Chest hair, growth spurts, voice changes, lust! In this edition of The Man Files, Rebekah Spicuglia writes about the challenges of feminist parenting when boys start coming of age.
My 11-Â½-year-old son recently announced that he is going through puberty.
My usually obsessive preparations for Oscarâ€™s visits now have a new urgency. I find myself planning discussions I somehow never thought I would need to have. When kids grow up itâ€™s an exciting â€” but scary â€” time for any parent. And as a noncustodial, long-distance mom, the challenges and opportunities for me are unique. Over the years, lots of conversations with my son have been held over the phone. Lately, weâ€™ve had some incredible talks about more adult things (you know â€¦ coffee, sex ed).
Coincidentally, Oscarâ€™s puberty announcement came while I was reading the inspiring book, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape. But how could I convey the values of sexual responsibility, pleasure, and nonviolence to a young boy?
I wanted to prepare myself. But I was also looking for anything, anything!, that Oscar could read and take home with him. I went to a sex-positive parenting workshop. I started talking to all my feminist mothers and friends. I got in close touch with Oscarâ€™s principal, teacher, school nurse. Thankfully, they were each responsive to my many questions, even when the answer was that Sex Education is only offered for boys as a 30-minute video during health class in 6th Grade.Â (Can I just say, WOW?!)
Still feeling entirely unprepared for the task at hand, I hit the bookstore in a frenzy, not even sure what I was looking for. A feminist sex-ed text? Honest talk about changing bodies? Something including LGBTQ culture? I didnâ€™t find exactly what I was looking for, but I came across some useful resources:
1) The Talk: What Your Kids Need to Hear from You About Sex This is a modern wake-up call to parents: Your kid might play video games at a friendâ€™s house. Does this involve hanging naked women on meat hooks as a reward for passing a level? Has your 7-year-old ever asked what a hooker is? Includes tips and conversation starters for different age groups.
2) Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up Colorful and entertaining with comic-book style pages, but definitely for mature kids. Characters in the book are boxy, not “curvy,” and represent varied races and ethnicities. This book describes abortion, but portrays the impact only in devastating terms. (For instance, “both partners can feel achingly sad and guilt-ridden and, for the girl at least, the feelings of sorrow and loss may stay with her all her life.â€)
3) My Body, My Self for Boys Perfect for young boys dealing with body changes. This workbook has interactive quizzes and checklists. Fun and practical.
Itâ€™s a start. But Iâ€™m frustrated by the lack of resources for talking about sexual respect for women and the LGBTQ community. Where is the book that explicitly teaches boys to value women and women’s pleasure, to go beyond “no means no” to the “yes means yes”?
So, hereâ€™s my request: If there are any feminists out there â€” men and women, trans and genderqueers â€” who have suggestions for parents on how to help our boys prevent rape culture and violence against women, please speak up! Iâ€™ll be cross-posting tips and anecdotal tidbits on my website, and I look forward to hearing from you.
About the Author:
As Media Manager for The Womenâ€™s Media Center, Rebekah Spicuglia coordinates media training and spokesperson programs, advocacy campaigns, and web content, combining her dedication to feminist, progressive values with her film production background to create and advocate for representative media. Through her NonCustodial Parent Community blog, Spicuglia also serves as a spokesperson on parenting issues. MSN highlighted Spicuglia as one of eight â€œMoms Inspired to Change History.â€