Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Boys & Birth Control

Photo by robertelyov via Flickr
1 out of 5 sexually active teenage boys does not receive info regarding condom usage or birth control from their parents, doctors or teachers.

That's according to a report by the Center for Advancing Health. The report, which looked at sexually active teens between the ages of 13 and 19, found that parents were the most likely source of  information regarding birth control and sexual health. 43 percent of the males said that their parents shared info with them regarding birth control, and 66 percent of the males said their parents shared information about sexually transmitted diseases. Only 1/3 said they got similar information from their healthcare providers. 

Think about those numbers for a minute. 43 percent of the sexually active boys said that they'd received info about birth control from their parents or teachers. That means that 57 percent of sexually active teenage boys had not gotten any info about birth control from a parent or teacher, and the odds are good that that didn't hear anything from their doctor either. 44 percent of sexually active teenage boys didn't have info about sexually transmitted diseases, at least not from a reliable source such as a parent, teacher or healthcare provider.

Those numbers are terrible. Those numbers are shameful. 

Our boys NEED information about sex and sexual health. They need to know how to protect themselves and a partner from sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy. And they need that information whether or not they are sexually active at the moment, because the odds are extremely, very,very good that they will become sexually active at some point.

As a nurse, as a health writer and as an advocate for boys, I strongly believe that 100 percent of teenage boys should not only have information about sexual health, birth control and STD prevention, but that they should also have easy access to condoms  -- not because I want to encourage teen boys to have sex, but because I'm a realist. At some point, those boys-becoming-men will have sex, and I want them to have all of the tools and knowledge they need to keep themselves (and their partners) safe.

As a parent, though, I realize it's not easy. It is much easier for me, as a nurse, health writer and advocate, to say that all boys should have that info -- and much harder for me to actually sit down and talk to my boys about these topics. Much harder to discern when I should make condoms available. Much harder to decide how much information to share, and when. 

So know this: It's OK to be uncomfortable. It's OK to stumble through these questions and discussions, and OK to veer from too little to too much info and back again. Talking to kids about sex is hard because all kids, all parents and all families are different. As a blogger, I have the luxury of talking in generalities: You should talk to your boys about sex. As a parent, you have the difficult job of tailoring the information to your child, of figuring out what to say when and how to present the info in such a way that your kid might actually take it in. 

I can't tell you how to do that. I can't tell you exactly when or how to bring up birth control with your boys. (Though I'm happy to field any questions, and will share some suggestions in a future post.) What I can tell you is that discomfort is no excuse. It is simply irresponsible to send our sons out into the world without solid knowledge of sexual health and birth control.

So be uncomfortable. Stumble through the presentation. Be willing to be awkward and presumptuous. TALK TO YOUR BOYS about sex, and make sure they understand the mechanics of sex and conception and birth control and STD prevention. (They need to know about the emotional and ethical components of sex too, but I'll save that for another post.) 

Before your boys leave your house -- hopefully, well before -- your boys need to know how to protect their sexual health. 


  1. I love the "It's So Amazing" books. They are factual, to the point, have a silly looking bird and bee to discuss the info, and age appropriate. It's super easy to refer back to them when there's a question that's a little awkward. :)

    1. Great suggestion! The AMA has a great book too, The AMA Boy's Guide to Becoming a Teen.