Has Your Son Been to Hooters?

Tom Matlack:

My son is a freshman at a fine boy’s high school run by the Jesuits with a strong tradition of service and athletics. He plays football, basketball, and tennis. He loves his school and, over time, I’ve grown to love it too. But last week something happened which shook me up.

I’ve written frequently about the impact of porn on our boys and how it distorts their view of women and sex. I have also written frequently about the “hook up” culture which deprives girls of the emotional connection they really want and boys the chance to grow in their capacity to experience real intimacy. I often bring these issues up at the dinner table because I want my son to know where I stand.

Last Saturday, he convinced me that he needed to go to the state hockey tournament where many of his friends would be playing for their school. I made him promise to be home for dinner. At the dinner table, I asked about the game. He said that the team had won and his friend’s dad had taken them out for lunch afterward.

Then came the words that stung me: “at Hooters!” He said it like it was funny. I was floored. What father would take another guy’s 15-year-old son to Hooters?

I didn’t approve, and I let him know. He tried to convince me that Hooters was just like any other restaurant and he’d gone just for the burger and fries. When that didn’t work, he said he regretted telling the truth. I made it clear that the truth was all I asked of him—hiding it was just as bad as a direct lie.

Is it just me? Or is it really insane that some guy took my kid to Hooters? What do you think I should do?


Ryan O’Hanlon:

As a young man who went to an all-boys high school and then onto a Jesuit college, I can relate. Honestly, I’m glad I went to an all-boys school. I made close friends that I’ll have forever and got a great education. If I had to go through high school again, I’d do it the same way. But still, the atmosphere can get a bit stale. You’re surrounded by guys … all the time. Sure, you make friends with girls from other schools, but it’s not the same as interacting with them on a daily basis.

So, a 15-year-old going to Hooters isn’t really a bad thing. It’s good for a young kid to check it out and to form his own opinions about the whole thing. It’s the polar opposite of an all-boys high school, and stepping outside of that comfort zone is healthy. The first Hooters trip is a milestone in every guy’s life. It’s a stupid milestone, but it’s still a trip every guy remembers. I went junior year with some of my teammates. We ate some wings and acted like a bunch of dumb 17-year-olds. I haven’t been back since; the food is awful, and I’m just not a fan of white sneakers and tube socks. But it’s still something I remember.

Which is why it’s a tough spot. Hooters isn’t just about the food. Duh. And that’s especially true for a 15-year-old boy. So, yeah, I think a father has a reason to be upset if another dad takes his kid to Hooters without asking. But for the son, it’s harmless fun.

—Photo espensorvik/Flickr


About the Editors

We're all in this together.


  1. It’s late for me to comment on this, but I happened across this article while doing research on a related topic.

    The good thing about this is that it gave you an opportunity to talk to your son about it. Your son will not come out damaged because of this. Rather, it’s a question of principle, especially when another parent makes that decision.

    To put things in perspective, though, I would ask the father who took the boys to Hooters where he (or his wife) would take the girls’ ringette or soccer team. Where should 15-year-old girls go to see waiters in muscle shirts and get a good ogle at their tight jeans with a buldge in them? Where should they go to “learn what it’s all about” or pass that “milestone”? I have yet to see a Coqs “restaurant” with a picture of a rooster and something resembling a penis in the logo.

    This goes deeper than what seems to be an innocent outing. You were absolutely right to be concerned. All of us should be.

  2. I sent both my 22 yr olds to a will known award winning Catholic High School in California. The school has 99% of the kids going on to well known Colleges and Universities. They are raised to respect others and the rights of others. Hooters is not a bad place. My boys and younger kids 13 and 10 have been there for a family birthday for my father-in-law. The girls don’t all have over sizes boobs , nor can you see them. My boys are both doing well, have college degrees and respect their girlfriends. Hooters did not distort them or cause them to think of women as sex objects. Hooters also has very good wings. Relax

    • Will737 says:

      Tom is right. Adults are probably alright. But it’s not for children. I have seen two Lesbian Hooters waitresses physically, sexually harass a straight Hooters waitress. A Hooters waitress once put my computer on her back facebook pages where she was photgraphed naked. I have seen Hooters waitresses molested and management did nothing. The only two women I have ever known to be whores, yes, actual prostitutes, were Hooters waitresses (in costume and working while making this known to me). Consider a Hooters Corporate Trainer in the Jarman Gray case. There a Corporate Trainer encouraged the waitresses to perform sex acts for money with the customers. The Asst. Manager Jarman Gray was fired for objecting. This is not half of what I have seen. Best you can say is that they’re not all perverts. Bottom line, my view is that Hooters sure isn’t a wholesome, “family restaurant” for the kids that the lying Hooters marketing campaign is trying to sell.

