I Want My Sons to Know How to Love the Women in Their Lives

I saw my first naked woman when I was 9, thanks to a kid named Jimmy, whose father had a collection of Playboy magazines under the bed. While his parents were at the grocery store, Jimmy yanked out a copy and with practiced ease flipped to the centerfold.

“Your mom has one of these,” he said, pointing between the legs of Miss August.

“No WAY!” I said, unwilling to accept that my mother could possibly have anything on her body that, in my mind anyway, looked like a piece of our cafeteria meatloaf. I left soon after, convinced that Jimmy had shown me a magazine of female freaks. When our class began studying the human reproductive system later that spring, Jimmy turned to me and winked when Mrs. Flunkem used her ruler to point out the vagina being projected onto the chalk board.

“Your momma,” he mouthed.

Years later, that feeling of embarrassment was something I was determined to spare my own sons. The truth is, women are much more aware of their bodies and sexuality, and at a much younger age, then men. The male culture communicates about sexuality in much the same way it does with sports: through stats and stories. Anything deeper than that, and the shoulder punching begins. However, it was important to me that my sons not only understand the physicality of reproduction and, unlike me, never find themselves shocked by a vagina, it was just as important that they understand sexuality is not a statistic or story to be told — it’s how we communicate love beyond our words.

*shoulder punch*


The process of helping my boys understand this began early, and by example. My wife and I are both affectionate people. We hold hands, hug each other, lay together on the couch and always kiss each other goodbye when we leave, and hello when we get home. My boys see me expressing my love physically and verbally every day. They also see me do dishes, cook, fix the car and stack wood. I do everything I can to send the message that being affectionate takes many forms and isn’t a sign of weakness — unlike the primary message they get from movies, music and much of social media. I want them to understand that their sexuality isn’t just about sex. It’s about communication, and having the confidence to express themselves through their words, their actions and intimacy. Culturally, the idea that manliness means being in control is something that is constantly being reinforced.

Men are the decision makers. The action takers. The aggressors.

While I certainly want my sons to be capable of all of these things when necessary, I also want them to recognize when it’s not. That applies to everyday life as much as it does their sexuality and, ultimately, their relationships. The more they can step away from defining themselves and their sexuality in a stereotypical way, the more of their true selves they will be able to share with someone else.

I’m a volunteer firefighter and consider myself capable of handling most situations. At the same time, I recognize when my wife might have a better perspective. Especially when it’s a situation involving my sons and a new dent in the family car. On the surface, this dynamic might not seem to have much to do with the subject of developing a healthy sexuality. However, being able to recognize and accept your own faults and limitations is part of that willingness to share your true self — and ultimately true intimacy. Both are important ingredients to a healthy sense of self and sexuality.

My boys are now 16 and 17. As any parent will tell you, understanding what goes on in the minds of teenagers is sometimes like learning a foreign language. And by “foreign” I mean Martian. But whenever I see one of my sons walk ahead to open a door for their mom, or confide in us about something personal, I know that at least some of what I hope to instill in them has sunk in.

As fathers today, we have to compete with a lot more than Jimmy and his Playboy magazine when it comes to making sure our sons develop a healthy sense of their sexuality. The best way to do that?

Be an example.


Ned lives on the Oregon coast with his wife, four children, two dogs, a cat and entirely too many seagulls. You can find him online on Twitter, Facebook and his blog, Humor at the Speed of Life.

Images provided by the author.

Posted by

I've been a journalist and humor columnist at the Siuslaw News for 16 years. I'm also a volunteer firefighter. If the newspaper ever burns down, I will have some explaining to do. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

21 thoughts on “I Want My Sons to Know How to Love the Women in Their Lives

  1. Oh God. I wish the dads of my 12-year old daughter’s boy classmates were half as conscientious as you about educating their wards about sexuality and gender stuff. My daughter and her girl friends have such obnoxious little pricks in their class. Sometimes I feel like gathering the boys around and teaching them on how to treat girls. No, I am not even going as far as opening doors for them, just stop saying things like “you girls are idiots”.

    I live in India, by the way, so I am not exaggerating when I say, boys are clueless about anything to do with girls. One of the boys believe that saying vows in the marriage makes the woman pregnant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to say, I think the flippant attitude that social media gives our kids makes the problem even worse. We’re losing our sensitivity chip in general. Combine that with parents who seem to be just as confused — or flippant — as their teens are about the way they communicate, and the end result is a real disconnect. I have two daughters (15 and 21), and I think about what they have to deal with. It makes me feel obligated as a father, and a man, to do what I can to make their lives better — and in so doing, improving the lives of my sons just as much 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Although I’m not a parent and I’m a 16 year old girl, you really opened my mind up to the true meaning of partnership as well as parenthood. Its a blessing to know that not all guys in the future will go to believe the stereotypical idea of intimacy being just physical. Thank you for sharing such a powerful and personal thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know this had an impact on you and understanding how you should be treated by someone who cares. I think the sooner young woman begin to believe they deserve that kind of respect and appreciation, the better their chances of avoiding relationships they will regret.

      Thanks so much for reading, and for your wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ned, reading this touched me. I appreciate your openness and I am so happy you spoke out on this issue. I know a lot of men need to grow in this area but I am also aware that there are a lot of good men out there. To me, it’s a two way thing–men will see women how they are taught (or not taught) but it is also up to the women to allow and reinforce good or bad behavior directed towards them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Katrina, and you’re so right about it being a two-way street. Women need to feel that they deserve to be treated well, which is an important factor in setting the standard we all need to have for loving one another and bring out the best in each other.


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