The Porn Talk

If you catch your son looking at porn, what do you say when his stepmom might be one of the women he’s looking at?

Locked away in a password-protected file on my computer are nude, some would say pornographic, images of my teenaged son’s stepmother. I’m sure some of these are in the wild on some porn site somewhere. After all, a photographer doesn’t pay good money for images like that without a way to recoup the cost. I don’t care. She’s a beautiful woman, and a great mother to all three of our kids. That includes my eldest boy, who wouldn’t be passing algebra without her. He also recently discovered Internet porn.

As I began my long drive home from graduate school one Saturday morning, my ex-wife called. She was in a panic because our son had left evidence of his porn viewing all over her computer’s browser history. OK, so I wasn’t shocked. When I was that age, I snuck one of my mom’s copies of Penthouse Forum into my closet, figuring she’d never miss it. I had assumed, just as my son had, that I wouldn’t be caught. I thanked my ex for letting me know, asked her to email me a copy of her browser history, and promised to have a talk with our boy.

The Talk is one of those uncomfortable traditions in our culture that no responsible parent seems to escape. It is at that point a parent decides how to frame the topic of sex and sexuality for their children. My son and I had already had that version of The Talk. I was frank and utterly scientific about the biology of procreation. This was going to be a different conversation. I called home and had his stepmother tell him to get ready to leave. I’m sure he had no idea I was going to ambush him once he got into the car because we sometimes take a “guys day out.” We’ll usually grab a bite to eat, maybe go to a park, and sometimes we go to the movies. This was totally different. Before he even had his seatbelt on, I started reading the email my ex had sent.

“Big-boobed-blonde takes it hard,” I read aloud. He stared at me, trying to decide if I was just being weird. “Cute teens in killer three-way,” I continued. It started to dawn on him then that I was reading off a list of videos he had watched on a tube site. He had also tried to visit Playboy’s website too, but stopped at the sign-up page.

I knew I couldn’t just pull the “porn is bad” card. That would be worse than lazy; it would be dishonest and it would make me a hypocrite. After all, some of those images of his stepmom had helped pay rent more than once. So, I did the unthinkable: I opened an honest dialogue with my teenaged son about porn.

♦◊♦

“Why do you look at porn?” I asked him as I drove.

“I don’t know,” he replied. He was still afraid I would judge him. We all are at that age.

“I look at porn when I masturbate,” I told him. I couldn’t tell if he wanted to laugh or scream. I remember feeling the same way when my mom realized I had the copy of Penthouse. She didn’t take it away from me; she made me bring it to her.

Maybe I would have felt less embarrassed if I’d had a dad to talk to about this, but taking in my son’s reaction, I doubt it. So I fell back on the words she’d said to me at that age.

“You know the difference between real and fake, right?” I asked him. He nodded in agreement, still in shock. “When Justin Beiber got shot on CSI, what really happened?” I asked him. My mom used actors in Shakespeare, but the goal was to point out the difference between reality and performance.

“They pretended to shoot him,” he replied. Now I had him.

“Actually,” I explained, “They strapped little explosives to his chest, fired guns filled with blanks at him, and then blew up the explosives.” He stared at me. “It was real, but it was also fake, get it?”

“Wouldn’t that hurt?” he asked.

“Of course it does,” I acknowledged. “But it still wasn’t ‘real’, was it?”

“It’s kind of in between,” he said. His relief that I’d changed the subject was short lived.

“Porn is the same way.” He was still blushing, but it was less noticeable now. “Yes, the people are having sex, but it’s not the sex you’ll have when you’re in love with someone and ready to for it yourself.”

Maybe it was the CSI example, but my son began to open up. We discussed the difference between reality and fantasy, and I emphasized that what he saw in porn was far different from the sex that two people who love each other have. I warned him that it was unreasonable to expect real people to look like porn actors. Even his stepmom looks normal when the makeup comes off, but I couldn’t use that example without revealing her secret. Then we came to genre.

“So, what kind of porn do you like?” I asked him.

“The free kind,” he said.

