When We Don’t Teach Boys About Sex

A shaming sexual culture

A shaming sexual culture

By Jayson Gaddis @ The Good Men Project

To not teach children about the sacredness of their bodies and their sexuality is one of the CORE abandonments of our time. This post is about the mess we are in around male sexuality. I am here to name it and simply put it in the open for all of us to see.

I received ZERO training around sex or my body until age 34. None. Fortunately for me, I now have excellent mentors and friends who are helping me grow up my sexuality and dive into its headwaters with open arms. But it was almost too late.

My first sexual experience with another person was when my cousin taught me how to masturbate. Naturally, it felt good. But then he shamed and humiliated me, leaving a deep scar. This became my initial sexual imprint, and it has impacted my sexuality to this day. Instead of learning, I went into hiding like most men run by shame. I listened to other peers who were equally immature and confused. Before I sought out help, I was left adrift, aimlessly trying to be a man with this cosmic sword between my legs. No one ever taught me the profound power my cock could yield. That I could give life or destroy life with its power. My dad dropped the ball as did my culture.

So how did we get into this mess?

I’m guessing there’s more to the story than this, but I’m naming one GIANT dynamic if not THE dynamic that got us here.

First, let’s acknowledge that some of us (not me) got an amazing, healthy, wise education around sex, our bodies, and our sexuality. If that’s you, congratulations! Seriously. Then, let’s acknowledge that there are a good number of people out there that believe we are teaching are kids plenty, even too much, about sex and sexuality (i.e. conservative religious groups).

Leaving it up to the schools and churches to train our kids about their penises and vaginas and how to use them has gotten us where we are today, ashamed, avoiding, and hoping someone else will teach this complicated stuff for us. If those entities did a great job, we’d be seeing different results.

Because adults have been, by in large, too ashamed or limited in themselves, they have taught our boys a very watered down version of sex education. That’s the best case scenario. It’s either nothing at all, or a “birds and the bees” talk in middle school or high school, likely from a teacher who is filtering information because their hands are tied by a fearful administration.

Think about what you got in terms of sex ed. I got a health class in 8th grade (in Utah) and then my dad talked to me in High school about wearing a condom. That’s it. That’s all I got.

So, what did I do? I learned from peers (well before high school) who were equally as ashamed, misinformed, and confused.

I was completely and utterly abandoned, as was my father by his father and on and on. I get that it wasn’t my Dad’s fault. How could he teach me anything about sex given what was taught to him by a Dad who probably never even mentioned it? Generations of betrayal. Generations of neglect and looking the other way, hoping kids would “figure it out” or innocently thinking it would take care of itself.

So, when I think about my own son, I can see the doorway toward “letting him figure it out.” That door is wide open and would be easy for me to just drop the ball and keep the generations of abandonment alive.

But I won’t do that. No way. Not in my house. I won’t pass the buck to other adults and expect them to deliver. I also refuse to let other 4, 5, 6, 7 year old boys teach my son about his sacred body. I refuse to let another kid shaming him while he’s naked or having hard core porn be his first sexual experience.

I will show up for my son. I’m scared and excited to teach him everything about his beautiful body and its power. I feel inspired to train him to use his penis responsibly. And guess what? My son is 3 years old and needs information now! He is exploring his body right now! Wait until middle school? I don’t think so.

Most of us men received little to no sexual training as boys. We simply learned from other boys. Our first sexual experiences were often either molestation (1 in six boys is sexually abused before age 16), experimentation with ourselves (some kind of masturbation, mostly to porn these days) or other boys (more than one-third of the sexual abuse of America’s children is committed by other minors).

As boys, in order to fit in, we were supposed to make fun of other boys when we were naked. If we were too “good” or too scared to do that, we got quiet and became bystanders hoping some adult would step up and set a boundary. When no one did, we remained silent because speaking up we might have faced ridicule or humiliation.

Anything that resembled being gay or too feminine, we shamed and humiliated in each other and called it “funny.” We were mostly taught that sex is great, but also bad and that masturbation is bad even though it feels good. Hmmm….Our choice? Posture and fake it trying to “be one of the guys,” or go underground with our sexuality and experiment in isolation.

Confused yet?

As teen boys, we taught each other to objectify women and keep score. We were either taught that women like strong men that are stoic and hide their vulnerability like any superhero in the movies, or maybe we took the gentleman’s path, (slightly more conservative but still damaging) where we are supposed to take care of women and be “clean” by never masturbating or succumbing to our animal desires, thus being a “good boy.”

If we were gay, or wondered if we were gay, we had no where safe to turn to, no one to ask, no place to explore in a safe way. So, again we isolated and felt shame and guilt. Then we might have played along with the straight boys thus adding more self-abandonment and confusion.

