Why Does My Son Always Have His Hands Down His Pants?

Two weeks before I gave birth to my son, I wrote a blog about how terrified I was to have a boy. It was mostly because I was terrified about how to take care of a teeny-weeny penis. But my reasoning was pretty damn simple: I don’t have a penis. So, yes, I was scared.

Immediately after the piece was published I was bombarded by dozens upon dozens of comments from people who didn’t understand my worry or couldn’t comprehend why I was disturbed (and traumatized) after seeing my nephew’s penis when he was only a couple of weeks old.  But almost every mother I talked to about having a boy laughed and agreed that baby penises are, indeed, strange looking things.

My son recently turned five and I can now admit that however rude the comments were, those people were right. It was a silly thing to worry about. Although I do still think baby penises look like something that you’d make out of Play-Doh.

Now, five years later, I’m back to thinking about boys and penises. Why? Because my son has suddenly started to swagger around the house, like a pint-size teenager, with one hand constantly down his shorts. He’s like a mini Al Bundy from the television show Married With Children.

He’s not masturbating. It’s not sexual at all. It’s just… there. I’m not sure if you’ve ever walked into a room to see your husband or boyfriend watching golf on the couch with their hand down their pants (I know I have!). Are they making sure their penis is still there? Do other women ponder the mystery of why the boys or men in our lives insist on putting their hands down their pants while chilling out?

It’s so bizarre to me, again, because I don’t walk around with a penis. I find myself saying ‘Can you get your hand out of your pants?’ in the same strict-but-lighthearted tone I ask him to pick up his toys. I don’t want him to think he’s in trouble or make a big deal out of it, because I know it’s normal and he’s not in trouble. But I’m not exactly a fan of constantly asking him to get his hands out of there.

I honestly believe my son thinks ‘Meh, there’s something dangling there and I’m going to play with it, because why the hell not?’ Or, more likely, he’s not thinking about it at all, kind of like the way I run my hands through my hair. I don’t know I’m doing it, until someone points it out. It’s just a habit. Sometimes I do joke, ‘Don’t worry Holt. It’s not going to fall off. I promise!’ But he’ s five and doesn’t seem to get my sense of humour.

After doing some research (basically asking every single one of my friends who have boys) about the mystery behind boys putting their hands down their pants, they all admitted that, at some point in their parenting lives, they’ve had to have a talk with their boys about where and when it’s appropriate to have their hands down their pants, shorts, or underwear. All of them have had to teach or tell their boys that it’s okay to have your hands down your pants in private, but not in public.

Most of them have told their boys to go to their bedrooms when they are caught, literally, with their pants down. But I don’t want to send my son to his bedroom just because his hand is in his pants. I asked my son’s father (who has a penis) what the deal was. His answer? ‘It’s normal. It just feels good.’

Um, okay then.

While it may feel good for my son to have one hand down his pants while the other hand is lining up Hot Wheels – what can I say, he’s a multi-tasker! – I’m the one who kind of shudders and needs to say, ‘Time to wash your hands because we’re having dinner and you just had your hand on your penis for twenty minutes.’

Add that to the list of things I never thought I would ever say.

Apparently, there’s scientific reason behind why boys and adult males rest their hands on their penis. Unlike vaginas, penises get cold – who knew? – so it’s kind of instinctive for males to try to warm up their penises. Second, when it comes to males, rubbing certain parts of the body, be it their stomach or penis, releases a hormone that calms and reduces stress. Last, and maybe most importantly, men learn from a very early age, that their penises need to be protected. There’s a reason they are called ‘Crown Jewels,’ am I right?

By protecting their penis just by subconsciously holding it, in a non-sexual way, it actually relaxes them from the potential hazards of a flying soccer ball or kick to their crotch. We’ve all seen Dads in our children’s lives double over in pain, moaning like they are in labour, when they accidentally get kicked in the crotch while wrestling or play fighting with the kids. It doesn’t look enjoyable in the least.

Boys who watch sports don’t have the greatest role models when it comes to watching other males slide and adjust their packages. Look at any baseball or soccer player on television and they’re constantly adjusting themselves throughout the game or on the bench. They are not only adjusting in public, but have thousands of male viewers, including children, to make it seem perfectly normal to adjust in public, which it is…if you are a baseball or soccer player.

I guess I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s purely a subconscious default position. But still… penises. Sigh.

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