OK, so maybe I should’ve seen that coming. There wasn’t a preference in the porn he had viewed. As adults, we know that porn covers a wide range of content, but teens don’t know until they stumble into it. What my son had found was some rather vanilla stuff, but he could have easily discovered a crazy fetish site. He may have the biological urge to see people he finds attractive engaging in sex acts, but he has no preferences. Not yet.

“You know you have to be careful when it comes to online porn, right?” I asked him.

“Because of viruses?”

“Because there’s some really weird sex stuff out there,” I warned. “I once clicked on a link that said ‘girl gets down on the farm’ and saw a lady getting friendly with a horse!”

“Gah! TMI, dad, TMI!”

OK, I made that up, but he got the point. This was when I warned him that the Internet could be host to images of people he knew.

“After all,” I told him, “I do sleep with my bedroom window open.”

That seemed to horrify him even more than the thought of zoophilia. I didn’t tell him about his stepmom, but I felt I’d still been honest with him. Cameras really are everywhere now, and any one of us could find pictures of people we love and respect out there online.

♦◊♦

When my mom caught me with that issue of Penthouse, she didn’t punish me for masturbating. Instead, she made a big deal out of respect. She taught me that I should always respect women, even if I didn’t think they were respecting themselves. With porn, whether you think the people are just performers doing a job or whores working out daddy issues, they’re still people. They still deserve respect, and I tried to pass that lesson on to my own son. Yes, we masturbate to the images of people like his stepmom, but humanity has been making idols out of naked women since at least the Venus of Willendorf. I bet she was someone’s mother, too. I bet at least one caveman got off thinking about her gigantic breasts.

I reiterated to my son that his masturbation was his own business, but that porn could open up a whole world of content he didn’t want to see. I’m not terribly shocked when a Victoria Secret catalog goes missing in the house now, but so far we haven’t had any strange websites pop up on my browser history, or my ex-wife’s. More importantly, I can talk to my son with ease now whenever the topic of sexuality comes up in a movie or on television. He still doesn’t know about his stepmom’s secondary source of income, but then again, he doesn’t need to know. Thanks to the Internet and digital cameras, he’ll probably know at least one person who has naked pictures online by the time he hits college. I hope he treats that person with the love and respect I show his stepmom.

I’m sure, one of these days, my teenager will find his way back to the world of porn. We all do. When he does, he’ll have a greater sense of discretion and a respect for real-world relationships. When he finally meets a person he wants to be intimate with, he’s less likely to have fucked-up misconceptions about what to expect. We wrapped up our chat that day with burgers and a promise to keep an open dialogue. That alone is worth any amount of embarrassment.

—Photo PinkMoose/Flickr

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About Michael Riedlinger

Michael lives in Wisconsin where he is a full-time dad, grad student, and pen monkey.

Comments

  1. Tom Matlack says:

    Michael thanks a million for this thought provoking and honest look at what is really going on when we go deeper than the superficial judgements about porn, specially when it comes to our kids. We really appreciate having your voice as part of our attempt to come to terms with this issue in a thoughtful way.

    • Michael did I miss something. Where’s the part about his stepmom being in porn. I appreciated what you shared, but I felt lead astray by the title, because there was nothing written about that.

      • I’m guessing nude photos for a partner, maybe glamour photography? Then again maybe the whole shebang and that’s totally fine, hi 5 to her if that’s her choice.

      • I agree with Sherri. I thought some parts of the article were unclear, especially the part about his stepmon being in porn.

  2. This is one of the best articles I’ve seen on this site yet. I wish I had gotten the kind of insight, the kind of discussion you had with your son at that age of discovery but it will give me something to think about for the youth I work with and, eventually maybe, my own kids.

    Thank you.

  3. I remember visiting the island of St. Martin with my BF (now husband) and family years ago…on the French side of the island, many beaches are clothing optional…I was fascinated by the French families who would park their boats and hang out on the beautiful sand…the old matrons along with the young slender new moms with 2 young babies hanging off them would walk around and sunbathe topless…and everybody just acted like it was the most normal thing…

    Porn is a completely different topic but I just wanted to point out what a great ease some Europeans have in accepting their bodies, nudity, and sexual relations….perhaps that is a step toward opening up frank discussions with adolescents….I see so much doublespeak, hypocrisy, and sexual taboos here (which is, I guess, part of the puritanical American heritage) that just gets in the way of having more enlightened conversations about sex…just saying…

    • Granted, the Europeans are more accepting of casual public nudity. Their cultural hangups are different from ours and vice versa. (The French are not bothered by public urination, for instance, but that’s another quirk.)

