Teenage boys desire intimacy and sex in the context of a meaningful relationship and value trust in their partnerships, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The research provides a snapshot of the development of masculine values in adolescence, an area that has been understudied.
The researchers studied 33 males who ranged from 14 to 16 years of age to learn more about how their romantic and sexual relationships developed, progressed, and ended. The participants were recruited during routine medical visits at a community adolescent clinic that serves low-income, predominately African-American adolescents. The group’s sexual history began earlier than the national average, putting them at increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases.
Participants were asked open-ended questions about relationships and sex, such as desirable partner characteristics, intimacy, closeness, and trust.
“Prevailing values in our culture suggest adolescent males want sex, not relationships. However, values and behaviors related to sex and relationships are likely more complex than typically portrayed,” said first author David Bell, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health and assistant professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center. “In fact, very few of the participants described sex as the main goal of opposite-sex interactions and relationships.”
The study advances an understanding of adolescent males’ early relationships in two significant ways. First, close relationships were important to the participants. Second, they desired intimate and caring relationships, expressed vulnerability and dependence, and placed great importance on trust in relationships.
Few participants described trying to trick or talk a partner into having sex, and few evidenced pride and boastfulness about numbers of sexual conquests. An area of vulnerability expressed by the males was the lack of knowledge about sex and concerns about their own capacity to sexually perform.
These findings starkly contrast with descriptions of older, sexually experienced adolescent males, according to Dr. Bell, in which older adolescents consistently endorse the belief that relationships should be focused around sex, an avoidance of intimacy, and the treatment of females as sex objects.
This study supports a view that young men, like young women, start out looking for a romantic partner first and only come around to a utilitarian, abusive “I just want sex” view after exposure to negative experiences and cultural pressures to conform to their culture’s notion of masculine behavior.
This unfeeling view of the opposite sex is not normal for young men (or young women), but comes as supporting cultural norms are eroded and parental guidance is either absent or overcome by peer group pressure and media exposure to sexuality as a primary good.
The question of how to support a more empathetic view that values the feelings and long-term commitment of romantic partner prospects is a difficult one. Certainly knee-jerk social conservative ideas of locking down society to conform to a previous century’s repressive norms are not going to work.
Reference: D. L. Bell, J. G. Rosenberger, M. A. Ott. Masculinity in Adolescent Males’ Early Romantic and Sexual Heterosexual Relationships. American Journal of Men’s Health, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/1557988314535623
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations
[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]
Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”
Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.
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