

        I want to be very clear that I care a LOT about treating men and women (boys and girls) equally, especially with regard to caring for and loving them, educating them, respecting them, and creating safe environments for them free of abuse, harm, shame, and fear.

        That said, Eric, I agree: I think that boys don’t get the same love and attention as girls when it comes to protecting them from exploitation and abuse, or to helping them heal or overcome their abuse. And I think that’s a painful, painful, terrible, cruel, devastating injustice, and I would very, very much like to see it end. So much about it breaks my heart.

        But that doesn’t mean the photo accompanying this article is erotic or exploitative.

        Were it a picture of a jar of pennies, or a picture of boys’ faces, it wouldn’t be erotic. That it is a picture of boys’ waists and crotches doesn’t automatically make it erotic. Even sexual organs themselves are not inherently erotic. Even the act of sex itself is not necessarily erotic. (If this is a difficult concept for you to grasp, that’s very understandable, since most people, I think, have never considered the possibility of separating “sex” from “erotica” or “sex organs” from “sexuality” or of thinking about “sexuality” outside the realms of either erotica or medicine. But as an asexual person myself [and a hobbyist linguist and sexologist], I have a much more complex understanding of how a word like “sexual” might and does have many muddy, nuanced meanings.) So while the photo may indeed be of a certain sexual or semi-sexual nature, the type of “sexual” the photo is dealing with is not the type of “sexual” I think you’re concerned about. (Incidentally, the photo isn’t of boys’ genitals but of boys’ clothed crotches.)

        But, as I said, I think your concern is very legitimate, that it stems from a very real gender-bias (or sex-bias) problem, and I think that problem is incredibly tragic and in need of a solution. I just think that your concern here ironically manifests in a way that is more conducive to promoting sexual fear than to alleviating it.

        If a picture of girls would never have been posted in the first place, that would indeed be unfair, because a picture of girls should be. But that has nothing to do with whether a picture of clothed crotches is erotic or exploitative.

  18. Timothy McDonough says:

    Wow a lot of great insight from fellow men and fellow women! I think the main reasons we need to do a better job of teaching boys about sex, is the immense importance of treating and courting women with care, strength, and dignity. I had a girl tell me today that the guys she goes to school with have this unfair entitlement of having women in that they do not really have to earn a girl’s respect. This is just asinine. Adolescents and young men can be overconfident pricks. Some of them are conditioned to be this way because of their father, lack of a good mother, lack of a mother completely, through the media, and girls that are attracted to this kind of little monster. Gosh, men can be so rough on the outside, but so hurt and cut deep on the inside. There has lately been a string of kamikaze-like attacks from men towards their wives and ex-wives in Indiana, and maybe other regions of the country. A great bud of mine has a theory on this in that men are not taught how to handle and work out their emotions with friends, family, spouses, and girlfriends. It is really sad how these attacks end, usually with the man killing his partner, himself, and sometimes innocent bystanders. I can think of three extreme cases that occurred in the state of Indiana in the past three months. Things will only get worse with the lack of great male mentors and fathers that are not there. Also, loving mothers play a pivotal role in this as well.

  19. Doug Leverett says:

    I hope that it will soon become normal for boys and girls to have their first sexual encounter with a doll/avatar /robot, as just a natural extension of their theory lessons. THEN noone will control the virgins and you will have something that you control, understand and appreciate to give to others

  20. I think this article hits the bull’s eye. Its amazing and incredibly understandable on how many people take offense that the writer didn’t mention certain things, which usually can be applied to the points he makes. A woman on here said she lost all credibility with the author when he mentioned “That I could give life or destroy life with its power.” Ya know, he could be speaking metaphorically. Wow. Sex is a very controversial topic which filters a lot of our opinions by the experiences we have had with it and the things that relate or are connected to it. Take a step back people. That is one very large problem that is affecting America. Adults stick with what they know and what they believe in without any checks or balances of their own mind and our ever so morphing nation. Humans in general are stubborn and stiff-necked. This is why, in my opinion, why we are left with two not-so-good choices for the presidency. Think outside the box people, our children and children’s children depend on it whether you like it or not.

    • Um…pretty sure the person who said that the author lost all credibility with the phrase “That I could give life or destroy life with its power,” was not a woman. That person went on to explain that they feel that men are basically slaves in our society and women abuse and manipulate them while society just tolerates it. It sounded a lot like MRA stuff, or at least the MRA stuff that I am familiar with.
      There was definitely nothing in their post that suggested or stated that they were a woman. I have no idea why you assumed that.

  21. The Akin thing indicates a certain amount of societal non-communication about sex, for sure. It’s wrong on a number of levels – the science of not conceiving due to rape is not there, and the “legitimate” tag reminded me of this site, with so many posters hung up on their He-Man Woman-Haters spiel, part of which is that rape is basically a myth to you know, control men or something.

    Thing is, Akin is a “legitimate” nominee of one of the two major parties (why we only have two major parties, I’m not sure – it’s not in the Constitution) so he is merely expressing a view that is pretty mainstream in terms of the number of people that agree with it.

    • RealityBites says:

      “with so many posters hung up on their He-Man Woman-Haters spiel, part of which is that rape is basically a myth to you know”

      Interesting you pull He-Man and Woman-Hater out of a post on what we have to do to help our boys. Then you go on to pretend that everyone is saying rape is a myth… well, if you have to actually build the straw man to argue with, whatever point you are trying to back up with your own self-created scenario may actually not be worth making. Usually that says that the person has a point of view and regardless of the subject matter or what people are saying, they will turn it into their own personal fight with their own agenda. Good luck to you. Rape is real. Most men and women are deserving of love and respect. Anything else you choose to see or believe is on you, not others.

      • It is interesting that no one has commented on teaching our kids about rape and abuse. One of the reasons that abuse tends to follow family and regional groupings is that children are taught that abuse and rape are natural and expected. When I worked as a fund raiser with a program called AWAKE in Jackson County, NC we were trying to raise awareness of what inappropriate touching and treatment that leads to abuse are to help kids realize that they had been harmed.

        In working with the county’s spouce abuse chapter REACH as a hot=line worker I had to explain constantly to women that their not appreciating being beaten and raped was wrong and yes I was willing to help in any way I could. Many times the women had been conditioned to accept abuse and rape as normal.

        • RealityBites says:

          “I had to explain constantly to women that their not appreciating being beaten and raped was wrong”

          Yet the article is about teaching our boys about sex instead of letting their friends teach them. My friends taught me, but NONE of them even suggested rape was normal. This would be such a SMALL percentage of any family or culture that making a “mainstream” program directed at it does a HUGE disservice. Our boys are not abusers and rapists. They just aren’t. This is what politics and special interest has been pounding into our feeble societal brain for many years now, but it is just not true.

          Almost all boys and when they grow up, men, are NOT abusers or rapists. They are decent, respectful human beings who treat others with respect regardless of their gender. In fact, they probably treat other males with much less respect than females…it is what society is trained to do. NO woman should accept abuse as normal, but neither should any man. If you don’t do as your wife asked, you shouldn’t expect to be slapped or have a pan thrown at you. We, as a general society DO NOT accept this when men do this to women, yet we turn around and justify why it is normal when a woman does this to a man. Stop and think about it for a second. In public, how many times have you seen a boyfriend/husband hit, slap, kick or push his girlfriend/wife? Now, how many times have you seen a girlfriend/wife hit, slap, kick or push her boyfriend/husband? Not only is it expected, it is championed by all those around. YES!!! She hit him. One for the team! It is a sick culture that we have developed and if we don’t start teaching our boys that they too DESERVE respect, then all the other teaching in the world will never change the mindset of one who doesn’t feel they deserve respect. They will act as they have been programmed. If we push them down long enough, they will eventually learn their place in society….and that is not only wrong, but extremely destructive to society as a whole.

          We need to take an interest in our children, and in our families…boys AND girls. We need to teach them to be respectful and that in turn they must EARN the respect of others, regardless of their gender. No free pass for anyone to be disrespectful of another. We need to stop the nervous laughter at negative influence in society and begin to build mutual respect for all humans…one human at a time. It’s not politically correct, so you won’t see from our supposed leaders…they are too busy building their own pulpit speeches that just continue to exacerbate the issues, not solve them.

          Yes, there are many young men that don’t believe they need to earn a woman’s respect, but there are just as many (probably MANY more) young women that have no idea they should even be trying to earn a man’s respect. It is a horrific turn in our society that will only make it take that much longer for each to view another as “equal.” I liken it to an older/younger sibling. If the older sibling is constantly told not to hit the younger one, but the younger one is allowed to hit the older one, the parents may laugh, but do those involved see each other as truly equal? It will never happen as long as we don’t have the same expectations of everyone. Different expectations lead to deep-seeded resentment and once you have that, any action that follows is merely a mirror of what was created.

          • That’s why supporting the AWAKE program was important to me. Because the program was aimed at elementary school kids of both sexes. Programs like this are needed to stop abuse. Unforunately this was a public school program. The record of numerous press releases from all over the country shows that most of the abuse happens in Christian schools and some in Catholic Schools. I would never trust my grandkids to a Christian school!

        • There are many of us out there trying to get sexual abuse prevention education (SAPE) in all elementary schools. it is an ongoing battle but with the statistic of 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually interfered with before 18 it is crucial. Please share the resource and children’s book on this very topic at http://www.somesecrets.info And also support Erin Merryn as she travels US trying to get each state to adopt laws so all elementary-aged kids are taught SAPE.

        • TeflonSurprise says:

          It’s incredibly important to teach children about what inappropriate touching is. 25years later I still bear the scars of my molestation. My parents even had us read a book that dealt with it. Sadly I read the book after I had been abused. The book also only dealt with stranger danger. It didn’t tell me that the rape I suffered at the hands of another (older) child was the same thing.

          To those who are convinced that the penis cannot kill? The scars I bear nearly killed me. My dear,sweet, loving and supportive wife (and a lot of therapy) are the only reason I’m still alive. I look forward to the day I can contribute to the betterment of our species by raising a man who understands the power that he has. A life without shame is nothing less than he will deserve.

          • It’s hard to repair the scars on your soul. Age does help either. It didn’t when my ex-wife raped me. It seemed even more pointless because she had been taking lovers for over eleven years by then.

            I would like to say that here is the solution to all the hurt, but I can’t. It doesn’t matter is you are in a relationship with a man, another man, or another woman. If you are in a relationship with another human you can be raped and abused.

            I hope that you are getting help with your relationship issues. Feeling hurt and vulnerable is not a good thing.

  22. Jean Valjean says:

    “That I could give life or destroy life with its power.”

    I stopped reading after this. You lost all credibility.

    Rape doesn’t kill. So the notion that a woman might be killed by your cosmic member is utter nonsense.

    What’s more is that a penis is not power. It grants you nothing. If you had power when you were born with a penis then they wouldn’t be trying to hack pieces off of it shortly after you were born.

    You penis is a brand. A mark that designates you as a slave. At 18 you sign up for the draft–a law which states that your “unalienable right” to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness can in fact be taken away and you will become a military slave–property of the U.S. government.

    It goes beyond that though. Now that you are 18 all the protections of a child are removed and now you must earn status in order to be regarded with basic respect and dignity. The measure of your status will determine if women flutter their eyes when you speak to them or file sexual harassment claims.

    And once you get a woman you will spend your life working and turning over the bulk of your income to her. You will have limited property rights so long as you are married and well after the marriage is over.

    You will have no new rights from marriage. Not even the right to have sex. This is a privilege that your wife will grant if she feels like it. In fact she will have no obligations at all.

    In our society women have choices but men have obligations. This is why women blame men for everything. Nothing can be their fault because they have no obligations to do anything–only choices.

    Should your wife tire of you she may decide to poison you and cut off your penis and throw it in the garbage disposal. Her act of sexual domestic violence will be regarded by millions of women as “fabulous” and you will be laughed and jeered at. Should you attempt to defend yourself from this you will be jailed. Should you attempt to seek shelter from her violence you will find none as 99.7% of all domestic violence resources go to women even though the CDC states that 53% of DV victims are men.

    It will never matter what you learn about your sexuality. You are a man. You penis will be regarded as a weapon and should you ever express your sexuality in any way that is offensive to a woman you will be punished severely and for the rest of your life.

    • Doug Leverett says:

      Jean, You might not win a literary prize. Too much venom. But I think a lot of men out there are thinking—Yes, Yes, Yes !

    • RealityBites says:

      I wouldn’t call it venom as much as straight-forward, no holds-barred, in-your-face reality. We as a society have created this paradigm, or have allowed it to occur. If we continue on the current path, our boys will mean nothing and be told it openly at every turn, justified by a society of those who started us down the path to begin with.

      If we don’t start paying attention to the things Jean brings up, AND correcting them, our boys will suffer severely from our apathy. All people are created equal and NO ONE should be denigrated, demeaned and ridiculed solely because of their gender. No one should have more or fewer rights solely based on gender. This is a lesson we learned with race about 40 years ago and Martin Luther King. As women became more prevalent in the workplace, the “movement” was a success. But where to go from there? It has been taken over by a group that seems to aspire, not to continue to elevate women, but now to force men into the position they felt their ancestors were in so many years ago. It’s an odd course, one fraught with “attack” mentality instead of the “mutual respect” mentality that the original leaders envisioned. Our politicians are bought by it, proliferate it and make laws expanding it, while special interest continues to justify the outright sexism so that it can remain strong in our society…and the media? They just keep regurgitating anything that will sell at 6pm.

      Our boys? Forget about them. The Good Men Project? This may be the last generation capable of making choices before they are assigned their “mark” as Jean puts it, and justifiably placed at the bottom of the human pool. I mean, after they turn like what…16? Up until then, the justification for doing it is that it is still in their best interest. I suppose kind of like making films on how to be a good housewife was for women in the 50s. At the time, it seemed like the normal way to handle the way society accepted the roles that were played. It just wasn’t enough to get rid of the films as society changed. Apparently we need to make new ones, joyfully doing onto the grandsons now, that which was condemned for the grandmothers before. We as a society hated it so much, we figured we keep the concept alive for our boys in this generation…innocent boys…but they LOOK like the others. Ahhh, the sweet smell of revenge. And the best thing is they have the politicians enacting it…really, it just seems like the normal way to handle the way society NOW accepts the roles that are played.

    • It’s ironic that you’re upset about the gender inequality — you know, feminist stuff — like how men are forced into service while women are not and how domestic violence against men is greatly invisible, yet you still manage to be sexist.

      Women, generally, want sex too. Men have to grant this privilege too. Men do not have any more sexual obligations than women, though I like how you said that like women should have.

      Also, a lot of women these days have their own degrees and jobs and incomes, which means they have obligations: mortgage, tax, bills. And this progressive modern thinking also mean that women can get respect and dignity, and that they need to earn it.

    • Wow, I should tell my husband that he needs to be handing over more of the money he makes to me. I had NO IDEA that being someone’s wife meant that, by default, you got EVERYTHING. Clearly, I’ve been doing this marriage thing wrong, contributing just as much (more, actually, because I make more money than he does) as my husband.

      • You should remember that marriage is a partnership more than anything else!

      • Agreed.

        We can not deny the history of male-female marriage, in which men, were in charge and entitled to everything. Marital rape, is a very new concept. Property ownership in this country and the ability to sign contracts by women, is also a relatively new legal concept here in the U.S. and in many parts of the world ,does not exist at all.

        Women are still bought and sold in “marriage” around the world.

        History, must be paid attention to in discusions of this nature.

    • Interesting reply to an interesting piece. You lost some credibility with me when you said you stopped reading, because we can only learn and grow by testing our views against others and seeing where the “rightness” falls. I think you both have validity.

      A penis can kill, even by rape, if only indirectly. Some women and some men who are raped, kill themselves because of the shame, etc. that accompanies that violent act. Indirect cause of death. HIV and other STI’s are transmitted by the penis. Direct/indirect cause of death.

      A penis does not grant you power, but nor do you cede power by marrying a woman or man. That’s a choice. We ALL have choices and we all have obligations, those are not gender exclusive.

      But you’re right, and so is the author of the article, we need to reframe the discussion into one of MUTUAL respect, MUTUAL communication, MUTUAL obligations, rights, repsonsibilities, etc.

      First, we need to dispell the baggage of our calvanist/puritan heritage that infects cultures and peoples around the world.

    • HitTheNailOnTheHead says:

      “You will have no new rights from marriage. Not even the right to have sex.”

      Correct. Which is why it is stupid for any man to get married. You receive nothing but the responsibility to do what she says, when she says it or she’ll take your children, your house and everything you worked so hard to build for yourself until the day you met her.

      Marriage in this country is a completely voluntary obligation for men, and a whimsical trial and lottery for women. Steer clear of those like Jean that would use the archaeic laws of today to crush you into submission. Let homosexuals have marriage. The rest of us have discovered it is merely a ploy by the biggest pimp on the planet (the government) to redistribute the wealth, by giving women all the rights to money if they sign a contract to sleep with you. In this era of equality, marriage is an absurd concept that should be a punishment, not something you choose to do.

      • Apparently my last reply got eaten, so I’ll try again, but briefer:

        It’s very correct that marriage doesn’t grant you “the right to have sex” with anyone, because marriage is not a “contract to sleep with” anyone. What you’re thinking of is “consent”, which needs to be newly granted every single time you ever have sex with anyone, whether you’re married or not.

        In any case, marriage should absolutely be a choice–a mutual choice, just like sex, and something you’re perfectly free not to do if it doesn’t suit you.

      • “giving women all the rights to money if they sign a contract to sleep with you” is incredibly stone-age.
        a) marriage is not a contract for women to sleep with men (or the reverse) because of this little thing called human rights and marital rape
        b) men are not obligated to give women their money

    • This comment nailed it on the head, Jean. Let’s start with getting a male pill and/or reforming child custody standards/laws.

    • our sexuality absolutely gives us a certain form of power. a dominating male (or female) can use that power for good or evil. for you to say rape doesnt kill is true, but to claim that it doesnt take away life is wrong…. i have seen it happen. i have experienced watching the power of using sexuality to dominate and rule over someone. it is very obvious you are a male. thinking with logic and no emotion, and while i understand, i think you need to open up your closed mind and heart. it isnt just a penis or a vagina, it’s a gateway to life and creation. i don’t think the above quote is only speaking toward rape. i also think you need to open yourself up. i stopped reading your comment after the first sentence.

      • ” it is very obvious you are a male. thinking with logic and no emotion”
        That’s wrong: the guy’s post shows PLENTY of emotion: disgust, fear, hatred, bitterness. It’s a horrible myth that being male means being logical: look at your average teenage boy.ttttttttttttttttt

        What his post lacks is empathy. He’s got some complaints, and some of them are valid (the draft IS sexist, for instance). Maybe he’s gotten a raw deal from some women, and is so wrapped up in self-pity that he can’t imagine that women might be getting a raw deal too.

    • To start from your post, i can see that you have been hurt, and wronged in some way. I can see from your post that quite likely you see a man’s gender identity as being harmful to the man, or many men in general. All i can do about this is say, while that is your experience that is not my experience. My experience has been that my masculinity is something that is part of me and something i am capable of using for right or wrong. In the end like any tool, or technique its the particular use of the object that matters. When a plow is used to till earth and give a family food do we call it wrong? When a plow is used to till earth and fuel a ignoble king’s capacity to wage war do we call it wrong? What if both are uses happen at the same time? The uses of a hammer, a car, a sword, a knife, a bomb, none of these have a role that is exclusively ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ sometimes a bomb mines ore to make tools to help us live, but it always does so at the price of the land around it. It’s so easy to get caught up in either/or arguments of morality, when even ethics is much more complicated than YES or NO as to the morality of a decision. Some people talk of black and white morality, others shades of grey. I hope they learn to realize that not only are there 7 broad categories of visible light that we can see there is a whole spectrum of color out there that we are incapable of seeing, and that some living beings CAN. No one has the whole picture. No two people ever see the exact same picture. Learn to try to appreciate the world as other’s see it. They may be illogical but so am i. We all only see shadows of reality. Only by asking others what part of reality they see that we do not can we expand our vision.

    • actually I think you got the figure wrong… says 53% of men who experienced violence from a romantic partner had before the age of 25…or did you reference something else?

      http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

      still though, women (and men) would be surprised (a lot of men wouldn’t) how much we’re abused physically. We just don’t talk about it, because to do so would be to “be little bitch”. etc.

    • i have bin reading the comments.
      no one should get rights on sex,what is wrong with your heads? really-whats wrong with a man who would want to sexually (use) the love of his life? are you nothing more than a deranged dick heads? this article is what should be read for every single man,son,father and male.
      you are the reason why.
      and cut the crap with-men go to war and are forced into service compare to feminism.you are acting like childish boys that never grew out of school.
      i WILL bet that the men who are against this article with vile-are the ones that most need to take it into action.
      your writings are hatefull against women.and this is not minimizing it.
      you likely feel entiteled to sex and im sure many of you dont even consider,that being a sexual pretador is all wrong (witch it is!)
      i just want to keep on going,but consider what you neisayers want out of life,sex and women.
      expext more from yourselfes before hating women as gender.
      realize that you are the makers of your own life,your sex and your surroundings.
      when did you last vocal negative thought towards women?how about positive?
      IT IS A LIFEGIVER AND IT CAN MEAN DEATH.DO NOT DOUBT THAT.
      AND ALSO REMEMBER-DEATH COMES IN MANY FORMS,NOT JUST WITH LOSING YOUR BREATH.

    • Isn’t it amazing how such different viewpoints can arise around the same issues of gender politics? In reading this response I was thinking two things: 1), it speaks to me, deep down, and 2), it’s probably more than a little hyperbolic, even to the writer. And then there’s the responses to the response, e.g., Iris. Maybe Iris and Jean should get together and hash it out. This is the result of so much gender role pressure: bitterness, mistrust, and dehumanization. The feelings are real, life is hard, and it’s harder for some than others. I think for social progress, men and women have to first assume equality is our intention and our best and most natural state. We need to understand that we were all little boys and little girls once. We were put upon with expectations and circumstances that we had no control over. We were innocent, and deserved love. Deep down, we are still innocent, and deserve love. Then, apply that concept logically to every issue. If you are a woman who feels hurt by the world at large and men in particular, acknowledge your pain, but try to picture men on the inside as innocent little boys who may have been treated poorly. Your experience may tell you that men are all sexually greedy, selfish bastards, but know that many of them feel as hurt as you do. They may not see the little girl inside of you, especially if you’re busy shouting about how you blame men for everything bad in the world, but you haven’t seen them in that light either. With that in mind, walls collapse and empathy is possible. It’s probably important to know that feminism has a big head start in this area.

  23. Shay Gordon says:

    So I am a 20 year old female, and I really really appreciate acknowledge and honor this article because you my friend are filling the gap. The gap needs to be filled in the area of sexuality for youth. There is just not enough empowerment for young people in this area, and it needs to be talked about. Thank you so much for starting the conversation. Thanks for role modeling to other men what should be happening.. Hope to see more from you!

  24. I used to be on the faculty for the Kinsey Institute. Right before Clinton had his Monica moment, the Institute had done a survey of mid-western adults. When Clinton said, “I did not have sex with this woman,” the majority of those interviewed would have agreed with him. Overwhelmingly in this survey and others, Americans tend to define “sex” as penal/vaginal penetration. Anything else isn’t “real sex.” Just so, in a survey of adolescent females, of those that had had oral sex, the overwhelming majority considered themselves to be “virgins” since they hadn’t had penal/vaginal penetration. Same thing if there had been anal sex, since that wasn’t considered “real sex,” just as sex between two men or two women isn’t considered “real sex” by a lot of Americans.

    When we surveyed people as to where they would like to find out about sexually related questions, about 75% stated they would ask their Doctors. So we surveyed medical schools, where we found the majority had less than 8 hours of instruction on human sexuality. When the study was repeated 20 years later, medical schools spent even less time providing instruction in human sexuality to physicians.

    This means, of course, if your doctor was out for the day of sexuality instruction, he or she may actually know less about sex than you do.

    Of course, the fact American knowledge of sex is based on peer information from adolescents makes a great deal of sense given our political policies.

    • I’m in the process of getting more paperwork. I have about twenty years of experience in helping people with “family” problems. Usually if there are any major issues I tell them where I think that the appropriate help could be obtained. Recently I started to get involved with several “lifestyle” groups; polyamory, BDSM, swingers, and gays. In discussions with these groups often concerns come up about where counseling help can be obtained. That’ when I decided to step up and get an MSW and start doing counseling. The reason was my going to a polyamory site(UU Poly). It had a survey that had been sent to people that provide couples services. They found that 80% of the people that provide these services had no clue about polyamory. That means 8 out of 10 times the ‘couple’ seeks help the person will be clueless about helping. In fact, they can be detrimental to the couple.

      • James W. Love, M.Ed. – Sincere congratulations on finding – and walking – this new path. I just recently was presented with a similar temptation — a degree in Pagan Counseling. I am giving it a lot of thought, because I do not wish to begin something I could not finish. If you have any input or advice, please write me! Namaste.

  25. looking back, the fact that adults don’t want to educate their kids about sex and leaving it in the hands of male teenagers to ‘figure it out’ affected me, and probably many girls my age, as well. as girls, we were taught that we don’t have sex drives and that our sex is simply a tool for manipulating men into giving us attention and material possessions thanks to gratuitously overexaggerated male-driven stereotypes- leaving us with similar shame and confusion when our bodies and minds naturally started turning to the idea of sex. i can count on one hand the number of times anyone ever said to me, “it’s natural for you to want sex” in those crucial years, and i can count on one fingernail the number of times it wasn’t said to me by an over-eager teenage boy trying to get in my pants.

    parents, please teach your children about sex. be honest with them. babies don’t come from storks, masturbation and sexual desire are not ‘dirty’ things, girls have an equally high and temperamental sex drive, and eventually your kids are GOING to figure all that out- part of your responsibility should be making sure that they don’t feel confused and alone when they do.

  26. RealityBites says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. But even moreso, these “boys” who are responsible for teaching other boys, also are the ones that grow up to be legislators and end up “teaching” everyone through their own misgivings about men and boys in general. It leads to the media mishandling information and allows special interest to spread even more ridicule and insult, proliferating the message these “boys” grew up pushing, finding as men that the message bought votes to keep them in power.

    This “bravado” also refuses to admit when they are abused by others, to stay silent and pretend to like it if they are not to be ridiculed. It’s why we have a society where men and women are equally violent to each other in relationships, yet only one gender seems to warrant being treated like a human. It gives society the impetus to treat all men as ignorant, sexual predators and allows courts to justify taking their children away from them for no reason, pushing them to the bottom of the human pool, to be chastised, ridiculed more and openly insulted.

    So yes, many may leave it up to boys to teach other boys…but the more serious result is it forms a society that ignorantly destroys our boys. In my son’s school, I found in the library a book called, “Boys are Dogs” about a girl who treated boys just like dogs to manipulate them and get them to behave for her. This is the society we live in. I had the book removed from my son’s school immediately! When it was brought out in the open, it wasn’t even a question. Imagine teaching boys to treat girls like dogs so they can get them to behave exactly as they want them.

    This is the society that these boys who “teach” other boys develop. This is the kind of stereotypical ignorance that continues to grow like a rolling snowball, until fathers may not even be allowed contact with their children…even then I can see full blame going on those fathers for being absent. And the more absent fathers, the more boys teach boys. And the more boys teach boys, the more fathers will be absent. You have hit the nail on the head but you’re going to need more than a match to melt the snowball the size of the Hindenburg.

  27. Here in BC we have been blessed by the teaching of the amazing sexual health educator Meg Hickling. Our boys had their first “body science” talk with all the kindergarten classes in the school district in a chat with Meg, with parents also attending. They would see her again every few years, with the next installment of what they were ready to know. Besides talks and workshops, she has written books and has done podcasts of her talks. Her teachings also encompass safety, character, peer pressure and ethics. Canada loves her and she has received Officer of the Order of BC and the Order of Canada. Do yourself a favour and check her out. She has a resource guide for parents, the first 10 pages of which is recommended books and videos for each age. Terrific!! http://www.sfu.ca/dialog/undergrad/pdfs/0503-Janet_Webber.pdf

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      CW, wow. what an awesome resource guide. yes, the US is WAY behind Canada when it comes to sex education. Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration!

  28. Loved this! Sharing it with my mans group now. Truly admire your courage for putting this all out there.

  29. Boys grow up in our culture witnessing the objectification of women.

    But what do they see in their family? Do they see if they have 2 parents, that they are loving to one another?

    Does one of the parents or both, again if they have any both parents, sit down with their boy and explain the difference between f*cking, making love, and tell them making
    love may have nothing to do with f*cking.

    Do young boys know anything about romance? Or is it just the let’s get to it and f*ck one another? Do they understand the value of friendship and how the
    friendship. can turn into genuine love for the other person.

    Or do they see certain people are for friendship and the others are for f*cking? Do they classify different groups to be with regarding doing different
    activities. One group is for hanging out and smoking pot, another is for hanging out and watching the guys and gals go by and objectifying
    them and making comments to them as they walk in the street. Are these young boys different in their actions with different people?

