The Day My Son Discovered Naked Ladies

5250325606_0be7dd1622_z

 How do you tell your 8 year old son it’s ok to be curious about boobs but its not ok to Google them?

There are many milestones in the life of a parent, photo worthy chapters that demonstrate development and progress. Ninety percent of those are all positive; first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten etc… but I was jolted into one of the more tumultuous firsts of my parenting journey last week.

Last Thursday, the 4th of April, my almost 8 year old son’s innocence was forever tainted when he discovered, through a Google search, bare-naked ladies (not the talented Canadian singing ones), on his iPod. I was shocked, horrified, and very confused.

I think (and hope) it’s totally normal for young boys to be curious about women’s bodies and I know research would back me on that idea. But my young boy? Looking at bare-naked ladies?? What happened???

Now, I must come clean. When I was a youngster, the best day in October was not Halloween. It was the day that the giant Sears Christmas catalogue was delivered. Like any kid, I would first drool at all the toys.

When I tired of Star Wars figures, Atari games, and Hot Wheels, I would then look both ways for parents, then my nimble fingers would find the women’s bras section. I can’t be the only one to have done that… gosh, I feel so vulnerable right now.

♦◊♦

But to fast forward to 2013, from Sears catalogues to Google, we, as parents, are in trouble. Rapidly evolving technology in an already toxic and sexualized culture has got to put every parent on high alert. I am not naïve to think my children would never see dirty pictures, but just not yet!

His innocence was fully intact only 1 hour earlier when he arrived home from school. In a Sears family portrait moment, on the living room rug, myself and my 3 children played 3 games of super wholesome UNO together. We then switched gears to building race cars with the immaculately safe and pure LEGO.

My daughter eventually toddled off with her creepy Furby toy, my step son waffled between LEGO, playing with his sister, and checking in on what his older, more mature step brother was now doing. My son had moved onto his scheduled ‘screen’ time – 30 minutes, in full view, sitting in the family room, playing Star Wars Angry Birds.

As I flipped laundry, (yes me, flipping laundry), I guess he tired of Angry birds and began exploring.

I was actually on the phone in my home office when my girlfriend brought me his iPod touch. She flashed me the screen like an FBI agent flashing a badge. On the screen was an image of 2 pouty, naked women hugging each other in a rather amourous way.

We exchanged surprised, amused glances that suddenly turned very serious. She asked the two boys to wait downstairs on the sofa (of death). We pieced the story together of what happened. I searched his iPod browser history and found what he used to search Google -  “girls bobes seeing them” – thanks to Google, it autocorrected ‘bobes’ and jackpot.

We quickly devised a strategy and then she walked away and said, “This one is all yours.”

Unfortunately; my son had shown his younger brother the screen and the high pitched giggling had set off Mom’s spidey senses.  The rest is history. Our boys had seen dirty pictures… we had a ‘situation’ here and I needed to deal with it.

We separated the boys and made them wait in their rooms while we figured out our next step and logical consequences. I knew that wait would kill my sensitive, rule abiding son as he tends to fear the worst.

My step son was essentially in the clear as he was just called in to see the picture, although he seemed to be doing some excited encouraging until they were caught.

For my son, the consequences of lost screen time and Wi-Fi access were obvious. I could yell and scream and throw around the “I’m disappointed” brick, but how would shame help this situation? I didn’t want my son to think he was that bad or a deviant.

Like knowing exactly where you were when Sidney Crosby scored the Golden Goal, I know EXACTLY where I was when I got my first look at naked women’s breasts. I was in a kid on my street’s garage, during a Toronto summer downpour,  looking at a Playboy he had liberated from his dad’s workbench. I can tell you there was a lot of “tee heeing” and confusion that day.

How was this really any different? Different time and different medium, but still the same ‘objects’ of curiosity.

I wanted to turn this into a learning experience. I decided to turn my judgment into curiosity and ask good questions. He needs guidance, understanding, and perspective, not shame and humiliation. 

