Will We Ever Figure Out How to Talk to Boys About Sex?
The #MeToo movement has exposed sexual misconduct, coercion and harassment across every sector of society. But shining light on a problem won’t, in itself, solve it. To make real change we need to tackle something larger and more systemic: the pervasive culture that urges boys toward disrespect and detachment in their intimate encounters.
Four years ago, I began interviewing young men — dozens, of different backgrounds, in their early teens and 20s — about sex and love, sexual consent and misconduct. Few of the boys had previously had such conversations. Certainly not with their parents, most of whom would rather poke themselves in the eye with a fork than speak frankly to their sons about sex.
Yet that silence has troubling implications. Adults may assume those ideas are self-evident, beyond the need for comment, but given the rates of coercion, misconduct and assault among men both young and old, boys are clearly not getting the message by osmosis.
Boys need to value mutual gratification in their sexual encounters, whether with one-offs or long-term partners. That won’t be accomplished in a single “sex talk,” nor, really, any one easy fix, any more than you could teach your child table manners in one sitting. But at the very least, listening to their struggles is a start.