For all the progress that’s come from the #MeToo movement, there’s also been some significant backlash—specifically, men reporting feeling “scared” to interact with women for fear of crossing boundaries. In fact, according to a 2018 survey out of the University of Houston, 22 percent of men and 44 percent of women predicted that, in the post-#MeToo era, men would be more apt to exclude women from social interactions, such as after-work drinks, and nearly one in three men thought they would be reluctant to have a one-on-one meeting with a woman.
A new book by Peggy Orenstein, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent and Navigating the New Masculinity, says that now is the time to turn a critical eye on how we’ve historically raised boys and how to teach boys to be compassionate, responsible men.
For this follow-up to 2016’s Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, Orenstein spent two years interviewing more than a hundred college and college-bound boys and young men of diverse backgrounds between the ages of 16 and 22 on everything from “locker room talk” and hookup culture to consent and porn. She found that, for girls, the main issue is that they’re being cut off from their bodies and not understanding their needs, limits and desires. On the flip side, boys are being cut off from their hearts, leading to a kind of emotional stunting.
Particularly interesting are her findings on what she calls the “historically unprecedented” availability, and watching, of porn. Because of how reluctant parents are to have frank conversations about sex with their sons, coupled with how readily available porn has become, Orenstein says that boys are getting a distorted vision of what human sexuality is. One young black man, for example, admits to having a hard time having sex with his curvy black girlfriend because she doesn’t look like the skinny white women he sees in porn.