The Chicago Sun-Times ran an Associated Press story last week with this headline: "Study: Guys More Into Sex."
Shocking but true, I know. Yet so found University of Chicago researchers. Really. They recently published their findings in the British Medical Journal.
OK, I'm being facetious. But there's an irony when what comes as news to our "sexually enlightened" culture that men and women typically have very different sexual appetites, prompted by different kinds of stimuli would have been utterly accepted by our grandparents' more "repressed" generation.
I thought of this as yet another female friend called me to tell me with horror that her son was found to be looking at pornography on the Web, and to ask my advice. My friends are typically angry and disgusted in the wake of their discovery. And that comes through to their sons. In contrast, my response was what it always is: of course he was looking at pornography, and of course he was, well, seduced by it.
In fact, that is exactly how he was designed to be sexually aroused when viewing beautiful naked women. That he would want to do so is not perverted, or weird. Unlike us women, males are intensely visual creatures, and his desires are completely normal.
Shocked? Don't be. I hate pornography. It objectifies women. It degrades men because it separates sex from relationships. It completely distorts notions of what real women look like, not to mention their sexual appetites and desires. That, in turn, can impact a man's relationships. We need to openly tell our sons, and daughters, all of this.
(Here I'm focusing only on so-called "mainstream" pornography, not that which involves children, violence, etc.)
Parents, don't be naive: unlike when we were kids, explicit pornography is everywhere and only a computer click away. By all means put filters on your computers. Just know your sons will see it, are seeing it somewhere, anyway. And they are enticed by it. Period.
Your daughters will see it too, of course, but they are just not as likely to find it highly erotic or to be entranced by it over time.
As I've counseled many mom friends, I think we make a mistake if we try to make our sons feel ashamed for their reactions to what they have seen.
Moms, they aren't us. Rather, I think our approach to them here should be put in the context of "of course this interests you. This is exactly how you are designed. Don't be ashamed of that desire. You were made to find beautiful women sexually enticing, and the people making this base stuff know that. But, these images aren't good enough for you. That good desire you have will meet its greatest satisfaction with a real woman, when sex and relationship in marriage go together."
When there is a dad in the home or other trusted male in the family, he should take the lead. But I think it's helpful for moms to have a part in that dialogue too!
Now do I think such a pep talk is going to keep anyone's sons from being involved with pornography? Unfortunately, no. And yes by all means we need to set explicit rules and protections against pornography.
But because today it is so ubiquitous, I think we parents also need to proactively give our sons in particular some tools for dealing with it. And for thinking rightly about it so that they are not as damaged by it as they might otherwise be. So that they even get a positive message from us parents as to who they were really created to be.
It seems to me that starts with what our grandparents knew. That regarding sex (and so much more) men and women really are wonderfully different. And we don't really need a study to tell us so.