  3. this is hilarious! i think he’s just frustrated that HE didn’t get to go! women and boobs are not something to be feared, sir. they’re in shorts and tanks, not g-strings and pasties! if you lived in florida, he would see this on the beach from infancy.

  4. lindsay says:

    Honestly, I see nothing wrong with Hooters. The first time I went there was when I was 2 and I go there all of the time. My son’s baseball team goes there all of the time. It isn’t a strip club, it is just a restaurant with females as waitresses. The boys enjoy themselves a lot, and they have god food. So what if the Hooters girls show a little cleavage?

  5. I took my son to Hooters when he was 5. We were meeting another dad and his son for lunch and apparently it was their usual spot. I must admit that I was a bit hesitant, but we went. It was basically the same as Chilli’s but with a NASCAR theme (which is probably the real reason I don’t ever go there). Once I walked in I couldn’t figure out what the hoopla (hootla?) was about. It was much tamer than I had been led to believe.

    Still, my kid was five and not looking at the staff the same way that 15-year-old boys are prone to do.

    Tom, I think the dad that took your son to Hooters should have realized the stigma attached to the place and consulted you — or gone someplace else. However, I’m under the impression you’ve never been in a Hooters (my apologies if I’m wrong), and while I wouldn’t ever suggest someone should go there (bad food, NASCAR), I don’t think it’s quite as amoral as we’ve been led to believe. Of course, that in itself is all relative.

    Please note, this is not an endorsement of Hooters. I don’t imagine a scenario where I’ll ever go back.

  6. I have taken my family to Hooters many times, and it is often at my wife’s suggestion. I feel it is no big deal, it is to me and my family just another restaurant. With that said, if I thought that another parent would not want their child to go, I wouldn’t take them.

    Also, I feel that the comparison of Hooters to pornography is unfair. Have you ever actually been to Hooters?

  7. I see more skin and sex-sells-thinking on the banner ad at the top of this page (add for a hotel chain) than I see at Hooters. And Rufus is right–you are mad because the other guy chose something you wouldn’t have and took your child along. Be thankful for the conversation you got to have with your boy as a result.

  8. This is not about Hooters, feminizing boys, prudish values, morality or any of that. This is about one man pissing on another turf. It is about one man being betrayed by another whom he was forced to trust. All that other stuff is just want we say in polite company or in the company of women and children to make use appear more temperate and civilized.

  9. Hang on a minute. I think even Tom is missing the point here.
    This isn’t about Hooters. This isn’t about the loss of innocence of his son. It’s not about whether or not Hooters is age appropriate or about the various levels of morality of other men.

    This is about Tom realizing that he can’t control everything in his son’s life. And that is a scary realization to make.

    Tom, you’re a lot like me. You love your son and you want to be the primary male influence on him. You hope to guide him and influence him to be a moral and upstanding young man in order to prepare him for manhood. I get it. Me too.

    But sometimes you have to have a little darkness in order to see the light. You can’t hover over him at every moment. Use this as a learning moment and move on.

    You can really work this situation to your advantage. Clearly you don’t approve of Hooters. That’s fine. That’s your morality. You an use your being upset to show your son that you do not approve of it. I am sure he gets it. But target your ire at the father and not your son. Being upset with your son could lead to him not telling you things in the future. Express your disappointment in the father for having taken him there and let it go. Show your son that you are also a forgiving person. Show him that being a good man is about wanting to protect his son, but that it is also about being understanding and forgiving as well.

    You can’t protect him from everything. The sooner you realize that the better. You’re lucky it was just Hooters. Use that to your advantage. If he knows Hooters would upset you, there is little chance he is going to wander into a strip club anytime soon.

    Best of luck

  10. I don’t think Tom’s opinion has anything to do with being prudish. It’s Hooters. It’s a bit insincere to pretend it’s an education in reality or respect for women. While I don’t think Hooters is as degrading as some other male outlets for female entertainment, I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s completely innocent either.

    If men want their son’s to be open about their sexuality, they’re going to have a better shot at bringing them to a museum and discussing nudes of females then they are of Hooters and ogling breasts. But this would be a less salacious activity so it wouldn’t interest the majority of men to approach the female body with more openness, reality and respect when they can go ogle 18-24 year old girls instead. I think it’s a bit insulting and dishonest to say men go to Hooters for any other reason. While the wings might be tasty, you could go to any sports bar and get equally tasty food.

    We teach our children how to treat others at very early ages. It’s one thing for 15 year boys to ogle 22 year old women and be goofy together as 15 year old boys and visit Hooters out of their own natural curiosity into manhood. I don’t see any harm in that because naturally, they are 15 year old boys and still learning what they are about and their going to be goofy with their hormones. But it’s at this time when a father or male role model needs to step in and talk about how to treat women and girls despite his VERY natural feelings.

