6 Lessons About Sex That Teen Boys Need but Don't Get

Porn and parents aren't teaching young men enough about building healthy relationships.

The locker room may be where boys talk, but the information there has its shortcomings, according to a new comic book being developed to help bring relationship realities to sex education. (Illustration: Courtesy Colin Adamo)


Feb 17, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Melissa Rayworth is a regular contributor to TakePart. She has also written for the Associated Press, Salon and Babble.

Remember sitting in an awkward high school sex education class, just wishing the teacher would stop talking? It hasn't improved much since you were a teenager. Most schools teach basic reproductive biology and then recommend abstinence. That's it.

There's little frank discussion about love, treating a romantic partner with respect, and making sure your relationship is about something other than sex. Some parents may successfully teach beyond that awkwardness, but many teen boys are left with what they learn from their peers (who may exaggerate their romantic exploits) and what they can figure out from watching TV and movies (and yes, porn).

Sex ed teacher Colin Adamo has a better solution for this particular problem. He's launched a website that uses blunt talk and a sense of humor to really talk to teen boys about sex and love. Now he's taking that work a step further by creating a graphic novel that deals directly with issues of sex and love.

"We see the repercussions of not providing this information" to teens, Adamo says. It's vital that we teach this generation of teenage boys clearly and bluntly about the importance of having healthy relationships and treating girls with real respect.

His Kickstarter campaign has earned nearly $18,000 toward a goal of $25,000 to finish the comic and get it into the hands of teens across the country, and the campaign has just two days left until its deadline.

As that deadline approaches, we've asked Adamo what important things our culture doesn't teach teen boys about sexual decision making and healthy relationships. Here are the top six:

1. Sex Is More Than Avoiding STDs and Pregnancy

"The sex education out there really only talks about biology and risk factors, and it fails to acknowledge relationships," Adamo says. It has never honestly discussed expectations around sex: What do kids want to do with their partner, and how do they want things to be afterward? If we only tell them about risks to avoid, how can they learn to talk about what they're really pursuing? Research says young guys want to be in romantic relationships, despite the male characters in movies who only want sex. It's time that we tell them that wanting a real romantic relationship is perfectly normal and really great.

(Illustration: Courtesy of Colin Adamo)


2. It Takes Two People to Have a Relationship

"This is not all about you and your pursuit," Adamo says. Dating a girl isn't simply about getting her and having sex with her. Adamo teaches about setting your own expectations and discussing your partner's expectations. Teens may find these conversations with a partner awkward at first, but they appreciate the benefits: The better you can communicate what you both want, the more likely you are to get it.

3. Love and Sex Are Easy to Confuse

Adamo is using a graphic novel to teach teens because it's a medium they think is cool. But he's also spelling things out in words and pictures because romance can be confusing for everyone. Just telling a teen boy to "act like a gentleman" or "make sure you communicate" isn't going to make love any less complicated.

4. Your Relationships Don't Make You Cooler

"Young guys are under a lot of pressure to date and to have sexual experiences with young women," Adamo says. "There's a lot of social capital in proving that you have some sort of experience," so guys are often in a hurry to get a girlfriend. That's often how they define their self-worth. Adamo teaches them about developing themselves as people and having more to be proud of than romantic conquests. He tells kids, "That's what makes you a more attractive person."

5. Everyone Gets Rejected Sometimes

Many movies show guys relentlessly pursuing their dream girl until she caves and agrees to date him. Some even make stalking seem almost romantic. In reality, there are all kinds of reasons why someone may not want to date a given person, and teen boys need to hear loud and clear: That's totally OK.

6. You Will Make Romantic Mistakes, Guaranteed

When we're young, Adamo says, it feels like screwing up in a relationship is the end of the world. But in reality, every romance doesn't turn out as perfectly as it does in the movies. "There are going to be challenges," Adamo tells kids, "and you are going to learn from them...especially if you look at your role in those challenges."