What Can Parents Do To Combat Sexualized Media Messages?–Book Excerpt

As mentioned in the introduction to this series of blog posts, I will be posting excerpts of chapters from Boys, Sex & Media with PDF links to the complete chapters.  Use the blog tag “Boys-Sex-Media” to find all of the posts in this series. The excerpt of Chapter Seven, on what parents can do to combat sexualized media messages, is below. Click this PDF link to read the entire chapter.

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Sexual socialization is the “intricate and gradual process by which young people acquire knowledge, attitudes, and values about sexuality through the integration of information from multiple sources.” ~Deborah Fisher

How do kids learn about sex? Certainly there is a biological drive behind their interest, but the finer points about when to initiate sexual activity and how to have a sexual relationship are acquired through a process of social learning, similar to the one that teaches morals, ethics, social practices, and even basic skills. To put it simply, children watch others and learn from them.

In the case of sexual socialization, multiple influences are at play, as Deborah Fisher notes. Young people take in cues from the popular culture and media that surround them, and the attitudes and behaviours of their peers and parents.  

As we’ve seen throughout this book, the masculine imperative and heterosexual script that dominate our culture have considerable negative influence on boys’ sexual socialization. In our culture, boys are given fewer opportunities than girls to educate themselves about their sexuality, yet are encouraged seek any and all opportunities to have sex. They are not taught to value their emotions or those of their partner but told, instead, that sex is a casual, physical game with girls as the pawns; a “collection of body parts existing for male pleasure,” in the words of educational psychologist Lori Day.

It is difficult for boys to counter the pressure to conform to cultural norms about sex. Peers reinforce what popular culture communicates and boys who challenge or disregard prevailing notions about the male sexual role risk being ostracized, called names, or even sexually harassed themselves for not being suitably masculine.

What can we, as parents, do to help our sons combat the negative messages in sexualized media? Understand our power and learn how to use it. I’ve included some tips and strategies here, organized by the themes and topics discussed in prior chapters.

Download this PDF to read the entire chapter.

Image from Dreamstime.

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