Oh boy, oh boy oh boy. (Things to consider)

Boys can be a handful to teach. There is plenty of research on working to educate boys and no one has seemed to crack the code as of yet.  Educators complain about constant jokes and horse play during lessons and generally not focusing on the content.  Could it be that boys are just un-teachable during certain periods of adolescent development? Could it be the exhibition of a systemic hegemonic issue that is implicit in male socialization, therefore necessitating that boys and girls be separated when learning about sex and sexuality education?

Perhaps, although unlikely.  But if that were true, separating boys and girls or waiting to teach boys about sex education and sexuality would be like putting a band aid on a tumor. What would be better is to consider how to best approach teaching sex education to boys that actually meets them where they are, with the intention of helping them develop into mindful, sex positive young adults.

Is this necessary?

In short, of course it’s necessary. Boys report that sex education does not concern them (Measor et.al, 1996)  To them, sex education is about puberty, teaching girls about contraception/how to not become pregnant, and how to refuse sexual acts if they are not ready. Boys tend to feel that sex education does not concern them or their questions and that the space is not for them.

Things to consider

Research supports that there are definite ways in which boys can learn more effectively. However, sexuality education is a much more loaded subject and needs its own set of helpful hints to teaching boys about sex education. According to a post by Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, boys can flourish if lessons are simply presented with them in mind.

An excerpt from study done about how ridiculously hard it is to teach boys about sex education put something into perspective about the experience of sex education from the shoes of an adolescent boy. The experiment was simply to teach the same contraceptives lesson to a group of girls and boys in a small town in the south of London in 1996. Measor et al. (1996) reported that while the girl’s group was conclusively attentive and found it to be tremendously insightful, the boy’s group was a completely different story.  The boys were rowdy, making jokes, arguing, and goofing off so much so that the lesson was practically called incomplete.

The interesting thing was some of the boys’ issues with not only the material but also the educators.  This quote was pulled from the article with the boy’s spelling errors intact.

They was all women.

No men.

There was no men to talk to us man to man.

 This kid’s issue with having no male representation may be a part of the problem. Younger males look to older males for guidance and role modeling. Now don’t get me wrong, the boys’ behavior in this article is atrocious but it is important to look beyond the behavior to determine the pre-existing factors that drive it. Echoing what other boys have said about sex education, they do not feel represented in this avenue.

Lesson content          

As stated earlier, boy’s opinion of sex education is that it is predominately about keeping girls from getting pregnant. I imagine it’s hard to remain interested in something that you feel doesn’t openly include you.  Some possible subjects that could be considered are:

  • Men’s health and related issues
    • Address myths and misconceptions
  • Diminish  the “burden of sexual expertise”
    • The idea that it is the man’s responsibility to initiate and completely understand sexual pleasure after first time
  •  Transition into teenage fatherhood
  • Importance of porn literacy
  • How understand their roles in healthy and unhealthy relationships

Cultural components to consider

A no-brainer to some may be inconceivable to others. While there needs to be a space for a more defined focus on boys and their issues within sex education in general, it would be academically irresponsible to not consider where culture plays in. Boys of cultural minorities are reported to engage in riskier behaviors and are at an elevated risk for STIs and early pregnancy (Peters et al., 2010). The article by Peters et al. (2010) formulated a sexuality education intervention for black, at risk, heterosexual male teens to be taught by black male professionals. The results of the study indicated that there were substantial gains in the teen’s awareness, attitudes and knowledge. This study provides great contributions to the field but also hope for boys in sex education. 


