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. My dad dropped the ball as did my culture. My first sexual experience was traumatic. I experienced shame, humiliation and betrayal all in one dark night. This became my imprint that I am still dealing with 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.
Fortunately for me I now have excellent mentors and friends who are helping me grow up my sexuality and dive into it’s headwaters with open arms.
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. Then, let’s acknowledge that there are a good number of people out there that believe we are teaching our kids plenty, even too much, about sex and sexuality.
Leaving it up to the Churches and schools 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.
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 his 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 family lineage of abandonment alive.
But I won’t do that. No way. Not in my house. I refuse to let other 4, 5, 6, 7 year old boys teach my son about his sacred body. I refuse to let another kid shame him while he’s naked or 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.
Pile on some confusion…
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 super hero 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 firehose 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 may have dug inward for answers alone.
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 face 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 find comfort in our disconnection. It’s the new norm. We mask over any whisper of shame or fear so we can fit in with the guys and hope to meet a cool woman that likes us. Then in our isolation, while no one is looking and with the door locked, we find relief–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 (post coming shortly on the cost of porn on men).
Once again, the boy code has conditioned us into a little, tiny corner where we remain 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, 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 “wee wee” (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.
It appears that I’m being asked to lead and guide here, so I want to step up. So, stay tuned for solutions such as tele-courses for parents with age specific info and other creative classes. I might also have to start my BoyStrong business sooner, which is a newer, more practical version of the boy scouts which will train young boys to be relationally adept, sexually aware, and open-hearted– little Jedis on the playground who help and inspire other kids.