    It’s one thing for a 15 year old to go to Hooters, it’s another when their male role models, fathers, uncles, older brothers; join in the fun and revert to being 15 years old themselves ogling the same said 22 year old girls and giving their son’s the message that this is how grown men can and should act to be a man and that good old Mom just ain’t as cute anymore as those darling little 22 year olds so good old Dad can have some fun too with the little 22 year olds. Early on showing your son that the worth of a woman comes down to her chest size and age even when your a 45+ year old man and have learned so much more. This is part of the problem with our culture today. It’s one thing for 15 year old boys to be all goofy like that but I would hope that for the good of a man’s own son AND daughter, he’s want to rise above that.

    If a man thinks that going to Hooters or strip clubs is a “right of passage” into manhood, then I really question what that man thinks manhood is about. Enjoying your sexuality as a man is one thing, setting women up to fail as women for not fitting into the narrow ideals men easily fall into worship for when it comes to the female body is another. Places like Hooters worship stereotypes of women that set women up to fail. I’m not saying that a 22 year old woman shouldn’t be admired as beautiful. But these places, even for the said 22 year old woman, set all woman up to fail.

    I think there are many men reading this right now that would never want their daughter to work in Hooters being ogled by men old enough to be her own father. Or being ogled by other 22 year old man asking each other how big do you think her “rac” is. And I think there are many men reading this right now that would be offended if their wives took their daughters to a place that objectified men and used them for an hour’s enjoyment. Women don’t want to be used for their bodies and men don’t want to be used for their resources and money right? So just go with me on this and think of it how you as a man would feel if your wife took your daughter to a hypothetical place that was all about using men for money, teaching her at the ripe age of 15, that it’s okay to “sometimes” treat men like this for kicks. What’s the harm right? Funny that there is no such place like that. But yet, as a woman, you need to be cool with him just using you for your body as a means to an end in defining “manhood”.

    Maybe we need to be asking ourselves what real manhood is about. And if you want to see better role models for young boys, if we are truly sick of seeing men on TV protrayed like ego-centric, bumbling idiots that can’t control their sex or food conception, then maybe we shouldn’t let ourselves indulge these stereotypes in real life either and so closely tie it to being about what “manhood”.

  11. Hi Tom,

    I think you have every right to be somewhat upset. The parent who took these boys to Hooters was by default representing the schools (doesn’t matter if it is private or public) and/or teams. Not appropriate and bad (not egregious) judgment. Harmful—probably not. But, not harmless either.

    Someone entrusted this parent to look after the boys. I suspect due to some insecurity he was trying to show the kids just how cool he was. An adult arranging this outing puts a rubber stamp of approval on such things- not his job- that is for a parent to decide.

    I don’t think you are at any risk of shutting down communication with your son over this. I’m sure he wasn’t surprised by your reaction. At some point, he will probably lie to you about something.

    What I find most odd is Max Bronson’s comment: “This feminizing of boys and men has to stop”
    Where does this come from? How does he leap to this? What is the next step, hiring a hooker to butch him up?

    Your son is 15, you have every right and the responsibility to influence what he does or does not get exposed to. Yes, kids are exposed to lots more stuff on the Internet but, they are not simultaneously told it is OK.

    Is your son now more masculine because he has been to Hooters?? Less so because you expressed concern? I will look at him closely next time I see him. This will embarrass the hell out of him. 😉


  12. Kevin O'Hare says:


    Its good you told your son what you thought of it now it’s time to call his friend’s dad and tell him. It seems the best thing about your story is that your son told you something he probably knew would illicit a response from you. The trick is to really reward him for that kind of trust.

  13. Were I in your shoes, I’d be frustrated, but at least it’s not a strip club.

  14. Yes, I would be upset too! As the child’s father, I would be the one wanting to show my son what a “real” woman looks like…and it’s certainly not those top-heavy, poor excuses for “sexy” that call themselves serving you food.

    From a business perspective, I think the whole Hooters concept is brilliant…being that sex sells and all. But, as a man and a father that’s totally anti-Hollywood and Entertainment Weekly, the idea stinks! They are totally distorting the image of a “woman”.

  15. A very good conversation. I for one am in the camp of no harm no foul. With that being said, your son was honest with you and that’s the most important thing here. If he had felt compelled to hide where he went to lunch, then I would be wondering why?

  16. The father who took the 15 y/o boys to Hooters probably should have known he’d be opening himself up to criticism by doing so; if he didn’t he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. That said . . .