Allen, L. (2006) “Looking at the real thing”: Young men, pornography, and sexuality education. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. 27, 1. (pp.69-83). doi:10.1080/01596300500510302

Measor, L., Tiffin, C., & Fry, K. (1996). Gender and Sex Education: a study of adolescent responses. Gender & Education, 8(3), (pp.275-288). doi:10.1080/09540259621520

Peters, R.J., Johnson, R.J., Meshack, A. & Savage, C. (2010) Sexuality education issues and methodologies tailored toward African American inner city boys. American Journal of Sexuality Education. 5 (pp. 116-127). doi:10.1080/10627197.2010.491058

5 responses to “Oh boy, oh boy oh boy. (Things to consider)

  1. This was a great blog and I really appreciated that you addressed our male learners while providing resources that we as educators can use in order to be more inclusive of this population.
    From my understanding, males tend to go through puberty earlier than males which may contribute to why boys can be a “handful to teach” during adolescent development.
    In my current position as a sexuality educator, there have been numerous occasions when I am presenting to a mixed gendered class and have noticed that the majority of males begin to disengage themselves from the presentation for the exact reasons that you listed above (pregnancy prevention, contraception…) During my initial sessions, I immediately stress the importance of males learning about the topic and try to include them in the presentations as much as possible.
    The study that you cited gave valuable input into having more male educators out there to address our male learners.
    When I teach puberty to just males, often times the males ask me where the male teacher is and I inform them that I am it. They definitely get disappointed and make assumptions that I will not know what they are going through. But realistically, they are right. I will not know how it feels to be a male going through puberty. These are very valid concerns. Thank you for addressing this!!

  2. Having twin two-year old boys myself, I was extremely interested in this post. It was very interesting and I am not surprised that young men feel disconnected from sexual education when pregnancy prevention is the major focus. Having male role models teach the younger generation allows the information to hit home in a way that it might otherwise not if a 40 year-old stay-at-home mom was loading up boys and young men with information on how to keep girls from becoming pregnant. Not only do I think it is important who teaches our boys about sex, but what we are teaching boys must also not be overlooked. I think with every unit taught, regardless of gender, an overall measurable objective needs to be: So what does today’s information have to do with me? If kids can figure out where they fit in, the information becomes relevant. Relevant information is much more difficult to toss off than information that seems peripheral to one’s world.

  3. I have such a difficult time giving into gender socialization, and I feel like this plays into it. Perhaps we have to teach boys differently because that’s how they’ve been socialized? If we were to stop gender socialization at such a young age, could we teach comprehensive sexuality education to all genders, together?

    You said that “The article by Peters et al. (2010) formulated a sexuality education intervention for black, at risk, heterosexual male teens to be taught by black male professionals,” and I think this could be useful in some regards, but am concerned that there is such a “down low” culture that it would be problematic to teach who we assume to be “heterosexual male teens.” Sexual orientation is often something that teenagers are struggling with, or experimenting with, and to ask them to group themselves as heterosexual or otherwise for this sexuality education training seems counterintuitive. Ideally, I would like to see sexuality education interventions for black, at risk, male teens to be taught by black male sexuality educators.

    Thanks for taking on this perspective!

  4. It makes perfect sense to me that boys taking sex ed would want a male teacher to make the information more relatable. Although I do not know the statistic for how many middle and high school sex ed teachers are male vs female, I can only imagine that they are predominantly female. It is hard because our program is even composed of primarily female educators. There is also the societal issue around having a man teach boys about sex. Too quickly, the males I know who teach sex ed are judged as perverts and are not trusted. So, yes, although there is a need for more male sexual educators, the current climate is not conducive to accommodating it.

  5. I have mixed emotions about this blog. It affected me in such a way that, at first, I was offended. I needed to take time to step back and review your sources and see the rationale behind this. As a male educator, I completely disagree with most of this. I’d rather have boys in my classroom because I find adolescent girls to be a little high maintenance at times, are overly sensitive, and are full of drama. Yes, boys can be a bit rowdy, but like ALL students, you need to treat them with respect in order to get respect in return. I’m not trying to turn my response into a battle of the sexes because I love all of my students equally, but I feel that this blog really downplays adolescent boys.

    I also agree with Justyn’s response. With social conditioning being such an influence on our youth, if that wasn’t an issue, maybe the saying “boys will be boys” would have a positive connotation to it. If it was explained to boys in a sex education classroom that pregnancy and contraception were just as equally important to them, maybe they would pay more attention to it. I think that if an educator goes into a classroom dreading that the boys will lose interest or cause disruptions, the kids will know this and intentionally do what you think they will.

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