      But this lack of ‘puritanism’ does not give the Europeans any kind of immunity to the harmful influences of porn. If anything, it renders them weaker. Europeans are also more accepting of extremely vile and degrading porn, sex trafficking, and so forth.

  4. This is the kind of article we need to see regarding porn. So many times, pop-psychology “experts” weigh in on the supposed prevalence of rape culture that comes from watching porn. How it denigrates women in the eyes of men or gives them unrealistic ideas about sex. As if men (and women) haven’t done the exact same thing for centuries without internet porn.

    The problem comes not from the media, but from our reaction to it, both as viewers and as parents of those viewing it. We still scoff at the idea of watching someone get shot in a movie turning kids into murderers with no conscience, yet the idea of watching two people having real (or as real as porn gets) sex on screen is going to create a bunch of little pedophiles or rapists. If more parents, like Michael, and his mother before him, were this open and honest, then maybe we as a society would not be so quick to demonize pornography.

    My mother, though she was a terrible person in general, was open and honest about sex (to a fault), including porn. She explained that those people were representations, not real people, actors playing a role, and that sex was not like that. It would never be that easy to obtain nor would women act like that. I’m a grown man, I occasionally watch porn (sometimes with my wife), and I have never raped or molested anyone, and have a healthy sex life filled with normal expectations.

    Thanks for the great article.

  5. “After all, some of those images of his stepmom had helped pay rent more than once.”

    “I don’t care. She’s a beautiful woman, and a great mother to all three of our kids.”

    Bad news doesn’t get better with age. Once the boy finds out that his mom is a part-time porn star while his father was telling him the evils of porn, he is very likely to consider his parents to be hypocrites. His advice is not bad but he’s a hypocrite for telling his son the evils or porn while his mom is doing it. The dad should own up to his wife’s porn career now or regret it sometime later when his son or one of his friends finds her on the Internet.

    • Maybe you missed it, Eric, but I made a point of NOT characterizing porn as evil. It isn’t, anymore than masturbation or sex. By the time he’s found any of the sites I think she might be on, her images will likely be replaced with those of newer women anyway. Also, and this was a point I was very careful to make, I did warn my son that there very well likely ARE people he knows out there on the internet. Remember, we live in an age of web cams, smart phones, and constant surveillance. Hollywood stars post nude and risque images of themselves, whether on purpose or not, all the time, and considering that, his stepmom will be the least of my son’s likely interests.

      • Well said, Michael. Categorizing porn as “evil” would not only have been dishonest and hypocritical, it would’ve messed up your son’s sexuality.

        You handled this very well. Congratulations.

      • I’m trying to help you here, not criticize – but this has the potential of ending badly without a course correction. 

        You didn’t put porn on par with masturbation; you told him to avoid porn but told him that masturbation was “his own business.”  Telling your son to avoid porn, framing it as something that can harm because of it containing “a whole world of content he didn’t want to see”, only to possibly find out that (with your approval) his step mom makes her living doing porn is clearly hypocritical.   

        And, the “I sleep with my window open” only makes it worse, implying that you could end up out there, but only because someone could take your picture without your knowledge and permission.   If he were to find out, he would likely consider you to have lied to him.   Continuing and not disclosing this information in the context of that talk is like a spouse not disclosing their adultery while discussing the harm of sexual infidelity.  The other person would absolutely feel that they were lied to.

        Have any of his friends ever seen his step-mom?   Perhaps that should be avoided like the plague.  How would he feel if one of his friends somehow discovered one or more of his step-mom’s porn pictures and/or movies and told (or even worse, showed) other kids in school, and he didn’t even know about it?

        I hope this does not become a problem at some point but it does have the potential of not ending well. . .

        • Kirsten (in MT) says:

          Where did the author ever tell his son to avoid porn? If you want to help, maybe start with re-reading the article.

