Male Teens Are Seeking Intimacy And Trust, Not Just Sex

August 13, 2014

How to help kids thrive


Teenage boys are most often presented as sex-crazed. Well, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, that stereotype is inaccurate. The study looked at 33 teenage boys between 14 and 16 who were mostly black and who came from an urban area which serves mostly low-income families. Although the study only looked at a small number of teens from a very specific demographic, lead researcher David Bell, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said other studies have come to similar conclusions about males in their early teens no matter the ethnicity or background of the boys.

This is good news. Young adolescents want intimacy and trust. Only a minority of them saw sex as the main reason for a relationship. Many of them were even a little concerned about their lack of sexual experience or even their confidence in sexual situations.

Unfortunately, this attitude doesn’t last. By their later teens and young adult years, many males’ attitudes toward relationships have changed: “Older guys tend to describe a desire to ‘get as many women as they can,’” said Dr. David Bell.

What happened in between?

It seems that break-ups have soured them, leaving them feeling “burned.” Therefore, their self-protective attitude is to not be emotionally involved anymore.

This is sad.

Additionally, macho attitudes appear to have taken over for many of them.

The question now is: How can we encourage young males to build healthy relationships based on trust and respect?

Dr. Bell responds: “I think we need to look at how we socialize boys to become men. … We need to change the norm so they don’t shut down emotionally.”

I agree. The stereotypes we raise them with, the stereotypes our society expects them to live up to – a “real” man is supposed to be strong, unemotional, collect girlfriends, not cry, etc. – are creating damage (and not only in their relationships).

We need to help male teens by encouraging them to share their feelings, teach them the importance of respect in romantic relationships, and in their other relationships as well. As always, parents and other adults close to them are their role models. The more these adults exhibit trusting and respectful relationships, the more chances teens will do the same.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in a lot of homes. Some statistics*:

  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Three to four million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or male lovers.
  • One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States.
  • 35% of all emergency room calls are a result of domestic violence.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of the victims of domestic violence are women.
  • One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 32% of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners.
  • Battering occurs among people of all races, ages, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations, and educational backgrounds.
  • Battering tends to increase and become more violent over time.
  • Many batterers learned violent behavior growing up in an abusive family.
  • Domestic violence does not end immediately with separation. Over 70% of the women injured in domestic violence cases are injured after separation.
  • Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.

It is obvious that young males must be educated outside of their families. The social environment is extremely important in reaching young men and teaching the behavioral changes necessary for them to respect their partner.

As usual, parents are critical. I encourage them to talk in a serious and an open manner to teens about this issue.

And, abused mothers, do not assume that your sons won’t be violent later because he was or is afraid, or in pain, when he sees or hears his father being violent with you. The truth is exactly the contrary. The cycle of abuse must be broken. If you can’t do this for yourself, do it for your kids and grandkids. I implore you. Break the cycle! Stand up, refuse to be a victim. Help your kids, grandkids and theirs, male or female, to get what they seek, what they need: intimacy and trust in their relationships.


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