Boys and the sex talk

It’s the conversation parents have to have; but talking to your son about sex can be both difficult and embarrassing. Help is at hand! In this exclusive book extract, Dr Tim Hawkes reveals how you can navigate your way with ease.

It’s time to talk about SEX

Teenage sex can be a social and emotional minefield for boys, so it is essential that parents ensure they are well prepared.

The birds-and-bees chat is a must between parent and son. If a parent is not going to speak openly with their son about sex, a son will cobble together his own understanding from sources that may not be appropriate.

First, there are a few basic truths to put on the table when talking to a son about sex. These include, but are not limited to, sex being: pleasurable, normal, biologically important and instinctive.

Having got that out of the way, it’s time to consider the sorts of things a parent (both parents, preferably) can chat about with their son on the topic of sex.

It has been suggested that boys are driven more by lust than by love and are more interested in conquest than commitment. This may not be entirely fair. What many boys are looking for is not just sexual satisfaction but a degree of intimacy that parents – even the most loving and devoted of parents – cannot give them.

A boy needs to love and be loved, not just within the home, where affection is unconditional, but outside the home, in the beguiling world where acceptance is conditional – on looks, character, values and a host of other factors that lead us to make judgements about one another. In short, a boy needs to know he can find love outside the home as well as in the home.

Sons are often not just hunting for sex; they are looking for identity. They are on a voyage of discovery. They are seeking affirmation that they have the means to attract a mate. They are searching for evidence that they are a man.

Is your son ready for sex?

When discussing whether a son is ready to become sexually active, parents could focus on the following questions:

1. Do you BOTH want sex?

If there is any disagreement about it being the right time for sex, then having sex is a serious no-no. Coercion is not wooing. Coercion is coercion and may be illegal if it can be interpreted as putting inappropriate pressure on a partner. Those who want sex have often learned the rhetoric to get it. However, a boy needs to be strongly counselled not to use any of the following sorts of lines:

  • ‘You would if you loved me.’
  • ‘It’s only natural.’
  • ‘Everyone else is doing it.’
  • ‘Don’t you want to make our relationship stronger?’
  • ‘You’ll have to do it sometime – why not now, with me?’
  • ‘It’ll be really great, I promise!’

If there is any hint of pressure, any suggestion that any party is not certain it is right, then it is not right … irrespective of what the hormones are saying.

2. Is this the right person?

If a boy does not know his partner well, then it may be unwise to engage in sex with them. Even if both are keen and agree sex will meet their mutual needs, if a boy is not sure he can trust his partner, then it may not be wise.

First-time sex can be a vulnerable experience, so it is better for a boy to enjoy it with someone in whom he has confidence.

3. Are you breaking the law?

The age of consent for sex differs between countries. In much of the Western world, it is 16 years. In some Muslim countries, sex is illegal unless the parties are married to each other. Therefore, inter-cultural liaisons can be problematic when travelling overseas, so great care is needed.

It is also worth remembering that you don’t have to go overseas to encounter different cultural perspectives on premarital sex. Care and sensitivity are needed. It is also worth noting that anyone who takes sexual advantage of another when their partner’s judgement is impaired through disability, alcohol or drugs can find themselves in prison. Don’t go there.

Sex obtained by blackmail, threats or harassment is also illegal and is morally abhorrent. Parents must be sure to share these obvious facts with their son, because some boys still don’t get it.

Another point worth reinforcing is: no means no!

4. Do you want to give pleasure as well as receive it?

There are some predatory people who seek sex for their own satisfaction rather than to provide mutual enjoyment. This can be a particular problem with boys who watch a lot of porn. Becoming sexually active should not be entertained unless there is a preparedness to give pleasure as well as receive it.

For this reason, blokes need to be taught not to go straight to the erogenous zones. Sex is too special to rush. It’s better for them to take things slowly and to give their partner many reassurances of affection before consummating the experience.

It is also as well for a boy to be reminded that a well-executed kiss can be infinitely more arousing for a girl than a grope. Great sex is not always about gymnastics. It is often about tenderness.

5. Do you know enough?

A boy needs to know something about the biology of it all before he is ready for the physical exam. He needs to know what goes into what and what can happen if it does.

There are lots of mistruths out there, such as not being able to contract an STD via oral sex and not being able to get a girl pregnant if you have sex standing up. Both partners must know what constitutes ‘safe sex’ and know how to practise it. Boys need to be able to pass the theory before taking the practical.

6. Could you have regrets?

A boy needs to ask himself, and his partner needs to ask themself, whether they will be able to bask in the glow of pleasant memories after having sex, or whether they might be haunted by regrets.

This is particularly important in relation to losing one’s virginity. Understandably, this is an experience that most want to remember with some fondness. A condom may protect from pregnancy, but it can’t protect from regret. So our sons need to be careful about rushing in and losing their virginity, and they need to be careful about taking another person’s virginity.

7. Does sex fit in with your personal beliefs?

It may be that a boy, or his partner, has religious beliefs that shape attitudes about premarital sex. These beliefs need to be respected.

However, the decision to have sex should be that of the son and his partner. While other people may influence their decision, they shouldn’t make it for them.

Not everyone will agree with all the advice above.


Parents should compile their own compendium of wisdom on the topic. If these words have encouraged a parent to undertake such a task, then they will have served their purpose.

This story originally appeared in The Saturday Daily Telegraph. An edited extract fromTen Conversations You Must Have With Your Son, by Dr Tim Hawkes, published by Hachette Australia. This extract originally appeared on our sister site


  1. kymmage 31/03/2019 at 10:58 pm

    Even though I don’t have sons I found this a great read. I hope that whoever the future partners are for my children, that they are thoughtful and caring and respectful. If their parent shave these conversations with them with love and empathy then surely the future will look brighter.

  2. dawnblyth 31/03/2019 at 10:33 pm

    We have a policy in our house that we answer questions when they are asked, we keep it age appropriate and answer as honestly as we can. We have brought up topics like puberty and sex before, and have had open and honest conversations about this. Its not easy for everybody to have these conversations so I think having an article like this is a good way for parents to get a good understanding themselves on what to talk about.

  3. SarahBlair 31/03/2019 at 10:29 pm

    My eldest son is 19 and he lived in Germany for a year with his girlfriend so Im pretty sure that I have missed that boat but I do know that he has great morals, we have talked about his previous girlfriend and how he didnt feel that he was ready so he broke up with her when she was trying to push the topic (I hope that my girls feel this confident when the time comes) my other son has just turned 5 so the talk is a long way off for him yet!

  4. Alezandra 29/03/2019 at 9:49 pm

    I found this to be having in-depth and honest article to when you want to have that talk with your son. My parents never did the sex talk with me and I had to figure it all out on my own. I like the bit that said that it was also about boys looking for their identity – and not about just the sex.

  5. Bevik1971 28/03/2019 at 9:41 am

    My son who is now 25 was actually pretty open with me growing up, I was a single Mum and wanted to make sure he felt comfortable talking to me about stuff (sometimes he told me a bit too much haha). But I would rather that than not talk about anything. He is still very open with me and I prefer that 🙂

  6. Mands1980 26/03/2019 at 1:49 pm

    This is a great article to read and discuss with our sons. Kids today hear a lot of things when they are younger and it’s a bit scary how young they are. Our oldest is 11 and at an all boys school but it’s good for us to tell him these things.

  7. MuddledUpMolly 26/03/2019 at 11:53 am

    This is a fantastic article and will be food for thought when my husband has this chat with our son when he is older.

  8. Robyn 25/08/2017 at 10:32 pm

    Great article so many things I did not think about that should be part of the talk

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