Boys, Sex, and Those Four Magic Words

Doug FrenchFatherhood on Friday

If we’re in the business of raising better men, we have to include the business of raising better sex partners. And we can’t do that if so much of what our boys are learning is “cutting them off from their hearts.”

So says author Peggy Orenstein who, after 25 years of writing about adolescent and teen girls, has shifted her focus to boys in her new book, Boys and Sex. And if your boy is at or near Sex Talk age, you know that The Talk isn’t really a talk at all. It’s an ongoing conversation about defying shitty stereotypes, debunking unrealistic and distorted images, and recognizing bad behavior (as well as understanding the price of calling it out among your peers).

The interview is a required listen, for several reasons. For one, boys really want to talk candidly about their feelings, because they don’t get much opportunity to discuss their interior lives. They get bombarded with synonyms for sex like bang, smash, and hammer, which reinforce images of violence and conquest rather than intimacy. “Hookup culture” makes them feel ambivalent and unhappy, because if you can’t be emotionally vulnerable, you can’t be physically vulnerable either.

Orenstein then mentions a key phrase to teach our kids to ask any person they’re about to have sex with:

“What are you into?”

The brilliance of that phrase is how it starts an open-ended conversation. It starts you thinking about looking at sex as an opportunity to give something, to gratify each other. And it does a lot to address the thorny issue of establishing consent.

Orenstein knows a lot of parents would rather stick forks in their eyes than have extended conversations with their kids about sex. (And vice versa.) But her research clearly shows that men feel more secure when they can sustain a loving relationship. If we don’t take the lead on these discussions, we won’t like the results when the baser elements of our culture do it for us.


The father of Greta Thunberg on accompanying his daughter on environmental expeditions: “I knew they were the right thing to do, but I didn’t do it to save the climate. I did it to save my child.

The dads at Family Is About Love think their iconic photo went viral “because no matter gay, straight, man, woman, we all feel the same love for our children when we meet them for the first time.” 

After 51 years as a player and coach, Joe Burrow‘s dad retired from Ohio University to see all of his son’s games as a senior at LSU.

The day after Christmas, members of the popular Three Village Dads Facebook page visited Stony Brook Children’s Hospital to bring Star Wars characters to meet the children.

Feeling isolated as a new stay-at-home dad? Use the web, find your brothers, and start a group. It’s worked for City Dads Group, and it’s working in the UK.

One of the best ways to Break The Cycle is to give men the fatherly training (and the emotional fortitude) they never learned on their own.

Awkwafina became the first Asian-American to win Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy in part because she promised her dad she’d get a job.

John Hansen and his 10-year-old son run a self-funded charity called Project Empathy, hoping to inspire others to create friendships with homeless people.

When the bride’s dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, this couple threw out all their plans and got married 10 months early in the ICU so he could be there.


“We’ve spent more time with less conflict, but we’ve also spent less time looking at each other. That makes my heart hurt just a tiny bit.” — Gavin Lodge, Santa Ruined My Kids 

“Miraculously, after decades in this country, my father is now unsparing in saying ‘I love you’ — in English — to my firstborn son, which amazes me and fills me with joy.” — Viet Thanh Nguyen, Every Moment With My Son Is an Act of Creation

“It’s OK to let your wife or your kid know that sometimes your head gets a little messed up. We aren’t John Wayne. John Wayne wasn’t even John Wayne.” — Shannon Carpenter, Don’t Be the Mom, Guys. Be A Dad As Only A Dad Can Be

“After telling them about how professional wrestling is predetermined, they are trained to fight without hurting one another, and that their primary focus is to tell a story, the opportunities to teach life lessons are quite abundant.” — Ted Williams, Take Your Kids To See Some Wrasslin’!”

“Education for girls is not simply learning mathematics, science subjects and languages. It is beyond that. It is emancipation. It is freedom.” — John Adams, Q&A with Ziauddin Yousafzai



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Photo by Michael Prewett on Unsplash