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Boys will be Boys, and How We Can Help Shape the Men in Our Lives (Part 1)

by Kristiana Huitrón

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series on talking with boys about consent.

So, you are a parent. You, one day however long ago, had a child. The day your child was born, you were destined to have: THE Talk. Dun, dun, dun. We all knew it would come about one day. The Birds and The Bees or the Creation Story or the biology lesson, etc.; Regardless of the framing, there are a few things to think about when having, and practicing, THE Talk.

Age, gender identity, family values, community values, right and wrong, boundaries, and delivery are all important to framing the talk. Some items will be individual to each child. Some parts of the talk need to be universal, and included with all talks. Whether we realize it or not, when having the talk, we impart our values, both consciously and unconsciously, to our children.

Think about the stereotypes of talking with boys about sex, versus talking with girls about sex. [1]

Boys

Girls

  • Go get ‘em slugger
  • Keep yourself safe, covered, physically apart from, etc.
  • All boys want sex and all that boys want is sex
  • All boys want sex and all that boys want is sex
  • No means try harder, and once you get there your pleasure is most important
  • Good girls don’t/can’t say yes to sex, and enjoying it is even less acceptable
  • Get sex at all costs
  • Don’t trust boys; they will get sex at all costs

 

Now think beyond the stereotypes. What are we missing? The above statements include implied values; a stereotype relies on unconscious reinforcement of implied values and expected behavior and consequently ends up boxing individuals into the stereotype. That is  the nature and purpose of stereotypes. Mission accomplished. Let’s reframe what  conscious value-making can look like.

When talking to your boys, it is important to think about balancing the myriad of stereotypes they confront daily in what the media corporations call a 360 degree bombardment. Think about the messages not only about manhood, but also the messages about girls, sexuality, sex, behavior expectations and norms, compared to what the reality is in your family and community.

Boys need to be able to consciously recognize the real life relationships that surround them, and the media’s stories of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality. These are where the skills of decision making, social analysis, and relationship maneuvering are developed. This is permission for him to be who and how he is, not to be shoved into the “man box”.

My version of THE Talk with my oldest heterosexual son (therefore, the gendered pronouns) covered some basics:

Trust is Key – Trust is the basis of all successful healthy relationships. Be trustworthy. Trust yourself. Trust your partner. Trust your intuition, your comfort level and boundaries, and trust that your partner will say their truth.

Safety Counts – Be safe. When pursuing your crush, keep her and you safe. When developing trust and building intimacy, be emotionally safe. When crossing into physical intimacy, be safe. When it comes to sex, be safe. That includes, pregnancy and STI prevention, and also the actual practices in the sex choices: who, when, where, how, why.

Your Body is Yours (Sovereignty) – So, if your body is yours, then that means her body is hers. As two people who are the owners of their own bodies, she can do what she wants to do or not do what she doesn’t want to do, and same for you.

Boundaries are Sexy –Boundaries are the reason why we have romantic partnerships/boyfriends/girlfriends. We want to cross over “everybody-land” into “just-us-ville.” That is crossing boundaries, which is all good when based in trust, and safety, and sovereignty.

Communication is Half the Fun – Developing any relationship, not just intimate ones, is based in communicating. We talk, we are active together, we are silent together, we say goodbye and come back together. All forms of communicating. It’s the back-and-forth, the currents that run between us, that makes all of these kinds of communication at times fun, frustrating, complicated, simple, and necessary. It is the definition of relationship – meaning to relate.

Put them all together and you have…… Consent!

Consent is Central – Consent is the one item around which all of this revolves.
Trust + Safety + Body + Boundaries + Communication = CONSENT
Son, this will be you: I trust myself to be safe, know and be in charge of my body; I know my boundaries; I communicate all of these to my partner/partner-in-the-making. I say “yes” and “no” with conviction, and if I am unsure, I say so and or wait until I am sure. Sometimes I explore my insecurity with my partner, and we can decide together, knowing that I am still responsible for my choices.
I trust my partner. I feel safe with her. She communicates to me that she feels safe with me, and I believe her and act in trustworthy ways. I know and respect that her body is hers. I am only visiting.



[1] This is looking at stereotypical teachings for assumed cis gendered and assumed heterosexual youth, and focuses on how perceived gender aligns with societal power structures.

 

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2 Comments

  1. roberta ponis

    Hi Kristiana,
    As chair of a new advocacy group,CSOIC,whose goal is to educate Coloradans on sex offense laws and policies, I was glad Erin referred me to your blog. We have targeted teens for our first information project – a flyer that lists five sexual acts that teens may not realize are illegal. The flyer is being printed and would be happy to share it with you and CCASA to use as you see fit.
    Recommend the book Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Williams, an exhausting well researched book about the social world of boys in today’s social media context. Want to know what boys are facing in their decision making around sex, for one thing, read this book. Excellent sections on sexting, boundaries, sexual expectations by peers, etc. In each chapter there are sidebars for parents called “landmines” – messages parents should avoid.
    Her earlier book targeted girls, Queen Bees and Wannabees.
    Roberta Ponis, chair, Colorado Sex Offense Information Coalition.

  2. Adam

    I have a daughter and son, they are 4 and 2 respectively. Already I try to model consent. When my boy says “Tickle me daddy!” I will do so, and then he will say stop. So I do. Instantly. I do the same with my daughter.

    Sometimes she gets upset when brother won’t hold her hand and I explain that she can ask and if he says no then that’s that. Because their bodies belong to them and nobody else. It’s never too early to teach these lessons and be a role model.

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