I now have a teenage son and honestly, I always felt this is supposed to happen to people who are more mature than I am — folks who actually know what they are doing. But here I am, standing before him every day without even a small clue as to how I am supposed to approach these teenage years. I didn’t think about this part when I was trying so hard to conceive him under our Christmas tree one snowy December evening. He didn’t come with that set of instructions I long for each day. How nice it would be to just flip a page and read aloud to him all the life lessons I want him to know in a language he would understand.
How do I say all the things I need him to know in a way he can hear me? While there are things I am unsure of, I do know this: I want to raise a gentleman, a young man who doesn’t stop using his manners just because he is being intimate with someone. I want him to be decent and respectful in all areas of his life, including this one.
As much as I would like to shove this talk under the rug and save it for another time — when I am, oh, I don’t know, piss drunk and will never have to remember it — I am going to woman up and do it. Because it is important. Because I believe in it. Because if more boys grow up knowing how to treat young girls it will make a difference. They are going to be doing the things we did, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not. I want my voice to be the one he hears when he is thinking about doing something stupid. And if that is what I want, then I better speak up. So I do.
Beyond protection, safety, and STDs, this is what I want my teenage son to know about sex and getting intimate with someone in his teen years:
1. Never place someone’s hand on your genitals.
Just don’t. If they want it there, they will put it there themselves. This is a huge deal, especially when someone is experiencing this for the first time. Let them be the one who reaches out, not you. Also, when you are the one doing the “reaching,” you ask first. Always ask.
2. Nobody owes you anything.
People change their mind. If they tell you they want to do something, then change their mind, it is their right. Let it go, and be understanding — do not act like a dickweed about it. You don’t need to beg, pout, or talk someone into doing something they clearly don’t want to do. If they pull away or say no, that is the end of it. Do you hear me? The end.
3. Be very clear if you are in it just for fun.
Especially if you think the person you are being intimate with has other ideas. Be honest. It is so much easier to break it to them before you indulge in a romantic interlude than after. People get attached after they share intimate moments together. It is harder for them (and hopefully for you) to tell them after. Don’t lead people on. I have raised you better than that.
4. Never call a girl a nasty name behind her back.
Or say she smells a certain way or talk about the way she kisses or does other things. Never, ever do this, not even to your closest friends. That stuff gets around really fast and it can stick with a person. And most of the time, the person flapping their gums has no idea what they are talking about, so don’t listen to this crap either. You keep it to yourself.
5. Don’t talk about sex like an asshole.
I don’t ever want to hear that you said anything like, “I need to get some,” or ” I need to get laid.” You don’t need anything from anyone that you can’t take care of yourself. You are able to take care of your urges, so do it if you need to. Find a private place and go to town. Believe me, you will live. Even though your father doesn’t think there any places in this house private enough, I’m sure you can find one.
6. Condoms are meant to be used.
Use them. I don’t care if she is on birth control, condoms are meant to protect you and the person you are with from so much more than just procreating. If you even have a second thought about using one, remember this: The crying baby you heard in the grocery store (the one who really got under your skin) could be yours. The toddler throwing the temper tantrum in Target (the one who horrified you so much you asked if you ever did that) could belong to you as well. Also, I have heard horror stories about men having tubes inserted into their penises to check for certain STDs, so unless you are ready to face any of those things in your teen years, put that damn thing on.
7. You do for others what you want to be done for you.
In other words, give right back. Hell, give first. Do not walk away just because “you got yours.”
8. You need consent.
To kiss another person, you need consent. Sometimes that is simply them kissing you back. Maybe they ask you to kiss them, maybe their friend tells you they want you to kiss them. This is all fine and good. It is exciting and wonderful, I know, but there are exceptions to this.
If someone is asking you to do something with them and they are under the influence — you can not really understand what they are saying, but you think maybe they said it was okay, and possibly they are into it — that is not consent.
If someone can’t sit up, keep their eyes open, forgot your name — do not put your hands on them, ever. This is not consent. I don’t care if they are begging you. I would like to think I have taught you to go a step further and make sure nobody else puts their hands on them either. That means getting one of their friends, calling someone, or telling others that aren’t as gracious as you to back the fuck off.
We have had the talk about protection, the talk about waiting until you are in a committed relationship, the talk about all of the bad things that can happen. Maybe some people think this is taking it too far. I really don’t care. I will be damned if I am going to stop teaching my son to be a gentleman just because it gets uncomfortable for me. And I’ll be double damned if he is going to learn any of this stuff from Tommy down the street before he hears it from his own mother. We all know I know I am more qualified than Tommy, so why shouldn’t he hear it from me first?
And to all of his future girlfriends: You are very welcome.