    Do our young boys see respect in the family? Do they actually see kindness to one another. Are their sisters and other brothers just there to
    be used for whatever reason. Does sexual abuse go on in the family and everyone keeps quiet?

    Do they understand about commitment and what that means? Do they learn about it through a sport they are involved in, through seeing how their
    respective parent or parents treat one another? Are folks in the family there for one another?

    This article came to be written by a lovely response I received from a gentlemen who read one of my older articles in “The Good Men Project” called
    “F*cking or Making Love: What’s the Difference Men”? This gentlemen seemed to be on the same page as me and wondered how are our young boys
    being raised to understand any of these differences. It was such a lovely response to my article that I wanted to write about what he spoke of, and
    thank him for his lovely comment, which got me to write this article.

    I don’t have any answers. I guess the answers in the piece I just wrote.

    • RealityBites says:

      I would think the level of teaching about sex and relationships would be similar for boys and girls within a single household. Meaning, overall, boys teach boys, and girls teach girls. So it’s not solely boys that are not getting the information, but it is the point of the article. Girls teach girls to be embarrassed about their bodies…and as they get older, girls label other girls “sluts” or “whores” if they sleep with a guy (probably out of jealousy). I can’t think of too many guys that label women sluts, unless they won’t, or have stopped sleeping with them personally. On the other hand, there are a plethora of women that label other women as sluts for their sexual choices.

      So for boys, we have one boy teaching another that it is “cool” to have sex. For girls, we have one girl teaching another that she’ll be called names if she has sex. Then we all grow up and blame each other for the fallout…and instead of correcting the situation, giving instruction to parents on how to build a child’s self-confidence and acceptance of their own bodies and sexual choices, we scream and point at others because the stereotypes persist.

      We need both parents for children. They don’t have to live in the same household, but both parents are a necessity for raising children. For boys, you have a father who they can relate to, and a mother who they see working with dad as an equal partner, building a respect for women. For girls, you have a mother they can relate to and a father who they see working with mom as an equal partner, building a respect for men.

      As our society tries to justify the greatness of single parents and how tough they have it, just stop and think how tough their decision to be a single parent makes it on the rest of society. Our politicians couldn’t care less, special interest continues to destroy the nucleus that is needed for healthy children, and all justify it as “the best interest of the children.”

      I think we are seeing the results of all the hot air and we’re not liking them. We now need to “readjust” our children with our “new” society. Well, the solution is simple. We put the cornerstone back and build on a strong foundation, instead of constantly trying to prop up the shoddy structure we developed out of propaganda and pious aspiration.

  30. Gary Kutcher says:

    Interesting article. But it seems to me that you are missing the main point. Sex without love is very often destructive to both participants. Our emotional well-being can only be promoted by deep love. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, there have been more than 50 million abortions in the US. When people use each other only for sexual pleasure both partners are demeaned as people and, often, costly and harmful results occur. When “anything goes” sexually, it is a slippery slope that all too often leads to acts of disrespect: rape, sexual harassment, physical violence, emotional oppression, and deep psychic scars. Young people need to be taught how to create loving relationships where sex is understood to be a morally responsible act based only on mutual love and respect. Then, sex can be shared safely and be a blessing that strengthens the feelings of love and grace.

    • Chris in NC says:

      So, rape, sexual harassment, physical violence, etc. did not happen throughout history until the Roe v. Wade decision? Seems a case of false causality if that’s what you’re trying to prove. Roe v. Wade was a reactive decision to what was already occurring illegally and much less safely. You’re never going to stop abortions and honestly, I’m really not why there is such a hyper-focus on them…

      While there are nuances that can be argued – perhaps a limitation on the first trimester (unless in cases of threats to the life of the mother) – imposing your moral code on an entire population seems unjust. Perhaps you’d like to outlaw contraceptives as well?

      Sex without love has been occurring for millenia. It seems you would say that people ought to be saddled with a child as punishment. We have the technology. We will use it. You are free to live your life as you will and I am free to live mine as I will. While I may not agree with the way you live your life, I’m not going to tell you it’s wrong for you. So why would you tell me that the way I live mine is wrong for me?

      Ultimately, we agree on the goal: more loving relationships, sex being understood… but I can’t tell if you’re trying to argue that the divorce rate is where it is because of social forces alone since the “culture wars”…

    • wellokaythen says:

      “Young people need to be taught how to create loving relationships where sex is understood to be a morally responsible act based only on mutual love and respect. Then, sex can be shared safely and be a blessing that strengthens the feelings of love and grace.”

      Hey, it doesn’t sound too bad when you put it that way. Sounds like a noble aim. The great thing is that this doesn’t require religion or monogamy or marriage or heterosexuality or even knowing each other’s names. I appreciate the openness to sexual diversity that I interpret from this quote.

  31. Samuel Rutledge says:

    When I posted this on Facebook, an old friend replied “I don’t understand what the hell it is he wants his son to know. The sacredness of his body?” Here is what I wrote in response to him there;

    Since he doesn’t go into specifics, I can’t say exactly what he wants. Maybe that’s part of the problem; even this sex positive writer is skittish about going into specifics. What I want my son to know about sex is that it’s based in mutual enthusiasm, it’s fun but rarely involves smiling, it’s emotionally intense, pleasurable, potentially risky, often complicated and awkward, sometimes extremely simple, satisfying only when it’s mutual between partners, harmful when consent is violated, okay to want, okay to refuse, more than just one type of activity, more than one way to do it well, a skill that requires practice to do well, and other more mechanical details that I won’t go into here. Of course, I don’t want to tell him all of these things right now or all at once, but I want him to hear it from me first, rather than getting less healthy versions of the information from media, peers, or other sources.

  32. I hope in teaching your son the sacredness of his body and healthy sexuality, you’re meaning that God created his body in a wonderful way, that it is to be honored, and that saving himself sexually for marriage and remaining sexually pure is one of the biggest blessings of all. I sense that you think porn is OK, and yet porn has destroyed many marriages and prepares men to be dissatisfied with their wives’ bodies. God created sex to be a beautiful thing between a man and his wife, and premarital sex, as well as indulging in pornography damages what God has created to be good.

    • Chris in NC says:

      OK, I’ll bite.

      You’re certainly welcome to believe that way; that is your right. But also respect the fact that – religious or not – some people don’t agree with that exact line of reasoning. Though it would be pretty disrespectful and not becoming of what I’d believe to be a “good man”, you’re certainly welcome to indict people on their beliefs as well.

      I’m not advocating scores of partners, but I think there’s healthy indulgence in responding to biological desires. Holding all of it back can be physically and mentally repressive, though I’m sure you’ll argue it’s the hallmark of a “good man.” I argue that everything, when taken or practiced in moderation, is OK.

      When my wife and I finally choose to have children (which is our CHOICE), and if we have a son or daughter, I’m not going to shy away from topics nor am I going to impose strict morally-dogmatic practices. I’m certainly not interested in them potentially ruining their future or catching nasty diseases. There are healthy conversations to be had about risks versus rewards and no doubt, I’d probably advocate self-pleasuring if it keeps them from making risky decisions. What you likely see as a start down a dark road, I see as an alternative.

      Also, while I’m sure that porn has done what you say above for some (as indulgence in alcohol has done the same), I have found just the opposite. Seems a person-to-person thing. But please, if you must, advocate we all abide by your moral code. I say do what works for you and I’ll do what works for me.

      We can agree to disagree.

  33. Quadruple A says:

    I have refrained from commenting on this because I feel that the picture is inappropriate, kind of gross, and evinces a sexual double standard toward men or males. I would teach my child first and foremost to trust their feelings rather than elaborate on some dichotomy between saying that sex is special or that it isn’t special. I would teach them that it is a fact of life and that it can mean many things.

  34. keith morris says:

    jayson–

    i’ve been trying to understand where you’re coming from on the subject of the photo, and still dont get it. perhaps you dont have a lot of experience with the issue of child sexual abuse, and therein lies our disconnect. ie, if you had a full understanding of how epidemic child sex abuse is, and how devastating the experience is to its victims, you wouldnt play fast and loose with photos like that in the hopes of drumming up interest in your article.

    frankly, it seems implausible that someone in your field would not know about all this, but it’s a possibility, i suppose, and as such, is a possible explanation for the gulf between our perspectives. if so, please let me know, and i’ll be glad to assist in you in finding the necessary information.

    sincerely,
    keith morris

  35. Jayson,

    I need to edit your articles! I couldn’t help but be distracted by typos, repetition, and vagueness. Aside from that, I really like the concept of where you’re going with masculinity and sexuality; it’s something I never got educated about until now, in my mid twenties, and it’s all been self-study. (Is it even possible to retrofit a new norm into an old psyche?) Talk to you soon!

  36. keith morris says:

    i agree with most everything in this article, however i was struck, and repulsed, honestly, by the lurid picture attached to it of two pre-adolescent boys in their underwear. i was further surprised to learn that mr. gaddis, himself, chose the picture, because, as he says, he “just wanted to get folks’ attention.” in other words, he willfully exploited prepubescent bodies so that he could draw a larger audience to his article–an article which covered (irony of ironies!) the way that wrong-headed american culture psychologically disfigures young boys. this may well be the most amazing example of convoluted logic i’ve ever encountered. if mr. gaddis thinks eroticizing children for the sake of page hits is an ethical trade-off, i’d suggest the last career he should be engaged in is counseling. when you break down gaddis’s decision here, he appears more than cringe-worthy in his ambition; he seems borderline sociopathic.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Hey Keith.

      The photo is provocative yes. And, even sexual. It’s a brilliant photo because we are not sure what’s going on there. And, it’s very common for boys to explore their sexuality together at a young age. I love the photo and won’t be changing it.

      The one complaint I have with the photo is that they boys are probably models and both very skinny. It would be even better if at least one of them had a more common body type of a teenage boy.

      The photo captures the whole mess with boys and sexuality as well as the beauty. And, as someone shared above, folks who shame the photo are doing the very thing this blog post is talking about.

      P.s. in the future, I will delta comments from you that are blaming/shaming.

      blessings to you,

      • Eric M. says:

        I respect differing opinions, including on this picture. It’s the double standards that I take issue with.

        This picture is an example of why feminists complaints about the sexualization of young girls by men and bodies being sexualized/objectified can’t be taken seriously.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I can see how someone might find the photo inappropriate, but if I step back a minute and look at it on its face value, what do I see? It’s just two boys in their underwear. That could be a sexual image, I suppose, but ultimately it’s just two boys in their underwear. Is this where we are as a society, that underwear means sex? Poor-fitting briefs means sexualization? It feels a bit like trying to fight fire with fire — like we’ve become pedophiles in order to stop pedohilia….

  37. Great article. As a single father of a boy about to turn 15, I have been dealing with this for, well, 15 years.
    My own sexuality plays a big part in it, as I was circumcised at age 9 to “cure” my excessive masturbation.
    Think that helped? Anyone?
    My then-wife and I made a deal at the time – you tell them when they want to know. Curiosity is evident if you’re aware of your child.
    If you tell them things they’re not ready for, you are dropping a bomb that will probably blow up in your face someday, probably soon.
    As for your constant beating on the church about this, I take it you must also be taking your son to church to learn that way of life. This is troubling, because you identify the church as being the #1 problem in regards to the issue. Hopefully you mean that YOU were raised that way and THAT is what fucked YOU up. Don’t pass down that to your son, there has to be a better way. I teach my son about all the mythologies, period. They all use the same stories anyway.

  38. Stephanie Gluch says:

    Thank you – my husband and I (a.k.a. future parents) so appreciate you!!!! Preach it:)

  39. Unitarian Universalists have a specific course to address sexuality in a much more real and blatant way than other religions. It gets into all the details the kids will hear from their friends anyway but in a religious and responsible manner. I groove on that.

    • The program you refer to is called “Our Whole Lives”, and it provides comprehensive sexuality education tailored toward the age and developmental stages of the students. It is a curriculum designed to be taught in faith-oriented environments (i.e., church school settings) and in non-sectarian environments (e.g., schools, community centers).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Whole_Lives
      Full Disclosure: I teach OWL within our church school.

  40. This post brings up lots of memories. Being an outcast and constantly attacked in High School. I had been labeled gay by some jealous guys. I would only realize that they were jealous when I reached my mid-forties. One of the funniest things to happen was when my Mom found a stash of girlie magazines.

    Now vendicated that I definately wasn’t gay my Dad started yelling at my Mom to leave me alone that I was just being normal. Yeah I was one of those guys that started with porn. But I got lucky!

    You see coming out of a backwoods Southern Baptist Church with all of the harrassment about being gay coming from many of my “friends” that went to the same church.

    So when I started college in 1971 I started looking for other religious veniues. Naturally with all the Asian influences being brought back by Vets from Nam I checked out Asian religions. While a lot of the religions left me wondering, the Asian attitude toward life in general was mind blowing. The hacked versions of the Karma Sutra that were mostly porn, but then I found Sexual Secrets and learned that sex could be part of a religious rite! Then I attended two Human Sexuality seminars that the campus Baptist Student Union had, the second led the university (Western Carolina University) to establish a Human Sexuality class! Its a good read and about Ninth Grade reading level. If you can read a news paper you can read it!

    When my son came along I was teaching a First Grade class in Religious Education at my Unitarian Universalist Church. Naturally I knew that kids need things that they can touch so I went to the Planned Parenthood office in town and got some props. The lady was over joyed until she found out that they were first graders. She didn’t understand that the idea was this is were apples come from, this is how puppies are born, and oh yes this is how you were born. No big deal, no shame, just part of life like planting tomatoes.

    Oh its still available from UU Association and Beacon Press I recommend it highly. Just remember that most UU churches, congrations, and fellowships are welcoming groups, providing a welcoming and supportive place for LGBTQ people.

    By the way Jesse turned 30 last month and my granddaughter is doing great!

  41. LTD.Edition says:

    Interesting education in the states.

    Here in British Columbia we have a few hours deticated to sex-ed every few months starting at grade 4 or 5. This continues until highschool graduation and includes videos, handouts, diagrams, class discussions, anonymous question boxes, homework assignments, and so on. Everyone get’s this kind of education in BC.

    I find it hard to fathom doing it any differently, and when I hear about what is (or isn’t) taught elsewhere I’m shocked. Saddened.