Then we found oursevles in an oversexualized culture where women’s bodies were everywhere for us to gawk at including in video games, TV, magazines, and even in men’s sports. We went to college where our sex drive was through the roof and we sprayed it around like a fire-hose with no supervision and little consequence. Or we were so confused, we shut down and got quiet. If we wanted to be “one of the guys” we tried to get laid a lot and talked a big game, thinking that might win us friends. If we didn’t take that path, we stayed a quiet bystander letting our brothers off the hook over and over as they objectified and used women over and over again while we isolated and went inward for answers.

Pile on more confusion….

Of course, then we became adult men (whatever that means), and even though we have the power to seek out a therapist or professional to get help with the confusion and power between our legs, we didn’t. Either because we didn’t even know it was an option, or because we might have faced silent judgment or ridicule from our peers–more shame and humiliation, all part of the gender straightjacket.

Now that we are officially confused and ashamed about our penis and sex, and live in a culture that supports our dis-embodiment, we paradoxically find comfort in our isolation and disconnection. It’s the new norm. We mask over any whisper of shame or fear so we can fit in with the guys and then we hope to meet a cool woman that likes us despite our insecurities.

Then in our isolation, while no one is looking and with the door locked, we finally find relief in our sexually confused state–porn. It’s quick, easy, cheap, with an endless variety where we don’t have to deal with the complexities of interpersonal relationship dynamics. We can stay alone and keep it locked away in our inner sanctum. It even gives us temporarily relief from the stress in our lives and gives the illusion of keeping our shame at bay.


Once again, the boy code has conditioned us into a little, tiny corner where we remain angry, alone, confused, and isolated. Our conditioning is a trap. Be a certain way, and don’t act outside the box. If you do, we will humiliate you. Don’t speak up or intervene, b/c that too is gay, weak, or feminine. So, stay put, stay a bystander, stay in your box.

So this is where we are today

Like it or not, the state of male sexuality in this culture (and probably the world) is that of a sick, neglected, and deeply abandoned child, and we can see the wake of it everywhere in our lives. The way boys treat girls, the way men treat women. The way boys treat boys. The bullying and shame, coercion, and intimidation to be a certain way sexually. The gay jokes, the “small penis” jokes, the “pussy” jokes, the rape, misogyny, misandry,  the violence, Matthew Shepard, Penn State, Steubenville Rape, The Catholic Church, and the shame and self-hatred toward our own bodies.

All taught by who? Boys.

That’s right. We adults have put boys in charge of teaching other boys about the most sacred parts of their bodies. Boys are teaching other boys about sexuality in this culture. And because adults are unable or unwilling to step up, this is the mess we are in.


So, this is on the table for us to examine and see clearly. How about we pause and take this all in.


The next question for me is “okay, what do I do about it?

In my own home, I will take on the responsibility to teach and train my son about his penis, his body, and his sexuality with unwavering respect and love.

In terms of the global problem, the questions are rolling in. From single moms to new dad’s like me.

How are you dealing with your own confused sexuality and how will you/are you teaching your son about it? Because wherever you are ashamed and stuck, you will block your son from learning and embodying a healthy sexuality.

What I am doing about it?

Read this awesome breakdown The Healthy Sex Talk–Teaching Kids Consent Ages 1-21

I am teaching him about his sacred body. Where I’m stuck, I’m getting help, hiring mentors, going to classes and learning about how to appropriately (factoring in age and brain development) and truthfully talk to my son about his body and his sexuality. And, if enough parents ask, I’ll probably offer tele-classes or write more on the subject. I’m open to suggestions.

Please share below how you are navigating this critical terrain. If you are a parent of a son, or are actively involved in raising boys in your life, join our facebook page Raising Boys.

This was reposted, with permission, from The Good Men Project.

You may also be interested in this post, from their site: The Unbelievable Secret to Getting More Sex

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 15, 2014, in men, psychology, sex and sexuality and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. The title made me think of my 4 years old brother who often likes to play with his “tinkie”, as he likes to call it. I always tell him to stop whenever I catch him doing it. One time when he was urinating in my bathroom I noticed he wiggled his whole body and I guess it was to shake off the excess urine on his tinkie. I told my boyfriend to teach him the proper way to shake off the excess but my little brother refused to touch his own penis. I couldn’t figure out why until I read this article. I guess it was my constant nagging that conditioned him to think that touching his penis was bad. My exact words were, “STOP TOUCHING YOUR TINKIE!!!” It never occurred to me that this would have a negative effect on him. I thought I was actually teaching him how to be a gentlemen. The article didn’t mention female sexuality but I could kind of relate. No one taught me how to properly pee like a girl. For a few months of my childhood I pee standing up. No one told me about menstruation. One day when I came home from school I notice blood on my panties. I thought I was going to die. For three days I used toilet paper as pads because I was too scared to tell my mom that I was dying. When I finally told her she said I was a woman now and its just my period. Although my brother won’t have to worry about menstruating he does have to worry about other things. Like the article mentioned “the power of the penis”. It could create life or destroy one. I don’t think my little brother would take me seriously if I talked to him about the power of the penis right now. There is no non-awkward way of talking to any relatives about sex, sexuality, or anything in that area. All I could do for now is show him that he can talk to me about anything. Let him be comfortable enough to talk to me about anything. Little boys won’t come up to you and ask you questions about his body. You have to read their body languages, approach with precautions, and be sure to choose the right words.

