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Parenting in the Internet Age: The Problem of Porn
August 26, 2014 7:09 AM   Subscribe

A father finds pornographic websites in his 9-year-old son's browser history in a surprisingly charming and amusing first-person essay: “I know you were looking at porn.” A silence hung in the air between us as I tried to figure out where to go from there. He looked at me, eyebrows up and eyes wide open, on alert for whatever would come next. The past winter had torn up the road, and his still baby-fatted cheeks bounced along with the car as we headed back towards our house. The anticipation of my response was clearly getting to him. “Are you gonna say anything else?” “To be honest, I hadn’t really thought this far ahead,” I told him. “I only planned as far as this, telling you I knew.”

How do you talk to your kids about porn? The NY Times has some ideas and stories, SafeKids has tips, and there are, of course, technical solutions.

Okay, MetaFilter. Thanks for sharing these tips with me. I get it, I promise.
Oscar nodded quickly, almost frantically, then added, “Can we stop talking about this now?”

"Sure, we can stop. Are you embarrassed?" I asked.

“A little,” he said, “But mostly I don’t want to hear how much you like sex.”
posted by Eyebrows McGee (159 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ha ha. That was a good article. Thanks for sharing!
posted by jillithd at 7:19 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Mefi's Own Adam Savage had his own take on this, which he told as a story for The Moth; he came to a conclusion so amazing I literally stood up and applauded in front of my computer listening to it. Here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on August 26 [45 favorites]


I'm of an age when a kid's first exposure to anything approaching porn was usually a well-worn, no-visible-pubic-hair-era, Playboy, usually stolen from an older sibling or older male relative. I can't imagine what a kid's first exposure to porn must be like in this day and age.

Some of the readily-available stuff out there on the net still makes me cringe in horror. What a nine-year-old's response must be, I can't imagine.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:22 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


I was a year younger than Oscar when I got my hands on my first Playboy, which I’d kept stashed under a messy pile of Archie comics on a shelf in my closet. The problem was, my folks never found my secret—never had reason to suspect I even had the thing, since it wasn’t exactly easy for an eight year old to procure such “Entertainment for Men”—and so we never had anything like the conversation Oscar and I were about to have. The Internet has changed all that, with adult websites always a single click away. The content is far more explicit than what was in Playboy, too, and sites like bimbos.com aren’t exactly attracting an audience that claims to visit for the articles.

Sigh. Modern parents, always trying to protect their children from the things they themselves weren't protected from. ("It's different now" is the parenting mantra, always was and probably always will be, more to soothe oneself than to help in any real way.)
posted by chavenet at 7:25 AM on August 26 [33 favorites]


Funny, and will continue to be a real problem until the likes of Google, Apple, Netflix start getting serious about implementing controls and filtering.

For example, take Netflix. Yes, you can set up a profile and say 'this is a child's profile', and yes it will keep a list of what they watch. But they can also just go into the settings and change it back themselves. Not even a PIN to block entry. Now, I'm a software developer, and you're not telling me that a simple PIN would be anything more than trivial to implement.

Conclusion therefore is that despite their lip service these companies don't want to implement proper parental controls, because it limits who they can advertise at, and they won't do it unless forced.

Of course the major responsibility is with the parents, but you can't be everywhere, like their friend's house and so on.

Anyway, get a really cheap paid OpenDNS account and set up content filtering, then set your home router to use it's DNS servers. It's a start.

@chavenet - Of course it's different now you lemon, it was pretty difficult to get hold of the types of extreme and niche hardcore porn in magazine form in 1979 or whatever that are mere Google searches away on any internet connected device today.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:26 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


lol@ I expanded the Page Title column to see the whole thing and was dismayed, but not surprised, to find that Sheila was not the Queen of Analogies.

Personally I probably would have tread lighter on the conversation. Talking about sex is one thing but 'I found your porn' is another. I might have gone with 'There's some stuff on the internet that isn't for kids, for instance, there's this thing called pornography which is pictures of grown ups having sex. In the same way you aren't old enough to drive or watch Reservoir Dogs, you're not old enough for that. If you see something that freaks you out, please come talk to me.'