  42. rabbit90 says:

    You make some excellent and poignant observations about the state of sexual culture in society, however, one caution: your understanding of adult make sexuality is totally heteronormative, centring on the experience of the straight (middle class as well) male. Yes, as boys, we all tend to experience the same pressures from teasing from our male peers, albeit feminine kids tend to get it even worse. But, as we – all men – grow up, a divergence happens. Gay men live a dissent form of sexuality where we live through the shame society has bestowed us with by virtue of your innate desires. Every sexual thought, erection, and sexual act is filled with shame. Instead of letting homophobic society get us down or stifle our sexuality, we say screw you to those rules and let our sexuality guide us through the relationships and practices and cultures that mainstream society has deemed deviant. The point is that, in my opinion, if you really want to give your son a healthy relationship to his body and his sexuality, you might want to start by first getting a grasp of non-straight male sexuality. This way, you are not just reproducing hegemonic sexual norms, but are infusing these lessons with a broader, and anti-oppressive – understanding of other forms of sexuality, like female and queer, at the core. A healthy sexuality is defined not by one’s relationship with one’s own body, but by the ways they treat their objects of sexual and romantic desire.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Great points all around. Please elaborate or write a post for this site or my own. i’d love your input here. Other suggestions?

    • Very well said. You should have writen the article.

    • longs2Badinosaur says:

      “A healthy sexuality is defined not by one’s relationship with one’s own body, but by the ways they treat their objects of sexual and romantic desire.”
      YES

      But my kid is just three, and we’re not there yet. Here’s where we are: eggs, babies that grow inside of eggs, chicken eggs, newt eggs, what other kind of eggs can you think of?, animals that DON’T lay eggs and grow their babies inside their bodies, just like mommy did when she was pregnant with brother. We haven’t yet gotten to HOW mommy got pregnant, just waiting on the kid to take the lead on this. He will.

      We’re just animals. We watch Planet Earth and see other animals giving birth and having sex and dying, and it’s all necessary and beautiful and scary and normal. Sexuality is imperative. Parenting is a bitch. Females are hard to impress. Babies are cute.

      We’re animals, but as humans we bring ethics into sexuality. Developing a healthy sexuality and becoming aware of oneself as an ethical actor go hand in hand, for me. Self-respect! Respect for others! Prolonged commitment of resources to raising young! Recreational sex to affirm social bond!

      He doesn’t know about Jerry Sandusky yet, but he will. He doesn’t really grasp that there was once a world that existed without him in it, but he will. He doesn’t know that everyone he loves will die, and so will he, but he will. There’s a lot of stuff out there for him to figure out. I’m not afraid.

      • longs2Badinosaur says:

        Oh, I also want to add, regarding the inevitability of porn: I will teach my boys that sex workers are people.

        A really great resource for sex ed for teens is scarleteen.com

  43. Wow. This is right on the spot. Our culture has been dominated with the confusion and shame that comes with the lack of strong leadership. Sadly, even the Christian Church has seriously dropped the ball on the subject of sexuality. I think that this is part of a bigger issue of the marginalization of men in this culture. Again, we all have something important and special to bring to this world. What we lack is the encouragement and mentoring needed to do this. A generational breakdown of leadership creates a spiritual vacuum that leads to symptoms as Jason describes. So, let’s break this generational cycle, awkward as it may be and hope that we give our sons a better chance than we had.

  44. I agree with Pedro’s comment. Sometimes (often times) kids don’t want to talk about or listen to their parents talk about sex or sexuality. I know some gung-ho parents take that attitude that that’s too bad and they’re going to talk to them til their blue in the face anyway, because they love them. I wonder if that’s the best approach. Kids have a right to be uncomfortable with it. If they’re uncomfortable, that’s not ideal. A trusted 3rd party probably is a good option, but hard to find. I know there’s a lot of talk about whether sex ed should be taught in schools vs. at home. Most experts will point out that parents lack the appropriate information or withhold information to cater to their own ideals. I’ve thought about this a bit and I always come back to the fact that parents being the primary source of sex ed just doesn’t feel right. It’s uncomfortable for a reason. Sexuality is private and even kids have a right to privacy. I think kids would learn best from some sort of outside teacher/mentor and feel more comfortable absorbing the information and asking questions. It’s not like I think sex and sexuality shouldn’t be discussed in the home, but I think there’s benefit from separating kids and parents if you have a trusted source to provide the education.

  45. Alex Gouin Fafard says:

    God, kids are kids. They have bodies, so what? For god sake, the text is about boy sexuality, the pictures illustrate the topic, period. Get over it, there is nothing erotic about the picture.

    If not, I liked the article, thank you.

  46. As a parent of two young boys I was hoping to find some actual guidance in what/how to tell the boys. In general we’re a ‘be proud of your boy’ kind of a household but now I’m thinking maybe the kids need something more specific…

  47. I agree with a previous comment that picture of two boys in underwear is not right.

    My main reason, however, is to point out that the link to the Catholic church is not a good one. It points out the negative of the church and it’s wrong headedness in dealing with a big mess. Here is a more appropriate link to the church’s current effort to teach much of what you are espousing on your blogs. Your view on the sanctity of the person and the power of a vulnerable youths’ sexuality are much in line with current church teaching. Theology of the Body is a body of work which John Paul II authored. It has become a healthy, informative way to educate everyone about the beauty of our sexual nature–at all ages.

    http://www.tobinstitute.org/

    This is a good thing that you are doing. I want you to know that there men and women of faith doing the same thing inside the Catholic Church, as well. It is a great program to help guide youth in an informed, age-appropriate way from innocence to adulthood with knowledge and grace.

    • doug leverett says:

      Beautiful words JK, but I’m afraid they are irrelevant as Dinosaurs.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      JK, fair observation about the photo. just wanted to get folks attention and perhaps it was a bad call. will chew on it.

  48. Thank you. This article gives me so much more perspective on the damage and shame that is lurking in my partner. I love him and have always wondered why exactly he carried so much self loathing, resentment and fear of his own sexuality. He is amazing to the core, believe me I am sharing this with him so he might feel free to go back and heal those wounds. Thank you!

  49. Overall I think this article is great. You are right about so many things and the idea of teaching your child from a young age is right on.

    Might I suggest though, that if you really want to empower your son and help him learn, you don’t use euphamism for genitalia and just call it a penis?

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      right, got this feedback before. we do use penis at home. have transitioned out of wee wee. thanks!

  50. Thanks for this! It sheds new light on matters often neglected.

  51. I know that the notion of liberal religious thought brings on the old cognitive dissonance, but the Unitarian Universalist/United Church of Christ-developed Our Whole Lives (OWL) education program is an excellent sex-ed resource for youth.

    I had a stepfather who was pretty showy about being all open and liberated and stuff about sexuality. Basically he used that as an excuse to steer a lot of conversations with me towards Inappropriateville. Creepy. My feeling is that if you are going to take charge of your kid’s sex education, so to speak, you’d better be on top of your game. You may find that your kid doesn’t want to talk about everything with you. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you or want or need the information – hence my earlier point about a trusted third party.

  52. I was just writing about this today and stumbled across your lovely post by accident. Thank you, thank you. I’ll be linking to it soon; seems like a must-read in the conversation about shame. I’m glad you exist.

  53. Wow. These words leave ashes in my heart.

  54. I will agree with everything in this article. My sex ed was a strange video about how one guys penis was larger than another guy. I lost my virginity at 9 years old to a friend. He was my age and we just did what felt good. I’m now 29 and a well adjusted gay man. Sometimes that kind of thing just works out. In reality, I learned on my own. I certainly never got the “talk” and once I came out, my parents just figured I knew what I was doing. They are loving and supportive but have no intention on trying to help me adjust any further.

  55. Salvice says:

    Long overdue…. 10,000 years late, in fact. But at least this message is available today.

  56. Don Draper says:

    One of the finest articles I’ve ever read on GMP. Please fathers…don’t have “the talk” with your sons…start like this brave man, when your sons begin to know they are “sexual” and continue and ongoing “dialogue” with them, that continues until the day they leave your home. YOU sgould be the person he comes to for answers to his questions…create a dialogue in which he will be comfortable in so doing. Your son will benefit enormously!

  57. Jason. Wow. Just read your long overdue article. As a young Catholic girl I too was given ‘the book’ the little pink covered book about a girls sexuality. ( Am sure the word ‘sex’ was not mentioned on the cover in any way, shape or form). I love how you refuse to blame your parents, illuminating the potent effects of legacies and the importance of changing them. Five children in my large Catholic family. Five under-educated children about sexuality, a Church that refuses to embrace birth control, and even more toxic, reinforces the dominance of boys and men in every subtle way imaginable.
    My Dad died when I was 15 and my only brother was elevated to a ‘holy pedestal’ that rendered his sisters and I invisible to my grieving devout Mom. After enrolling in Ethics and Morality courses at the Catholic center on Campus and finally learning that my questions had no real answers and were not welcomed, I left Catholicism behind. The only one in my family to marry outside the Church, I always wanted boys, but I was coincidentally lucky enough to give birth to three girls. I promised myself that there was no way I would ever, ever, ever consider submersing them in a such a culture of repression, secrecy and sadly, a lack of joy in one of the most sacred, enjoyable, fun and bonding experiences of being a human being. It has been a journey of exploration for me, too – what to say, when but I have never had a moment of regret and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the illumination that it’s not only girls that got a raw deal.

  58. Amberbug says:

    FYI, the pic is a bit inappropriate, even with identitiy hidden. Young boys in underwear is just as bad as young girls in their underwear. And that which is showing is not the most important part of them as people.

    • I remember seeing a commercial for something (don’t remember what the product was, maybe some kind of feminine hygiene product).

      I remember the commercial seemed to be fashioned towards a teen audience (shaky camera etc, quick editing etc..). I think the longest shot was of a teen girl whose age appeared to be 16-18 shadow boxing or dancing in bra and panties on her bed.

      I remember thinking why?? does this commercial even exist.

      I agree about the picture. If the admins felt a picture like this was absolutely essential I would have preferred a whole body picture where the face was blacked out to unerscore the fact that we’re talking about children.

      By making it seem that the most important part of the boys is what’s in this shot (and I may be reading too much into this) it seems the implication is that boys w/out sexual education are likely to hurt others w/their penises. If they had whole body shots, I feel it would have underscored their humanity and their childness and the implication would have also been that boys w/out a sex education can *be* injured, either spiritually, emotionally, or physically.

      • Michael Rowe says:

        I must have missed all the perversion in the photo, mostly because I was reading a brilliant article about the dangers of not teaching boys about sex and the photo was completely germane to the topic at hand. The photo is not eroticized, or sexualized, but it’s telling that a couple of these comments rather perfectly illustrate the effects of early-on body shaming.

        • Eric M. says:

          “I must have missed all the perversion in the photo. . .”

          Yes, and it’s sad that treating boys in that way is “missed” all the time. It would not have been missed if it were a picture of pubescent girls in their panties.

          It would be nice if this society treated boys with near the same due respect and dignity with which it treats girls. The fact that this picture is used here,and it would have been objected to if it were a picture of girls the exact same age, is part of the problem.

          IMO, don’t even bother writing about boys if they aren’t going to be disrespected in ways that girls would never ben in the same situation.

          • Eric M. says:

            “IMO, don’t even bother writing about boys if they aren’t going to be disrespected in ways that girls would never ben in the same situation.”

            OK, that was a bit harsh. But, this reveals a fundamental problem in how one sees boys vs. girls. The view (perhaps subconsciously) is that boys are due less protection and consideration.

            If boys are seen as less worthy of protection and respect, how can one truly appreciate what they need to advance successfully in life? IMO, it’s not possible.

          • Eric M. says:

            “IMO, don’t even bother writing about boys if they aren’t going to be disrespected in ways that girls would never ben in the same situation.”

            OK, that was a bit harsh and included a typo. I apologize. However, let me clarify.

            There is 0% chance that girls that age would be shown in their panties from the waist down. Zero percent. So, why are boys shown that way?

            That this picture was selected and posted demonstrates that there is a view that boys are less worthy of protection and consideration than girls. If boys are seen as less worthy of protection and respect, how can one truly appreciate what they need to advance successfully in life? IMO, it’s not possible.

          • Michael Rowe says:

            If it had been a comparable picture of girls, illustrating a serious article written for a women’s website, about a comparable subject, by a woman, it would very likely not be the subject of this sort of beetle-browed vitriol. This a serious article about a serious topic, and the photo is entirely appropriate to the subject. But instead of discussing the topic of the piece, one finds oneself reading opinions about the photograph, opinions that display a typical, creepy 21st century American prurience. Maybe what makes the difference is what one has in one’s own mind already when one looks at a picture like that. No wonder North American society remains so ignorant. It’s because actually thinking, much less reading, much less discerning context or content, is too much work. How depressing.

            • “If it had been a comparable picture of girls, illustrating a serious article written for a women’s website, about a comparable subject, by a woman, it would very likely not be the subject of this sort of beetle-browed vitriol.”

              They don’t post “comparable” pictures of pubescent girls to specifically display their genital area clothed only in their panties. If they did, there would be FAR, FAR more and louder ojbections.

              “This a serious article about a serious topic, and the photo is entirely appropriate to the subject.”

              Okay, so this “serious topic” couldn’t be discussed without a picture of the crotches of two pubescent boys clothed only in their underwear? Seriously? No other way?
              “But instead of discussing the topic of the piece, one finds oneself reading opinions about the photograph, opinions that display a typical, creepy 21st century American prurience.”

              Double standards are creepy. A serious topic is treating boys with the same respect, consideration, and protection afforded girls. Why is that too so objectionable?

              • Michael Rowe says:

                Every been shopping, Eric? Check out American Apparel. And those pictures of girls aren’t illustrating anything more serious than the reason to buy expensive “sexy” clothes for pubescent girls. As for me, I’m fortunately able to look at a picture like this without immediately thinking about sex, so it’s not about a “double standard” for me, which may not be the case for everyone, so perhaps I’m just lucky. Plus, the article carries its own intellectual weight.

                • 1. American Apparel takes a ton of flack from feminists for its ads, just as I stated. However, those are ads for clothing. They aren’t pictures of 12 year old pantied crotches taken specifically to call attention to their gential area to discuss sex.

                  ” I’m fortunately able to look at a picture like this without immediately thinking about sex, ”

                  No need to. The article is ABOUT sex. It’s in the title. It does it for you.

                  • N. Selby says:

                    I dont think we should be ashamed of our bodies at all. I believe that hiding our bodies is more damaging. If we were to be more open with our bodies, not hide them from the world – It might be a better place and less of an issue. I mean, everyone has a penis or a vagina (or the few with exceptions). The society we live in has turned the body into sections of good and bad. Breasts, vagina’s, penises, and butts have all turned into places that we must hide from the world and have become sexual objects instead of just what they are – body parts. For example, a pregnant woman cannot feed her crying baby in public without somebody giving her dirty or odd looks for exposing what breasts do – feed babies.

