Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (4)

Teen males: Getting their minds out of the gutter

By Stacy Beller Stryer, M.D.

I read an interesting article in the New York Times last week, “Inside the Mind of the Boy Dating Your Daughter.” When I saw the title, I was instantly drawn to it because my older daughter is going to enter high school in the fall (yikes!) and has recently begun talking about boys. She currently attends a magnet school where most of her classmates are female. She just mentioned, for the first time, that there are no boys to like in her program, which makes for boring sleepover talks (but makes her mother exceedingly happy). Given that I think she’s the cat’s meow, I thought I could get a little “inside information” from reading the article before throwing her into the world of male testosterone and upperclassmen.

However, the article totally surprised me. Coming from a family of 3 girls and having 2 daughters, myself, I am much more comfortable figuring out what a girl might be thinking or feeling than a boy. I must admit that I believed the folklore that teen boys basically have sex on their brains. But, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Adolescence, this is not the case.   Researchers had 105 10th grade teens complete a survey about sex, love and relationships. Reportedly, most boys said the main reason they would date someone was because they “really liked her.” The second most common reason they wanted to date someone was to get to know her better, and because they were physically attracted to her. Of note, 40% of the boys stated that they had already been sexually active and 14% wanted to have sex to lose their virginity. We must remember, however, that this was a relatively small sample size done in one school.

As a follow-up, the New York Times asked people to send in their comments about the article, and they discussed the results in the Week in Review Many of the comments sent in were from adult men, who didn’t believe the teens answered honestly because, as these adults remembered, (?is their memory correct) they thought about sex, and only sex as teens.

An important and notable comment made by Dr. Andrew Smiler, the author of the study, is that parents are less likely to talk to their sons about relationships than their daughters. He stressed the need to talk to boys frequently about relationships, respect, trust and sex.

This gives me some hope that my daughter won’t be bombarded with a storm of testosterone the moment she enters high school. Actually, I am not too worried because I have been preparing her for the world of “boys” since she was much younger. For years we have talked about puberty, and as she has become older we have added relationships, values, possible uncomfortable situations, and waiting to have sex. I believe that this will carry her a long way. And, according to research, I am right, because telling a teenager to wait to have sex actually makes it more likely that they will.

As parents, we must remember to talk to both our daughters and our sons. Our discussions should start early. In elementary school, they should know what puberty is and how boys and girls develop. They should also learn about love and respect. As preteens, they should have talks regarding dating, relationships, and sex. If you wait too long, they will not hear you, or they will already have had to deal with a sexual situation and may not have known how to handle it. Amy Mirion and Charles Miron, authors of How to Talk With Teens About Love, Relationships, and S-E-X, also discuss how important it is to have small, ongoing dialogue rather than the one “big sex talk.” They suggest that, when parents talks with boys, they be direct and simple, and that they include topics such as love, respect, and values. They also stress the need for boys to actually be told to wait before having sex.

Just in case, maybe I’ll send some pepper spray to school with my daughter next year …

For more information on how to talk to your children about relationships, sex, and other risky behavior, check out the following websites:


Children Now

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

4 Responses to “Teen males: Getting their minds out of the gutter”

  1. Svetlana says:

    Dr. Stryer, I enjoy Dr. Val's blog – I learned about her from her comments on Science-Based Medicine – and am glad to have discovered you! As a pediatrician, can you recommend (perhaps do a blog on) evidence-based therapies for Asperger's elementary school kids? Also, a blog on science-based treatments for anorexia (seems like an area of your expertise) for middle-aged women – are there any?! – would be greatly appreciated! Keep us the great work.

  2. Katie says:

    As an incoming 10th grader, I have to say that I think the statistics would be very different had they been taken at the high school I go to, assuming the guys all answer honestly (which they wouldn't at my school).

  3. Katie says:

    As an incoming 10th grader, I have to say that I think the statistics would be very different had they been taken at the high school I go to, assuming the guys all answer honestly (which they wouldn't at my school).

  4. Tova Kohn says:

    Doctor Stryer,

    I am writing this in response to reading your book “Anorexia , Biographies of a Disease”. Although, there is
    some very soulful insight into this disease, I am dissatifed with your reference to supposed mental illness. I have suffered from anorexia for most of my life. I believe that the term mental illnes is ludicrous because , the so called “voices ” that people are hearing are really from God or Papa Bear as I call Him. Our society is become so skeptical that even if Moses were to appear on earth people would say he is crazy for speaking to God outloud and having very passsinonate emtions. Most people who call themsleves doctors just went to medical school so that they would be ensured finacially and they are not born with the gift of healing. I am a healer and have been reading medical journals since I was six year old! I find that the problem with your book is that it is so concrete it does not leave room for interpretation or abstratction. Art is the greatest healer of all because it comes from God! I may not have gone to medical school however I believe that I am a far better doctor then you because I know and understand the cause and the cure for anorexia. Anorexia happens when a man or woman does not love themselves the way that Papa Bear sculpted them! You have mentioned the “relegious” aspect of the reason for anorexia yet you have not written about how have a strong spirtual side can cure this disease. The problem with modern day medicine is that “doctors” try to explain illnesses with science which is frail when a homeostatsis balance happens only with the the Love of God! I hope if you continue to write that you will put more of your heart personally into the writing and not just the logical for love is not and will never be logical! May Papa Bear bless you and your family!Oh by the way , I am currently healthy and eating very heallthily! Also, I have helped a family member truimph over anorexia!

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »