You may or may not know when your teen becomes sexually active, depending on how much of a sharer they are and how attuned you are to them. But we think it’s important you do know, because there need to be conversations around contraception and consensual sex.
Neither you nor your teen want them to be an adolescent parent, so making sure they use protection, regardless of what their sexual partner is using, is really important. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are rampant and have long tails, so young men need to be adept and committed to using condoms if they are having sex, and young women need to insist on them being used.
These conversations may not be comfortable, but neither is being a teenage parent or infertile due to an untreated STD. So our advice is to bite the bullet and do some research online about how to discuss contraception with your teen and just do it. For boys, it’s probably better if it comes from a trusted man but if there isn’t one around, get in there mothers and do it yourself.
We think one really important conversation and possibly the most important one you’ll ever have with your teens is about consensual sex. Boys need to make sure that whoever they are having sex with is a willing participant. They need to know that unless girls or boys actually say yes, they need to take it as a no. Girls who are too drunk or drugged or upset to give consent cannot be described as willing participants. Google the cup of tea consent video on youtube for a simple yet effective analogy that teens won’t easily forget.
The flawed and damaging mythology that when girls say no they mean yes and that she really wants it is bullshit. Tell your boy he’s not going to die from a hard-on, he can go and have a wank. Praise masturbation because it’s gonna save your son’s arse! He won’t go blind or get hairs on his palms. He will not be smote down by an angry god, and he as sure as hell will not become a teenage parent or end up in court.
Make sure he understands that if he forces himself on someone when he’s horny, he’ll feel like shit and that person will carry it with them for the rest of their life. New Zealand has an appalling rape culture, make sure your boy isn’t part of it and that girls understand their sexual rights.
The good news is that the stats show the majority of young people between 13 and 17 in New Zealand have never had sex. That’s 75.6 per cent of the teenage cohort, parents, not bad stats really. Despite lots of boasting, the truth is boys are generally quite nervous around people they are attracted to, regardless of their sex. And the gap between them talking about prowess and conquest and the reality is gaping!
Sexual drive varies widely in humans, particularly males, depending on their testosterone levels. Many men say sex wasn’t a big deal for them as teenagers, or wasn’t as important to them as it was for other boys, and that’s congruent with who they are now in our experience.
All boys think every other boy is more sexually active than they are, and most men we’ve interviewed feel shame around being late starters, generally in their late teens or early 20s. They are very relieved to hear they’re well within the norm! Which highlights another fact: boys generally don’t have very realistic conversations with each other about sex and that’s where parents, or other adults, can step in.
It’s important to reinforce the notion with your teen, male and female, that pornography is not sex as we commoners know it. It might get their juices going but in reality, sex is physically and emotionally much messier and more complex than how it is depicted in a lot of pornography. Your son just may not be able to live up to the chiselled, weirdly shaven, Adonis-like creature with a perennial hard-on as seen on Harry Humps Heidi. Maybe he won’t be able to shag for hours on end and hey, his partner may not want him to! She or he may be looking for a broader expression of intimacy.
That being said, it is important to make it clear that there is no shame in embracing more risque antics in the bedroom if this is what your teen truly wants. We live in sexually liberated times, and therefore some young people even find it useful to experiment with sex toys before moving on to the real thing. Nevertheless, it is crucial to know that there are some caveats where sex toys are concerned. For instance, it might seem obvious, but do not forget to remove a sex toy after use! Using a sex toy for too long can lead to a wide range of complications and therefore safe and responsible use should be encouraged at all times.
Ultimately, often sex is something you can discuss with your teen, from your own experience, if you can find a way in to talk about pornography and its lack of relationship with reality. If you can’t, find someone who can. It’s become more important these days because porn is as prolific as actual birds and bees.
By Ruth Kerr and Richard Aston, parents to four adult children in a blended family. Ruth and Richard co-authored Our Boys. Raising strong, happy sons from boyhood to manhood based on their 15 years’ experience working at Big Buddy, a social agency that matches well-screened male mentors with fatherless boys.