          • Evidently you haven’t read the article.

            I will re-quote my comment to him on February 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm here for your benefit.

            He asked the below question. Then I quoted his own words.

            “What gave you the impression that I told him porn was bad?”

            This statement:

            “porn could open up a whole world of content he didn’t want to see.”

            Based on your message to him, he evidently understood that he should not be looking at porn, as you (based on your below statement) believe that he as now stopped viewing porn.

            “I’m sure, one of these days, my teenager will find his way back to the world of porn.”

            • Now I get what you’ve missed. It was a warning, not an admonition that porn was bad. This is a whole other topic that we ought to be talking about, Eric. Do you like all porn, or just some of it? Most people, men and women alike, have different genres of music, cinema, and literature that they like. Porn is no different. What I warned my son about was that porn is NOT one all-encompasing genre. There’s some porn that is pretty tame. Look at the porn parody, for example, and you’ll find fairly “tame” sex with cheesy dialogue and funny costumes. Over at Kink.com you’ll find rougher sex that’s set up as fantasy, bookended by interviews with the actresses that show that the whole thing is for show and that they are treated with care and respect, regardless of the action on screen. Meanwhile, there are other sites, the kind people usually point to when they want to make it look like the performers are all just being used and abused. The work of Max Hardcore, for example, is something I find vile and abusive, and I’m glad the SOB had to do a bid in jail.

              Perhaps I should have been more clear, but my warning to my son was that porn can get ridiculous and that there’s a chance that he’ll see someone he knows or something he has no interest in seeing. My goal was to let him know that it was okay to look away, turn it off, and find something else. In his case, as far as I can tell, he’s stuck to lingerie catalog for the time being, but I’m sure he’ll find other outlets as well. That’s his business, but if he does, he’ll be more likely to be discerning. Instead of stumbling into BDSM and thinking that THAT is normal, he’ll know that it’s just one of many many genres, and that he has other options. How many teens stumble into “extreme sexual content” without ever knowing that it’s fantasy? How many never realize that the “extreme” stuff out there is, in fact, “extreme”? The way we treat porn would be like claiming that The Story of O is what all Romance novels are like.

              Hope that clears it up.

            • I see. The article seemed to indicate that because there are things he doesn’t want to see, he shouldn’t view porn at all. As a result, he has now stopped. However, if you made it clear to him that he is free to view whatever porn he wants, that’s a different story.

              Thanks for the clarification.

            • Kirsten (in MT) says:

              Eric, I think you are bringing a lot of your own baggage into your reading of the article. You’re seeing things that aren’t there. The author was very clear:

              I knew I couldn’t just pull the “porn is bad” card. That would be worse than lazy; it would be dishonest and it would make me a hypocrite. After all, some of those images of his stepmom had helped pay rent more than once. So, I did the unthinkable: I opened an honest dialogue with my teenaged son about porn.

            • Sorry pal, I have no baggage in this area. See my comment below with the quotations from the article. Yours are out of context.

              Further, if my point was not valid the writer would not have bothered to write a 379 explanation.

  6. Nicely done Micheal, you handled the talk with your son very well. A good template

  7. I applaud your straight forward approch and think you handled this well. The only thing I think you might have added is the link between Human Trafficking and porn. I am not saying that everyone that does porn is a victim of trafficking, but it is common enough. With porn like everything else we need to be consciensious consumers.

    • “I am not saying that everyone that does porn is a victim of trafficking”

      Good, because it’s much closer to no one than “everyone.” Trafficking hysteria vastly exaggerates the actual incident rates, and porn is only tangentially connected to it in the first place. You’re thinking of prostitution.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      How common is it exactly? I don’t think you’re able to back that one up.

      • I had the same question.

        Also: do we say that the stepmom is being trafficked in this case, if her images are bought and sold on the internet? I mean, based on what I hear about sex trafficking, we’re supposed to treat Michael here as a violent, exploitative pimp preying on his wife’s vulnerability. He’ll be smuggling young girls in from Russia in cargo containers if we don’t keep an eye on him….

        I guess, by extension, all the sponsors of the GMP site are therefore also making a profit off of sex trafficking. Shame, shame, shame….

