"I think it's time that you and I had a little talk about responsible sexual behaviour."
Hardly. Despite widespread - and not always enlightened - media exposure to sexuality, such conversations still rarely happen. Parents think the sex talk means telling their boys to wear condoms, not making the point that responsible sexual behaviour means being considerate and respectful. And even if the culture now recognizes that girls are people too, many boys still don't get it.
Parents typically avoid the sex talk for a number of reasons. They feel embarrassed. And political correctness notwithstanding, most parents still tacitly give their sons permission to do whatever they want so long as they don't make someone pregnant or pick up an STD.
But talking to boys is essential. They are often unsure of what is good, or even acceptable, behaviour. It's not the sort of scenario typically discussed among their peers or online. The messages that dominate these sources are as follows:
- It's cool, admirable, a source of pride to rack up sexual conquests;
- It's cool, admirable, a source of pride to do wild and irresponsible stuff;
- Caring about girls as people is uncool, not something that you'd want to admit to.
Over all, the message is that sexual activity with girls is something that you do for what you can get out of it, and that the girls' feelings are not part of the equation.
Here's what they need to hear - whether from Mom or from Dad, or from both together:
- No means no. It's an iron-clad rule. (And it applies when the boy says it, too.);
- Physical force is seriously never okay;
- It is not okay to have sex with someone who has a diminished capacity to say no - they're drunk, drugged or suffering any other impairment;
- If a girl puts herself in a situation where she is vulnerable - drinking alone with you, for example - it does not automatically mean yes;
- What you do sexually with a girl is a private matter between the two of you;
- It is never okay to have sex without a condom. It's dangerous to you and dangerous to your partner;
- It is never okay to make fun of a girl's body.
While every parent will tailor these messages to their child, the fundamental theme is that no matter what the circumstance, no matter who the girl is, she is someone with valid feelings that should always be considered. Sexual behaviour should not produce harm.
In regard to gay male teenagers, these rules apply as well. But with gay teens it is more complex, because they are more vulnerable to sexual predators than straight male teens, and that absolutely needs to be discussed with them as well.
Will your talk have any effect on a teenaged boy in the face of such strong counter-messages from their culture? Perhaps it will. Perhaps it will not. But what the above can do is expose them to another view. Just by having the conversation, you put the words in their head.
"Thanks, Dad. Now I know the right thing to do, and I realize my friends are idiots and the stuff I see online is messed up."
Maybe not. But he hears every word you say.