                    Perhaps, if people were more open about their bodies (now Im not saying join a nudist colony or something) and teach our children about their bodies and the responsibility or understanding of their genitals, they wouldnt view them so much as “sexual naughtiness” to oggle at. Also teach them about the opposite sex so they aren’t just surprised by it by the time they reach puberty. If a boy knows about a vagina, and it is to make babies and a girl knows about a penis, and its role in sex (then later more about the fun parts of sexuality) then its not a surprise to them if one of their friends shows a picture or laughs about something sexual. It is what it is. A penis, or a vagina. A picture of a girl in “sexy” clothes turns into just a girl in clothes.

                    Please dont twist my words into thinking that I think child porn is ok. I just feel that more education about the responsibilities of genitals and less hiding them from the world like they aren’t a part of us would help in making a more accepting and responsible generation of people.

                    • Eric M. says:

                      It’s not a matter about hiding our bodies or not; it’s the fact that the exact same picture of girls that same age wouldn’t be published.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Amberbug, good call and a fair observation about the photo. just wanted to get folks attention and perhaps it was a bad call. will chew on it.

      • If anything, I feel the picture highlights the *problem* you illustrate in the article, and the conversation ties directly therein.

        “OH MY GOD! BOYS IN UNDERWEAR! PEDOPHILIA!” – it’s back to shaming about boys bodies, trying to attach things there, telling boys “cover up and hide your shame!” and making fun of anyone else that disagrees.

        The human body is a wonderful thing – and kids should be taught the body is beautiful and they shouldn’t be afraid or prudish about it. It creates that shame where boys can’t change in the locker rooms lest they’re seen–heaven forbid–naked or in their underwear!

        Get over yourselves. You are part of the problem. A great photo highlighting the problem.

    • Unbelievable. Jayson writes one of the best articles I’ve read this year and it’s the photo that generates the most discussion. That just highlight the problems we’re up against in society. Easily distracted.

  59. Amberbug says:

    This is one of the rare good articles I’ve read here. Just one bit of parenting advice to the author: use the real anatomical names of body parts from the start. Otherwise confusion comes in if abuse happens, or when the child talks about him/herself with peers and NO one knows what anything is, or they just learn that ‘those’ parts are ‘different’ (you don’t call your arm a reachyboo), and that can open the void for the idea of ‘wrongness’ to sneak its way in.

  60. natureartist says:

    Jayson, your article speaks to so many fundamental problems in our society with male sexuality. It is sad that men often see their bodies as comical or shameful. The media doesn’t help. I am a women, and I sense that men are mostly the source of this problem. Unfortunately it filters out to women as well. This is a very unhealthy attitude. It doesn’t help men when they suddenly want women to see them as sexually beautiful and desirable when it is convenient. When you don’t respect your own body, it is easier to disrespect someone else’s. It also has a tendency to invite disrespect upon yourself. I would imagine that this leads to much frustration.

    I am thrilled to see that you teach your son that he is beautiful, and should not be ashamed of his body while he is so young. As a parent myself of a young girl, I reached the conclusion that it is wiser to ease them into talking about sensitive subjects in their very young and preteen years. Waiting till they are older, makes the subject more uncomfortable and difficult to discuss. When the time finally came for me to fully explain sex and menstruation to my daughter, there was no shock or discomfort. It was a joyful occasion for both of us. We even had a few laughs. Bless you. I wish more men would adopt your philosophy.

  61. Circumcision is where sex and violence first meet. Many men feel shame about sex because part of their sexual anatomy was cut off by force when they were powerless to resist. Circumcision has sexual and psychological consequences. It removes the most sensitive parts and contributes to erectile dysfunction. In one study circumcised men were 4.5 times more likely to use erectile dsfunction drugs. Men who have sexally assaulted women are 3.5 times more likely to report erectile dysfunction. Infants are real people. What happens to them matters. Circumcision has no proven health benefit. The myths about circumcision have been hiding our cultural shame for over 140 years. “What’s done to children, they will do to society.” See the Circumcision Resource Center for more information.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I’m curious if those studies took into account other differences such as income levels. If you look globally, circumcised men are probably much more likely to be obese than uncircumcised men, but much of that would be due to the fact that many American men are circumcised and Americans also happen to have a particularly obesity-inducing lifestyle. Obesity is a major factor in diabetes, and diabetes is a major factor in erectile dysfunction. American men are fatter and that’s one big reason why American men encounter so much ED. So, it could be somewhat of a coincidence: being born in America makes you fat and therefore impotent, and being American also means on average that you’re circumcised. It could be, to some degree, a correlation but not a causal link.

      (Yes, massive overstatements here. ED is more complex than this. I just wonder if the study may be jumping from correlation to causation too easily. Other explanations could be more plausible.)

    • Stop mis-representing yourself as a Ph.D. You’re clearly not. A Ph.D wouldn’t make such noticeable grammar and spelling errors, nor would a Ph.D reach such spurious conclusions based on facts that are (1) unproven and (2) no clear relationship between the variables identified.

      As for the article itself: wow, great stuff! It hits he nail right on the head.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Both ED and circumcision are valuable topics up for discussion. not sure if this is the right post for them, but wonderful side posts. I’ll put it on my agenda. thank you.

  62. Jayson, please keep doing more of this! I loved every single word in your article and feel hope that there are men like you looking to change the conversation of sex in our culture. I think male leadership and knowledge is priceless and has the potential to have a much larger positive affect for boys, girls, men and women alike then men themselves might know or are given credit for. You are an inspiriation. Here is to more sex positive information and dialogue and stoping the cycle of misinformation, shame and guilt.

  63. sericmarr says:

    BRAVO!!! As one who experienced “innocent” sexual exploration with an older male sibling but has lived in the shadow of guilt, shame, and isolation an entire life, strides are being made. That this article has been published in a forum that is presented on the WEB is remarkable. I would like to underscore the importance of this new focus on masculinity in all of complexities and, yes, sensitivities. Thanks so much for this article. Much appreciated.

    seric

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Thanks Seric. You’re experience sounds familiar from the men I work with. THanks for sharing!

      • This is brilliant. The whole thing is brilliant, but especially this: “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.”

        You nailed it. This is my consistent experience with men. And as a woman it can be difficult to know what to do about it – how to support men in becoming dynamic, responsible, and healthy with their sexuality. I want to help, but I don’t always know how to.

        I am also impressed and touched by how you cover the exact (confusing) state of male sexuality, then role model how to do it differently. You will show up for your son. You — the primary adult male in his life — will tell him that his sexuality is healthy, normal, something to be celebrated. That alone will go a long way. More importantly, you having that conversation with him will open the door to him coming to you with questions and other concerns about it. You’re establishing that you are a safe person, a safe zone within which to discuss sex.

        And that is sacred.

        I might also add that the women with whom he comes into contact will get a better version of him because of it – a healthier, more expressed version with less shame and more ability to have the range to see the strength in vulnerability, and also be able to push her up against a wall when that’s called for (mmm.)

        So thank you on behalf of your son and on behalf of the women with whom he will hold. You’re doing a service to both and to us and to the world.

  64. Jayson,
    Amazing article. I can’t agree with you more. Thank you for sharing. My wife and I do a weekly 30 minute podcast called zen parenting radio. we discussed this exact topic last year. it can be found @ http://twokdprod.media.streamtheworld.com/audio/zp_022211_100996591.mp3
    We start getting into the content of the show @ the 4:30 mark
    we don’t talk about this stuff enough. thank you for being brave enough to share.
    Todd

  65. drdanfee says:

    Thanks JG, for putting this crucial chld rearing/fathering/parenting topic right out on the discussion table. I happen to have been a boy in a farm town in a Bible Belt USA state, meaning, zero / zip accurate, age-appropriate sex/body information. Early on (before five years old) I began to realize how different I was, though I couldn’t connect with being gay until much older (about age 26?). Thanks loads for including LGBT folks in the table discussion, too; in many instances, other gay youth or men have gotten around to telling me something about how early they knew they were not straight, but did not know exactly what that meant or who they were. So we tend to start boys off by focusing on negatives, examples of things about sex/body/intimacy that are NoNos. I had occasion last year to teach a couple of state board required pre-licensure classes on human sexuality; and some of the written eval comments from budding professionals were dispiriting. A couple of prep students said outright that they considered this requirement a complete waste of time, because they believed as licensed counselors they would never, ever need to talk with people getting services about anything remotelyt related to sex or the human body. Huh? I admit I had to read and re-read those bits to make sure I was getting it accurately. Our massive cultural and religious campaign of no information, combined with intentional dis-information, propagated in a media culture ethos that models ‘use sexuality and sensuality’ to sell things’ cannot result in much more than shame, avoidance, confusion, and distortions. I would connect our dysfunctional cultural and religious approach to sex and the body with the high divorce rates and much else in youth, college student, and adult life. Just my two cents. AND. thanks again. best drdanfee

  66. Jayson – Late to this party in commenting.
    ROCK ON. I learned about sex from Hustler Magazine, the movie ‘Porkies’ and my older brother’s incredibly unhealthy teenage relationships. I applaud the work you’re doing to end the cycle and to share your learning with others. And I am grateful when I think of the many other men and women we know who are riding the evolutionary wave with us.
    I am all for ‘adult’ men learning what they never learned NOW. The only way that boys will have the kind of mentors they need is if boys in men’s bodies do the work to grow up and show up to become the wise teachers they never had.
    I know you’re a champion of this work. And I know that you surround yourself with some kick-ass brothers and sisters. THANK YOU. I’m glad to be in your circle, even from far away.

  67. D.R. Bartlette says:

    I have to second Lisa’s comment: Parents, you are not alone! The Unitarians have a wonderful, sex-positive curriculum called “Our Whole Lives” that has lessons for every age group (including seniors). It’s a great place for kids to learn stuff they might be embarrassed to ask mom or dad, for mom or dad to learn stuff they didn’t know, and as a remedy to the awful “abstinence-only” crap the kids get in schools.
    And finally, kudos to Jayson for bringing up this difficult topic. It is so important for both boys and girls to get good, positive sex ed that encompasses all the aspects of sexuality – not just the physical part.

  68. Spencer says:

    Great article overall although I am a bit saddened by something I fee is too often shamed just as you have lamented being shamed sexually as a youth.

    “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).”

    Sexual exploration with others can be a very important and good part of sexual learning; it’s not mutually exclusive from your suggestions in this article. The legal system (which accounts for the statistics you mentioned) confuses issues. Legally any sexual activity between a minor (one not able to consent to sexual activity) and ANYONE ELSE, be it another minor or an adult, is considered sexual abuse. I speak from experience, just as you have, when I say that my sexual experience with another boy when I was a boy was wonderful. There was no shame involved, there was only curiosity and enjoyment. Had it been discovered by others, especially the law, it would be tacked on to that “one third” statistic you just mentioned.

    My point is that just because your experience as a boy with another youth was bad, doesn’t mean that everyone’s is. I think it’s great that you want to take an active and candid role in teaching your son about sex but you might also encourage experimentation and exploration. He just might be the boy who makes another boy, who doesn’t have a father like you, feel good about his own sexuality.

    • “Legally any sexual activity between a minor (one not able to consent to sexual activity) and ANYONE ELSE, be it another minor or an adult, is considered sexual abuse. ”

      I don’t believe that’s true. States all vary. Here in Minnesota (full definition of 1st degree Criminal Sexual Conduct: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=609.342) an example of penetration of a child under 13 as 1st degree Criminal Sexual Conduct requires:

      (a) the complainant is under 13 years of age and the actor is more than 36 months older than the complainant. Neither mistake as to the complainant’s age nor consent to the act by the complainant is a defense;

      (b) the complainant is at least 13 years of age but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older than the complainant and in a position of authority over the complainant. Neither mistake as to the complainant’s age nor consent to the act by the complainant is a defense;

      It seems like good laws to me when I think of age examples. I “played doctor” with a boy my age in the neighborhood for a while when I was about 11. It was very…. child-like play and nothing like an adult act of sex… pretty silly, and it never has bothered me at all. I’ve never brought it up in a lot of therapy actually. Yet, the 50-60 year old men who engaged me in acts of sex have had repercussions my whole life that were huge. It’s the power differential, the trust of authority, the status of adults over children that made it hugely different.

      • Spencer says:

        Laws are different in every state, you’re right about that. However the statistics you cite are national and don’t take into account variances in what states deem to be sexual abuse. I have a collection of over 100 articles of children and young adults being prosecuted because of hysterical parents and overzealous prosecutors. Those all go on the statistics tally that you mentioned. Just because your own personal experience of boyhood sex play was not invaded by overreacting parents and legislators doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of situations in which this is the case. The point is that if you cite those national statistics it’s important to recognize that you’re including cases that were like your innocuous and even beneficial boyhood sexual experimentation that resulted in a very different outcome for those involved.

  69. Jonathan says:

    This was a very interesting article.

    I don’t think I was quite as sheltered, but growing up gay, the youngest in a Christian household, and attending nothing but a fundamental Christian school from preschool through high school didn’t provide me with any people or information that were the least bit useful…not to mention a particularly hostile environment if you made even a slight deviation from the sexual norm.

    Sex was rarely, if ever, discussed within my family, at least within my earshot. By the time I was 12 (my sisters were both adults by this time), my parents had divorced, and both of them had what seemed to be more important things going on than to continue raising me or providing me with any vital information regarding sex.

    Thankfully I grew up in the age of the internet and was the rare kid with his own laptop. I could freely browse the internet and look up information about the mechanics of sex, safe sex, and gay sex (the last being the most relevant to me) without the possibility of anyone finding out, judging me, or making me feel uncomfortable because I had these questions. I learned more browsing Google than pop culture or misinformation from my adolescent peers could ever teach me, and for the most part it was good and factual information.

    I don’t believe this is the optimal way for children to learn about sex, and there is plenty of bad advice here as well, but in a time where the internet is more prevalent and relevant than ever, I think it can be a great supplement for kids who have questions they’re too embarrassed to ask adults about. I wouldn’t have a fucking clue about my sexuality or sex in general if that resource wasn’t available to me.

  70. Wow thank you for a great article. As a fifty year old male I am still feeling the effects of shame and confusion over my childhood sex education. My father tried when I was 16 but he had no clue what to say as he had no training from his dad. Most of my education came from Mr. Heffner and the Conservative Christian Church, you can imagine the confusion that brings. As young parents 26 years ago, my wife and I decided to try to break the cycle. Sometimes we were successful, lots of times we messed up. I wanted to normalize sexuality instead of hiding it away. I did this by using correct terminology and by determining ahead of time that I would answer any question without reacting with shock. Again not always successful. When our kids were 10, 8 and 6 I was scared but determined so I gathered them together to look at a book on sex. This was a review for my eldest son and new info for the next two. I preempted the book by saying this was very special information and it was to be taken seriously. The first page showed naked boys jumping into a swimming pool. My youngest daughter lost it and started howling with laughter. Then we all started laughing until it hurt. Eventually we finished the book but to this day we refer to it as the “Sex education with Dad” story. Thank you again for a thought provoking article.

