Although I did not read Peggy Orenstein’s bestselling book Girls & Sex, about women’s right to pleasure and agency in sexual encounters, I did find this book fascinating. In a media soaked culture and post #MeToo, raising good men may be as hard or harder than protecting young girls. Orenstein believes that most boys want to be good men but there is so much harm in what they encounter in ‘boy culture’ and the media, they receive little guidance.
Even though everyone knows a parent would rather stick a fork in their eye than discuss sex with their children, many parents will have conversations with their girls before their boys. The author covers a broad range of issues (sexual ethics, consent, LGBTQ, racism, dating, the harmful effects of porn, social behaviour around hookups, desire for emotional intimacy, etc.). She includes practical tips for parents about what and how to discuss with their children.
This book also includes never-before collected research because Orenstein made a point of not just talking about boys, but hearing from them. She bears witness to their efforts to free themselves from the trap that culture sets for them. And boys are often also victims of sexual violence and are in need of protection, and more in need of emotional intimacy than some might think. Boy culture and toxic masculinity can be brutal and society doesn’t often give boys much permission or space to discuss their interior lives.
The conversation is frank and candid in this book, because it needs to be, but if you listen to the audio version, you might not want your younger kids in the car with you. This is an important book and contrary to what some parents believe about teens and sex, giving them information and being prepared to open up dialogue about sex, does not cause them to engage in it earlier or more. In fact, studies have proven that equipping teens, keeps them safer and less likely to be involved sooner.