    Your son told you a very important piece of information, which you and most other readers chose to ignore – “i wish I just hadn’t told you the truth about it.” What more can be said about what the son feels about what he interprets to be a gross overreaction on his father’s part. Keep it up and you will teach him to be a proficient lliar. Teen-aged boys are just that – boys. PICK YOUR BATTLES WISELY.

    And yeah, I have been there as the father of a teen-aged boy AND a teen-aged girl.

  17. Tom

    I think it’s fine to bring a 15 year old boy to Hooters. Please lighten up. It’s Hooters not a strip club.


    1. I disagree with you. I think Hooters has excellent wings. Not the best by any stretch of the imagination but still far better than many other restaurants serving wings in my city.

    2. When you say

    “Which is why it’s a tough spot. Hooters isn’t just about the food. Duh.”

    First of all I still don’t see why it is a tough spot. I agree that it isn’t just about the food. Just like my teenage boyhood spent at the beach. It wasn’t about swimming. And the girls and women there were wearing a lot less than what the Hooters waitresses wear.

  18. I think in America you guys are too conservative when it comes to the human form. The more you try to “forbid” breasts, the more guys will want to see them. Go to PNG for a week where many tribes walk around topless and very soon you will be bored of women’s breasts.

  19. Yes, it’s you. Overprotecting your son like this is going to backfire on you. Have you ever been to Hooters? It’s harmless. Your son is staring at his female teacher’s breasts all day long, and while I’m sure they are not pushed up as high as a waitress’, it’s not that different.

    The father who took them is probably not the brightest but you are building a story in your head that doesn’t need to be filling your day. Gotta let you kid experience stuff Tom. After all, he didn’t take them to a strip club – now that’s a real issue.
    -relax my friend.

    • It’s curious how no man answered Henry’s question about how you guys would feel if your high school age daughter wanted to work at Hooter’s.
      My dad would have tried to stop me at all costs – physically, if necessary.

  20. Good thoughts, Tom. I don’t think Hooters is all that more damaging than Victoria’s Secret billboard or the garbage that comes out of the mouths of Jersey Shore caricatures. Not that that makes it any better.

    “I have also written frequently about the “hook up” culture which deprives girls of the emotional connection they really want and boys the chance to grow in their capacity to experience real intimacy.”

    I also just wanted to note, as a girl who has grown-up in hook-up culture, that I don’t think it’s quite as clear-cut as this. I can’t speak for all girls, by any means, but I can speak for myself (and I think for a certain peer group). We don’t “really want” an emotional connection all the time. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we just want some action. Sometimes we don’t know what we want or can’t express it even when we do. It’s complicated (as I imagine it is for boys as well).

    • Wellokaythen says:

      I’m glad someone pointed this out, that women’s desire isn’t all about just one thing. Yes, his son needs to know that an intimate relationship is great and it’s something many women want, but he also needs to know that sometimes women may have sex with him who are NOT looking for a long-term relationship. Both sons and daughters need to know that just because someone has sex with you does not mean that he or she loves you. His son needs to know how to communicate well and know himself well so that there’s no misunderstanding about that.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      My bad Emily. I am speaking from the experience of raising a now 17 year old daughter who has struggled through a school experience where basically no one believed in monogamy which I think was hard for her and hard to watch as a dad. But I didn’t mean to diminish the female sex drive.

      A couple things that are relevant to the question:



      • Very fair, Tom. And I’m also not a parent! So given that kids get hook-up, hook-up, hook-up, hook-up all the time from their peers and media, it’s probably a good thing if their parents overcompensate with commitment/relationship/monogamy etc!

  21. Why the hell does the site keep refreshing? It keeps happening while I’m in the middle of typing a response which is of course lost.

    As I was saying while I can understand and agree with you being mad (he is your son and you are responsible for him and his actions until he reaches adulthood) I don’t think a trip to Hooters is inherently bad as a lot of people make it out to be. (There are few things that I think are actually inherently bad and Hooters just does not make that cut.)

    Its one thing to go to Hooters to look at the women that work there. Its quite another to go to Hooters to look at the women that work there, think you have some right to touch them, make rude comments, and make all sorts of assumptions about them.

    Personally I would not want someone else to take my son to a Hooters unless it was someone that would be able to properly guide them. And by that I mean making sure that they know while looking may be fine there are things that are off limits (like the behaviors I just mentioned above) in that environment.

  22. My dad took my brother to Hooters for his 16th birthday just to embarrass him, as though breasts are something to be embarrassed by. The whole implication of going to Hooters is just appalling, in my opinion. I mean, it’s obvious that’s not the worst thing a guy can do, of course, but even the name screams that this is a place where you can eat and ogle at girls young enough to be your daughters (let’s be real. I’ve gone to Hooters twice, and the only men I see in there are old men who likely aren’t married, and if they were, divorced.)

Speak Your Mind