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'Wise Guys' Program Teaches Boys Teen Pregnancy Prevention

A sexual education program from the Children's Home Society of North Carolina is targeting adolescent boys to prevent teen pregnancy. The Wise Guys program teaches boys between the ages of 12 to 18 about abstinence, contraception and healthy relationships.

Ted Sikes has taught the program for about 15 years. He says pregnancy prevention programs too often overlook boys and historically have focused on young women as the gatekeepers when it comes to sex.

"There's a disservice being done, not only to teen girls, but also to teen guys," Sikes said. "There's an assumption that they don't need this information, when they really do want it."

Wise Guys reaches more than five thousand teens in North Carolina and is now expanding to locations across the country.

The Wise Guys 12-week program travels to schools and community centers, and sometimes even meets with sports leagues and faith groups. Participants meet once a week to cover topics related to sexual health and relationships. Sikes says Wise Guys covers much more than condom use.

"We try to help guys really see what healthy masculinity looks like, that equality between men and women is important, and that they can have much healthier, valuable relationships that way," he said.

The program teaches teen boys how to negotiate better decisions with their partners -- whether that's about waiting to have sex or what kind of contraception to use.

The program is rare for its focus on teenage boys, and Sikes hopes that approach will spread. Teen pregnancy is on the decline nationally, and in North Carolina, it's at an all-time low. Sikes thinks talking to teen boys about sexuality and responsible decision-making can contribute to that trend.

"We think that guys are an important part of the solution to teen pregnancy," Sikes said. "Since it takes two people to have sex and have a baby, we think guys need to man up, and make better choices. And they want to make better choices, they just need the information and the skills."

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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