Porn Control

When people ask for advice on public online resources, they should expect a lot of unsolicited suggestions to pour in. Here is my contribution to answering the following question:

My 13 yr old son is addicted to porn. (In a nutshell). He consumes straight porn. I try to be very open about sexuality in the house with him and his brothers; he’s the middle one. However, basically, my fear is that he is seeing women be degraded and presented as a product for consumption. I know there are varying schools of thought surrounding porn and whether it can be empowering for participants, but that isn’t really relevant to whether it communicates to a young man that women are a product to be consumed by the heterosexual male gaze. I referred him to Scarleteen for sex questions, but that doesn’t seem sufficient.

First of all, how come this woman is so aware what kind of porn her son watches? How does she know that he watches it at all? If the boy thinks it is a good idea to inform his Mommy about such activities, then he is a miserable kid who is lagging behind his peers developmentally in an alarming way. Most people know by age 5 that masturbation is not an activity about which we need to render accounts to our parents. I can only imagine how many times his boundaries have been violated by his parents to make him believe he needs to inform them about his porn watching.

If the mother knows about this because she spies on her son, that’s tragic, too. I feel profound compassion for a teenager who can’t escape from Mommy’s gaze even while he is learning to explore his sexuality and discovering the pleasure his body can give him. Having a mother intrude upon this process in such a tactless way is incredibly traumatic.

Note also the mother’s belief that her son’s sexuality needs her approval. She cannot tolerate the idea that he might have any fantasies that do not conform with her political beliefs. All of her concern about women’s objectification sounds hollow when it is offered in the context of such a blatant and cruel objectification of a son by his mother. She needs to police his sexual fantasies and eradicate them if they don’t satisfy her.

And now my two pieces of unsolicited advice:

1. Instead of policing a teenager’s sex life, try to organize a sex life of your own. A kid who is going through puberty does not need to be a victim of his parents’ sexual hunger. As soon as questions about your son’s sexual fantasies start bothering you, go have sex with an adult. Or five adults. Or fifteen. repeat the exercise until these thoughts stop being obsessive and you become lucid enough to realize that his fantasies are none of your business. Just like your fantasies are none of his.

2.  Remember that your son’s sexuality belongs only to him and that people whose boundaries are constantly violated by their parents find it very hard to figure out what enthusiastic consent even means. And it isn’t porn that should be blamed for this.

As for the fear that porn will mess up his attitude to women, you can relax. His attitude to women has already been formed by what he has observed in the relationship of his parents. Besides, with this kind of a pervasive, overbearing and disrespectful mother, the chances that he will not spend his life being victimized by controlling, bossy women who will walk all over his sexuality are quite slim.

Advice for everybody else: don’t read the comments to the linked post.

Want to know why? Here is comment #1 in the thread:

Personally, I would sit down and watch a porn video with him pointing out why certain aspects are BS.

Scary shit.


Before reading this post, please remember that I’m under no obligation to share stories that make me look ridiculous. It is only because I can’t deprive my readers of an opportunity to have a good laugh that I do it, even when the laugh is on my account.

So yesterday I’m sitting at a coffee-shop in St. Louis and three older people (two men and a woman) walk in. They are in their sixties and they look very Liberal. I know you must wonder how one can look Liberal but, I swear to you, you’d identify them as card-carrying progressives, too. The clothes, the hair, the bags, the shoes, the beards on the men – all of it screamed that these folks had had a rolling good time in the sixties. Of course, as this group walks into the cafe, I greet it with a huge, happy smile. I can’t interpret facial expressions worth a damn but my own face is very easy to read. Every thought and emotion is written on it in huge letters that practically pulsate with neon.

So I beam at the older people who look pleased to be this liked and who smile back at me as they sit down at a table next to mine. And as they do so, I see that one of them is carrying a book by Ann Coulter. I immediately recognize my mistake and feel bad about having smiled at a group of Coulter fanatics who confuse innocent bystanders by looking Liberal.

Immediately, I drop the smile and start giving the group nasty stares. I don’t really control this. As I said, I have a very expressive face that believes its purpose in life is to show the world what I feel at any given moment.

The nasty looks I send to the fake Liberal group continue until the gentleman holding the Ann Coulter book shows it to the other two people and says, “It’s painful to read but you’ve got to know the enemy, right?”

This is where I realize that these people are, indeed, fellow progressives. So I stop giving them nasty looks and, again, beam a huge smile at them. They look somewhat scared by my very obvious and very sudden mood swings, get up and move away to the opposite side of the room. I remain in my seat, feeling horrible for having scared a group of peaceful older people.