Contrary to popular belief, a significant study shows that teenage boys are not looking for sex but intimate and meaningful relationships with the opposite sex.
"Prevailing values in our culture suggest adolescent males want sex, not relationships. However, values and behaviours related to sex and relationships are likely more complex than typically portrayed," explained David Bell, an assistant professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
"In fact, very few of the participants described sex as the main goal of opposite-sex interactions and relationships," Bell added.
The researchers studied 33 males aged 14 to 16 to learn more about how their romantic and sexual relationships developed, progressed and ended.
Participants were asked questions about relationships and sex such as desirable partner characteristics, intimacy, closeness and trust.
The study advances an understanding of adolescent males' early relationships in two significant ways.
First, close relationships were important to the participants. Second, they desired intimate and caring relationships, expressed vulnerability and dependence and placed great importance on trust in relationships, researchers found.
A few participants described trying to trick or talk a partner into having sex and a few evidenced pride and boastfulness about numbers of sexual conquests.
An area of vulnerability was the lack of knowledge about sex and concerns about their own capacity to sexually perform, researchers observed.
"These findings starkly contrast with the belief that relationships should be focused around sex, an avoidance of intimacy and the treatment of females as sex objects," Bell noted in a paper published online in the American Journal of Men's Health.