Talking With Boys About Sex
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Advocates for Youth. My son started teaching me about sex when he was only four years old. As I was driving him to pre-school one day, he turned to me and said, "Dad, I know how babies are made." I smiled and, expecting to hear the latest childhood sex myth asked, "Really…so how are they made?" "Well," my son began, "you see, sperm comes shooting—BOOM! - out of the penis and it swims and swims and swims until it finds an egg and sticks to it." Thank god for child safety seats or I'd have had to peel him off the windshield. "What!?!" I exclaimed. "How did you learn that?" After a few minutes of panicked interrogation, I learned that he saw this while watching the movie Look Who's Talking? with his mother. Not counting my first reaction, my son was not harmed by this information. The only "harm", if there was such, was to my own myth of fatherhood—a myth in which I would have the opportunity to give this little guy "the talk" when I thought he was ready. What I learned that day was that my son was going to get a sexuality education whether I liked it or not, whether I was ready or not. So, it was time I got into the game. Talking with boys about sex really requires us to "get into the game." Boys need the same information about sex and sexuality that girls need. What is different is how we need to approach it. Behind all we do and say with boys, we need a basic understanding of how boys are taught to be men—the "game." One of the best models for this process is from William Pollock's book, Real Boys. Pollock calls this model "The Boy Code," and it affects, not only how males view the world, sex, and relationships, but also how they process information. While conducting research at Harvard, Pollock developed "The Boy Code" to describe a set of four rules that he suggests every boy has to learn and live by, if he is to be welcomed as a "real boy" into the world of adult men. It's not like these are lessons that are written out anywhere; rather, they are ideas of manhood that boys learn by repetition and through the modeling of other males—and females—in the greater culture. Briefly, the four rules of "The Boy Code" are:
- The Sturdy Oak — Boys learn that men are not to show weakness but are to be stoic, stable, and independent.
- Give 'Em Hell — Boys learn that males are supposed to be high energy, violent, super humans, and hence, that even their wildest, worst behavior may be overlooked because "boys will be boys."
- The Big Wheel — Boys learn early that they need to work to attain status, dominance, and power and that they should avoid any sense of shame.
- No Sissy Stuff — Boys learn that the "sissiest" of the sissy stuff, is feelings, in general, and any tender feelings, in particular. Real Boys, and hence, Real Men, don't feel anything.
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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