The dreaded ten to twelve-year-old gap where every child becomes curious about their bodies. Feelings begin to arise that weren’t there before, and it seemed as though there was no one to talk to about it. Why is that? Parents have become very distraught with the thought of having a conversation about sex. So much so, that they would rather poke themselves in the eye with a fork. So, then who do we turn to when all else fails? The media of course.
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Peggy Orenstein’s Boys and Sex, a spin-off from her 2016 Girls and Sex, discusses the in-depth interview that she had with more than 100 college and college-bound boys, and young men on what it takes to be a man. Orenstein discovers that most parents with teenage boys between the ages of seventeen to twenty-two haven’t had the talk about intimacy with their sons. Leaving boys and young men to revert to media for their source of reference, porn. With these distorted ideas of intimacy, these young men find it hard stay away from, as Orenstein puts it, “channeling 1955…still all about stoicism, sexual conquest, dominance, aggression.”
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It’s sad to say but society has made it so that boys aren’t allowed to speak about their emotions and become vulnerable, leaving them fearful of being judged. They have been forced to train themselves to suppress their feelings, except for happiness and anger. This, ultimately, has led many young men to coin the phrase #nohomo for basic human emotions in order to express themselves without being accused of being gay.
However, it doesn’t stop there. There is also a thin line between being respectful towards a woman and being apart of the “Bro Culture”.
Much like the guidelines for intimacy, young men have not been allotted the opportunity to know what that means. It has come to a point where being respectful to a woman is more of a statement than a guideline. Within the “Bro Culture”, there is little room for any man to stand up or speak up for a girl or young woman without being judged for doing so. Good Morning America praised Orenstein’s book for how it navigates sexuality and masculinity in today’s world, stating that, “Many boys end up going along with things even when they feel like their male peers are being inappropriate.
Image Via Teens LoveToKnow
The term hookup has been distorted as well. If you don’t know what a hookup is, neither does the rest of the world. Unlike other terms in the young adult language, hookups have more than one meaning. It can mean anything from kissing, oral sex, intercourse, and more. Many of these ‘hookups’ in college can mean any one of those three categories. Due to the broadness of the meaning, there can be expectations for more than what a situation calls for, causing more pressure to go a step further than wanted.
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Through her conversation with these young men, Orenstein found it surprising to know that gay boys and young men are more open to having conversations about sex with their partners. What makes it so surprising is not because they necessarily have to, but because these group of men are in tune with gaining the consent of their partner. Having this conversation with your partner about what they are into “will be a more mutually gratifying experience for everyone involved.”
Orenstein, throughout Boys and Sex, dives deeper into the minds of young men on their definitions of what it takes to be a man. She makes sure to do the same in her previous book Girls and Sex, creating a balancing dynamic of what it is like to be either sex.
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