LETTER: Young Men – Take Care of Yourselves, Others


Guys, I know you’re bombarded all the time with messages about what it means to be a “real” man, messages like “don’t show weakness” and “don’t ask for help,” particularly when it comes to your health. These messages can be confusing and make it difficult to know how to take care of yourself, especially when it comes to sexual health.

It’s unfortunate, but many young people in school aren’t taught comprehensive sexuality education that is unbiased, medically accurate and age appropriate. As a sexuality educator, who also happens to be a man, I know very intimately the dangers of not providing young men with the information they need to keep themselves and their partners safe and healthy.

In the spirit of Men’s Health Week, let’s put aside all “real” man talk and instead focus on what it means to be a healthy man. The truth is, not enough of us get the checkups and preventive care we need. If you’re sexually active getting tested for sexually transmitted infections is a basic part of staying healthy, regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or the type of sex you’re having. Knowing your status is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and take control of your sex life.

Healthy relationships are also part of a healthy lifestyle. Open, honest communication between partners is necessary to ensure sex is safe and mutually consensual. This means checking in verbally with your partner before and throughout any sexual activity to make sure they absolutely want to continue.

Silence is not consent. Saying “I don’t know” is not consent. Being pressured or manipulated into doing something is not consent. The bottom line is that all sex should be wanted sex. So if a person is drunk, high, passed out, or asleep, it’s not okay to do anything sexual with them — that is sexual assault. Talking about things like STI testing or sexual consent can be overwhelming, and there’s so much false information in the media and on the internet. That’s what makes the health care providers and educators at Planned Parenthood so invaluable – we’re here to serve as a trusted adult or a source of information about leading a healthy life. And, I promise, you won’t get any “real” man talk from us.


Timothy Katz
Get Real Educator

(Get Real is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum for middle and high school students.)

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