  71. This is kinda funny in hindsight, so I’ll share.

    I got the sex talk over the phone from my father while he was at work when I was 8 years old. All he said was that it was when a man put his penis in a woman’s vagina. He left out the being an adult part and the it makes babies part and really anything else of note. I like to think I had the best possible reaction which was, “Who would ever think that up?” and “Why would anyone ever want to do that?” It was something that confused me until I was 14 and they got to it in Health class.

  72. Dear Jayson:

    Thank you for writing this article. I am always struck by how messed up we are about our sexuality – constant messaging for kids that it (and these feelings) are bad accompanied by a constant diet of media cardboard images of sexuality – nothing helpful to work with in my opinion. I wanted to suggest 2 resources – when my now 15 year old was about 10 I got a book Boy’s Guide to Becoming a Teen at Whole Foods. We started reading it and having some discussions – a bit embarrassing but mostly not and it set the foundation for future discussion in a much more natural way. Also, The Unitarian Universalist church has a fabulous program Our Whole Lives (or OWL) which teaches about sexuality in a holistic, deep and respectful way – that sexuality is part of the human condition, neither good nor bad – but needs to be practiced in a way that is responsilbe and respectful. It really respects the intelligence of kids and gives them real information to work with. You might be able to find info on Google about it.

    I am Catholic – 1 of 7 children – where talk about sexuality was pretty non-existent and it has been a surprising gift for me to be able to have real, meaningful conversations with my sons (age appropriate ones) about love, sexuality, fidelity. I tell my teen that sex can be a wonderful part of a special relationship (and will likely be part of all of his adult life) but much less great if you jump in before you are emoitonally ready. I imagined talking about sexuality would be awful and something to be avoided but after jumping in with this book about six years ago, it has become natural and not that white elephant that it feels like for many. I would encourage parents to not be so afraid about it. We can do this differently than the fear, shame and misinformation that most of us experienced. Starting younger helps to make it feel like just another part of life. My husband, though a bit more shy about it, has also been surprised by how much better this discussing sexuality related issues has been than he imagined. Who knew it could be anything but awkward and awful?

  73. Maia Newton says:

    I don’t know why people don’t talk about sex and caring. I am the mother of two toddlers- both boys, both happy to share their thoughts, hugs, cuddles, kisses, and if we are in the shower together, their pee.

    I plan on teaching my kids about sex- pleasing their partner, talking openly about their needs and wants, expressing what makes them them. I want my boys to know that it’s OK to like their bodies; penis and all. We all have needs and urges and we all feel uncomfortable at times about our looks and feelings and scared of rejection. I think most people are taught that sex is dirty and that they should feel guilty, and yeah, some things are dirty- and some things they should and will feel guilty over- but as long as respect is present, it’s OK.

    I want them to be respectful and kind to their lovers, I want them to give them pleasure and to receive it openly, and mostly, I don’t want them to be creeped out that their Mom is OK with them having safe, respectful, sex when they are much much older, but they might, and that’s OK, too.

  74. Hey Jayson,
    I’m not trying to be facetious when I say i read the article with great interest, and was hoping for some illuminating top 10 list or something to guide me through my kids’ sex-ed. My son is 7, my daughter 5. I’m proud in our house we actually speak the words “penis” and “vagina” while so many other households find euphemisms for them. A couple of months ago, my son asked for the Nth time how babies get into mummies tummy – I decided to tell both of them the truth (imagine!). I couldn’t even understand my own feelings of embarrassment about the topic, or why I had avoided the topic in the past. Was I worried discussing sex would make them more prone to them having it? It’s weird. Having my kids be picked on for any reason, either in the locker room or the school yard, is my (and, I imagine, most parents) greatest fears. How am trying to prevent it? I try to build their self-confidence as much as possible, explaining home is always a safe to be – and to discuss absolutely ANY topic – and to explain there are simply some bad people in the world who look to make themselves feel better by making others feel worse. From these people you should just walk away. Will it work? Who knows. How does one explain siblings who are divergent in their personalities? Or good kids coming from lousy parents or vice versa?
    Sorry, I realize I’ve gone on waaaay too long.
    If you;re interested in my sex talk…I blogged about it:)
    http://www.kennybodanis.com/blog/2012/03/i-finally-told-them-where-babies-come-from-and-how-they-get-there-in-the-first-place.html

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Kenny,

      Sounds like you finally stepped up as a dad. HUGE. thanks! you stepped over your own fear/discomfort and told them the truth. It is weird right that we get so uncomfortable, yet not strange given our past yes? I can so relate to wanting to protect my kids from harm at any cost and sadly it will be unavoidable. All i can do is lay a rock solid foundation and teach them about self-love, self-care, etc.

      Lastly, I don’t believe people are “bad.” People are all inherently good in my world, they just have been through hell and had to develop strategies to survive their own abuses and traumas, one of which is to cause harm to others.

      I really hear you are doing the best you can. Just ask for help when you need it. We can’t do this alone. No shame in that.

  75. This is a really great article, well balanced and right on.

    “All taught by who? Boys. That’s right. We adults have put boys in charge of teaching other boys..”

    And the sad truth is… And taught by the adult child molesters… often themselves silent victims of abuses and neglect. Adults, men and women, largely look the other way and don’t want to deal with it. That’s the story of Penn State, the catholic church, all the cases in the papers. Thank you for mentioning this aspect of boyhood in America. It’s usually denied. Or ignored.

    My own life has been really damaged by these teachings by adults in my life as a boy. Zero from my mother or father. I was molested for two periods 40 years ago and never spoke to anyone about it until much later. But, in retrospect and after some recent questions to my family, nobody would have dealt with it, and they blamed me for it. Everybody knew and said nothing. Not much has really changed in 40 years.

    I never married or had children, but I’ve spoken to way over a hundred men about their childhood sexual abuse, created a support group (because no institution here had one), written articles, given talks. Enough to see that the terrible ways it played out in my life are typical. Yes, it’s a terrible mess, and we’re paying an enormous price for it.

    “Leaving it up to the Churches and schools to train our kids about their penises and vaginas and how to use them has gotten us where we are today,…”

    You focus on individual parents changing the conversation with their children. Perhaps you’re right to think in America today, parents are on their own and no institution can provide help or leadership on sexuality. Political gridlock. Religion and politics. Powerful forces for the status quo. That’s what I see on sexual abuse. It’s very hard to find help or guidance like you suggest.

    Some of the parents here are very inspiring! But if you’re not a parent, I don’t know what you can do.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Wow Allan, thank you for the vulnerable share here and you are one of countless victims of sexual abuse in this society when we all look the other way. It’s very, very frustrating, enraging really. Blaming the victim is a common one and when everyone else is in fear and shame, that’s what happens. Thanks for helping others with sexual abuse and for caring so much.

  76. Elizabeth says:

    Awesome article. I may not be a boy, but as a woman, I have seen the collateral damage in a million different ways. Thanks for starting this conversation!

  77. im 33 my mother taught me when i was 4 about sex, something a man and woman do when they are in love and usually married, she used a visual children’s book and it wasn’t a big deal. She sat me down and off our conversation went. In elementary school 6 years later the boys and girls were separated into 2 different rooms, the girls lecture consisted of boys have penises and we have our periods and can get pregnant. I remember discussing afterwards with the boys and they explained in detail about our periods (made fun of us) and explained about our breasts and such. And well, we were told nothing about their bodies nothing at all except they had a penis. I felt they had everything on us and knew everything about us and i knew nothing. I shutdown and became very uncomfortable with my body, I’d gotten my period the next year in 9th grade at 9 years old and was mortified for various reasons and should have celebrated myself becoming a women but i was too busy trying to cover it up and not be girly or pretty…..In 8th grade my mother bought me a book about Our Body’s, it was made for teens/tweens she knew it was early but I can’t tell you how many time I used that book even into adulthood when I had questions. My friend for many years was lucky to have me when we were younger (elementary to junior high) because her parents never discussed it with her, it came up once in 7th grade and she still thought girls got pregnant by kissing! in 7th grade, how that was possible I don’t know, nativity? With boys and girls we must talk to them and let them ask questions, never let them feel ashamed of their bodies, ever and help them understand them. If you can’t do it find someone you and they trust and have them bring it up, even a family doctor or someone valid to start the conversation. Once its started the rest is cake. I have no children but if one day I do I will not be afraid to talk with them about sex, separately and about not only their body’s but that of the opposite sex as well.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Andrea, Not surprised, and, that is traumatic. no young girl deserves that. I feel for that young girl that was you so long ago. Ouch. Thank you for engaging her and for feeling inspired to do it differently.

  78. Agemaki says:

    (I’m currently in my mid twenties) I didn’t even know that women could masturbate until some time after high school. My sex education mainly consisted of learning that boys masturbate an girls menstruate. My teachers also focused on sexually transmitted infections. Essentially we were told that if we had sex we would get pregnant and diseased and our lives would be over. We were told that birth control was not effective and that we should only have sex later on in life when we are married and want children. We were told that women didn’t enjoy sex, that it was just something that men pressured them into (though they also implied that some slutty women might enjoy it).

    I didn’t really receive much sex education from my mom aside from being told about menstruation (which I wasn’t very happy about when it started and at one point as a teen starved myself to stopped menstruating). I think my general fear and abhorrence of my genitals also resulted in vaginisimus, involuntary muscle contractions that prevented me from wearing tampons or engaging in penetrative sex.

    When I was 22 I finally started trying to figure out why I couldn’t have penetrative sex (the fear and anxiety relating to not being able to control this part of my body is hard to describe–after every failed tampon insertion I’d be in tears) and that began my search for sex education.

    I feel like I’ve come a long ways since then. I’ve completely gotten over the squeamish about touching my genitals (I currently use sea-sponge tampons which involves pulling blood-soaked sponges out of my vagina several times a day). I’ve also found that I really enjoy sex (and masturbation–and learned to have multiple orgasms, the increase in oxytocin has made me a happier person overall) and have a very supportive boyfriend who has helped me to get over some of the trauma from the bad sex education I received earlier in life. If I ever have a kid I will try to not make him or her go through what I did.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Awesome. you are a good example of someone who is in pain and doing something about it, thus getting different, better results in life. Thanks for the courage. I can only hope more men are taking the risk to grow like you did. thanks!

  79. A woman says:

    You know that song; “sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me…” my 12 year old daughter was in the car with me when that song came on the radio. She began singing the lyrics, I thought they were something else. We went back and forth about who had the lyrics right when she said, “Mom I know I’m right I looked it up!” then she asked; “What’s BDSM?”

    After wiping up the coffee I spit out of my mouth… I explained the acronym, the general idea of power exchange and then emphasized there is no normal within sex. Some people are ticklish, others are not. Some people like to be in control, other like to be controlled. Some like a little pain, others do not. It’s all normal. Just as I was about to launch into role play, she held up her hand and said, “I just wanted to know what it stood for, does everything have to be a lecture with you?”

    Thank you so much for this article. Having seen the repercussions of sexually repressed catholic upbringing in my husband’s family, seeing the extreme neglect of any sort of sexual guidance in my nephews being raised by both parents who are deeply misogynistic and being very concerned about the men my daughters would one day be dating and marrying I tend to give more information than might be necessary.

    I wish I had a better handle on when too much really is too much. Last year when my daughter (at 11) asked me how old a person should be to masturbate, after I had explained to her what an orgasm is, she happily went to her room and closed the door having been told masturbation is okay when ever the mood strikes and privacy is ensured. I was momentarily terrified I had turned her into a chronic masturbater but ration quickly returned.

    Parents want their kids to grow up and be able to support themselves, to have loving satisfying relationships with friends and family and to get married and raise a family. If we want our kids to have happy marriages, we should teach them to have happy and satisfying sex. It’s just as important as paying the bills on time. We parents need more articles like this, pushing us to actively teach.

    The daughter mentioned above is my youngest, the most outgoing of all of them and the one who seems to be driven to find a question that I’m not ready to answer. She’s fun!

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      wow. this is such a potent share. thank you for sharing your experience with your daughter. it’s real-time examples like these that helps us all move the ball forward. I’m inspired.

  80. I guess I should have checked out the Heritage Foundation agenda regarding sex. Looks like they’ve got it covered. http://www.heritage.org/issues/sex-education-and-abstinence

  81. And how did the Heritage Foundation study explain those “startling” findings?

  82. According to “Modernmom”Post-Sex Let Down
    For many teens, having sex leaves emotional scars. WebMD reports that many sexually active teens admit that they have felt used post-sex and felt bad about themselves for giving in to the sexual temptation. The Heritage Foundation reports that, when compared with their virginal counterparts, sexually active teens were less likely to report feelings of happiness and more likely to exhibit signs of depression. In an even more startling study, the same source found that sexually active girls were three times more likely to attempt suicide than virgins and sexually active boys were eight times more likely to try to take their lives than non-sexually active teens.

    • Susan S says:

      Tom B., You’re kidding…right? Or maybe you were posting this because you were pointing out its evil ridiculousness? Jayson’s article said NOTHING about teen sex, so the Heritage excerpt is irrelevant anyway, except for the part where it pretty much illustrates the point of Jayson’s article: They reveal their young followers are so messed up about sex they want to kill themselves. Um, could that be because the only information they’ve gotten about sex in their young lives is “it’s dirty – and if you do it God – and the rest of us – will think less of you?”

      Thank you, Jayson, for writing a piece about healthy sexuality for a lifetime, which begins with attitudes about our bodies when we are very young. Something the Heritage folks clearly don’t get, because they are too busy judging and shaming.

      • Jayson Gaddis says:

        Susan, thanks for that comment. Very true. The HF is yet another shame/fear based group who is simply scared of their own sexuality and the brilliance of their bodies. No need to judge them, they got the same training I did. Until we are shown another way and open to it, we stay stuck in our developmental stage. HF will continue to put out their thing. Rather than make them wrong, I want to put out my views.

      • Hey, I just posted what I read in “modernmom” … you can go look for yourself. I presume women/moms go to that site and read this stuff. I never said I agreed with it. I just wanted ya’ll to know what some sites are saying. The title of the article is “The Emotional Effects of Sex on Teenagers”

        • Susan S says:

          Tom B., you’re right – a LOT of women go out there and read this stuff. Women/girls are just as confused – we’ve been told we are the proverbial gatekeepers. If we have sex, it’s our fault, we’re not good people, etc. Web sites with content like the one you posted from frustrate me so much that I try to avoid them. I tend to tilt at windmills and I’m learning to choose my battles 🙂

          I can’t change the world, but I can influence my two boys.

    • Let’s see…. The young and suicidal previously had sex…. Ah! They must BE suicidal BECAUSE they had sex! Brilliant… We’re done.

      Uh, unless there are other factors. Naaaa, prolly not.

      Amazing. It’s Ph.D. ‘s saying this stuff too.

  83. This is great! I’m going through this with my sons right now. They don’t really have a communicative, supportive man in their lives. I “sub” the best I can, but as a woman, I don’t totally get it – it’s impossible. My 9 year old asked me point blank the other day if sex was bad. He based his question on the way other boys and girls talk about it at school. I was taken aback but I told him it wasn’t bad but a lot of kids don’t understand it. Our conversation went on to talk about how babies are made and he was in awe! He then came to the conclusion that the other kids don’t even know what sex is. I could tell he felt empowered and more confident.

    I think we’re doing good so far! Like I told my 13 yo son, his feelings will evolve regarding sex as he develops and it’s important to be aware of the transitions.

    I can’t tell you how many men (I would say, most) I’ve known, who truly think sex and romance is equal to porn because that is the only way they were provided any understanding (if you can call it that) of sexual activity. I can also say that we women would benefit GREATLY with more of this intelligent sex talk for boys (who will later become men). Our sex lives and relationships will improve immensely!

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Thanks Joss, thanks for being a mom willing to “go there.” My question here is always, “where’s their dad?” on this subject? Why are more dads not involved in teaching their sons? Why do moms have to pick up the slack so much? am I off here?

      • It’s a great, relevant question to ask, where’s dad!? Or mentor-type men.

        It’s a sad, scary answer – the dad who is there, is lacking in maturity, knowledge, availability, courage and humility. And there are many like them. It breaks my heart to be perfectly honest with you. Had I known he wouldn’t be there, well, I can’t really think that way. I pick up the slack because I want my sons and my sons’ partners to have a different experience of relationships than I’ve had. I want them to be able to positively influence other boys. And girls. As women, we would be foolish to think we can do that ourselves.

        Men/dads have the potential to completely shift the future for boys AND girls – they just need to step into that space (like you are). More men of courage leads to more good men. Humanity desperately needs good men.

        Shoot, I could use a good one too. Ha! 🙂

        • Jayson Gaddis says:

          Joss, thanks for your honesty here. Are you still with this man? how is that for you? You’re right, boys need men willing to face whatever is true in life. thanks again!

  84. the Unitarian Universalist church has a great sex ed curriculum called “Our Whole Lives” or OWL for short. It is adapted for all age groups, from little kids to adults, but mostly offered for young teens.

  85. When I was 16, my mom gave me this hippie feminist book called ” Changing Bodies, Changing Lives” by the same group who wrote ” Our Bodies, Ourselves.” It was written for both boys and girls, and covered topics like masturbation, sex, birth control, and homosexuality in an amazingly straight-forward way. Don’t know if the book us still around, and it’s granola aesthetic may seem dated, but it was a real eye opener for me at that age.

  86. wellokaythen says:

    I like the recognition that a lot of men and boys get lots of negative messages about their sexuality and their bodies as they grow up.

    I am a little concerned, however, about possibly going too far to the opposite extreme. Sex can be wonderful, and many people find sex to be a deeply spiritual activity, but I’d hesitate to describe sexuality too much as something “sacred.” Positive imagery of sex is much better than negative imagery, of course, but setting up unrealistic, strictly religious views of sexuality leads to all sorts of other problems. Sometimes sex is neither evil nor sacred, just pleasurable, and sometimes not even pleasurable.

    When do young people even in the best sex ed classes ever hear that sometimes people actually get bored with their sex lives? Calling it sacred may play up expectations that don’t always match reality.

    Let’s not let teenagers get the idea that sex is always and forever an uplifting, emotionally rich experience that has to be totally wonderful every time or else you’re not doing it right. Or if you didn’t see angels then it must have been dirty. There is a kind of shame that comes from thinking you’re not doing it right.

    In my view, sex is not a temptation for evil NOR is it a sacred gift of God. I would find it hard to see how one is really all that better a lesson than the other.

    • SpudTater says:

      I agree. Sex is slightly messy, and faintly ridiculous. Nothing sacred about it!

      If anything is sacred it is our emotional attachment to our chosen partner(s). And sex is often a core part of that. But some people have sex without forming attachments, and some people have meaningful relationships without sex. Both these things are fine, so long as this is communicated to your partner(s).

      • wellokaythen says:

        Good point. Sex can be fun and also funny. It can be all sorts of things besides holy or evil. And messy doesn’t mean dirty. Just because there are bodily fluids involved doesn’t mean that it’s evil.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Wellokay then–You raise a good point about not setting the bar too high, but I will inform my kids that in sex we can experience both poles. the highest bliss and union with God imaginable and deep, deep shame. And for me sex is sacred and I will teach it so. Sacred has nothing to do with religion to me. And, at the end of the day, everything is sacred. I choose to live a sacred live, that this human life is a gift and I won’t squander it, so teaching my children to respect life, their bodies, their animal desires is all part of it.

  87. Jayson,

    Thank you for writing this important blog!

    I recently came across the Talk by Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability. She describes shame as being the thing that prevents intimacy and connection. I appreciate what you’ve described, because as men, we can mentor our boys, free from shame and break the cycle that, as you’ve described, leads to porn and isolation.

    Great job, brother!

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  88. As a newlywed wife, this post in inspiring for my future children. As a newlywed wife-of only 8 months- with a husband who still cannot consummate the marriage, this touches a very deep scar. He was told to be the “good boy”, and therefore has so much shame and guilt surrounding sex that he can hardly touch me. I would so appreciate further posts, classes, teachings, devotions, etc.–anything that helps me avoid making this mistake with our children, and anything that allows the two of us to heal.

    Thank you.

    • I think your husband needs a really good sex therapist who can help him out of this misery. Be sure to read the books the therapist recommends too, for your own good information.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Wow Alyssa, I feel grief reading your post here. I also feel your longing. Is he open to doing this work along side you? Is the shame too great? Either way, feel free to reach out to me directly for further guidance/direction. Not much can happen until your husband starts the work.

  89. Well done for writing this piece, Jayson. I’m much like you – I received absolutely no sex education when I was young. Unlike your dad, my dad didn’t even teach me about condoms. The shame around sexuality in my family and society is denying life and love and IMO we can safely blame conservative religious teachings for the state we’re in (which are all about fear and shame of course).

    I think it scares many of us to consider how early a child starts exploring his/her sexuality. When my niece was three, my sister asked me to bathe her as she was busy with some other stuff and I was surprised to find her touching herself while looking at me seductively.

    Now with most men having enormous shame and insecurities around sex as well as being trained to see their male sexuality as dangerous and predator-like, encounters with a child’s sexuality like the one I described above can be challenging.

    What I’m starting to get more and more though – and what you are inspiring me to see as well, Jayson – is that there comes a time that I live my life not primarily for my own enjoyment, but to become an agent of service, love and healing in the world. (The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. – Gandhi)

    So I think that’s what is here for me – that as I get closer to the day when I will be a father myself, I remain mindful and vigilant to move in the direction in life that would let me be present with my child in a wholesome, loving and generative way. That truly is a quicker way to self-realization and happiness than seeking realization through narcissistic pursuits – IMO.

    I’m not sure the media will see male sexuality as something positive anytime soon so it’s on us to provide the guidance and the way. Thanks for pointing it out, Jayson

    Eivind

    • Eivind:

      You have highlighted what I think is a critical issue in the approach to this topic with ourselves and our kids: Sensuality vs Sexuality. We need to understand and teach both.

      I think it scares many of us to consider how early a child starts exploring his/her sexuality. When my niece was three, my sister asked me to bathe her as she was busy with some other stuff and I was surprised to find her touching herself while looking at me seductively.

      A child of three is not touching herself to explore her sexuality (recognition of or emphasis upon sexual matters), but rather because it feels good. She is exploring her sensuality (unrestrained indulgence in sensual pleasures). She is also not looking at you seductively (tending to seduce; enticing), but with a face that demonstrates sensual pleasure.

      I believe this misunderstanding is key to many of our sexual problems, and also key to the solution of those same conundrums. Both men and women are confused by the difference between the body and sensuality and the mind and sexuality. It is why in so many date rape situations the guy’s defense amounts to “Her mouth said no, but her body said yes – I could tell she wanted me.” If these guys understood the difference between the body’s sensual response and the mind’s sexual one, perhaps they would better understand the meaning of consent.

      We must teach our young children to understand the sensual nature of their bodies, and to feel no shame in their natural response to touch. They can be taught about proper time and place in pretty much exactly the way they are taught they much wear clothes in public. All of this type of conditioning can be done by either sex parent for any child – after all we all have skin that loves being caressed, we all have ears that tickle when blown into – and no matter what homophobes will say – if you are blindfolded and caressed, your skin will respond with pleasure – no matter the sexual orientation or gender of the person stroking you. The fact is basic sensuality is sexless – and should be shameless.

      If you teach your children this, they are better prepared for the changes that puberty will bring and the new sexual desires that will come to light. Sexual desires come to kids at different times, but basically it is an awareness of desire for someone outside of yourself – a pairing of sensual body feelings with something more a desire to touch and be touched. It is this something more that needs stewarding and here is where adult mentors come in. This is when a kid needs straight talk and answers to the questions they find most embarrassing. The most important thing you can do as an adult is be honest and direct. No couching of language into euphemisms that ease your embarrassment, no avoiding the question until ‘you are older’. My rule of thumb – if a child is old enough to ask the question then they are ready for the answer.

      Last, but not least – for all adults that still struggle with this I would ask: Have you fully explored your own body’s sensuality? How often do you touch yourself – not just to masturbate, but to give simple pleasures? Brushing your hair, running your nails along the inside of your forearms, rubbing your feet. Do you know the way your own body responds to touch? I believe that if we didn’t shame our children out of touching themselves because we falsely equate it with sex and dirty, then every child would enter puberty and the advent of sexuality with a firm understanding of exactly what feels good and what does not.

      • Great points especially about the situation in the tub. There was innocence there. Our job as adults is to distract and redirect the child without shame as much as possible.
        Sensuality? Very important and very misunderstood.

      • Jayson Gaddis says:

        Wow Eddie Louise, you sure nailed it here. YOur comment to Elvind about his neice was spot on. Yes, a common mis-read on the adults part, again clouded by our own projections.

        Thank you for the wisdom reminder about sensuality and pleasure. I’m sooooo with you. For me, sex was dirty and bad for so long. It’s only been recently that I’m open to fully explore what it means to be a sexual and sensual human being. YES!

        thank you thank you for writing so eloquently and from your own heart experience. I feel strength in me reading your words.

        big respect.

      • Nice post, Eddie Louise and a great distinction there that is worth thinking about. I trust your voice and thank you for your contribution.

        AND – I don’t think it’s necessarily as black and white as you do. I have friends who have had sexual experiences at pre-school ages, which leaves me with the obvious thought that very young kids do explore their sexuality. But it is probably true that in most cases, what looks like a sexual experience to me or another adult is simply a sensual experience.

        That said – I think the distinction between sexual and sensual is very subjective and very unclear. Where does sensuality turn into sexuality? I’m not sure such a thing can be easily taught. I’m not sure where it changes even for me; an experience of touching my own skin or having others touch it may move towards turn-on eventually. Please tell me if such distinctions do exist.

        Fortunately, I knew not to shame my niece. At the same time, I’m unclear if simply ignoring it and letting her continue was the best approach. What do you think?

        • I would say sensual is when it is done for our self with no thought of the sexual act. This is why toddlers touching themselves (or even touching each other) are indulging in a sensual experience. They are not yet aware of sex, the mechanics or sex, nor the politics of consent. They are simply following where bodily impulses lead.

          Age has so much to do with how you can approach this. Mostly, until they are old enough to ‘converse’ (31/2 to 4 usually). I don’t know what the best answer is (I had great luck raising my kids, but I am not a child behaviorist) although I always ere on the side of direct and honest communication where possible.

          As far as the divide between pure sensual and sexual – I feel that the mind is the key. Sometime in puberty we stop just touching ourselves because it feels good and start thinking of other people when we do it. THAT is the moment that sexuality comes to the fore. Turn-ons can be both sensual and sexual – but I can guarantee no three year old touches herself thinking about another person. In fact they are not necessarily responding to ANY outside stimulus.

          For adults – once we have crossed that line and experienced external turn-ons it can be hard to remember the pure bodily responses of our youth. I think this is why we get confused with ‘conflicting signals’. We forget that the body is capable of responding even in the absence of turn-ons. Or, we think that if the body is responding we MUST be turned-on and look for the outside cause. Also, this colors our memories and I think we proscribe a sexual meaning (a conscious thought of physical desire for another person) to our experiences that they may not have had at the time.

          Lastly I would argue that our mixed up ideas between conscious sexual actions (those spurred on by thinking of factors outside of our own bodies) and unconscious sensual response (the feel of silk against the skin) create neurosis and associated problems in our adult sexual interactions. Reminding ourselves that mind and body each have roles to play in our interactions, and sometimes they act contrary to each other is a good way to start reconciling our fears and understanding our sexual/sensual selves.

          • Thanks, Eddie Lousie, that’s very helpful.

            I am enjoying your distinctions and am still unclear whether they fit 100% for me.

            What I’m feeling into here is that the definition you have of sexuality is as a mental experience. For me, that is bad sex. What I see after reading your note is that the more tantric style of lovemaking that I prefer is the union of sexuality with sensuality, where lovemaking is not a mental fantasy or a journey towards a destination, but simply a sensory adventure to be explored in the present moment – a wave to ride until it returns back into the ocean.

            I’m not sure what relevance that insight has to the topic we were discussing initially. I’ll digest that a bit.

            Bottom line is – your distinctions make a lot of sense to me and I’m enjoying your clarity about them – and I’m not sure what the implications are. Plus: as I engage with my own sexuality/sensuality, those distinctions wash away in the enjoyment of two bodies uniting as one.

            But this is a bit off topic now. I don’t feel we have 100% shared reality on this, but that’s okay. I have enjoyed your words.

  90. When I was a kid, my dad caught me masturbating. All he said was “you’ll go blind doing that.” My response was “okay, so can I do it until I just need glasses?” … Just trying to add some levity.

    Believe it or not, my first exposure to sex education was in 7th grade at St. Casmir’s in Chicago. That was back in 1967.

    A lot of guys learn about these things with/from other guys. Not sure how the generation before me learned. Never thought of asking any of the men I know how they learned and I guess I never will. They appear pretty well adjusted.

    Now let’s add the fact that so many kids are fatherless, where do they turn? Pretty scary stuff when you figure a good percent of kids aren’t getting proper education and then add to that the many that don’t have dad’s …. It’s a big problem.

