What do you say about sex?

On UnschoolingDiscussion, a mom wrote:
Well, this brings up a topic I've wondered about. My son is just 12 and he runs all over the Internet looking up World of Warcraft and other game-type stuff. I'd expect him to show interest in porn sooner or later. How have you guys with older kids handled this? How have you explained what it is? Have you made any judgments about it?
I/Sandra, responded:
Anyone who read that should really think for a long while (half an hour, or the rest of your lives) what it would mean to have "made any judgments about it." "Judgment" like whether you think it's a good or bad idea? Judgment like taking the computer away?

Someone asked me to post what I had written about Kirby, but I think it's probably something I wrote on this list about Marty a couple of years ago. It just so happens someone asked me for this two days ago, so it's handy (and has the message number there too in case anyone wants to go back into the archives and read more of that discussion).

Oh! And just before that, I'm going to put here what I wrote when that mom thanked me:

Sometimes I'm criticized by people saying I'm disrespectful to my children for sharing these kinds of stories, and every year or two I ask tell my kids someone said such a thing, or ask if they mind, and they really don't. Their whole lives started up in and around La Leche League, where moms are openly nursing in front of each other AND working to share and learn about how to be sweet to one's children. They understand what's going on with all this and why, and (a big one) they are not ashamed of their lives. Sandra

From: SandraDodd
Date: Fri Jan 17, 2003 9:26 am
Subject: Pornography and teens (long, true)

In a message dated 1/17/03 2:28:54 AM, [email protected] writes:

<< But boys get their curiosity blocked because there isn't any acceptable "pornography" for boys. >>

Whether it's "acceptable" or not, there is a fair amount of written fanfiction involving characters from comic book series, fantasy series, and even video games. Some of it is just adventure/romance, and some is at least as graphic as romance novels. Maybe it's for and by girls, though, I don't know.

Two nights ago I wanted to play Destruct-o-Match on Neopets. Both Marty (14) and Holly (11) play Neopets, and I have an account (just so I can play that pattern-falling cascading game myself without having to ask Marty) and our Mac Powerstrip we use to get to recent files, recent programs, recent sites was FULL of porn stuff. I didn't open any, the titles themselves were gross enough. OH!! I had wanted to get to Netflix to cancel getting a DVD I had just rented (which didn't work).

Well anyway, usually I use it to get to Neopets games page.

I called Marty in, and said "Marty, this is a bit much."

He said "Most of it was pop-ups mom, I didn't really look at it all much. Just some."

I asked him if he could cover those kinds of trails over so I didn't have to know and so Holly wouldn't accidently see. I said he needed to open a bunch of CLEAN websites and look at some better stuff so that would be on the trail. He told me he could delete the trail. I said I didn't think he could, that I had even asked Leon, one of the developers, who said it only works on the Mac OSX version, not 9.

But Marty is a teenaged boy, so besides his porn curiosity he has a computer facility. And he figured out a three-step process to erase that list through Internet Explorer.

If I say "NO, never ever even look," I risk losing the communication we have within which he will just tell me what he's seen and knows and where it came from.

But that story has gone two days now. At first he was embarrassed and "Mom, okay, I know, don't talk to me about it anymore." So I said I wanted to talk to him one more time the next day, about whether he knows the reasons people object to kids looking at porn.

The next day came and had nearly passed without me remembering, when he came and said, "Okay, mom."


"You wanted to talk to me about porn."

"Oh! Thanks. I hadn't remembered."

So I asked if he knew the objections. He said no. I said, "In all your reading and listening you haven't heard objections to porn?"

"Well, that its illegal for me to see it."

I talked to him about degradation of women, about creating unhealthy and unreasonable expectations in marriages, and that normal sex wasn't like that. He said "Well, DUH, mom!" I said some people were messed up by WANTING it to be. He seemed surprised that that could happen.

I told him that some of those who are filmed are not quite volunteers and told him two stories, one of the mom of girls his age he's known his whole life, who was photographed as a kid for posed stills which were sold out of Oklahoma. It was shocking for him, and I don't know much detail, but naming a person he knew who had been victimized was effective. I told him of a drug dealer and illegal snake importer my younger half-brother had taken up with some years back, who videod him and his then-girlfriend, and used it as blackmail (she was from a Mormon family) to get them to deliver drugs for him.

Then I said I didn't think it was the most horrible thing people could do, to look at pictures, but he REALLY needed to be careful because it's illegal and I didn't want the county coming to talk to me about anything they were doing.

