Adolescent Boys and Sexuality

For many parents I have talked to, it is hard to pinpoint a particular stage of their child’s development as their favorite. Each stage has its own ups and downs, and parents are certainly kept on their toes as their sons are rapidly growing and changing every day. When asked “what is it that you look forward to the most?”, most parents with young children would agree it is seeing their child developing their character, ideas, and beliefs as a person. Adolescence is such a time. It is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. All men remember their adolescence because it is the beginning, and probably most confusing part, of their life-long journey in finding of what kind of a man they are, and what kind of a man they want to be. This is when he may seem to withdraw from his parents, but needs the most guidance. Parents may also withdraw because they feel rejected or their son’s struggles might challenge their own beliefs and self-identities. Sexuality is one of the most daunting topics that arises at this time, and understanding your son’s inner world may help you give him the support that he needs.Adolescent boys are constantly given mixed and conflicting messages about their masculinity and sexuality from peers, parents, role models, and society/media. William Pollack writes “During adolescence they become especially susceptible to the double standard of masculinity from society…” in Real Boys. The Boy Culture tells them to be confidant and aggressive and treat girls as sexual conquests, while they are also been told to be the new “enlightened man” who is sensitive, and open with their emotions. It takes some boys a little while to find the balance and where he is comfortable between those two extremes, and some never do. In addition to dealing with his body becoming a man’s body and his all-consuming sexual urges, he is being pressured by the Boy Culture to have sexual conquests and brag about them, while parents and teachers are telling him not to have sex, and instead, focus on forming emotional bonds. Society is also telling them their sexual urges is powerful beyond their control and male sexuality is aggressive, dominating, and even harmful and destructive. They are given lots of mixed messages on how they are expected to behave, and some such behaviors are not necessarily “good”…and, sadly, society is telling them: This is just how boys are and they do bad things.Pollack believes that the decision of whether and when to have intercourse is perhaps the most daunting one, as regards to sexuality, that a teenage boy may face. Unlike girls, whose physical sexual maturity can be more clearly marked by menstruation, boys do not have a definitive cue to tell them their body is ready for sex, despite other subtle physical changes and reactions. They may feel that the only way to find out is to actually have intercourse, which increases the pressure to have sex as proof of their maturity and masculinity. Boys also have a lot of anxiety over the possibility that they fail to perform as they are expected to in a sexual situation, which would be the ultimate humiliation. Girls are intimidating, and he has so many concerns, questions, and fears about how to behave in situations that involve girls and sexuality. Turning to locker-room bragging and media’s (e.g. pornography) depiction of sex can be even more bewildering. Boys are also pressured to “make the first move” with a girl and it is hard to decipher signals or know how to accept rejections which brings on the topic of harassment and date rape.Everyone has dealt with these issues of sexuality in their adolescence. Fathers only need to remember what it was like for them, and to think about what kind of support they may wish they had but could not find. Mothers only need to realize that boys face just as much pressure and confusion as adolescent girls and should understand the different kinds of social expectations that come into play in their struggles. We have to realize society more easily protect and offer advice to girls, but readily blame boys for not respecting girls. At a time where they are teeming with testosterone, we don’t give them a lot of advice on how to balance and control all these urges and they give in to the locker-room mentality, whether they are comfortable with it or not. Don’t limit your son’s sexual education at home to one awkward talk at the kitchen table. The topic should be addressed constantly because mixed messages about male sexuality is always popping up in everyday life. Talking about it more than once will also communicate to him that the topic is not forbidden or awkward and he can turn to you for support. Be honest, even if it is uncomfortable or difficult for you. Once your son realize that you will only judge him or lie to him (and he will) when it comes to talking about sexuality, he will no longer trust you as a resource. Help your son form a mature and realistic view of sexual situations. Teach your son to respect his body, urges, and emotional needs, and he will, in turn, respect others, which is the best attitude he can have regarding sex and relationships.

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