Review: Boys & Sex by Peggy Orenstein


Title: Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hook-ups, Love, Porn, Consent and Navigating the New Masculinity

Author: Peggy Orenstein

Published: July 1st 2020, Profile Books

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Allen and Unwin


My Thoughts:

Negotiating sexuality and relationships today is arguably more complicated than when I was teenager and as the mother of two teenage boys (and girls) I hoped Boys & Sex might provide me with some insights into areas I may have not considered as part of my discussions with them.

The ‘sex talk’ has never been a single conversation in our house, it’s been the subject of casual discourse over the years as they’ve grown, often initiated as the result of news stories, gossip, or issues faced by their peers. We’ve talked about most of the topics explored in this book, though I’ve learnt from Orenstein via the young men that she interviews, that I can do more.

Thankfully my sons are surrounded by good role models, but one of the most significant takeaways for me from the book is that my boys need the men in their life, particularly their father, to better verbalise their experience, opinions and feelings about relationships, sex and masculinity. Despite my best intentions, it will be the other men with whom they connect that will significantly shape their response to the situations raised in Boys & Sex, and my empathy is not a substitute for their shared experience.

I do feel Orenstein’s sampling for her research was quite small (100 young men), and very USA-centric, which meant for me there were elements I didn’t find directly relevant. Racial issues and the experience of college/university life differs here for example, also a Personal Development, Health, and Physical Education syllabus from years K-10 is compulsory in all public schools in Australia. In general this is a medically accurate, current, and inclusive program that explores physical, social and emotional aspects of sexuality in some detail (that abstinence-only is still a feature in any modern day curriculum is absurd). That said I do prefer the anecdotal approach Orenstein has taken, as scientific methodology tends to lack urgency and nuance.

I would recommend Boys & Sex to parents, and suggest it be shared and discussed with teens of both sexes, as both will benefit from the information. An extensive bibliography provides additional resources to ensure we raise “…our boys to be the men we know they can become.”


Available from Allen & Unwin Australia RRP. AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out

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