22 February 2011

The Reality of Pornography

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.


  1. Anonymous22.2.11

    There is no easy way to deal with this one either. But having "discussions" with a captive audience is one of the best ways to just get the right message into their heads. Well done.
    (Did you ever see "Michael" with John Travolta? He says, through out the entire movie, "constant vigilance!" That's what being a mom is too.)

  2. We've had similar experiences here with the computer. Another thing to tuck away is that many of these sites are virus-laden, which is what happened to us. The awkward ending to this was that this was pointed out by my tech support/friend who fixed my computer. He is a state trooper in the high tech crimes unit [i.e., porn & pedophiles, and fraud too].

    This is our 1st year subscribing to the grown up Sports Illustrated, and we also have received the swimsuit edition. I left it on the table thinking it would quickly disappear. So far, daughter & I have looked through it with the appropriate critiquing. No boys have touched it to my knowledge, which surprised hubby & I. It's a complete pendulum swing and we're kind of puzzled, taking another parenting puzzle in stride.

    Good conversation with Three. Hugs~

  3. @ Chrysanthe - Excellent point about the nasty things that can be found at a porn site. People do serious damage to their computers downloading viruses and spyware from those places.

    Megan, good job on the lecture. As you point out, it probably won't stop any of the boys completely. But the underlying message is so important that it's worth repeating as often as you can stand it. And the boobs in the Swimsuit Issue are all real?! I guess that I never thought about it.

  4. Oy. Every time I read your blog, I want to close my eyes and plug my ears and hide my head in a hole. Because my oldest boy is eleven; it's coming for me.

    Kudos to you for on the talk. I'll keep my fingers crossed that all the seeds germinate. (And tuck the wisdom away for later, when I'm sure to need it.)

  5. For on? Mea culpa.

  6. Yes, our swimsuit issue of SI arrived too luckily on a Friday when I do not work, so I scooped it up before my boys (ages 9 and 6) could view it. 9's eyes would be wide if he had caught a glimpse of it but I am sure 6 would comment. He can't watch TV without saying "she's hot" to a commercial. So we continue to have the conversations of those comments are disrespectful and inappropriate. Teaching the filter isn't so easy when the reality is she was hot. But at the age of 6 to notice. OMG!

  7. Just to clarify-- I left it on the table thinking this would be a safe alternative to the websites, and boy 1 is almost 18. Still, it sits. Maybe I scared him with the virus-on-the-computer FREAKOUT. Oh and lets not forget the picture he left open on the computer. Thank God I was the one who used the computer next, and not boy 2, who was 10 at the time. :o

  8. Brave girl. Bravo!

    I toss my xmas catalogs into the classroom book bucket--toys r us, sundance jewelry, hearthsong, etc. They kids love them. I chucked an avon catalog over there a couple weeks ago and BINGO someone found a page with a bra. An adult woman in a full coverage bra like your granny might wear if all her cute ones were in the wash. It created a sensation.

    My response was: "Yup. it's a bra."

    I popped the page out, tossed it, and returned the catalog to the pile. Sigh.

    My response to the (admittedly very limited, by choice) porn I have seen tends to be "EWW" and "That's not even LIKELY."

  9. Lora - I remember playing with the Sears and Penny's catalogs in school! I loved them! I remember doing a math project in which we had to shop with a certain amount of money. Or just turning the pages to choose my favorite thing on each page. I'd forgotten that we had them in the classroom!

  10. Chrys: thanks for the virus angle. I'll be sure to include that one in the next talk.

    Delia: I'm sorry. Sometimes I do feel like a public service announcement, warning you of approaching danger. And I'm just making a lot of this stuff up as I go along, so I'm notsure how it's all going to turn out. But then...

    Julie says I'll make it through, because she did! Thanks, always, Lunarmom.

    Stormin: It is frightening how quickly they pick up on those social clues! I've always said we could roll that guy of yours right in with our pack.

    Janet: I flipped through the magazine, and I think most of the boobs are real. Most of the models look nineteen, so I can't imagine they would have had surgery. Yet.

    Lora: Because I am the lone woman, my underthings have a certain mystery to them. The pack doesn't get to see them very often, so the occasional glimpse of a bra in the laundry causes a stir. Heck, the youngest ones are still trying to figure out how I go to the bathroom without an underwear flap. Or a penis.


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