What Boys Want

Hook-up culture doesn't just hurt girls. An examination of who is actually falling behind amid parental panic

  • Share
  • Read Later
Laura Pannack for TIME

(8 of 9)

Even Dre--maker of that cute Instagram collage--tells the story of a time at a party when he watched some boys get drunk and aggressive with girls, touching and grabbing. "There was one girl downstairs, and one dude grabbed her and tried to take her upstairs. She was conscious, but she was drunk too, so she was laughing about it." He didn't get involved to stop it. "It wasn't my place," he says. Drinking, getting out of control, taking risqué photos of one another--all these things are incredibly common at parties. It's often a case of blurred lines. When behavior crosses lines, what those lines even are isn't always clear to teenagers.

Beyond Boy World

So yes, boys want sex. And what might look to adults like illogical, risky or callous behavior in pursuit of sex can seem like the only option to boys in the moment. It's part of a complicated dynamic in which they're trying to reinforce or elevate their social status among their peers, including girls. But boys want other things too. They want intimacy, love and romance. They want trust and respect from their peers. And they want to be able to talk about their emotions and be taken seriously. Making that possible isn't just important for them; it's part of helping them become better partners, fathers and community members.

The question for adults is what to do. How do we break through boys' silence? Judging from what I've learned from boys, constant questioning (How was your day? How was your test?), especially right after school, just causes them to shut down. Boys will open up to us when we say less and connect during quieter times--in the car, watching TV or at the foot of his bed in the evening.

If you can get them to talk, what do you say? First, it's very important to let them know that you don't assume anything about them or their friends. Whether you're talking about alcohol, drugs, girls or bullying, you can begin by saying, "I don't know if you are ever going to have this experience, but if you do, I want you to be prepared."

Let them know there are no excuses. Sometimes boys will get drunk so they don't have to take responsibility for their behavior, particularly with girls, so let them know that being drunk doesn't let them off the hook. Stress that this is about how to live with yourself and how you look at yourself as a man. When it comes to hookups and relationships, you can talk to them about body language. Does this person really want to be there? Say that if you're unsure about it, it's a no. You can also remind them that they don't have to accept every sexual advance that comes their way. Tell them they are no less a man if they say no to a girl. That's not something they hear very often.

If you're a parent with real worries about your son's emotional state, but he says he's fine, tell him the reasons you're asking. In many cases, it's better if this conversation comes from another man, but the key thing is to let him know that there's no shame in feeling bad.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9