    With my own kids, my wife and I were pretty open. My wife and I were virgins and openly discussed how difficult it was to wait (I’ve known my wife since I was 11 years old) but as they could see by our relationship and love, it worked out great for us. When they became adolescents, we never dissed sexuality. My wife and I would be idiots if we didn’t think they were busy behind their closed bedroom doors.

    It’s a balancing act. Don’t want it to appear that we condone anything goes but at the same time, didn’t want to make it look as though it was shameful. My wife openly talked to my daughter and I openly talked to my son. I didn’t tell him the “going blind” thing but I did tell him he would grow hair on his palms … Just kidding!

    On our wedding night, I know that my wife had a poor education about sex. Her mom told her to take the biggest thing I have and put it into something wet … she grabbed my shoes and threw them in the toilet …. Just kidding!

  91. This website is ridiculous. Let’s talk about raising our boys right, but then advertise VODKA above and below the post. Not to mention have posts titled, ” The Dicktionary.” This site is run be a bunch of boys pretending to be men.

    • Lol… The ads are personalised by a marketing company (probably Google) so they say more about you and your browsing habits than the good men project…

      My adds are about short weekend breaks from London to turkey.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      great point L and Mike. ads are smart to our searches. Before your blame Tom, stay curious.

  92. This article (and of course Jayson Gaddis) is the reason I remain optimistic about the future for men in general. Finally, men are beginning to get real about sexuality and how confused most of us are about it. The negative impact on our psyche caused by the over proliferation of sex throughout our media has damaged us in ways most of us aren’t willing to admit. By “putting it out there” we provide an opening for men to speak their truth about the shame, fear and uncertainty about sex that drives so many of our sexual addictions and dissatisfaction around sex . This dialog can be the opening some men need to truly transform their beliefs around sexuality. Kudo’s Jayson for sharing your truth.

    I would also add that the time has come for us as men to not be afraid or ashamed of teaching our young boys, young men and grown men that sexual conquest is not a gauge for manhood and that we should encourage our males to be comfortable with creating loving, emotionally honest, spiritual partnerships in which we proudly proclaim our love and adoration to our partners. We should be able to share how wonderful it is to be in committed relationships which nurture and sustain us. No longer should we encourage men to validate their masculinity by the amount of women they sleep with or conquer.

    As a father of two grown men (31 & 28) I can proudly say that as a result of dealing with my own shame and confusion around sex, I have taught my sons the importance of intimacy and connection in relationships and encouraged them to always be open and honest with me about any aspect of their sexuality. As a result, they both maintain authentic relationships with women that makes me proud beyond words.

    The good news is that more and more men are becoming conscious and open to this dialog and it fills me with optimism about a complete shift in the male paradigm of this country and beyond.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      MT, thank you for your share here. You continue to inspire me. Yup, it’s never too late to deal with our shame and show our kids the way. big respect!

  93. *RESOUNDING APPLAUSE*

    Thank You!

    Sometimes I feel as if I am the only voice of reason among my contemporaries! I have a 10 year old sin and I have always answered him truthfully. I don’t use “cute” words for body parts and I refuse to sit in judgment of what is normal, sexual behaviour for pre-adolescent males!

    He was about 8.5 when we had “The BIG talk” and I wish I would have done it earlier! He filled up nearly 2 hours worth of questions! Parents, if you think it isn’t on your kids’ minds, you are mistaken. We like to think we can control what they learned and see but we cannot. I wanted, and I chose, to be the person who told my child about sex – and shared with him the morals and the value I attribute to it. Now, when he has a question, he.comes to me. He knows I will tell him the truth and do so very calmly. And yes, when he asks about it, I will show him how to use a condom.

    As this post says, if YOU do not teach your child about his body, his sexuality and sex – someone will and you may be very disappointed in the lessons.

    Sorry about the soap box. I am wrestling with a friend who thinks her nearly 9 year old doesn’t need to hear about it (even though he asks). The child has been told that God gives the Dr. a special key to unlock a woman’s belly button to retrieve a baby when it is born. I cringe to think about what actually goes through this child’s mind – and what his friends will teach him.

    Thanks for writing a piece that should cause all of us to take a good look at our parenting in this area. It will make an impact.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      WHAT? God gives a child a fucking key? are you kidding me? that’s the kind of stuff that pisses me off. She is abandoning her son over and over. Ouch. Painful as hell to hear that and thank you for sharing.

      When we avoid these subjects, we make a statement about our own shame and in the process abandon our children.

      Thank you for being a bold mother Margaret! YES! thank you.

      • Margaret that key stuff is jacked up stuff!
        We’ve been talking to our sons since they were little. Correct body parts, acceptance that the body gives pleasure and can receive it (Americans are suspect of sensuality to a toxic degree) and we answer questions honestly and in as simple a way as possible per year with growing complexity as they age.
        They are highly curious creatures. I think that human beings have a right to understand how their bodies work, a right to joy and pleasure in food, air, people, and that to lie to them is a grave grave mistake.
        I also think it’s important for parents to model loving physical behavior (hugs, cuddling, kisses) women and men honoring each other (and other combinations too of course as not all parents are straight).
        At this point I’ve moved from answering questions about “how things work” to delving into some questions of “why” (why can’t gay people get married, why do people only date one person at a time) but I’ve also explained that there are some things mommies can’t explain or show to their sons. We have books available for them and will also support them in looking at websites like Scarleteen.
        Both sons know that I study and focus on human sexuality, that sexual expression is something that is normal and encouraged in a loving healthy relationship, and that they can talk to us about any thing and that if we can’t answer it, we’ll try to find the answers for them.

  94. Thank you for talking about this very important issue! I am a mom of twin 4 year old boys. Back in November, I wrote a blog post about talking to toddlers and preschoolers about their bodies in an open and celebratory way in order to create paths for later conversations about healthy sexuality. I am so glad that other parents want to break bad family patterns (I am breaking the sexual silence from my own upbringing) concerning sexuality. Here is the link to my blog post if you want to see the candid “sample conversations” I have with my little men: http://mengalings.blogspot.com/2011/11/birds-and-bees-how-to-talk-to-your-kids.html

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      wow. can’t wait to read that post! thank you for having the courage to be an open family. great modeling for us all.

  95. As a 20-something who was both molested by another boy and kept in the dark about my sexuality until my dad sat me down to confront me about the porn I had been watching on the family computer while no one was home, I cannot emphasize how true everything here is. By the time my dad had confronted me about my porn addiction, though he meant well and never intended to; so much damage had already been done. I spent years in confusion that led me to ask awkward even wholly inappropriate questions at the wrong moments (i.e. – in the middle of youth group asking about virginity verification during the time of Mary’s immaculate conception).

    Frankly, what I find so disappointing, even maddening is that I can’t find information that is both incorporates scientific fact and Godly wisdom together. Half the time, especially on The Good Women Project, I have found the the sources cited are from Christians who are not doctors nor are they citing anything remotely medical… It’s one big circle-jerk of misinformation and fear-mongering. Even by worldly standards, I know more about both male and female sexual reproductive organs than most of each respective sex knows about their own. I have spent years studying it in a very clinical fashion, hoping that somehow I would be able to glean some truth from these dry scientific facts, but then I walk into church and they simply deny basic scientific facts and talk about hellfire for all sinners.

    • 1. When better than discussions of Virgin Birth to ask for straight answers?

      2. Why are you still walking into that church—unless it’s your calling to challenge the norms there?

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      yikes! yup. lots of fear out there. glad you are finding your way. seems like you still want the spiritual component yes? if so, check out http://deepmasculine.com. david cates is the man in this arena.

  96. In finally finding the man of my dreams, one of the best parts of our relationship is how open we are about sex. He was raised in a home that taught him how to respect his body, his partner’s body, and how to communicate about what is good and right about sex. His openness, and that of his parents, inspires me. I was not as fortunate as a young woman – I was raised in a home where sex wasn’t discussed because the very mention of it might make me go out and do something terrible (though my mom claimed she would always answer my questions – it was hard to approach her about it because of the stigma already put around the subject by everyone in the family). I got by reading encyclopedias and eventually the internet to find information. What is funny to me about all of this is that my man didn’t lose his virginity until after his 18th birthday. I lost mine at 15. I don’t think that is a coincidence – I was curious and had no one to ask, so I experimented on my own (which luckily didn’t harm me too much, but did leave a mark of shame on my psyche that was totally unnecessary). He was taught early and explicitly, and waited until (at least he thought) he found the right person. I applaud his mother for all she taught him so early, and I cannot wait to call him husband and for my future kids to call him father one day. I hope we all seek to learn about our bodies and healthy sex (even if we didn’t early) so that we can pass on a healthy sexual knowledge to our children. And I hope to goodness we take seriously the fight to continue sex education in our schools and not resort to hiding from the conversation because it might anger an ultra-conservative religious person. We MUST keep our kids surrounded by honest communication and factual information about their bodies. Don’t let “abstinence only” education fool you – it is a ploy to avoid the conversation and scare the sex out of kids (as if that would work anyway). We can teach abstinence right alongside how to use condoms and prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy – and thus prepare our kids to enter the world as informed adults, ready for a healthy, life-giving sex life.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      wonderful share libby. thanks for the personal notes and vulnerability. it helps me hear other’s share what has worked and what has not. you also bring up a great point about adult sexuality. it’s pretty wild how many adults are deeply ashamed of their sexuality. that gets transmitted to kids too. so, if parents really want to teach their kids about sex, have an alive, vibrant sex life with your partner!

  97. As a single mother of soon-to-be 13 year old twin boys (and a woman who has met way too many of the men you describe), your article left a cold pit in the base of my belly… I am at a complete loss. What DO I do?!

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      let that cold pit guide you into action. you gotta deliver for your sons and they need help/guidance/mentorship. find other men you love and respect deeply to help with this one. be willing to pay for help and support. they are at a critical age and chances are, they’ve already been exposed to a great deal from their peers.

    • Get books. Find books on sexuality, read them, and then share them with your boys. It is OK for all of you to feel weird about it, or even embarrassed. Those feelings will pass as your boys get to understand themselves better and accept themselves.

      If they get too shy, you can always fall back to this argument: “I changed your diapers. That means I cleaned every bit of your bottom. It’s a parent’s job to do this, so it’s normal that I know what your parts look like.”

      • SpudTater says:

        And if you’re just too embarrassed to discuss very much with them, then at least make them aware that the books are there, and that they can read through them at their leisure.

        I remember browsing through a copy of “The Joy of Sex” as a young teenager. I found it hilarious of course, but also more informative than I let on.

      • Jayson Gaddis says:

        nice suggestions Kitti.

  98. This is terrific. As a single woman, barely 20, I can definitely relate to this issue. I praise you for shining the light on this issue, with fascinating thoughts and opinions. I will definitely be keeping this article for future reference as a mother (whenever that may be) and teacher (in only a few years). Thank you!

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      you are welcome. and as a single mom, you need help/support from us men for your son. reach out and ask.

  99. Heather says:

    I have 3 boys (and 1girl) my oldest boy 9yo is starting to ask questions that I having a hard time coming up with age appropriate answers. He knows a lot about his body but is needing more. Time for some serious research!

  100. I have been preaching about this for a long time now. I raised both a son and a daughter, and was careful to give both of them guidance – to their shame and embarrassment for a good deal of the time.

    “Mom?!? Why do we have to talk about this stuff? Why can’t you be a normal mom?”

    But as they eased into the teenage years, the embarrassment began to be replaced by curiosity and pride. By the time they were 14 years old, they started to bring home friends with questions and I became known as the ‘Mom that would talk strait’.

    So – talk to your son and prepare for the fact that he will be made uncomfortable due to the same societal pressure you are describing here – persevere – he will eventually thank you for it.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Yup. awesome work being a not-normal mom, a mom with courage to address truth. deep bow.

    • Well done for staying with it! Inspiring 🙂

    • my boys hate me talking about this stuff too, but as a single mum where the father doesn’t rise to the occassion (so to speak), I have to do the talks – as I should! I am fortunate enough to have one child with Aspergers, which also brings challenges of how he sees the world. Conversations have to be specific, scientific and to the point. Blurred lines or false expectations of him getting the meaning of something I am not clear on and pusst foot around on – a real recipe for confusion.

      I am on the hunt for resoucres to help around this topic for Aspies – most of it is aimed at NT’s.

  101. I like the piece overall but it feels like you’re saying that as boys/men we somehow created the mess you speak of all by ourselves free of any input and influence from women.

    But I do like the “we have to fix this ourselves” attitude of yours.

    Impressive.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Danny, good catch, but not quite.

      I’m saying the mess was created long ago by our conditioning. Hard to know where to point the finger but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how a lot of us, if we stay alseep at the wheel, are continuing and even complying with this mess. We, men and women, moms and dads, have to roll up our sleeves and stop expecting someone else to “take care of it” for us.

      • Fair enough rather than “created” maybe I should have said “maintained”.

        But I do agree that we can’t afford to wait for others to take care of it for us.

  102. Great article, Jayson! I have been ruminating about these topics, too, as I am raising a son aged 11.5 years old….My husband and I are both health professionals, so we are very open in using the correct terms (and not above joking about the incorrect ones, too, but I guess humor, love, and openness is the best way to approach this difficult, but important topic)…..

    My ex was brought up a strict Catholic (Jesuit schools, altar boy, summer camp, etc.) and he used to have such hang-ups….he was so repressed and ashamed about his sexual impulses (he would call his genitals “dirty”), yet in secret or under cover of night, he would indulge in the things he felt were forbidden to him in the light of day….it’s really disturbing to me to think how two-faced he was….he could do something terrible and then deny it the next morning….

    As my child gets older, I get more anxious just remembering some of the stuff I went through at the same age….Luckily, his school teachers and guidance counselors cover a lot of this stuff already…but, yes, keeping open communication is always a challenge!

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Nice Leia! thanks for reminding us about humor! yes, sexuality is FUN and so freakin’ alive! thanks to you and your husband for doing what it takes to rise above your own conditioning.

    • Dear Leia,
      You point out something interesting, that men often speak of their genitals as dirty or bad. I surprised me recently when the term “junk” is being used by men to describe themselves. For example when the Homeland Security guards might “touch my junk”.
      It has taken my a long time but I prefer to call them the family jewels or my most favored parts.

      • Dear Robert,

        My ex told me a story about asking his mother about where babies come from (when he was about 5 or 6 years old)….she got so flustered, she ran next door to her neighbor’s and whispered frantically with her….but she never gave him an answer! My ex grew up in an age where people just did not discuss such things…Needless to say, he grew up to be quite a messed up person….his family never talked about anything …

  103. Tom Matlack says:

    Awesome piece Jayson. As the father of two boys (7 and 16) thank you.

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

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

    thanks for adding to the chaos.

  107. 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.

  108. Good words as far as they go Pete!

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  12. […] 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‘) […]

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