The thing about being a parent though is that half the time you're screwed no matter which way you handle the problems. Draw a line in the sand and you've painted yourself in a corner, let something go and you've set a horrible precedent, and even if you happen to choose the right thing you'll never know for sure and second guess yourself the whole time and plan on setting aside some money for the kid's therapy.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:27 AM on August 26 [16 favorites]


My earliest memory of looking at porn was raiding my best friend's dad's poorly concealed stash of Playboys and Penthouses at about seven years old (reaction: lol boobs). I'd seen my first hardcore film at a latchkey friend's house by ten (raided from a father's VHS drawer). Most of my adolescence was filled with waterlogged Hustlers deposited by porn fairies in culverts around the neighborhood.

In spite of this, I grew up with a pretty healthy view of women and male/female relationships, due mostly I feel to the examples set by my family. So I guess my best advice, based on my own experience is, live by example and your kids will notice.

But good luck keeping porn out of their hands.
posted by echocollate at 7:28 AM on August 26 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I was going to mention the Adam Savage piece too.

I like reading as much as I can about this topic, because it have no idea how I'm going to handle it. This is sort of a Big Deal, culturally, right now, what's going on between parents and children with regard to the porn discussion. Much has been written about how our views surrounding sex have changed with the instant, ubiquitous access to any kind of porn. Now, those of us who grew up with it realize our kids have this same access and we can't avoid having the conversation, a conversation no one ever had with us. Surely the long term fallout of anything this difficult and awkward can only be positive.

I just hope the conversation doesn't begin with "Dad, I know you were looking at porn."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:31 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


My first memory of porn is raiding my dad's home directory and finding a large password protected zip file, and using a zip cracking tool to get it open. There were some pictures, but the best part was a few 10s videos, and I'd put the good bits on infinite loop to make it look like I had a longer video. Kids these days have it easy!
posted by Joe Chip at 7:34 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I heard an earlier version of Savage's story at w00tstock, but hadn't known it was on the Moth. Excellent.
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:36 AM on August 26


chavenet. I grew up when hiding a Playboy or perhaps Penthouse was still in vogue. My dad would copy XXX VHS tapes and I stumbled on them. I also eventually found his more raunchy mags at one point. How did they protect us? In my case it was locked drawers. I just happened to be able to pick them.

These things took effort to acquire and hide and the material was vanilla. If you haven't made a comparison between say early 90s mainstream porn and what today is mainstream or at least super easy to find, you can't say it hasn't changed much. In fact people who have seen the old and new are probably more apt to be more protective.

Comparing Playboy to any actual porn you'd find on the Internet is hilarible at this point. I'm hoping to imbue my kids with a healthy dose of not seeking out to see that which they can't unsee. I won't literally shield their eyes but I hope to teach them the technique of being incredibly curious about things without falling down the rabbit hole and being disturbed by them forever.
posted by aydeejones at 7:37 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


The essay was lovely, and I really like that first linked NYT piece, too.
posted by jaguar at 7:38 AM on August 26


"It's different now" is the parenting mantra, always was and probably always will be, more to soothe oneself than to help in any real way

To be fair, though, porn-wise, it really, really is different now. Even in the last decade, the quantity and "quality" of easily-available, free porno has exploded.

Which isn't to say that we should shield our children from it at all costs, but that it does require a little more explanation than the rare copy of Hustler or lo-res cheesecake .GIF that took all night to download.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:38 AM on August 26 [13 favorites]


GallonOfAlan: "@chavenet - Of course it's different now you lemon, it was pretty difficult to get hold of the types of extreme and niche hardcore porn in magazine form in 1979 or whatever that are mere Google searches away on any internet connected device today."

