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Sex talk set out the facts

It was just a group of guys sitting around talking, and, as often happens in such a setting, the topic was sex.

They talked about girls and guys, how they differ but also how alike they really are.

This time, however, there were no sexist remarks, no exaggerations of sexual prowess, no witty names for body parts.

Instead, for about two hours last Monday night, five fathers and their preteen sons sat in a Seven Rivers Community Hospital meeting room and learned about the birds and the bees from an expert: Dr. Steven A. Roth, OB-GYN.

The event, called a Father/Son Talk, was a first for the hospital, which has had similar sessions for young women and their mothers.

The aim was to give the young men a lesson in sex, but not the bump-and-grind variety. Roth used his medical expertise to talk, in plain language, about everything from chromosomes, conception and contractions to premature births, hormones and puberty.

As promised, Roth used correct names for body parts and explained in clinical terms the role each plays in the creation of life.

The main point of the discussion, repeatedly stressed, was that the boys should ignore the wild tales from their buddies on the school bus and learn the facts. Roth laid them out and encouraged the boys to go to their dads _ not their know-nothing friends _ for more details.

"When you guys get together with your friends and talk about girls, your friends won't know what they're talking about," he said. "But you will."

Using a chalkboard and even a book of "pop-up" illustrations, Roth explained the reproduction process. But he stopped short of detailing the mechanics of the sex act, referring the boys to their parents for that chapter.

The dads were happy to have an expert confirm to their sons things that some of them already had discussed. "It's one thing to hear it from their parents, but it's good to have it supported by a professional," said Tas Pepito, who attended with his son, Troy, 13.

"This way, they know we're telling the truth, and maybe they won't be afraid to come to us with questions."

It was tough to gauge just how much the boys absorbed. However, if their surprisingly good questions (How are twins made? Has anyone ever been awake when they had a Caesarean section done? What do pimples have to do with puberty?) and the absence of snickering and elbows to the ribs is any indication, the lessons sank in.

The fathers seemed to get as much from the talk as their sons did. When Roth concluded his presentation, sat on a stool and began simply chatting, the dads perked up.

They talked about the changing times, how their sons today are being forced by peer pressure and modern culture to become aware of sex at increasingly younger ages.

"I hate to see my two boys being dragged into adulthood too quickly," Roth said, and the men nodded in agreement.

One man noted how he was blissfully unaware of the sexual revolution until he reached college. "It was kind of nice being naive," Roth agreed. "That's almost impossible anymore. We can guide them and give them facts, but we can't shelter them."

Roth pointed out to the boys that the reason they were in the room that night was that their fathers cared enough about them to make sure they learned early and accurately about an important topic like sex.

Several fathers said they had already had one-on-one talks with their boys about sex, a rarity in that so many father-son chats are a series of grunts and shrugs that generally focus on sports.

Pepito explained how he took his son for a ride to Ocala a few months back to have The Talk. "I wanted to find out what he already knew and to make sure he had it correct," he said. Troy said he appreciated his dad's concern, adding that they have a pretty open relationship.

As the meeting broke up, I felt a tinge of jealousy toward these kids. They just had with their fathers something I never had with mine, a chance to have an open, man-to-man talk on a serious subject. The few times my dad was sober enough to hold a coherent conversation he was either in the drunk tank or a rehab clinic, settings hardly conducive to deep father-son talks.

I hope when the time comes for me to have this talk with my boys, we can do it in a mature manner _ in a room with other guys and a straight-talking doctor armed with a blackboard and chalk.