        • I guess some Human Trafficking 101 is needed here.  For an act to be considered Human Trafficking then is must contain some element of force, fraud, or, coercion. The only exceptions to this are in cases where the victim is below the age of consent and organ trafficking.  So unless our author beat, threatened, or did a bait and switch to get his wife to do porn then I think he is free of any wrong doing.  This brings us to types of trafficking.  The two major types are sex and labor trafficking.  The break up is roughly 80% sex and 20% labor.  While the state department speculates that roughly 16,000 people are smuggled in a year from other countries, smuggling is not necessary for it to be trafficking.  It is much more common and less expensive for a trafficker to use people from their own area.  The average age of someone being introduced into prostitution is 12-14.  This is considered trafficking and on average the individual has a life expectancy of 7 years from that point if they do not leave the industry.   So back to trafficking and the porn industry.  You are right about there being no clear numbers between the two.  But we can all agree that there have been a few famous underage porn stars, Traci Lords being the most notable.  If we have had these individuals that have made it to the top in the industry how many more do you think are in the amateur leagues in the US or in less regulated industries of other countries.   When I was a young teen I wanted to see girls who atleast resembled girls my own age.  And you know without much looking I found them my age and younger.  They were all posed solo pics in on a easy to find site with no money or password required.  Then I thought it was one of the coolest things ever.  almost 20 years add and much experience later, including working at a rape crisis center,it kind of haunts me.   Human trafficking is the fastest growing of the top three criminal industries.  If you do not think that human trafficking and porn mix then you are closing your eyes to it.  I am not against all porn.  I even think prostitution should be legalized, mostly so it can be regulated, but legalized none the less.  I just think if we are as a nation beginning to look at our coffee, chocolate, and diamonds and ask what it cost for those things to come to us then can’t we do the same with our porn.  If you want more information not from a .org look at the state department or UN numbers.

  8. John Sctoll says:

    @hugh: Common enough, not really. Depends on what you mean by common I supposed. From all the studies I have seen recently that aren’t from orgs that make money off the hysteria that sex trafficking at least in the US and Canada is fairly low.

  9. Good interaction with the son. The only thing I would have added is that the fact that he masturbates is not a shameful act in and of itself, not for himself or anyone. Its great that you mentioned the whole “respect women thing” but seriously when it comes to sex, porn, masturbation, etc… people act like the disrespect is only being aimed at women. Its not.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      Hear hear. The disrespect line was levelled pretty heavily at me too, I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now.

  10. Great article, I might add though with the increase of amateur porn there is probably quite a lot of sex that is with a couple in love, totally real. I absolutely HATE when people look down upon porn stars, anyone really in the erotic industry from sex workers to strippers. They’re human beings and worthy of respect, you don’t have to agree with their choice but you should always respect their choice. It’s not like they’re bankers (jk!).

    • I disagree with you. Bankers aren’t human. ;)

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        I think thats a very wrong thing to say. Unless you’ve lived their life and walked in their shoes you can’t say that you wouldn’t have been pressured into doing the same. In far east asian countries young children are often brought up to believe that the best that they can possibly achieve for themselves is a life in banking. Following this attack on their self esteem they are then trafficked into western countries to become financial analysts and even derivatives traders.

      • Agreed. That’s why I’m not a banker. I’m a financial resources manager specializing in capital investment of liquid assets. Don’t lump me in with those other guys. My yacht is very small.

  11. wet_suit_one says:

    Well done.

    An actual mature, adult and reasonable response to porn.

    Shocking and amazing at the same time. I’ll be sure to send this link around to people I know.

    I didn’t think that such rational responses were possible in North America. Clearly it was so strange that it completely flew over the head of Eric. M, but I think most everyone else got it.

    Kudos to you dad! I trust I do as well in my future.

    P.S., you might want to encrypt, password protect and change the name of the files of your wife. I’ve not gone that far with the photos of my sweetie just yet, but the day will come when I must ensure their security.

    The Wet One

    • Read my comments. He can have whatever talk with his son he likes. I didn’t criticize that. But, sorry, if his son finds out his mom makes her living in porn, he will consider his father to be a hypocrite, and it will make his admonition regarding porn, no matter how well intended, ineffective. After all, it’s good enough for to support the household.