(I had a similar moment with Holly later that evening about going outside in a teensy fancy t-shirt and nylon pajama pants, no shoes, in January, while she has a sore throat. "Illegal," I told her, for parents to allow that, and let's not draw attention to a loose lifestyle by being outside in the cold without proper attire.)

I told Marty that women tend to prefer word-porn and so they don't get caught, but pictures were easy to find and more offensive.

I told him one danger was obsession. I didn't go into that much, because some of the original arguments about obsession were the cost. I did have a friend years ago who had a large collection of porn videos that had cost him $60 to $80 apiece. Had he had the internet, his obsession wouldn't have ruined his finances, nor left a mountain of evidence to shock his mom. (That friend had a sex change operation since then, so I think it was his way of dealing with deeper psychological and biological situations, and that was way too much to tell Marty.)

Then I asked him if he had ANY idea how much trouble some other boys his age would get into if their parents caught them having looked at that kind of stuff on the computer. He said "Lots?" I talked about loss of computer accesss, grounding, and physical spanking by some big grown man.

He said he had been mostly embarrassed when I first talked to him because he had had friends in the house. They couldn't hear us, but he had to leave where they were, talk to me, and go back in there, and it just embarrassed him. I said in those worst-case situations, the parents would have called all of the friends' parents, said to come get them, told them why, and some of THEM would have been grounded and in trouble just for hanging out with someone who had looked at porn.

I doubt he really fully believes me on those things, or maybe he can't fathom a parent doing that to a child.

I don't mind having a kid who can't readily imagine being hit by an angry, grown man or can't imagine being told "You stay in your room for a month and don't even touch a computer."

For anyone who has read this far and is offended, I didn't mean to throw this out to offend anyone. It's a candid, current situation involving a real teen.

And usually the trail on this real teen's internet use has Neopets, AoN (a role-playing game), humor sites, and in-person friends' journals. People who know Marty wouldn't think of him as a nasty kid. He's not. He is coming into adulthood, though, and he's curious.

I think similar to make-up, if it is declared "only for adults," and a girl waits and waits and WAITS until she can use it and is then unlikely to just let it go unused, a boy who is slapped away from any glimpse of nudity until he's eighteen is GOING to immerse himself in his newfound access for a while the moment he gets a chance.

Keith and I were out grocery shopping, and talking about Kirby turning seventeen this year. I said I used to want to have a big eighteenth birthday celebration for him, like a graduation, but I no longer want to do that. I don't want to declare an end to his learning, nor to his living with us if he wants to stay. Keith said he had no ideas either, but that was fine. Said "Well, I'm not going to get him drunk and take him to a whorehouse, so there's probably going to be no rite of passage."

Kirby wouldn't want any of that anyway. ANOTHER good thing. When he turns eighteen, he'll have more legal rights, but there won't be the effect of huge tension released. He'll have no restrictions suddenly lifted.

I know this won't suit everyone's belief system, but it is working with us to produce mature, calm, considerate, communicative teenaged boys. They're not angry with us, they're not reactionary, they're not sneaky.


Marty asked me to clarify this:

The night he was looking at those sites, it was because of a discussion during a table-gaming session, in which someone had said there was porn about every possible topic, and one of the boys said "not centaurs." Marty had assured him there was centaur porn, and had been asked to prove it. He proved his point, but it did open up a bunch of other windows in the process.

I'm sorry that I didn't share sooner the origins of Marty's search that night.


Another important thing for our 17 year olds to know (I have one too) is that it is illegal for someone over 18 to look at porn with someone under 18. Someone we know went to jail for that (I think it was combined with masturbating as well, but it doesn't have to, to be illegal) and the whole thing was very shocking and upsetting, and I felt a bit stupid, for not realizing that it was against the law. Although maybe it's fun and not that awful for kids to look at porn together, once my child turns 18 it becomes VERY much more risky for him, and that's something to talk about too.

Note from Sandra:
Such laws probably vary from one jurisdiction to another, but it might be worth pointing out to older teens in any case.

Subj: Unschooling = funny kids with diverse interests
Date: Monday, August 22, 2005
From: Deb Lewis

Last night Dylan said "Does anyone care if I go on-line?" He was checking to see if anyone else was just then planning to use the computer or if one of us was expecting a phone call.

In his most fatherly voice dh, David, said, "That depends, are you going to be looking at pornography?"

Witty son, not missing a beat replied, "Almost certainly."

Dh, "By all means, then."

