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.
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.
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