Buddy of mine told me his wife caught his kid looking at porno on the computer the other day.
While going through his interweb history, a series of particular naked websites came up and it is causing problems at the house. How do you respond to a 12-year old checking out things online? How do you try and curb natural curiosity without looking overbearing or to evasive to a kid’s private life? Do kids get private lives and what websites was he looking at?
At the risk of sounding like Old Man Raskin, kids nowadays have no idea how easy it is to get their hands on the nudie stuff. When I was a kid, one had to really burn some calories to get a chance to look at naked people. It meant befriending creepy kids in school who had much older and much creepier brothers to share Playboys. I can’t count how many times I lifted my parent’s bed looking for the promised Juggs mag or a Barely Legal only to be sorely disappointed that there was nothing but lint. There was attempts of using rolls of aluminum foil to descramble cable signals for adult channels and hours watching horrible PBS miniseries like I Claudius for a glimpse of a boobie.
It’s a whole new can of worms today. I can barely make it to my truck without somebody handing me a DVD of people doing things with their stuff to other people’s do-hickeys. There are lots of sloppy noises with gross, over tattooed greasy people spitting on things that don’t need to be spit on with people yelling weird things to the camera and people’s private parts and pretending to like every moment. Most of these things happen on couches that nice people were probably going to sit on in their nice clothes with no idea of the slurpy things that happened with all of those naughty people on top of each other.
With that said, I can only imagine trying to be a good parent today is harder than ever.
This is an inherently Las Vegas thing: undeveloped or abandoned lots that were adjacent to housing communities were referred to as deserts. They weren’t actually deserts like Lawrence of Arabia but trash filled lots with garbage, busted glass, burnt out cars and discarded furniture. With sagebrush and tumbleweeds binding rubbish, these lots became our playgrounds simply because there was nothing else to do. Grew up in Las Vegas and born before 1980 and you know exactly what I’m talking about. I remember riding BMX bikes through these wastelands, chasing lizards and trying not to flatten my tires with the rolls of dismantled chain link fencing or getting attacked by crazed homeless people. As an adult, I cringe at the thought that I grew up in a decent middle-class neighborhood and people still were able to squat in abandoned lots in my neighborhood.
It’s the kind of idyllic youth that Mumbai slumlords hope their children experienced. Think Mark Twain meets Larry Flynt.
While cruising through these open Tetanus shot pits, avoiding rattlesnakes and insane bums wielding rusty sprinkler keys, I would always have an eye out for thrown out porno mags. The thought of me walking the dogs through Fairmont Park today and expecting to come across a Gent or a Swank is unimaginable but as a kid, I regular expected to find a treasure trove of porno. You know why? Because the Las Vegas desert is covered in pornography and I often would find one.
Its nuts to think I learned about the birds and bees from weather beaten magazines littered throughout my neighborhood.
Nonetheless, even though I grew up in Vegas where the streets are lined with postcards of naked chicks, it still meant getting out there and hunting up some jerk-off rags. Today, a simple search on the internet can come up with more nudie pics than a thousand bike rides through a million deserted lots. Just take the following television shows and put them into a Google image search: “World of Jenks,” “16 and Pregnant” and “Girl Get Your Mind Right.” These are three of the top shows on MTV—I had to look this up because the last time I watched MTV, I was getting my porno from a magazine. Because my office is behind a bar, there is no such thing as NSFW (not safe for work) but you’d be careful to use your throw away email account to look at these pictures.
Porno doesn’t carry the same social disgust it did even 10 years ago. Pornographic actors are now regular parts of the cultural zeitgeist and treated with a sense of regard. Ron Jeremy would have been run out of Middle America with pitchforks 20-years ago and today I have friends that would let him babysit their children. Jenna Jameson (who went to high school with me—go Bonanza!) is a household name and James Deen is regarded more of an actor than his costar Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons. Now I grant you that the Lohan/Deen relationship is low hanging fruit but now that we watch people have sex on computers and television with relative ease, I think we choose not to treat it as the visual equivalent of smoking heroin.
As a consumer of popular culture, I have my preferences and things that I avoid. The aforementioned heroin is something that turns the channel. I dislike movies with strong drug usage—yes, even weed, Potheads—and choose to not watch Harold and Kumar or Requiem for a Dream. Movies or books that focus on rape are put aside and horror/gore movies usually don’t get my money. Frankly, musicals made after 1974 don’t get a watch nor does anything involving a Juggalo. I hate celery equally with the Insane Clown Posse or things involving liberals living in Midtown Manhattan apartments complaining that they can’t connect with their husbands.
The advantage of a world chockfull of pictures, video, podcasts, blogs, newspapers and any other imaginable subject is that saturation gives us an idea of what we can watch and choose not to. For every website offering two girls and one cup, there are a baker’s dozen warning us about what the average Brazilian does during their lunch break. Unfortunately, this only works for me because I am 39-years old and have had a lifetime of poor decisions to get me to the point where I know when to watch and when to turn the channel.
That’s where my buddy’s kid is at a disadvantage.
I was never sheltered as a kid but I didn’t have the ungodly amount of access to potentially harmful material as a kid. I think if I was a youngster today, the scope and iniquitousness of the stuff out there that I could never possibly understand would be terrifying. I’d either never leave the front of a computer screen or I would be living in a cabin next to Kaczynski. There is natural curiosity meets peer pressure meets boredom that can get somebody wandering down a rabbit hole with no hope of getting out of. Think I’m wrong? Try looking at different countertop ideas with new cabinets and tell me in 3 hours what you remember.
The only advice I would offer is shame your kid. No, that’s probably not a good idea. Let’s try talking with them and asking why they looking at these pictures and videos. Oops, that’s the same as shaming your kid. How about asking them to tell you what kind of porno they like and you can direct them to what type of porno you think it appropriate. Nuts! We’re back at shaming them. Yeah, it’s moments like this that I’m glad that I don’t have any kids. Might I suggest a monastery? Explaining where babies come from is a Hell of a lot easier than explaining what bukkake is and probably a lot less stressful.
I think the only right way to deal with catching your kid looking at porno is to tell them the truth: I know you’re going to do it but I’d rather you didn’t. We haven’t even touched upon the misogyny of porno and that conversation is probably reserved for people wearing Birkenstocks over wooly socks. Seemingly arbitrary dates ranging from driver’s licenses, buying tobacco or alcohol or renting cars or voting are based more on the idea that kids don’t have the capacity to make smart decisions. Adult magazines follow under this umbrella simply because it takes a couple of decades to start kicking the Peter Pan syndrome affecting the vast majority of people to the curb.
I would take a small amount of solace from this situation and be happy he was only looking at nudie pictures online and not surfing around a Young Republican website. That type of filth is not acceptable for a 12-year old boy.
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast….you got it! Yes, it is true, he once watch Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s honeymoon tape with his sister. No, not like that.