Ep. 68: What You Don’t Know About Teen Hook-up Culture

Ep. 68: What You Don’t Know About Teen Hook-up Culture

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Episode Summary

Peggy Orenstein, author of Boys & Sex, a current New York Times Bestseller (as well as several other bestsellers!), joins Andy for an in-depth conversation about the culture of sex, intimacy, and relationships that teens are facing and which conversations are crucial to have with your teens – despite how awkward it may be!

Full Show Notes

Teen hookup culture is dangerous. And while most parents are aware of how scary and confusing it is for girls, society at large is neglecting half of the participants: boys.

Despite what culture norms say generally about boys, young men have feelings too. Unfortunately, media and male role models are rarely depicted as anything but macho, “strong,” assertive, and sexually dominant. While parents may encourage their girls to play sports and stand up for themselves, it is still taboo to encourage a teen boy to dance, craft, or be vulnerable. (Unless of course the teen boy is openly gay, in which case doing “feminine” things is more accepted.)

But sending messages, overt or subliminal, about how teen boys are “supposed” to be, hurts not only the boys, but the girls they will interact with.

This week New York Times bestselling author, Peggy Orenstein, joins me for a candid discussion about teens, hookup culture, and her latest book, Boys & Sex. Boys & Sex follows on the heels of Orenstein’s second foray into teen hookup culture from the female side, Girls & Sex (the first being the ground-breaking and bestselling Schoolgirls 20 years earlier in 1995).

As it turns out, the boys are as equally confounded as their female peers when it comes to sex, intimacy, and relationships. Almost all the information we give teens about sex is risk-based; that is, we tell our teens all the “bad” things that might happen, such as diseases, sexual assault, rape, pregnancy, and skip out on everything else.

When we forget to (or purposely leave out) talking to our teens about what healthy, normal, intimate relationships look like, we are letting everyone else decide for them.  The media, magazines, YA fiction, Netflix, and Hollywood (not to mention the pornography industry) decide “roles” for our teen girls and boys to play. Is it any wonder that young people, afraid of intimacy, lubricate their sexual interactions with alcohol?

Peggy and I discuss how we got here and what parents and educators can do to make things better. We cover:

  • What’s missing in our talks with teen’s about sex
  • How teen boys locker room talk feeds into hookup culture
  • Why it’s so hard for boys to stand up against other boys’ bad behavior
  • The big disconnect between girls acting “sexy” before truly understanding what sexy means

Peggy is a wealth of knowledge and I was blown away by her body of work on gender, women, and the landscape of teenage sex. Her insights are sometimes funny, sometimes disheartening…but they are always powerful!

The 24-minute public version is free to listen to, and the 45-minute extended version, packed with extra goodies, is reserved for site members. Log in or start a free trial to access everything our site has to offer!

Workbook Exercises

Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview

1. Your Teen’s Future Boyfriend/Girlfriend :

In my interview with Peggy Orenstein, author of several NYT bestsellers including Boys & Sex and Girls & Sex, she addressed the fact that most education around sex and relationships for boys and girls focuses purely on risks: STDs, infections, sexual assault, rape, and (unwanted) pregnancy. While the conversations to young adults about sex are including consent more and more, we still have a long way to go.

One thing that teens and tweens are left to learn on their own is what to value in a romantic partner. Sure we may talk to them about friends, but it’s rare that as parents we speak directly to our teens about what sort of qualities they might want to look for in a romantic partner.

Set aside time to share a meal with your teen(s) and have a discussion together about what their ideal romantic partner would be like. Ideally you can do this exercise alongside your teen by listing qualities you looked or look for when seeking out your own romantic partner(s). Aim for ten traits. Try to steer your teen away from physical descriptors like “hot” or “tall” or “blonde” and focus on character traits and values, such as “shares similar interests” or “takes good care of their health.”

Use your teen’s list to ask why those traits are important to them and have them ask about the traits you chose as well. Use this exercise to start a conversation about what loving, mutually-respecting relationships might look like. You can also help correct any false beliefs your teen may have about romantic relationships. For example if they want “someone who will just do whatever I tell them to do” you can tease that out more, asking what they mean by that and if their closest friendships or family members follow that pattern.

2.  Get Your Teen a Sex Ed Mentor:

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3.  Consider the Sleepover:

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About Peggy Orenstein

Peggy Orenstein has been a writer for decades. She has now seven books to her name, including Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Don’t Call Me Princess, Waiting for Daisy, Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World, and the seminal Schoolgirls. Her latest book, Boys & Sex, is a current New York Times Bestseller.

Credits for Peggy include being a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, as well as The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Additionally, her writing has appeared in Vogue, Elle, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker, to name a few, and Peggy has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, the PBS News Hour, and the TED Talk stage.

Peggy and her husband are long time residents of Berkeley, California where they are doing their best to raise a teen daughter of their own in an ever-evolving world.

Want More Peggy Orenstein?

You can find Peggy on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or catch her in-person on her book tour or take a peek at her TED Talk.