      The best way to teach is by example. That is what you’ve missed here.

      • wet_suit_one says:

        You are suggesting that the stepmother makes her living by being videotaped doing bestiality tapes. I’m pretty sure the author didn’t mean that, but I suppose it’s open to interpretation.

        As for the teaching by example, are you comfortable having your kids watch you have sex with your wife? I didn’t think so. However, that’s definitely teaching by example isn’t it? Strange that we don’t. I always wonder how did folks end up with 14 kids in 1 bedroom houses. Surely, the kids must have gotten some kind of education…

        • “You are suggesting that the stepmother makes her living by being videotaped doing bestiality tapes.”

          Please quote me as suggesting anything of the sort. . .

          He didn’t say what kind of porn she was paid to do. Thus, I made no suggestion as to what kind either.

          “As for the teaching by example, are you comfortable having your kids watch you have sex with your wife? I didn’t think so. However, that’s definitely teaching by example isn’t it?

          What in the world are you talking about? This is about being hypocritical. Saying one thing to your kids and doing another. How hard is that to understand?

          I guess I’ll have to dumb this down a bit. Yes, we teach by example. I don’t take my girls to work with me but they know I go. I thus teach them the lesson of hard work. Follow? Or, do I need to further simplify?

          • wet_suit_one says:

            I still don’t get what you mean by teaching by example in this situation. What would his son not want to see? His stepmom? Or bestiality which was suggested in the article? Where is the hypocrisy? I still don’t see it.

            As for teaching by example, I still don’t get what you mean and how that relates to hypocrisy. He didn’t tell his son that women who make money off their beauty should be avoided.

            Basically, your combination of “hypocrisy” and teaching by example weren’t very clear (or I’m very dumb. I will concede there is some evidence for this possibility) and thus I don’t understand what your saying.

            As for the teaching by example bit, surely, if you’re going to teach your son what real sex is (rather than what is depicted in porn which was also discussed in the article), showing your son how you and your wife, who have a loving intimate sexual relationship, have sex is surely teaching by example isn’t it?

            I know it sounds weird, but IT IS teaching by example right? Or am I wrong somehow?

            Anyways…. Still an excellent post by the author! Tip of the hat to him!

            The Wet One

            • It’s called practicing what you peach, such as not making a living selling something you tell your kids to avoid for its potential harm.

              Setting an example means to live as you tell them to, and not do what you tell them to not do. If he followed his parents example, he would think it acceptable to not only watch porn but be involved in producing and profiting from it. Not saying thatthat’s right or wrong, just contrary in principle to what he’s teaching his son.

            • Wow, Erik, still at it. Did you read the article? What gave you the impression that I told him porn was bad? I told him that porn is entertainment and should be taken as gospel only as much as would take a violent TV show. I told him that there’s some porn he might not care to see, and that he may even see people he knows that he didn’t want to see. Where in there is the hypocrisy? Or do you just really want to be justifiably upset?

            • “What gave you the impression that I told him porn was bad?”

              This statement:

              “porn could open up a whole world of content he didn’t want to see.”

              Based on your message to him, he evidently understood that he should not be looking at porn, as you (based on your below statement) believe that he as now stopped viewing porn.

              “I’m sure, one of these days, my teenager will find his way back to the world of porn.”

              These are your words, not mine. You didn’t parse out what porn he should look at and what he should not; he was given the message to not view porn at all. None. Yet, you make part of your living producing porn. That is where the hypocrisy lies. Otherwise, he would still feel free to view porn now, and you would have no reason to not tell him that his stepmom makes part of her living making it.

            • I’m not upset at all. However, I don’t like seeing parents do things that carry the potential of damaging their relationship with their children and/or they will live to regret. All I’m saying.

            • Kirsten (in MT) says:

              None of these things you are quoting backs up what you are claiming the author told his son. They don’t say “porn is bad”. They say there are various types of porn, catering to various tastes in porn, and that not everyone, including his son, is going to like all of those types of porn. Sheesh. Simply read what is written, and stop trying to rewrite it with your own baggage introduced into it.

