Dr. Caroline Heldman, professor at Occidental College has a lot to say about the images that we see about women and what they means to us as a society. She starts out by saying that it is a LIE that being a sex object is empowering and she goes on to prove her theory. It's very interesting! Here is a great quote from the video: "We raise our little boys to view their bodies as tools to master their environments. We raise our little girls to view their bodies as projects to constantly be improved." OUCH. Hits home. I like that she gives us a quick way to tell if an image is exploitive...and I thinks its disturbing that we don't always know! Take a few minutes to watch this and share it with your teenagers. Click HERE for the Video.
We warn our daughters about dangers associated with growing up: getting pregnant, getting "used" by a boy, getting in risky situations. But what do we say to our sons? As puberty strikes, teenage boys often go inward, spending a lot of time alone or in their rooms, playing video games, listening to loud music. Those sweet little guys who used to drop into our laps and tell us how much they love us turn in to large, often uncertain, sometimes surly young men who rarely want to show us any type of real feelings. And yet, experts will tell you (and many mothers too) that young men are filled with feelings of romance and love and think just as much about finding The ONE as do their female counterparts. They just don't talk about it! But we need to talk with them, especially about how to navigate the dangers of becoming sexual. Although they can't get pregnant, they can get very hurt and they can do a lot of damage if they don't have some good strong parenting at this critical time in their lives.
Ask him some questions: What would he do if a girl started coming on to him and he didn't love her? Maybe didn't even like her but thought she was sexy? What if she was drunk? What would he do if he saw some other boys messing around with a girl who was drunk? What if it seemed like she liked it? Would it make a difference? Would he say anything? What if the boys were his friends? What would he do if a girl liked him and wanted sex with him and he wasn't ready? Does he think that if a girl had sex with him, she might be more inclined to think she was in love? How would he know she was only with him? What if she offered to send him a picture of herself without clothes? Does he know anyone who got a girl pregnant and what happened to the boy? What would he do if that happened to him? What is important to him about love? What would he do if his girlfriend made him really, really mad? Who would he talk to?
There are so many questions that a boy needs to think about. He may not want to talk to you but that's OK. Ask the questions. He will think about them in his own time and and probably to some loud crazy music. But if you are very quiet and very available, he will probably come in some day and plop down and say, "You know, I was thinking about that thing you said the other day...."
Cathy Jenner, Mental Health Therapist and Learning Specialist serving North Bend, Snoqualmie, Fall City, Carnation and other East Side Communities