The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has arrived. I knew it was on its way, because one of Three's friends texted that his had been deposited in the mailbox. At this point in time, I think the thirteen year olds are more excited about its publication than the Captain, who has seen his share of swimsuit models over the years, and grown jaded.
Only a few years ago, we would hide the issue away from young, impressionable eyes. Now, we know that if you have a computer, you can access internet porn with ease. I remember a friend telling us his twelve year old kept swiping his laptop for viewing purposes, and I was horrified. And then the same thing happened here.
We have a laptop that I let Four use to play games. One day I turned it on for him, and the search history revealed that someone had visited a pornographic website. I quickly deleted the history, for fear that Four would accidentally click on it, and then I went to find Two. I told him what I had discovered.
"Two," I began, "someone accessed porn on the laptop. I know it wasn't you, because you know the rules, and you're also not stupid enough to leave the site on the search history."
"Yeah," he answered, "that's definitely Three. He's an idiot."
This meant a conversation was in order. I waited until I was driving Three to practice, because all important conversations take place in the van. I told him what I had found, and started with the most basic rule: you aren't allowed to watch pornography. Even though I know from experience that they will, if given the opportunity, absolutely watch porn, it's important to forbid it. Otherwise, we're tacitly endorsing it.
I told him how horrifying it would have been if his nine year old brother had accidentally clicked on the link. This was a risk, because I knew he would either listen to me, and stop watching, or get more savvy about deleting his searches. His embarrassed silence led me to believe he might actually be shamed into listening.
I finished the talk with what I call "The Broader Societal Context, and What That Means for You." This includes the important distinction between pornography and real sex. Our society is obsessed with looks, and the pursuit of perfection. It's a crazy cycle of botox, boob jobs, and staged intercourse. I want the boys to understand that real sex between real people with real bodies isn't going to resemble porn. Otherwise, they're going to pursue some ridiculous, idealized version of a woman, or themself, and never be satisfied.
Finally, I threw in the fact that if any of the actors on these sites are under the age of eighteen, it is considered child pornography, and that is a punishable offense. Most of the posted videos are "real people," which means no one is checking their working papers, you know? This is the nugget to tuck in the back of his mind for the future, when he is older, and decides to browse again.
There is no way to measure the success of the pornography lecture. This isn't the first time I've had it, and it won't be the last. It's a tough sell to the hyper-active hormonal stew that is a teenage boy. I almost want to hand him the Sports Illustrated, which is tame by comparison. Sure, the models are almost naked, but at least the boobs are real.