Reaching Boys and Young Men with STI Prevention Messages
REACHING BOYS AND YOUNG MEN WITH STI PREVENTION MESSAGES Wayne V. Pawlowski , LICSW, AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator National Chlamydia Coalition February 20, 2013
BE AWARE: I Am Going To Be Speaking In Generalities!► So, when I say “WE,” I do NOT mean every one of us individually…► I do mean “OUR FIELD” in general : reproductive health, family planning, and STI prevention.► So, don’t take my comments “personally” (individually)…but,► DO take them as a view…a perception… of our field/our work world.
And remember, It is the perception that informs/influences how guys view/see us.And how they will respond to our outreach/messages.
Five IncredibleSources Of Information/Insight About Boys and Young Men:► MARS Program, Benton County, OR M ale A dvocates for R esponsible S exuality Brian Dekker and Andy Chuinard► And,► William Pollock: Author of Real Boys and Real Boys Voices► And, ABC’s 20-20 : The Secret Life of Boys (video),► And,► Michael Gurian: Author of the Wonder of Boys► And,► Michael Thompson: Author of the book and video Raising Cain
Plus #6: My own 30 years of experience in reproductive health/ family planning/ STI-HIV prevention/ sexuality education working with bothmen and women/boys and girls.
Typically The Question , “How Can We More Effectively Reach Boys and Young Men?” Means:► What do we need to know about them…► So we can get them into our clinics/health centers/programs…► So we can get them tested (and treated) … So we can get them to stop infecting their partners and behaving badly.
I Suggest To You What That Means Is:► We really don’t like guys very much.► We see them as irresponsible “foreigners” with whom we and our female patients/clients cannot communicate.► We really only want to “serve” them as a way of protecting their female partners.► We really aren’t all that interested in THEM and THEIR concerns, needs and/or issues.► And, at some level, boys/young men know and/or feel all of this.
Lets start with what I mean when I say: “ We don’t like guys very much.” Or, To put it another way:Lets look at how we REALLY feel about males?What are our real attitudes about them?
When I “Listen To” Our Field, What I Hear Is That We Believe Men Are:► Uninterested in STI prevention and family planning,► Unconcerned about the things they “should” be concerned about,► Uninvolved,► Irresponsible,► Unwilling and uninterested in communicating about relationships,► UNTRUSTWORTHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If we are going to have anysuccess in reaching out to boys and young men, we will HAVE TO deal with these attitudes and beliefs.We are going to have to reframe our thinking and begin to see boys and young men in new/different ways.
We Are Going To Have To GoWith The Premise (Assume) That Most Of Them Really Are:► Interested !► Concerned !!► Responsible !!!► And, if they appear not to be, they really do want to be !!!!► Involved…even if not in the way(s) we think they should be !!!!!► And,► TRUSTWORTHY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And, We Need To Recognize That Boys And Young Men:► Are curious.► Want to know about STIs (and contraception).► Do not want to infect their partners.► Want to be good/better partners.► Want to know how to talk with their partners.► Want to communicate caring and honest concerns.► Do not want to be insensitive.► Want to be good lovers.► Want to be partners/allies in STI prevention.
BUT…► They simply may not know how.► American male enculturation (how to “be a man”) gets in the way of their being in touch with feelings and/or being able to express feelings.► They are likely nervous about what they do not know…in part because they are supposed to know everything.► They fear that if they try to do/be all of these things that they will be judged… and not kindly.
Our Negative Attitudes/Beliefs About Males Show Up In:► Jokes,► Our expectations of them (what we expect is what we see/get),► Men and EC,► Posters that we hang in our clinics, and► Ad images/messages that target women.
What do I mean when I say:We only want to “serve” males so we can protect their partners; and, We aren’t really interested in them and/or their concerns, needs and issues.
In reproductive health settings, women havetraditionally been our primary clients and our primary concern. Therefore, it is notunusual for male concerns to be responded to through our concerns for women rather than directly through the concerns of men.
