Though talking about sex with your children can be awkward, don’t avoid it. Even if your teenager already knows about sex, you still need to start a dialogue about it. The media portrays sex in skewed and damaging ways, which you need to discuss with your teenage son. “The talk” isn’t as simple as it used to be, when the focus was mostly on the mechanics; now you need to confront attitudes.
First, find out how much your teenage boy knows about sex. He will probably know more than you’d like him to, but be prepared to listen without judgement. For your son to be comfortable talking with you about sex, you need to stay calm and collected. Let him talk first. Then ask him what he’s understood of sex in the media, what attitudes he’s seen and his reactions to it. This will give you a starting point for your part of the conversation.
Teenage boys — and even young adults — often view sexual conquest as a status symbol. This is something they’ve seen in the media and heard from their friends. As a parent, you need to let him know that this is not true, and that he can be cool and still be a virgin. Let him know that many teenagers don’t feel ready for sex and that this is OK. Because a lot of teens now have sex before they are ready, let your son know what “ready” should mean.
Sexism and objectification of women is unfortunately a normal part of society, and something that teenagers absorb from the media. Think about how you’d like your son to treat his partners. Let him know that women are not trophies and that he needs to respect girls and women, including any current or future partners. Pressuring a woman for sex is not respectful and neither is treating her like an object placed there for his gratification. Teach him that if his partner isn’t sure about any aspect of their physical relationship, then he needs to back off. This is when you need to make sure that your son knows and truly understands the definition of rape. Let him know in no uncertain terms that no always means no, and if the girl isn’t in a position to say no, then don’t take advantage of the situation. It all comes down to respect.
You need to accept that your son will probably have sex before you think he’s ready, or before you want him to. Because of this, you need to make sure he’s prepared. He should always use a condom, so be firm about telling him that. Let him know about the other methods of contraception and their success rate. Finally, be clear about sexually-transmitted diseases and infections, how he can catch them, what they look like and when to get tested for them. Being safe is the mature, responsible way of having sex; if he isn’t ready for that, then he isn’t ready for sex.
Sex is something that should be saved for a loving, committed relationship. This is the first thing your teenage son should know about it, but the conversation can’t end there. He needs to know that you expect him to respect his partners and that sexual activeness is not a status symbol. He is not a loser if he hasn’t had sex yet or if he wants to wait. But if he isn’t going to wait until he’s an adult, then he needs to know how to be safe and why he needs to take precautions. Be straightforward during the discussion because this is one of the most important conversations you will have with your teenage son.
Here are a couple of highly recommend books you may find helpful as to begin this journey.
American Medical Association Boy’s Guide to Becoming a Teen
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships