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Sex Health Blog

Helping Male Teens Catch Up on Sex Health Awareness

Jun 27, 2012

When we consider sexual and reproductive health care, do we focus more on teen girls than boys?

It may seem so. Earlier this spring, Dr. Arik Marcell, teen health expert and assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Center for Adolescent Health in Maryland, gave a lecture on sexual health services for adolescent boys. During his presentation, he reported some striking statistics.

According to reports from healthcare providers and patients,

·       45% of female teens receive sexual healthcare assessments, but only 15% of males do.

·       61% of girls are counseled on sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and pregnancy, but only 34% of boys are.

·       Guidance on contraception is provided to 33% of girls, but only 5% of boys.

·       18% of girls receive counseling about condoms, but only 7% of boys do.

In a press statement, Dr. Marcell remarked, “Male teens have substantial sexual/reproductive health care needs in their own right. We need to find ways to help them understand what these needs are and how health care services can be beneficial.”

Guidelines have been suggested for healthcare practitioners. But what can we, as parents, relatives, mentors, and community members do to help close the gap?

First, let’s look at some topic areas and the questions adolescent boys might have. Even if they don’t ask the questions out loud, they may still be wondering.

Puberty and Sexual Development

·       What’s happening to my body?

·       What other changes will happen? When?

·       Why doesn’t my body look like the guys in the locker room?

·       What can I do about the teasing I get?

·       Is masturbation okay?

·       What happens to girls when they go through puberty?

·       What are the essential parts of a girl’s sexual anatomy?

Sexual Orientation and Identity

·       I’m not sure if I’m attracted to guys, girls, or both. Is that okay?

·       If I think I’m gay or bisexual, who can I talk to?

·       I want to come out. What’s the best way to do this?

Unwanted Sex and Peer Pressure

·       All the guys I know are having sex, but I don’t feel ready yet. Is this normal?

·       If I don’t feel ready to have sex, does that make me less of a man?

·       A girl I know is pressuring me to have sex, but I don’t want to. What should I do?

·       What is statutory rape? Can I go to jail for having sex with someone a lot younger than me?

·       What is sexting?

·       What is dating violence? What should I do if I’m uncomfortable in a relationship?

·       How can I talk to my partner about sex?

Sexual Function and Dysfunction

·       If I’ve never had sex before, how do I know if I’m doing it right?

·       What if I can’t get an erection?

·       What if I climax too soon?

·       What happens to a woman’s body when she’s ready for sex?

Safe Sex

·       What are STIs? Do I really have to worry about those?

·       What are signs and symptoms of STIs?

·       Is it true that some STIs don’t have symptoms?

·       How do I talk to my partner about STIs?

·       Where can I go to get tested for an STI?

·       Where can I get treatment?

·       If I get tested or treated for an STI, will my parents know about it?

·       How can I protect myself from STIs?

·       How do I use a condom correctly? Can someone teach me?

·       Where can I get condoms in my community?

·       What is the best kind of condom to use?

·       I feel embarrassed about buying condoms. What should I do?

·       What can I do to make sex with a condom feel better?

·       Do I have to use a condom with oral or anal sex or just with vaginal intercourse?

·       What should we do if a condom gets stuck inside my partner?

·       What should we do if a condom breaks?

Birth Control and Pregnancy

·       What are the most effective forms of birth control?

·       If my partner is on the pill, do I still need to use a condom? Why?

·       Is withdrawal an effective birth control method?

·       What is emergency contraception? Where can my partner get that?

·       If my partner is pregnant, what is my responsibility?

·       If my partner is pregnant, will I have to quit school?

·       What do I need to know about fatherhood?

·       I’m frightened about becoming a father. Who can I talk to?

What Can We Do?

Keeping lines of communication open is one starting point and an important one for parents. Successful sexual discussions don’t begin and end with one “big talk.” Ongoing, age-appropriate conversations in a non-judgmental environment can benefit a young man as he goes from puberty to adolescence.

We can also check in with pediatricians. If your son appears to have a problem, but doesn’t want to discuss it with you, you might see if his doctor might address it. It’s also helpful to find out what sexual health topics are usually covered during an office visit.

And, we can examine the sex education curriculum in school, if there is one. What topics are covered and how are they taught? Do you think any subjects are missing? If so, how might you address them?

Of course, this does not mean overstepping boundaries. What if you’re not the parent or healthcare provider?  It’s important to know what’s appropriate and what isn’t when you’re discussing sex with a minor. Your own healthcare provider can guide you on how to approach the subject.

With healthcare providers, parents, and community members working together, we can help close the gaps in sex health awareness among adolescent boys.