Dads, Sons and “The Talk”

Dad’s giving their sons “The Talk” are often moments of extreme discomfort and hilarity – here is one such case…

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See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World

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One of the more interesting, and often humorous, rites of passage as a Dad is having the “talk” with their sons about “The Birds and the Bees”. Thankfully, the one I had with my son was so different than what my dad agonizingly stumbled through. I can just imagine a book that compiled all the various stories of how this most common, yet dreaded, passing of feral wisdom from father to son transpires. Kind of like a “Chicken Soup for the ‘Do I really have to do this?’ Dad’s Soul.

To get started, I will share here how my dad thought everything was covered with our talk only to be surprised I actually learned a great deal more in sex-ed class.

We Never Talk About “Down There”

I was raised in a strict Catholic family, one of eight siblings which was four less than what my parents hoped for. The four that got away (or never arrived, however you want to look at it) were the lucky ones. Our family environment, especially under the influence of the church, was pretty insane.

For starters, we *never* talked about sex. Hell, I hadn’t even heard the word until my later grammar school years. We all knew that anything having to do with “down there” was bad, we just weren’t sure why. To say that we were sexually ignorant is putting it mildly. And my dad, well, apparently he had a strong libido (eight kids remember) that caused him a great deal of distress in that it’s a sin and all. He hated to even think about it.

I remember as a young adult in my 20’s asking my mom why dad was so uptight about sex. She said that “ignorance is bliss” and that they had sex “out of love!” so they could have us kids. The way she said it made it sound like it was the most painful, god-awful thing two people could do together –kind of like performing a mutual Brazilian wax job.

This was the sexually clueless context in which my siblings and I were raised. However, no matter how distasteful my dad looked upon his job to inform me about the ways of the world, he was never one to shirk his duty. Unfortunately…

“Let’s Go Hunting”

My dad loved hunting and fishing. It was his escape from the craziness of the family and the stress of running a business. Occasionally he would bring me along even though he knew it was not one of my favorite things to do. On one such trip, I must have been 13 or so, we were driving along this country road and somehow I just knew he was gearing up for “the talk”. I absolutely cringed at the thought and the deep embarrassment / dread he must have been feeling.

Sure enough, my dad starts talking – which in itself was unusual because he never talked much. In any case I was fully braced for what was to come next –or so I thought. He starts out by saying (and I swear this is true): “You know how guys kick other guys in the balls on the playground?” After a few seconds of numbed silence I return a long drawn out “Yea..h?” as much a question as it was an affirmation. He then goes on to say: “Well, there you go!” At this point my mind is going “WTF!?” (and I didn’t even know what the “F” stood for in “WTF”) yet also very relieved that this whole awkward mess was over and we could both just go back to staring straight ahead at the road in dead silence. The only problem was, I was just as clueless as ever and maybe even a bit more confused about sex.

So THAT’s How It’s Done

Several months after that joyful and highly enlightening ride into the country with my dad, I entered into a Catholic (naturally) high school. I broke a long family tradition by not going to the all-boys prep school my Dad and three other brothers attended. Instead I choose a brand new school that just opened, for no better reason than girls could attend as well.

One day during the first quarter of my freshman year I entered into what I thought was going to be just another religion class. However, once again I knew, not sure how, that this one was going to be about “that”! Oh God, how embarrassing. Especially when you have the share the experience with a roomful of other not-quite-as-clueless other schmucks and a couple of religious brothers who were about to teach us this stuff –how the hell did THEY learn about this? Wasn’t it against church law or something for them to even think, much less discuss this most forbidden of all topics?

As the filmstrip played (remember those? This was 1966 after all) my jaw dropped, my brain froze and my eyes bulged in horror. OMG! THAT’s how it’s done!?!?!? In the space of just 30 minutes I went from not having a clue how things worked sexually speaking to having a reasonable idea as to how babies were made. Though, to be honest, the way it was presented still didn’t look like the fun everyone seemed to infer.

For the next few months I basked in my new found secret knowledge of sex. I felt at least part of the human race that actually knew about such things, even though still had not the opportunity to experience it directly for myself. However, I kept this new awareness away from my dad, just waiting for the right time and place to share these new insights (hey, he might even learn something from me – one never knows…)

“Let’s Play Tennis”

Tennis was one of the activities we both genuinely enjoyed doing together. I had a fairly decent serve (very fast, not terribly consistent keeping it in bounds) for which my dad would praise me – something I hungered for much of the time growing up. So as the Upstate NY Spring came into full swing my dad and I set out to play a few sets.

While waiting for the court to open up I decided to risk casually mentioning to my dad that I learned what intercourse was. Continuing to look straight ahead at the other players finishing up he says: “I thought we already covered that.” Oh boy. I had nothing in terms of a come back to that one. Keep in mind that my dad was a big man and was not afraid to impose his size and strength to get a point across or pound some respect into you. So, I did the smart survival thing and simply kept my mouth shut and nodded slightly as I also looked straight ahead hoping those other players would hurry the fuck up so we can end this yet another awkward moment.

Sex, Sex, Sex Everywhere, Let’s Just Not Talk About It

We live in a very hyper-sexed up American culture where it is displayed, implied or shown nearly everywhere and in every media. Yet, when it comes to actually discussing it candidly and authentically, there is still a great deal of reluctance and more than just a hint of shame even today.

Fortunately I think this situation is beginning to change, if ever so slowly. And the best way to break this cycle is to simply talk about it and not make it such a big deal.

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About the Author

MichaelJRusser_FORUM_LEADERMichael is a prostate cancer survivor who was left completely impotent as a result of his treatments. Yet, it was because of his impotence that he and his partner discovered an entirely new approach to emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy that far exceeds anything either experienced prior to when things were working “correctly.” His mission is to help men, women and couples everywhere to achieve extraordinary intimacy on all levels.

He is an international speaker, author and thought leader on the issues of human connection and intimacy. He also speaks pro-bono to Cancer Support Centers and Gilda’s Clubs around the U.S. for cancer survivors and their partners about regaining intimacy in the face of cancer. Go to to explore the possibility of having Michael speak at your next event.

Michael is also a champion of the nonprofit men’s work being done by the ManKind Project ( He completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 2012.

iTunes:             Podcast: Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Disconnected World
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