I put on my bigboy “dad” pants and entered his room and sat on his bed. I moved slowly and could sense that my son thought that the end was near. As I looked at him, not to sound corny, but I suddenly saw my little boy — tears filled his eyes – tears I sensed as being part embarrassment, part regret, but also part sadness that he had somehow disappointed me. This was not an act – he was not proud of his actions.

He spoke first, to break the silence, and blurted out his ‘consequence offer’ of lost screen time and grounding for the next 20 years.   I nodded and eased into it by asking what he thinks the consequences should really be.  We agreed on no screen time for a month but I wanted more from this conversation.

I know my son well and know him to usually speak the truth.  So I gently asked him why he looked that up girl “bobes”. Not really sure if you could give me a good answer. He answered that he was ‘curious’…

How could I teach my son that his curiosity about women’s bodies was natural, but not something he should be looking at or searching out? (At least not yet).  We talked about women’s bodies and what they can do (athletically and biologically speaking). 

I tried to speak honestly and courageously about being curious, but I also stressed that private parts are private parts and that we should not look at other people’s private parts and no one should ever see ours.  (I kinda chickened out and happily took this teachable tangent.)

I am not sure I handled it well.  How would you have handled it?  Maybe you already have?  Please share…  Experts may tell me I missed the boat entirely. All I know is that I wanted to open up dialogue not shut it down.

Will he look at dirty pictures again? Probably… but I hope not for a few years. At the very least, I have bushwhacked the footpath so we can talk about it. I could have easily come down hard and smashed and shamed his little ego, but instead tried to build something healthier.

My major point is something you likely already know – dirty pictures and porn are EVERYWHERE, all around our children’s lives – one click away – one screen away.  (and with Google’s autocorrect, it’s even easier to find).

Parents of young children find this possibility terrifying while parents of tweens and teens find the reality terrifying.

We need to be good shepherds and fiercely protect our flocks.

We need to be vigilant – constantly on the lookout for gate ways and openings that can threaten our children’s innocence.  We can try to police music videos and lyrics, TV shows (Jersey shore), and YouTube but somehow that dirty beast can breach the strongest fortress.

When it does, we had better be ready with great questions, answers, and solutions.

Arm yourself with knowledge — learn all about YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Your children may already be miles ahead of you but it doesn’t mean you can join the race and catch up!

Restricting internet access may be one of your best safeguards – keep computers and surfing spaces in busy family rooms.

“IT” is all out there, waiting like a landmine… one click away… but you do have the power to help control if and when this milestone touches down in your life.  Be afraid, very afraid.

—first appeared on The Dad Vibe
Sponsored Content

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Jeff Hay

Jeff Hay is a Canadian writer, speaker, parenting coach, and father of 3. When he is not playing his favourite role of “DAD”, Jeff is speaking throughout Canada as a popular parenting educator and working on his website – www.thedadvibe.comand his parenting book for Dads, “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!” Jeff dedicates his life’s work to improving the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

Comments

  1. You know Google search has “Safe Search” option and various filters and content controls, right?

    I don’t have kids, but I imagine that if I DID, I would lock down any screen he or she got to play with as tight as technologically possible.

  2. Adam McPhee says:

    Most boys start life with a boob stuck in their face. Just because he googled boobs or actively sought them out does not mean he is no longer innocent.. I believe I was 8 or 9 when I entered grade 4, which is when sex-ed at school began. If anything, he is just getting a head start on his homework.

    • Jeff Hay says:

      That is very funny — getting a head start on homework… I do believe he is still very innocent…

  3. Googling boobs is, in fact, okay. For 8-year olds? Probably not. But for everyone else? Yes, certainly.

    • Jeff Hay says:

      He can explore much later in life… 14? 16? Maybe… 42?

      • Are you sure he didn’t accidentially misspell Bob or Bobs. I once showed a girlfriend of mine a what a seemingly innocent search could lead to because she wasn’t very familiar with computers but was trying to help run a child abuse program. I typed in Kitty, one of the results was Persian Kitty that had dozens of porn sites!

  4. Michael M. says:

    Why are the pictures “dirty”? Were the women mud wrestling? The way we speak about these things reflects our (unconscious?) attitudes toward sexuality.