  2. As a society we do not know how to handle teaching guys about sex or how to truly respect women. Women are taught how to cover up so that men do not get distracted and rape but we do not have a true way to educate men all around about “women”. I believe it is the parents responsibility to educate their sons AND women about sex. I don’t believe that sex ed (an hour class 4 days one week) is enough for men and women to be truly educated. I hope that one day men and women are able to feel comfortable in their own bodies. I agree with the blog that we are shaming men for their bodies

  3. Parents don’t know what to say and what to teach their children about sex and their sacred body. Most parents find it embarrassing to talk to their children about sex and most parents don’t know when is a good time to start talking to their children about sex. Parents also believe that kids learn everything they need to know about sex in middle school and high school. This is not true in school it feels like year after year you keep on learning about the same thing over and over again. You learn to always use a condom and what types of birth control are available. They only teach us how to prevent yourself from having a baby and how to prevent yourself from getting a STD. Schools don’t tell you not to have sex yet, they don’t tell you to hold off sex until you are an adult. Schools don’t teach you how you would know if you have found the right person. All they say is PROTECTION! PROTECTION! PROTECTION! As I was growing up and when I first started dating my father always told me that my body was sacred and he told me not to take advantage of my body. He also told me that I don’t have to be forced to do anything if I didn’t want to do it, like sex! I got very lucky as a child my parents did teach me about my body and about sex. My father talked to me more about it probably because I am a female. I could see why boys don’t learn much about sex from their parents and they rely on their friends and teachers to teach them what they need to know about this subject.

  4. I love how open he is with appreciating the human form, and believes in taking care of it. A lot of people are discouraged in learning more about “that” side of ourselves because some ways are seen as sinful, immodest, perverted, unsanitary. Too many are ashamed for having the desire to express themselves, and to value sex and intimacy. Sex can be enjoyable and lots of people don’t understand that because it’s treated as taboo so there is not that open space to share experiences without feeling like they’re going to be judged.

    And as we continue to only take the male,/logical perspective to sex education, women will continue to be even more confused about their own bodies. Sex ed is made out to be super awkward because being teenagers you don’t want to ask questions on how to enjoy sex like they do on HBO without seeming like a perverted, sexual deviant. I mean, it would be so awesome of a sex ed teacher could just say sex is different for everyone and everyone enjoys sex differently. And also, you don’t learn how women orgasm; that’s too weird for classes. But men’s orgasm is default setting to sex ed because: how do you get pregnant? A man ejaculated inside of you and had champion sperm. HE had an orgasm. But women learn that sex is just about reproducing and there’s not much else they can get out of it; and so therefore sexual curiosity seems unnecessary, selfish, and shameful. Lots of women don’t even know how their own vagina looks like, or how it works, what’s most pleasurable for them, or how their entire clitoris looks like (it’s not just that bulb at the top. It’s much bigger than that).

  5. After reading this article, it reminded me a sexual education which I taught my cousin.
    Once I took my cousin out to play. When we were walking on the road, we saw a gay couple coming towards pushing a stroller. After they went over, my cousin suddenly asked me why two fathers are pushing the baby stroller? Faced with this problem, I suddenly did not know how to answer a child. I could only answer as I think that a family is not necessarily to be a woman and a man. As long as they care the child and the two people love each other, no matter what gender they are, they are a family. The answer may be too esoteric for a child, but at least I gave his a correct concept. I didn’t know whether I taught him a right sexual education. I am sure that he will not look at a homosexual couple in a strange way next time. I think that giving a right sexual education to children is very important. It is not only give them a right concept, but also help them to show their respect.

  6. I love the author’s awareness and naming of all these dynamics. How men are taught to be disembodied and disconnected from their sexuality doesn’t get talked about as much and this is as equally important in changing the old paradigms.

  7. I think this is more important now then ever, with young kids learning about sex from hard-core porn they can access on their phones!

  8. Not to mention that boys don’t get taught about sex and that means that they have to turn to porn to learn about sex. And of course things in porn aren’t very realistic.

  9. I hope people know they can ask their physicians any sexual education questions, however, I agree that it’s best to primarily learn these things at home.

  10. Intense stuff. I guess women get a little more here because we are more likely to be told to keep our legs closed. We also menstruate, generating questions about why and how. We certainly don’t teach you girls all the sex ed they need, but we probably teach boys even less.

  11. incredible, talented, impressive!

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