            • Sorry pal. You seem to be the one with baggage here as you weren’t even part of this discussion. I quoted his words. They speak for themselves. In response his son stopped viewing porn. One does not have to say “porn is bad” in order for the listener to get that message.

  12. ” She taught me that I should always respect women, even if I didn’t think they were respecting themselves”

    Load of crap. If women didn’t like men looking at porn, then they wouldn’t be in it.

    MODERATOR’S NOTE: This comment is an ad hominem attack and not allowed under our commenting policy. Please refrain from attacking authors or other commenters. This is a warning. Further comments that are in violation will be removed. See complete commenting guidelines here.

    • Freedom of speech is only free if the moderator likes what you say.
      Fact is you said you weren’t gonna say open is bad, but youtreated it bad, different, not normal, not real. You did what you said you weren’t going to do. Regardless of that unless you think your son is stupid he is gonna eventually figure something out about women and open no matter what you tell him. You last paragraph said it all. He will indeed return to porn one day, but you ad hominem attack on him and claiming he will be a better man via the absence of porn is false because porn will still be there. It will always be there and it isn’t because he makes it so. So I repeat, if if porn is so bad, tell the women stop aactting in it, cuz regardless of whether he is watching or not they are still doing it. But you called my argument an attack. Brilliant

      • ThursdayFae says:

        There isn’t anything in the commenting guidelines about freedom of speech. All comments and published pieces in this magazine are subject to the moderation and discretion of the editors.

        And (if I’m reading correctly that the two times you use ‘open’ you mean ‘porn’ because that preposition doesn’t make sense) the OP doesn’t say porn is bad. He doesn’t. He says it’s normal to look at porn, that the sex in it is staged (which, unless it’s amateur/homemade porn, it IS staged), and emphasises the need for respect and caution–whether it’s caution that he might find out someone he knows is in it, or caution that he might see something he really doesn’t like. If he were saying porn is bad and forbidding his son to look at it, he’d not admit to his son that he looks at porn himself.

        And the bit about respecting women is important too. There are a lot of things that women do consensually in porn that may appear to have a lack of self-respect behind them. In fact, there are a lot of people who think that porn is overall disrespectful of women. But the point was, even if his son sees a woman doing something that could be taken as demeaning or humiliating, he wants his son to treat women with the respect they deserve, even if the women themselves don’t believe or act like they deserve it. He never made any implications that porn is disrespectful of women–just that no matter what his son may think of the women performing, that they deserve respect.

        And a lot of people do things willingly that demonstrate a lack of self-respect. That doesn’t stop them from doing those things, whatever they may be.

        • I type with my phone and didn’t realize it auto changed “porn” to “open”

          You are correct. He did not say porn was “bad” much the same way I can say “I am not a rasict” and then proceed to talk bad about *insert race here* people. If you can read that last paragraph and seriously not get the “porn is bad” vibe then we just have two different perspectives. I get the whole good man project, we make good men, i will make my son a good man. If the conclusion of the artilce, that his son not viewing porn makes him a better man, and the beginning of the article that his step mom was a good woman while she was IN porn doesn’t come off as contradictory then I think I’m at a loss on how to explain it. Women who do it can turn out fine, men who watch it, won’t? Ok. sure. I’d hate to make an attack on that, less I anger someone.

          Either way it goes, his respect for women will come from her, his mom or step mom… and the way his dad treated them… and it will supercede anything he sees in porn. Let the author write about the mom or step mom, and what effect it has on the son’s view of women, then i believe we have some similar perspective.

  13. I want to thank you for this great article. It is nice to see that there are other good fathers out there that take the time to talk to thier kids. I had “the talk” a couple of years ago with my now 18 year old step son. It was awkword for both of us. I like that you talked about respect for women. With some of the music and other influencing media portraying women as “ho’s” and “bitches”, that respect is lost.

    Mike A.

  14. I would like to thank you for this article. It is nice to see other fathers take time to talk to their sons on this issue. A couple of years ago I had to have “the talk” with my step son who is now 18. It was awkward for both of us. I like that you talked about respecting all women. With music and other influencing media calling women “ho’s” and “bitches”, can be confusing. I think that it is a good thing that you left out the part about his step mom. That doesn’t make you a hypocrite.

