Why are boys holding onto themselves?

If you work with young people or observe young people in the public you may have noticed that boys seem to be holding onto themselves. Boys wearing tracksuit bottoms can be observed with their hands down their trousers holding onto their manhood, caressing their testicles or keeping there penis warm. I’m not really sure what they are doing, I haven’t examined them that closely!! My immediate reactions to this act has sometimes been one of disgust or of accusing them of being immature. But I have been wondering if this is a physical demonstration of an emotional neediness. I thought I would test out some of my reflections on you unsuspecting people.

Firstly I believe that boys in our culture are in trouble. They often appear lost left to their own devices with few boundaries. Fathers are often physically absent and nearly always emotionally absent and many boys have lacked any appropriate fathering. They haven’t experienced appropriate affection from a male, hardly any encouragement, little direction, and generally lacked any appropriate physical touch by another male. This has left the boys and men out of touch with their bodies and emotions.

Teenagers are struggling to know what it is to be a boy yet they are desperate to be seen as a man and yet the males in their lives even though they are adults are often still boys psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. In our present society I believe boys are lost and have few bearings and when this happens one can return to infantile instincts. One of theses instincts is to play with the body. I have two little boys and they love fiddling with their willy, pulling it, bending it and generally playing with it – it is great fun – although I get a little worried sometimes !! Children are experts at putting their fingers up their noses and will often comfort themselves by putting their fingers/ thumbs in their mouth.

Boys are finding it tough to grow up. Moving away from mum and the motherly instincts is hard but at some stage they have to make this move in order to define their maleness. If no appropriate male is present then emotionally boys can struggle for identity trying to define who they are in the midst of a vacumn.

If a man is not there to model manhood or to tell teenage boys who they are then perhaps the boys have to literally remind themselves who they are. The boys will literally physically and emotionally be holding onto themselves. With few emotional or physical boundaries they see no shame or embarrassment about this public act.

I believe it is quite common for boys / men when they are feeling low or down to start playing with their penis moving to masturbation and the exhilaration of the climax. The penis is a symbol for power and reminds us that even when things are going wrong we can still summon up some manly power and release an energetic life-force.

However I don’t think boys with their hands down their trousers are seeking to exhibit their power or perform an intimate act but I think they are actually comforting themselves. The testicles are the most vulnerable part of the man, and whilst the penis may speak of power and energy the testicles speak of tenderness, almost the feminine physical part of man, the part that we protect, perhaps emotionally reminding us of our inner neediness.

Perhaps boys are holding onto themselves to remind them of their masculinity, to help them feel more secure in who they are as a person and as a male. Perhaps this self-comforting is a physical cry for attention…..

4 thoughts on “Why are boys holding onto themselves?

  1. Does this relate at all to the ‘Michael Jackson clutching of groin’ phenomena? I recall quite a sea-change when Mr Jackson started doing that – previously it had seemed like the last thing anyone would want to do, then it became almost trendy.

  2. Mark, I think Michael jackson had an impact as did some rap artists with their aggressive sexual groin grabbing and explicit lyrics. Is it more then a stage act, a dance routine or is it something deeper. Maybe they are bringing attention to what they perceive to be their male sexual power, but perhaps they are actually highlighting their sense of powerlessness, hence holding onto their manhood.

  3. I wonder if there is an issue of control which is sometimes linked this point
    “I believe it is quite common for boys / men when they are feeling low or down to start playing with their penis moving to masturbation and the exhilaration of the climax. ”

    Masturbation could be an area to exhibit control and I wonder about the link to this and lack of control young men have in public space (with CCTV negative sterotyping) and in other spaces with mixed messages about what constitutes a man, and questions around power. I also wonder if it a more urban issue as whilst I definatly noticed it in more urban settings it does seem less prelevant in rural areas.

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