Teaching boys to act like responsible men
Young men aren’t usually associated with family planning centers, such as Planned Parenthood, where outreach is commonly targeted at women and girls.
But a new focus on male responsibility and awareness is changing that.
Nearly 60 young men from North Tahoe High School, Sierra High School and the Community Court school participated in Planned Parenthood’s Male Involvement Program this week.
The comprehensive sex and behavioral education program, funded by the Placer County Office of Education, focuses on the role of men in the prevention of unintended fatherhood and perpetuation of gender roles in society.
“We have a support group for teen moms, we have a support group for middle school girls, but that’s only part of it,” said Danielle Ress, the Reno/Tahoe program manger for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. “You can’t just put all of the responsibility on the girls. Part of it is making sure that our young men are educated as well.”
The outreach program, which originated five years ago in Reno high schools, targets at-risk male youth and focuses on 10 core lessons that include reproductive anatomy, understanding gender roles, myths about pregnancy and facts about sexually transmitted diseases.
“We talk about what it means to be a man, about breaking down gender stereotypes, and the difference between being a biological father and being a dad,” Ress said. “And we talk about the role of the media and popular culture and how it affects their ideas about sexuality.”
Many of the participants reacted positively to the opportunity to converse and learn in a single-sex environment of their peers, noting that the addition of females in the classroom often means that relevant questions and anecdotes aren’t shared.
“Separating the boys made it more comfortable,” said Patrick Love, a junior at Sierra High. “We talked about abuse toward women. It makes us realize our role; that we have to do our part. Women’s shouldn’t be the only ones responsible.”
But understanding their roles in sexual relationships was only half the equation. A large part of the program also focused on young men’s roles in society and the curve balls often thrown at them by popular culture.
“We watched a movie ” “Tough Guise” ” about the way the media tells a man how to act. It made you realize that subconsciously we are trying to act tough for society.”
MIP graduates are encouraged to apply for the Nevada County Teen Advocates Program, a Truckee resource through which teens educate their peers and the community about healthy relationships and sexual awareness.