Dan Savage is on a book tour for his new book American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. Please enjoy this Savage Love letter from the archives. This letter was originally published July 12, 2007:
I'm pro-sex, bisexual, and GGG. I'm also a mother. I have a 14-year-old son, and when I type a website address into our home computer, a million porn sites pop up. I've had lots of lovers, watched my share of porn, I masturbate, blah blah blah. But something about my baby looking at Asian sluts getting it up the ass turns me into a sex-negative freak.
I can't stand the thought of my son looking at porn on the internet. And the thought of him wanking in front of my computer gets me going as well. Help me out here! Should I say something? I don't want to make him uncomfortable! Should I make him stop?
Internet Porn Reality Utterly Dismays Elder
Sure, IPRUDE, "make him" stop. Make your 14-year-old son stop looking at all the free porn on the internet. Sounds like a plan. And after your son stops looking at internet porn, IPRUDE, be a doll and make George W. Bush pull our troops out of Iraq, fire Dick Cheney, and institute a single-payer health-care system. And then make him resign. Thanks.
Look, IPRUDE, like a lot of hipster parents, you've concluded that your enlightened attitudes toward sex obligate you to smile on your son's taste in porn and his masturbatory habits. After all, you wouldn't want your son to judge the porn you like or make you feel bad about masturbating, right? So wouldn't it make you a hypocrite if you judged his porn and made him feel bad about masturbating? No, IPRUDE, it wouldn't, and here's why: because you don't live in his house, he lives in yours; you're old enough to understand the difference between porn sex and real sex, he's not; you're not using his computer, he's using yours.
Sorry, IPRUDE, but you have to say something to him because you're the parent. And there are times when a parent—even a pro-sex, GGG, bisexual parent—has to make her kid feel uncomfortable. The conversation you're about to have is gonna make your son wanna die, of course, but someone has to tell him that he's not the porn ninja he thinks he is. Right now he thinks he's getting away with it, stealthily downloading Asian anal gangbang porn and having top-secret wanks at Mom's computer. You can't send him off to college, or let him move in with roommates, or, God forbid, marry someone believing that he'll be able to fool his roommates or his new wife the same way he fooled his mother.
This talk isn't going to stop your son from looking at internet porn, nor is he going to refrain from beating off in front of your computer. But a freak-out—even a strategic, disingenuous freak-out—will prompt your son to become more cautious about his porn consumption. He'll be sneakier and cover his tracks better, if only to avoid more boner-killing conversations with Mom about his taste in porn. Being stealthier about how and when and where he consumes internet porn will also result in his consuming a bit less of it, which is what you want. And if you include a few choice words about the kind of porn he's looking at—what it depicts, where it was made, how it may shape or distort his desires—he may even give a bit more thought to his porn choices. Good luck, Mom.