According To Michael Gurian The Top 5 Concerns Of Adolescent Males Are:1. Am I normal?2. Am I attractive?3. Homophobia 1. Fear being gay 2. Fear appearing to be gay4. Sexual Prowess5. Penis size
According To The MARS ProgramThe most common question malecollege freshmen asked the MARS staff was…How many guys are having sex?What’s behind that question? Am I normal? Am I like other guys? Am I a “real man?”
How Many Of These ConcernsAre We Prepared To Address…Or WANT To Address?► If these are the top concerns of young men, why are we not asking our male clients about them?► The young men who talked with MARS staff, asked about sexual prowess and being normal when they asked how many guys are having sex.► Why did they ask the MARS staff and why don’t we hear these questions (and generally we don’t)?► What are we communicating that suggests we are not approachable about these concerns?
So let’s look at some of these questions/issues/concerns and see how we tend to respond as a field.Let’s start with Gurian’s 5 th male concern: penis size .
Regarding Penis Size:Do You Know The Average Size Of An Erect Male Penis? The average erect male penis is about the same size (length) as a Starbucks Grande Coffee!!! BUT, not as thick.
… a Starbucks Grande Coffee!!!!! (…but not as thick)
And that size is 5.877 inches. The average “range”seems to be between 5.1 and 6.2 inches
And Penis Size Relates To Condom Use And Condom Use Education► Which are DIRECTLY related to STI prevention.► The Two Most Common Complains We Hear From Men About Condoms Are:► Too tight/too small/I’m too big;► Loss of feeling/don’t feel as much/like showering with a raincoat.► There Are Others But These Are The Most Common.
So How Do We Tend To Respond To These Complaints?► We blow up condoms like balloons.► We pull them over our arms.► And we say, “No one is THAT big!!!” or, “So, is size really a problem??!!”► We assume an “ego problem.”► Withloss of feeling, we respond with some version of “Well, if she’s smart, you won’t be feeling anything if you don’t wear one!”
By Assuming “I’m Too Big” Is An Ego Problem WeCompletely Miss The Point For Most Men► And, thereby we give them the message that we really are not interested in them or in their problems.► The best response/reply to “They don’t fit” is, “ Tell me when you have a problem.”
► In the absence of an ego problem, what we are most likely to hear is some versions of:► Can’tget the ring of the condom over the head of the penis.► The pressure of the ring at the base inhibits ejaculation.
If Either Of These Are A Man’s Concern…► Ourflip, “ego problem” response is a quick way to shut men down.► And to make them believe (rightly?) that we really are not interested in knowing what is going on with them.
With Loss Of Feeling…► It IS like showering with a raincoat!► You DON’T feel as much! But, that doesn’t mean men can’t or won’t use them.► We have to explore the extent of the problem they are having and then help them problem solve.► It is one thing if he loses sensation and takes a long time to cum.► It is another thing if he loses so much sensation that he can’t ejaculate at all.
To Improve Condom Educationand Condom Use, We Need to:► Behonest, direct, clear, knowledgeable , and HELPFUL.► Know how to help a man “size” his penis for condoms.► Knowabout and recommend thinner condoms.
And remember…► Condoms come in a WIDE variety of colors, textures, sizes and flavors…..► Ifyou are shopping for them yourself for the first time, the selection can be (IS!!!) overwhelming….
Remember, Appropriate HumorCan Go A Long Way In Helping To Talk With Men About Difficult Subjects► Condom manufacturers have been GREAT at using humor in their advertising.► I have NO investments in any condom manufacturers!!!!!!! So, I am NOT pushing any brand of condom!!!!!!► I am just sharing creative and fun condom ads!!!!!! I can recommend the ads not necessarily the condoms!!!!!!
LASTLY:► Letstake a look at the cover of one of the best selling men’s magazines that deals directly with men’s heath:► MEN’S HEALTH► Notethe three themes you see on each and every cover…the themes that get guys’ attention and that sell the magazine.► And,that show up on the covers of MOST men’ magazines…not just Men’s Health .
THE THREE THEMES? SEX, MUSCLES, and ABS !!! NOT STIs!!!!!!!!
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:► If we could find a way to incorporate these three themes into our outreach to boys and young men;► and then actually address their real concerns;► my bet is they would be beating our doors down to get in!!!!!!