I’ve read two separate articles recently that got me thinking and wanting to put into words something I have observed for a long time. I have heard stories over the years from parents who attend my classes, talking about the vast difference between the way girls learn about puberty and their bodies and sex and they way boys do. It almost shocks me how many more girls I get the privilege to teach than boys. The reality I have known to be true being an educator is that way more parents of girls value these talks FOR girls than parents of boys do. Let’s explore this a little more.
The first article was originally posted on Facebook by a mom of a girl who had started her first period on a bus ride home.
My daughter started her period on the bus ride home today…and a boy a year older than her…that she doesn’t really know…pulled her aside and whispered in her ear that she had a stain on the back of her pants and gave her his sweater to tie around her waist so she could walk home off of the bus…she said she was kind of embarrassed and originally said “it’s ok”…but the boy insisted and told her, “I have sisters, it’s all good!” If you are this boy’s mom…I want to say thank you and that you are raising him right!! We hear so many bad things about today’s youth, and I wanted to share something positive!
This young boy was praised by many for his thoughtfulness and sensitivity. In another article, shared by The Heartfelt Parent, a story was told about a mom sharing an experience her daughter had with her male au pair (“bro pair” or “BP”). Her sixteen year old, cognitively impaired daughter, talked to her BP about having kissed her boyfriend.
Our BP was very supportive of her and then talked to the boyfriend on the phone to screen him. After he talked to the boyfriend, he then sat down with our daughter and talked about the kiss. Made sure that she *wanted* to kiss the boy, not just kissing because the boy pressured her or her friends pressured her. Then he had a long talk with her about consent and making sure that she never feels pressured to doing something that makes her uncomfortable, especially kissing.
All sounds good right? Until this comment was posted in response:
Amazing. He’s gonna be a great dad someday. What a clear head on his shoulders. My husband wouldn’t have handled that half as well, thank goodness we only have boys.
In the first article, I want you think about all of the conversations that had to have taken place with this boy in order to achieve this particular outcome. In my experience, kids, especially boys who haven’t had the proper education, think of periods as a laughing matter or something to joke about. If they don’t know about it, they joke about it. In my Transitions & Journeys for Boys class, boys learn a LOT of details about their own bodies, but also about the changes that girls experience through puberty as well as a detailed talk about periods and sex. I get asked by them all the time, “Why do we have to learn about girls?” (Don’t worry, girls ask the same thing about them). I always tell them the same two reasons:
- Since we learned about all of the awkward things that can happen to YOUR bodies as you go through puberty, it is essential for you to realize that girls go through some pretty awkward changes as well. Just as you wouldn’t want girls to tease you about the changes your bodies go through, it is important that you know not to tease them about the changes their bodies will experience.
- We are also talking about where babies come from. In order for you to understand this concept, you need to understand how the male reproductive system works and also how the female reproductive system works.
Let’s look at the second article. It obviously wasn’t the article I was referring to here as much as the comment made by the parent after reading the article. I loved everything about the original article. What I didn’t love was the response. I didn’t love the reference to the fact that because this parent only had boys, they didn’t have to worry about having these conversations with their sons. And this is a common theme when it comes to talking to boys unfortunately.
I was once teaching a class and a mom of twins came up to me to share a “funny” story. She had an older set of boy/girl twins and she told me that she and her husband decided to talk to their kids about their bodies, sex, and growing up. The mom took the daughter and the dad took the son. They each went into separate rooms to have their conversations. The mom reported that she and her daughter had a wonderful talk that lasted about an hour and accomplished a lot of what she was hoping for - connection, information, stories, and laughter. When she and her daughter came out to meet her son and husband, she asked the husband how his talk went. He said it went great. She then asked how long they talked since she had such a great discussion with her daughter, she didn’t know when the boys had finished. Her husband’s response, “We talked for about 5 minutes and then came out here to watch sports.”
In the decade or so that I have been teaching, I teach about 1/3 the amount of boys that I teach girls. If that isn’t proof that these beliefs are shared by other parents, I don’t know what else could be. Why don’t we talk to boys about puberty and sex as much as we talk to girls?
We are in a somewhat scary period of time right now. Sexual assault rates are increasing and healthy relationships are becoming fewer and farther between, especially with adolescents. Use of and widespread access to pornography is a serious problem for teens and youth today. They are using porn as sex ed. My theory for why is because they aren’t getting information from trusted sources. They have the internet at their fingertips and can access anything they want with the touch of a button. When we don’t talk to our kids about sex, relationships, bodies, puberty, periods, etc, we are putting the responsibility of their own sexual health education in their hands. Think about that for a minute. When you don’t talk to your kids about sex and relationships because of your own discomfort, you are allowing your children to decide what to learn and who, or where, to learn from. So where do they go for the information…their friends or the internet. It’s really simple. Their friends and the internet (porn) give them the answers they are looking for.
Some people think that boys don’t need this information or fall back on the talk sounding a lot like, “Just don’t get a girl pregnant” or “Always wear a condom.” I”m sorry, but how is that sex ed? Sure, it gets to the heart of something. But can that even be considered teaching children about ALL OF THE ESSENTIAL information they need to responsibly handle a healthy sexual relationship or even learn how to talk about bodies? The answer is no. It isn’t. It isn’t responsible, it isn’t helpful, and it is actually harmful when those are the only conversations that are happening with boys. They are not learning about bodies, or consent, or sex, or feelings, or respect, or any of this essential information. “The talk” really is very basic when you think about it. It takes me less than 10 seconds to explain intercourse to kids. “The TALKS” really should be about all of the other stuff that comes before and after the one talk about the genitals and what happens. That is so quick.
I think that so many parents get hung up on the awkwardness of the logistics and body parts, that they forget to realize how quickly this information is given. The real talks that NEED to be taking place are all of the other things that happens before and after that. It can’t just be “Don’t get her pregnant.” That doesn’t help boys in any way. And it surely doesn’t help girls when they then become responsible for the lack of education the boys have received. It is just as important to talk to boys about this stuff as it is to talk to girls. How can we expect a boy to have a healthy and respectful relationship with another person if they haven’t received any information on how to do this?
For those of you with only daughters who may be thinking to yourselves, “Thank goodness I have girls and feel it’s important to have those conversations.” Maybe you think you are doing your part. And yes, if you are talking to your daughters, you are doing your part. But, the one piece you may not have thought about was that someday, your daughters could be dating any of these boys who may or may not know anything good about dating and/or relationships. So, this is not just a boy parent problem. It is an every parent problem. We all need to take an active roll in educating ALL of our kids, not just our girls. This is how we get to the root of some of the problems our world is facing today.
If you need help having these conversations, you have come to the right place. We have all the conversations with all of the ages and stages, in age appropriate discussions in order to raise our children with knowledge and confidence and respect. Our kids don’t know what they don’t know. It is OUR JOB to teach them and I am here to help. Don’t let your child’s unwillingness to talk about these subjects be the reason you don’t talk to them. Don’t put the responsibility of your kid’s sexual health in their hands. It is your job, regardless of their willingness. Guess what, no kid THINKS they want to have these conversations with their parents. It is time for parents to tell their kids they no longer have a choice. It is time to be a part of raising healthy kids in a positive way that go on to be good partners and people to those they have relationships with.