It is no secret that our society does a miserable job of providing good sex education. While it doesn’t seem to get as much attention, it also doesn’t do well at teach adolescents some of the most basic interpersonal skill surrounding dating and relationships. That leaves adolescents to try to navigate those areas by learning from friends, movies, television, and other indirect and unreliable sources full of misinformation and mixed messages. What books there are out there tend to be written for either girls or both boys and girls. That leaves boys without a resource specifically for them.
Thankfully, Andrew P. Smiler, PhD is addressing that in his new book Dating And Sex – A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy. That’s an ambitious topic and Smiler does an excellent job of breaking it down into manageable pieces ranging all the way from how to know if you like someone to making decisions about being sexual.
Given the scope of issues addressed in the book it isn’t by any means a comprehensive guide to any one area. However, what it does do is give a very thoughtful presentation of the basic concepts and questions that are most relevant to a teen boy. Given that the target audience is boys 12 – 15 years old that’s exactly what it should do. The book provides a lot of great information. Equally importantly it plants the seeds that there are many factors that need to be considered and thought about beyond what many teens might realize. It provides the basis for teens to think about and seek out more information in those areas.
I appreciate that Smiler takes a very holistic view. He covers more than just the technical steps such as asking someone out, but also thinking about how a relationship my impact your friendships, considering the impact of gender stereotypes, and the role technology plays in both dating and sex. He presents a very broad view of sex that counters the problematic societal norm of sex being a goal oriented activity that only includes intercourse. The book goes a long way towards raising awareness that many of our societal norms and expectations fall short around topics such as masculinity, gender roles and stereotypes, being respectful, sexual identity, and sexual orientation. He even tackles tough topics like sexual assault.
The book includes some questions and fun diagrams to help the reader understand and make decisions for themselves. I appreciated that Smiler acknowledged that some issues such as religious conflicts, or a more in-depth discussion of them, are outside of the scope of the book and suggest that the reader should seek other resources to address them.
I know the book is aimed at teen boys. It is written in a style that is easy to read and makes good us of humor. I’ll be curious to see if teen boys are really open to picking up this book and reading it. I keep trying to decide if I would have and honestly I’m not sure. I suspect I wouldn’t have sought it out at the library (I’m too old for Amazon to have been an option!). However, my mom was a librarian and had the habit of bringing books home to sit around the house. I very well might have picked it up then. I suspect that this book may make it into the hands of teen boys in indirect ways!
This book will benefit more than just teen boys. As a therapist that works with adolescents boys I found the book incredibly helpful. It provides not only a wide range of topics to remember, but also frames things in ways that will resonate with teens. I can easily see using the book to support the work I do in therapy.
Parents will also benefit from reading this book. It will help them consider all of the different issues that teens may be concerned about or may not even know about. I often see parents have trouble remembering that their teen is not an adult. This book can help to shape a parent’s approach to their teen. Besides, if you leave it laying around, who knows who will pick it up and read it!
All in all an excellent resource for teen boys and anyone helping them through their complicated teen years.