My tips for speaking to boys about sex come from the perspective of a kid who missed out. My godly parents were ‘old school’: they hoped I would learn everything I needed to know from the playground, movies, my siblings and the back of a box of Cornflakes. With the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you what I really needed to know and when and how I needed to hear it. Considering the horrific statistics which reveal a high proportion of primary school boys have viewed hard-core pornography, let alone go on to engage in sexual behaviour as teens, the sheer weight of sexual expectations as well as corrupted perceptions mean loving parents need to be ahead of the game.
In no particular order, here is my ‘boy’s wish list’ on stuff about sex:
I wish that my parents had been the first ‘port of call’ for giving knowledge and advice
urthermore, I wish they had explained ‘the birds and the bees’ before I found out from my often-ignorant peers. I remember being in Year 4 when I first debated with friends Ben, Evan and Sean about what oral sex was: talk about some crazy theories! This won’t be the case for my boys – I want to be in control of what my kids hear and how they process it (as best I can). I would rather they feel confident to walk away from such ‘toilet block’ conversations because they trust my advice.
I wish I knew that Dad had been through all the same struggles before me
I also wish I hadn’t felt naughty about knowing sexual stuff, let alone ‘creeped out’ by the thought of my parents knowing those same things (and doing them! Yikes!)
I wish I was told that pornography would harm my marriage
I wish I'd known it would create many unrealistic sexual expectations and taint my knowledge about women. I wish I knew how heavy its baggage is and how long lasting. Mostly, I wish I knew better how amazing God’s vision of marriage is and how, when trust and mutual love define a lifelong relationship, the choice to wait is really worth it. Parental role modelling can go a long way here; I am very grateful for parents who hardly fought and visibly loved, honoured and respected each other. Yet it couldn’t hurt to hear more often from the Bible which regularly teaches what God’s idea of a good, successful marriage is.
I wish I knew how unsatisfying and harmful ‘modern dating’ is
I wish I knew how damaging these long-term ‘pseudo-marriages’ are. No one told me that the longer I possess someone: owning their time and attention; their affections and their heart with no intention of a lifelong commitment – a subtle but deep selfishness grows to shape my expectations and behaviour in future relationships. It’s no wonder so many contemporary Christian marriages hit the rocks after a few short years. Maybe this is just me but I reckon if I hadn’t been so obsessed about getting a girlfriend, I would have learned to relate more maturely with girls (as opposed to the embarrassing idiot I often was).
You might think my retrospective wish list is a tad subjective, perhaps more suited for a Dr. Phil counselling session on ‘living with daddy-neglect issues’. But when I think about my challenges as a 1980-90s teen, I can see how much more complex it is for post-internet kids in a highly permissive and increasingly sexualised society. So from my adolescent experience and that as a youth minister, plus my reading of what the experts say, I am convinced that parents (especially fathers) must take the initiative with their boys. This does not mean simply being first in with the ‘chat’, it means creating a trusting environment with regular dialogue to guide your son through a very perverse and confused world. Instead of treating sex as taboo, parents can show their kids how sex is a good gift from God. That said this is all theory for me. Ask me in a few years’ time how I got on.