  15. I really loved this article. It reminded me of when my mom found some of my girlie magazines under the towels in the bathroom. She went to my dad all upset. He was over-joyed! You have to remember that I had been labeled gay by some idiots at school. When my mom started fussin about it again my dad just said, leave the kid alone hes just normal, chuckled and walked off.

    I didn’t get to have the talk with my son since I was persona non gratia by then. I just hope he is understanding with my grandkids.

    • Oh yes – “Oh my god porn!” “At least it’s of women.” – that’s a great message to send your kids. I don’t mean to poke at your comment, but come on. Part of the point of this article is that when kids are exploring their sexuality, that they don’t feel judged.

      By the way, I really liked the article. I especially liked the way the author drew parallels to regular television to make the conversation more accessable.

  16. Interesting conversation you had with your son Michael. I am caught between two opinions on this one because of my personal dislike for porn and how it showcases sexuality. I think you had a good conversation with your son, you handled it well though. But I am bothered by how quickly porn is being integrated into our culture and how normal it’s already becoming. Sex is certianly normal. Masturbation is certianly normal. A young boys curiosity in sex and porn is normal. I am just kind of scared of how we are normalizing the content in porn even as we know it’s not a great depictions of sexuality. Why do we even have this kind of content if we know it’s not the best depictions of sex anyway?

    I think the key is to keep having a regular talk and open dialogue with your kids about porn and sexuality, rather then just the one time. While kids might logically hear what your saying about it not being “real sex”, they are still taking in important information about sex, sexuality an women through porn in their formative years that are realistically going to influence them into adulthood as their sexuality changes. A one time talk isn’t going to offset that. But it’s a good start.

    • We aren’t the first culture to have normalized porn, and we certainly aren’t the first culture to have created it. The classic example, of course, is the Greeks and Romans. Even Victorian England had some raunchy erotica literature. I think it’s false to say that porn is becoming more normal; it’s always been normal (for guys, anyway). It’s just that now it’s normal to TALK about it and admit to it. Also, the internet makes it more easily accessable, but it’s not like it was ever inaccessble.

  17. wellokaythen says:

    I see what you’re saying here, and I can see there’s a fine line to walk. I don’t see a clear, perfect, win-win way to handle it just various strategies, some of which are better than others.

    Hypothetical, though, just to make it even more tricky — suppose you had a daughter instead of a son, and she found the photos of her stepmom. Suppose she expressed an interest in doing the same thing at some point. What do you tell her about sex and porn? At what age do you let her follow in her stepmom’s footsteps if she wants to? (By the way, I’m not assuming that only boys surf for porn. Maybe she would find the photos the same way your son would.)

    • ThursdayFae says:

      Why should what you tell a girl be different than what you tell a boy?

      Respect people, understand that real-life encounters may not resemble what you see in porn, don’t hold yourself or your partners to an absurd standard, be careful about what you do publicly. And the age that children can participate would be the age at which they could do so legally–when they’re not considered children (18 in the US).

      As a parent, one might caution a child of the overarching view of the industry in society (such as the risks inherent in, say, non-industry employers finding out that one is involved in this sort of business), and also that if he or she chooses to do this, to be aware that once something is online, it’s like pee in a swimming pool–there’s no easy way to get rid of it.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      At what age do you let her follow in her stepmom’s footsteps if she wants to?

      Um, is this a trick questioin? 18?

      Before 18 it’s illegal. After 18, parents no longer control the career choices of their offspring.

  18. Rick S. says:

    This is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read, period. Your MOTHER (mother?) buys Penthouse, but when she finds YOU reading it, she lectures you about not objectifying women? For me, I might have been naive enough to ask her, “So Mom, why do YOU buy it then?” And now you bequeath this same neurotic hypocrisy to the next generation. Sorry, but you benefited from your wife’s selling herself as an object, not a soul, and then you tell your son to consider that every porn model is a human being. Sorry, but this was handled badly. I would have 1) told the boy avoid what can put him at legal risk, 2) define what the latter was, and 3) reminded him to erase his browser history.

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