    I hope to be a father someday, and this is a talk I don’t particularly look forward to–I hope I can do a better job than my parents did. I would like to think that I could teach my son about objectification, and possibly take a harm-reduction attitude and help him access materials that are on the more tasteful side of the spectrum. I’d rather he learn to evaluate and manage his actions, rather than impose rules of decency. But what to do until that age of discernment…?

    • Jeff Hay says:

      Wow… great point Michael — the objectification of women and men’s bodies is a huge topic.

      The picture in question was not really artsy and I feel 99% of the general public would classify it as ‘dirty’ — the women were very amorous and moments away from ecstasy :)

      Your points are well taken and i do believe all dads want to do a better job and equip their kids with tools and answers! Better equipped than we were from our ma and pa…

      • Michael M. says:

        So, dirty = amorous + ecstatic ? The judgment seems to lay with women and their pleasure. The issue should be what we do in response to an image, not why the image itself (or the person in it) is bad. A difficult enough task for an adult…

  5. Jeff Nepute says:

    I love that you’re writing this article. I love that you’re sharing your own experience. And I love that you’re struggling with what to say as dad in this scenario. I’d be so confused too about how to share concern, talk about boundaries & respect, but in a way that’s not shaming. I know a lot of my experiences when I was the “son” in the scenario growing up ended up feeling shaming and it’s a tough balance to mention that the desire is okay, the curiosity is okay, but the behavior has important consequences to address. Without the balance of compassion and rules, (for me too much shaming) I learned to not talk about it, to feel guilty, but end up making the same choices. Of not being able to reach out to my dad or others in my life for how to deal with these parts of my experience.

    Thanks for talking about this issue in such an open way. Please keep talking about it and helping us think in more broad ways about it.

    • Jeff Hay says:

      Hey Jeff,

      Thanks for the kind words — I do strive to be honest and authentic…

      Although I had to act quickly, I do know I did not want to shame my son at all — so I do agree with you — the desire is okay, the curiosity is okay, but the behaviour was not…

      I need to be a fountain of knowledge and truth, not judgment!

      Hope to keep connecting with you!

  6. The Internet I can filter. TV I cannot. How do I stop a youngster from flipping over to a music video channel and seeing scantily clad girls (far from being women yet) gyrating against each other. When I was young my favourite time of the week was Saturday morning when I, along with my two brothers, would race to the TV to watch cartoons. Now, just one click away, are some of the most disturbing, sex driven images that I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing.

    • Jeff Hay says:

      Hey Steve,

      Too true… Sex is everywhere and I think we need to be vigilant and ready with answers — it’s impossible to police everything eh? I am terrified to watch music videos with my kids!

  7. I’m a naturist (you could say, a nudist with a philosophy). That doesn’t mean that I think anyone seeing any kind of nudity is always good–the question of pornographic presentations of nudity is a difficult one, and as you say, it’s pervasive to the point where any non-sexual depiction is pretty rare.

    But I do want to take issue with this: ” I also stressed that private parts are private parts and that we should not look at other people’s private parts and no one should ever see ours. (I kinda chickened out and happily took this teachable tangent.)”

    Private parts are only “private” if we say they should be, and why must we say that? I would say that we ought to view other people in a way that doesn’t rob them of their dignity, and that could have been part of the teachable moment–the idea that amusing ourselves with a look at some person we don’t know, usually chosen for being a young conventionally attractive woman, is in fact a reduction of a person to an object. It’s demeaning for the other person, and for us. Rather than attempting to turn the poor boy into a prude, I’d try to give him a concept of how we can accept other people and if we’re going to respond sexually (don’t let me seem to say it’s wrong to have sexual feelings!) then let’s do it in a way that gives everyone the most control over what’s happening, which means we don’t do anonymous peeping. So mutually agreed nudity might be OK, but let’s try not to say “girls bobes seeing them”.

    I think it’s very unfortunate that young people simultaneously grow into a curiosity about the other gender’s bodies at the same time as their sexuality starts to form, and none of it can be legitimately satisfied. Just about every male becomes a voyeur and a porn consumer before he even reaches puberty, and who’s to know what kind of mindset we end up with as a result; if we were familiar and accepting about bodies as children, would we be more tolerant and less predatory when we become adults? I can’t prove it and I don’t suppose anybody else can either, but I think it ought to be true.

