...When we interview adolescents or undergrads, the girls really have the impression that guys are just interested in sex, that they’re not interested in relationships. What we know is that most guys do get into relationships, they enjoy relationships, they do a lot of things in relationships that are not about sex and they’re not doing them just to put up with them in order to get sex. Guys get something out of relationships; they like relationships. If you add in the fact that average age of first marriage is something like 28 for guys, a lot of guys have the sense that this girl they’re starting to date at 17 or 19 or 21 probably isn’t going to be the one — and yet they are choosing to date. They could easily choose to just hook up — or instead of spending that money in a bar you could get a prostitute — but they’re consistently choosing to be in relationships.NYT: Inside the Mind of the Boy Dating Your Daughter
...One of the ways it impacts girls and women is they get the wrong proportions. They’re told that most guys, if not all guys, just want sex, that they don’t want relationships. So we have a lot of stories and evidence that girls are putting their bodies out there and doing things sexually in order to entice guys into relationships. We’re giving girls the wrong percentages which makes them perhaps behave in ways in which they wouldn’t behave otherwise — starting your contact with somebody sexually instead of relationally, for example. [Some have argued] that because we give girls this image of boys, girls are taught to not attend to their own desires and own sexual wants. So girls’ whole sexuality is really about both enticing desires from boys and also controlling that desire. That introduces some real issues around duplicity and intention. We’re not doing girls any favors here either.
The stereotype of the 16-year-old boy is that he has sex on the brain. But a fascinating new report suggests that boys are motivated more by love and a desire to form real relationships with the girls they date.NYT: follow-up to "Inside the Mind of the Boy Dating Your Daughter"
Researchers said the findings show that teenage boys really are motivated by love and a desire for meaningful relationships. But many people still don’t buy it, including, it seems, many former teenage boys... Such skepticism about boys in their teens isn’t surprising, say researchers, but it reveals more about what’s going on in the minds of adults, than of teenagers.*Smiler on HuffPo: Why So Bleak?
...None of this is to say that teen boys aren’t interested in sex. Of course they are. But adolescence can often be a lonely time, and for many boys, girls represent needed companionship, Dr. Thompson said. “Many boys are yearning to talk to somebody, but they can’t talk to their boy friends because it’s all teasing and a lot of competitiveness,” he said. “For many boys who have been a little bit lonely in the boy group, finally meeting a girl and talking to her is a huge relief.”
But the widespread skepticism about teenage boys is worrisome, some psychologists say, because it may mean that boys ultimately will fulfill our low expectations of them.
What we're missing is an understanding of why relationships are a mess. The answer is both simple and complex: we give young people very little guidance in developing healthy relationships. In common culture -- the world of the media and popular Internet content -- we get a very singular depiction of a good couple, or at least good courting, in a million variations. He makes the moves, she guides the relationship and they eventually get married and live happily ever after. Yes, there are misunderstandings and the couple almost -- or does -- break up before they come to their senses. That realization is accompanied by an (often grand) apology, acknowledgement of misunderstanding or fear and the couple lives happily ever after.*Smiler on The Good Men Project: Are We Afraid of Men in Love?
In most segments of common culture, the work it takes for couples to stay together is invisible. We don't really see the efforts to identify one's own wants and the difficulty in balancing one's own needs with a partner's needs. We rarely see crises whose resolution requires more than an episode or two, and certainly not the same problem occurring over and over. We never see the resentment that builds up when one person always puts their partner first and rarely, if ever, gets their own needs met.
The places where that content appears with some regularity are aimed squarely at girls and women... So what's the message? Girls talk about relationships, almost exclusively with other girls or women. Boys get to figure it out for themselves. As a result, boys and girls have very different levels of knowledge about relationship dynamics. It's no surprise some people think they're from different planets!
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