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?
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.
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.
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.
So, this is on the table for us to examine and see clearly. How about we pause and take this all in.
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.
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Photo: By crdotx/ Flickr