    Anyway, I suggest less of the “Nobody should ever see anyone naked” stuff and more of “Everyone should respect everyone else, all the time.”

    • John P, Im impressed to see such a deep understanding of objectification and when we dont have consent to look. Our culture is permeated with the false idea that looking doesnt hurt or harm. And you pointed out some magnificent stuff. You point to 100% Respect and 100% Consent as absolutely necessary. For both parties. And you challenge conventional attractiveness, which is shoved down our throats and hijacks our ability to discover our own sexuality and preferences. We get brainwashed so young, we don’t even realize our preferences are not even out own.

      “the idea that amusing ourselves with a look at some person we don’t know, usually chosen for being a young conventionally attractive woman, is in fact a reduction of a person to an object. It’s demeaning for the other person, and for us. ……… let’s do it in a way that gives everyone the most control over what’s happening, which means we don’t do anonymous peeping.”

    • Jeff Hay says:

      Hey John,

      I appreciate the feedback and interesting info — I never thought of it from THAT perspective…
      So true — I guess I took the easy way out and dwelled on fear of strangers ‘touching’ my children. Perhaps I missed the bigger long term picture…
      I do want my children to grow up healthy and in no way robbed of dignity or having an unhealthy sense of self.
      Control over ones sexuality is good and your points are well taken — and may form the point of future conversations with my children – how far in the future is the key question!

      I look forward to more of your comments on this and any other articles!

  8. My question is this: Does this type of objectification, especially at a young age, necessarily lead to problematic behavior? Nobody is citing any research. If the answer is No, does a one-size-fits-all approach even make sense here?

    I remember poring over Sears catalogues with my 7 or 8 year old buddy, and then we went back to watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. I proceeded to pore over a lot more than catalogues over the years. Has that lead to inappropriate conduct? Not in my case, by all objective standards. Do I have an extremely well-adjusted family life and sex life as an adult? I think so, and so does my wife.

    I think the number one issue of concern with kids and sexuality is whether the conduct/exposure/etc is significantly increasing the likelihood that the child will be sexually abused or will sexually abuse another child. If not, I have a hard time penalizing any form of curiosity and experimentation. But open to other points of view here. My son is almost 4 and we’re having discussions about age-appropriate sex education at home.

    • It’s great that you are open to learning.

      To be better informed, watch the movies:

      Miss Representation – on Netflix DVD home service

      The Price Of Pleasure – on Netflix streaming

      And check out these books:

      The Centerfold Syndrome

      Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity

      These will much better prepare you for how you want to raise your son. In fact, armed with this knowledge, you will raise a Super Son.

    • Jeff Hay says:

      Hey John and Tom,

      I do agree with you John,… I turned out just fine (if I do say so myself) and looked at a lot of Sears Catalogues :) but does exposure at an early age have severe implications later in life? I am not sure… everything in moderation i guess — honest talk is critical…

  9. This reminded me of a situation that a friend of mine, who BTW was a Baptist Chaplin he’s retired now.

    His son was in the first grade and was told to make a photo collage out of pictures from catalogs and magazines the teacher had brought for that purpose. Well it seems that one of the catalogs was a Sear’s big catalog. His son made a photo collage from the women’s lingerie section.

    Needless to say he was shocked when the princple called tp tell him that he had a problem with his son that needed to be discussed. Awkward situation but he was just being a breast fed boy. Since he had a good memory.

    One of the things that my friend would do is to let his son continue to argue as long as he was making a good arguement. This soon lead to a teachers confrence because the teacher didn’t know what to do when she told the kid to do this and he gave her a concise through arguement that he didn’t need to do it! So the dad had to explain the rules of arguing to the teacher!

    That could be as much fun as teaching a kid logic like they used to require in Thomas Jefferson’s day.

    • Jeff Hay says:

      Great story James — yes, innocence is bliss :)
      Boys will be boys — is that a natural instinct for a little boy to be drawn to the Sears catalogue?
      I hope so and so does Sears :)

Speak Your Mind