He did go on-line but he read book reviews at Amazon and went to the website for the H.P. Lovecraft film festival (I know because he called me in to look at the Cthulhu fish car emblem.) And then he came and watched "Lost in Translation" with us.

And in light of Robyn's great post about TV content I thought I'd tell you what an always unschooled, no TV limits, thirteen year old checked out at the library.

One book, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlen. Three documentaries, "World War II," The History Channel's "The Nazis Helped Into Power," and "Prehistoric Life." Four movies: The Marx Brother's "Room Service," "Battlestar Galactic," "Malcolm X," and "Vertigo." And four episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Deb L

"For yesterday is already a memory and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day." ~Kalidasa

quotes are various other people

5/3/07 by e-mail, with the author's permission to post it anonymously here:

A while back I read the "sex" topic on your website and thought to myself that I needed to remember to check back to it when the day arrived when my son started finding online porn. When my stepson was 9 or 10-ish (he's 20 now), I discovered he'd been visiting online porn sites and I wasn't real thrilled, after the fact, with how I handled it with him. When I, some years later, read how you handled it with Marty, I knew that was the route I wanted to go with my son.

Tonight is when I discovered my son (age 8) was curious about pictures of naked people and of sex, and I discovered quite by accident (he immediately turned off the computer when I walked into the room, which was unusual behavior for him). I skimmed through our computer's history to get an idea of what he'd been looking at, then went to your site and found the article I remembered reading about how you handled it with Marty. I reread it, then read bits and pieces of it aloud to my son. We had a good conversation, a little bit awkward at times, but good overall and we both felt comfortable by the end of our conversation. At one point, he commented that he sometimes wishes he wouldn't grow up, and I told him I remember your daughter saying something along those lines once =).

I know you probably hear this often, but thank you for sharing your family's experiences. Please extend my (and my son's) thanks to Marty for agreeing to let you share the online porn story.

Msg # From: SandraDodd@. . .
Date: Sat Jan 18, 2003 9:20 am

My dh has shared that he believes that when the family is unhealthy, porn more likely becomes an addiction to fill a hole.

I agree. I think it's the same as other "internet dangers." If a child has nothing else to do and no affirmation of wholeness, the internet can be an escape from what seems a lack of life. But when life is big and real and happy, the child will be there, in his own real life.
Your perspective and style of interacting with your kids is refreshing and gives me hope.
Thanks. Sometimes when I write those things so plainly I worry that I'll cause more damage than good in some families. But since things ARE going so well with my boys (and I hope it stays that way) it seems worth continuing to share.


Anyone who wants to read the rest of that discussion can join this list: I have archives of most of it, thanks to Vlad Gurdiga, in 2019.

I . . . read a lot of those soft core romance novels like "The Flame and The Flower". I guess I'd rather he not. . .

He won't!
It's really not fair that girls can get away with reading "romance novels" (each with the requisite and traditional two hot, nasty sex scenes) and people smile because they're reading books, but a boy can get caught with a copy of Penthouse and all hell breaks loose.

It isn't fair, and it isn't healthy. (Not that the romance novels are healthy, but I have read pretty many, and will probably read a few more before I go.)

I guess if I was totally honest (and I've been way honest so far--- TMI anyone?) I think there are a lot worse things the kid could be doing the viewing dirty pictures.

And there are better things parents can do than create situations that cause their kids to lie and sneak.


Masturbation and the Surgeon General (a few years back, but worth considering)

Online Safety (an unschooling take)

Saying Yes to our children as often as we can (how unschoolers help their children make good choices in the real world)

Teens, dating, possible recommendations about sex

On another site:

"So. Take a deep breath. A posture of utter humility before the mystery and grandeur of life is appropriate. And be cool. It's going to be OK." Cary Tennis, a Q&A columnist, wrote that here, in response to a parent concerned that his 13 year old son might be gay. That's a small part of a long, wonderful answer.

Some bad news, though...

By 2018 or so, the internet wasn't as safe, and a sort of a cult movement had spread, separating children from the parents, if the parents wouldn't willing join. As I write this, in 2022, things are getting worse, not better, but there are also signs of a turn-around.

Some questions and answers collected (well organized, with links) by Joyce Fetteroll, on issues of transgender:

Transgender Questions

In 2022 someone was saying one thing and another "was" rape, but it turned out there is a new law in the U.K. with a particular detail, one person had been charged with that crime, so far, and because the writer is in the U.S., her point wasn't proven.