What the hell do I say to my straight 14-year-old son about porn? Should I say anything? My sister tells me that all the research shows my son has been looking at porn for three years already. Am I too late? —Distressed Anxious Dad
According to the Today show and the Boston Globe and the American Family Association and most of what pops up when you Google “kids and porn,” DAD, you’re three years late to this pants-shitting party. “The average age a child first views internet pornography is 11,” Matt Lauer warned parents on Today seven years ago. “And those kids don’t look away.”
But the alarming statistic Lauer cited—which was used to justify all sorts of proposed crackdowns on online porn—turned out to be total bullshit. Way, way back in 2005, Seth Lubove, a writer for Forbes, traced the stat back to its source. The Today show got it from the Boston Globe, the Boston Globe got it from Family Safe Media, “a small firm in Provo, Utah, [which] is in the business of scaring parents into buying software to protect their kids from internet smut.” Family Safe Media got it from Internet Filter Review, a website that markets content-blocking software. Internet Filter Review got it from The Drug of the New Millennium, a self-published book about the dangers of porn addiction. Lubove tracked down the self-published author, and guess what? He couldn’t recall where he got that stat. Somewhere along the line, Third Way, “a Washington think tank that helps Democrats grab on to red-state issues,” was seriously pimping the bogus stat to credulous conservative Dems.
Lubove reviewed actual research done by legit social scientists—a real study! A statistically significant population sample! A random-sample survey!—and reported that most kids don’t start actively seeking out online porn until age 14.
So you’re not too late, DAD.
Now, here’s what I think you should tell your son about porn: There’s a lot of it out there, some of it’s pretty fucked up, and he can get in huge and potentially life-derailing trouble if he gets caught watching or downloading the wrong kind of porn, e.g., underage, kiddie, etc. You should tell your son that the sex in porn bears about as much resemblance to real-life sex as action movies bear to real-life life. And warn him that a lot of porn is made by and for guys who have no other sexual outlets, i.e., guys who have no wives, no girlfriends, and no hope. Many of these guys—many, not most, but many—are angry and resentful, and their anger and resentment is a poison that creeps into a lot of porn; sometimes the poison is obvious, sometimes it’s not. If you put it in your straight son’s head that the poisonously misogynist shit he’ll see in some porn is there to appeal to angry losers who can’t get laid, DAD, your son will be less likely to internalize it—because your son doesn’t want to see himself as an angry loser, right?
Finally, DAD, if your son is watching porn, he’s masturbating. Tell him to vary his routine: left hand, right hand, a little lube, a lot of lube, firm grip, loose grip. You don’t want your son to ruin himself for partnered sex by using the “death grip”—a fist clenched tighter than any human throat or pussy can clench—during solo sex. And send him tomakelovenotporn.com for a brisk, sex-positive porn-versus-reality check. —Dan
A while ago, I broke up with my long-term boyfriend. A few months after the breakup, I met someone new and we started sleeping together. It was the best sex of my life. Wild, passionate, and unpredictable. New Guy wasn’t looking for anything serious, and neither was I, so we kept things very casual. After a couple months of amazing sex with New Guy, my long-term boyfriend came back into the picture. I told him I’d been seeing other people, but that I missed him and wanted to make things work between us. All good, right? Wrong! I love him so much, and I think we could have a very happy life together, but when we have sex, it just seems so dull and average compared to the volcanic sex that I was having during our time apart. Do I sacrifice an amazing sex life for a happy life of decidedly average sex with the man I love? Help! —Missing Amazing Sex
You’re not going to be happy having safe, boring, predictable sex with Mr. Long Term for the long term, right? Not after all that wild, passionate, unpredictable sex with Mr. New Guy. So if things don’t improve, your relationship with Mr. Long Term is doomed. So you have nothing to lose by slapping your cards down on the table, MAS.
Tell Mr. Long Term the truth: The sex has to get better. Now, maybe Mr. Long Term is the problem (he could be lousy at sex) or maybe it’s the combo of you and Mr. Long Term that’s the problem (maybe you two just don’t click sexually), and the relationship is doomed no matter what you do. But there’s a chance your problem is a relatively common hang-up, MAS. It’s possible that you, or Mr. Long Term, or you and Mr. Long Term feel inhibited during sex because you’re in love, and people who are in love are supposed to have sex one way (you’re supposed to make safe, boring, predictable love). But people who aren’t in love—people like you and Mr. New Guy—are free to have sex another way (they’re allowed to have wild, passionate, and unpredictable fucks).
Give Mr. Long Term permission to fuck you like he’s never going to see you again. You should fuck him the same way. Fuck each other like the stakes are low—fuck like it’s casual, fuck like it could end at any time. The “lovemaking” inhibition can be literally fucked death, if it’s indeed the problem here, and once you’ve fucked it good and dead, you’ll see that you can have a happy life, a committed relationship, and wild, passionate, unpredictable sex—with the same person!
But you gotta want it bad enough to fuck for it. —Dan
I’m a straight woman in a monogamous, long-distance relationship with a straight man. Last weekend, I went out with my roommate (also a straight woman, also in a committed relationship). We went to a club, took some E, and did way too many tequila shots. We stumbled home and ended up fingerbanging each other in my bed. I have never had sexual feelings for my roommate, and she says she doesn’t have them for me. Do I have to tell my boyfriend about this indiscretion? I know he would be confused and upset. It was a strange, one-time thing that I plan on never doing again.
—Not A Lesbian I Think
If it was a one-time thing, if you learned your lesson, if you’re sure it won’t happen again, if you didn’t contract anything, and if there are no fetuses gestating (which, barring a miracle, is not an issue for you), you don’t need to disclose this indiscretion. Chalk it up to the E and the tequila, change your sheets, scrub under your fingernails, and spare your boyfriend the upsetting details. —Dan
Gay Republicans, Dan. Why? How? —Confused
Self-loathing, that’s why. Homophobia, that’s how. —Dan Savage
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