For many parents I’ve talked to, it’s 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 on their toes as their children grow and change rapidly every day. When asked “what are you most looking forward to?”, most parents with young children would agree to see their child develop her character, ideas, and beliefs as a person. Adolescence is that time. It is both exciting and terrifying. All men remember their teenage years because it is the beginning, and probably the most confusing part, of their lifelong journey to discover what kind of man they are and what kind of man they want to be. This is when he may appear to be drifting away from his parents, but needs more guidance. Parents may also withdraw because they feel rejected or their child’s struggles may challenge their own beliefs and identities. Sexuality is one of the most overwhelming topics that comes up right now, and understanding your child’s inner world can help you give him the support he needs.
Adolescent boys constantly receive mixed and conflicting messages about their masculinity and sexuality from their peers, parents, role models, and society/media. William Pollack writes “During adolescence they become especially susceptible to society’s double standard of masculinity…” in Real Boys. They are told by The Boy Culture to be confident and aggressive and to treat girls as sexual conquests, while also being told to be the new “enlightened man” who is sensitive and open with his emotions. Some kids take a little while to find the balance and where they feel 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, boys’ culture pushes him to have and brag about sexual conquests, while parents and teachers tell him to do not have sex, and instead. , focus on forming emotional leaps. Society also tells them that their sexual urges are powerful beyond their control and that male sexuality is aggressive, domineering, and even harmful and destructive. They get a lot of mixed messages about how they’re expected to behave, and some of that behavior isn’t necessarily “good”… and sadly, society tells them that’s just the way kids are and they do bad things.
Pollack believes that the decision to have sex and when is perhaps the most daunting, when it comes to sexuality, that a teenager can face. Unlike girls, whose physical sexual maturity may be more clearly marked by menstruation, boys have no definitive signal that 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 have sex, which increases the pressure to have sex as proof of their maturity and masculinity. Boys are also very anxious about not performing as expected in a sexual situation, which would be the ultimate humiliation. Girls are intimidating and he has many concerns, questions and fears about how to behave in situations involving girls and sexuality. Resorting to locker room bravado and portrayal of sex in the media (eg, pornography) can be even more disconcerting. Boys are also pressured to “make the first move” with a girl and it’s hard to read the signs or know how to accept rejections, leading to the issue of bullying and date rape.
Everyone has dealt with these issues of sexuality in their teens. Parents just need to remember what it was like for them and think about what kind of support they wish they had but couldn’t find. Mothers just need to realize that boys face just as much pressure and confusion as teenage girls and understand the different kinds of social expectations that come into play in their struggles. We have to realize that society more easily protects and offers advice to girls, but easily blames boys for not respecting girls. At a time when they’re flush with testosterone, we don’t give them much advice on how to balance and control all these urges and they give in to the locker room mentality, whether they’re comfortable with it or not. Don’t limit your child’s sex education at home to awkward small talk at the kitchen table. The topic must be constantly addressed because mixed messages about male sexuality always appear in everyday life. Talking about it more than once will also let him know that the topic is not off-limits or uncomfortable, and that he can come to you for support. Be honest, even if you find it awkward or difficult. Once your child realizes that she will only judge or lie to you (and she will) when you talk about sexuality, she will no longer rely on you as a resource. Help your child develop a mature and realistic view of sexual situations. Teach your son to respect his body, his impulses and his emotional needs, and he, in turn, will respect others, which is the best attitude he can have regarding sex and relationships.