It's easier to access, sure. But so is everything. Kids need to be taught (and shown by example) how to live in this world, not in the one I grew up in (which resembled in many ways echocollate's world).
posted by chavenet at 7:39 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Yeah the content is way different. And I grew up during the transition and saw plenty of terrible DELETE NOW shit at the courtesy of my 2400 baud modem and a BBS that had an IRC gateway. For the devious IRC is a hive of scum and villainy or was. But there were ratios slowing you down and getting kickbanned for uploading fake porn and all of those stumbling blocks to amassing a skeeze horde. Now it's mostly a Google search away.
posted by aydeejones at 7:41 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Those people you saw in the videos, they’re playing a whole different ballgame. It’s like Olympic-level sex

I think the Queen of Analogies would have suggested a less flattering simile there.
posted by Segundus at 7:43 AM on August 26 [25 favorites]


You're right chavenet, how silly of me for trying to keep rapey violent porn away from my young daughter. Ugh.
posted by photoslob at 7:43 AM on August 26 [24 favorites]


Kind of fucked up that he just glosses right over the much more important conversation of "Son, I caught you watching Pewdiepie videos"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:44 AM on August 26 [15 favorites]


/ronswansonthrowingawaycomputer.gif/
posted by resurrexit at 7:45 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


The most unsettling aspect was getting an erection before being conscious of what I was looking at.

At least, that's my strongest memory of my first exposure to porn - around ten years old, an old Playboy in the woods,and the picture was (as befits the 70s) a sumptuously be-bushed woman reclining in a hammock. It was an arty shot, all foreshortened, which is why it took the higher levels of awareness time to parse. Not so the lizard brain. (Even at ten, even when looking at my first naked woman, I was most struck by cognitive process. God knows how I ever disposed of my Virginian.)

The next exposure was shortly afterwards, with some schoolfriends. One had a magazine from his merchant marine brother, obtained from the continent. While not The Worst, it was certainly well beyond Playboy and would get the owner arrested and on a register these days. So, it's not as if the pre-Internet days were all soft-focus.

Have since helped bring up a kid to adulthood. There were incidents, there were talks, there was what I hope was an appropriate mix of parental concern and masterful inattention. It was never a big thing, and from what I can tell we've all survived the process without breaking our ability to see the people we go to bed with as humans.

Put me down on the "no need to make a monster" list when it comes to kids and porn.
posted by Devonian at 7:45 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


To be fair, though, porn-wise, it really, really is different now.

This is really important to underscore, because it's different in a number of significant ways.

1. Sheer volume
2. Low barrier to acquisition - it's free and as accessible as any device with a web browser.
3. Low risk - Stealing your dad's Playboy and sneaking off to your room was a risky proposition. Today, any kid with a 4G device can watch porn in the backseat of the SUV on the way home from soccer practice as their parent drives.
4. Subject matter - Triple-penetration pseudo-rape was the stuff of underground 8mm films passed from person to person. Today, Visa will let you pay for it by credit card.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:47 AM on August 26 [19 favorites]


Sigh. Modern parents, always trying to protect their children from the things they themselves weren't protected from. ("It's different now" is the parenting mantra, always was and probably always will be, more to soothe oneself than to help in any real way.)

I'm with you on the overprotectiveness etc., but an image of a nude person (whether sexualized or not) is arguably different in subject matter from an image of someone(s) engaging in sexual activity. Like, I dunno, a picture of a person who is a dancer vs. a picture of dancing.

I'm fine with both and with children seeing both, but nobody would say that a photo of a dog and of dogs mating are precisely analogous.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:48 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Ha! The first exposure I ever had to porn was when I was visiting my father's trailer with my grandmother--where the walls were covered with (for the time) extremely graphic pinup pages from Hustler and similar hardcore porn magazines. I think I was eight or nine. Upset me like hell at the time, because I didn't really understand what I was looking at and really had no context for it at all.

With my own son, on the other hand, we keep his time online very closely supervised (we're basically always there in the background supervising when he goes online). And he's an easy-going enough kid I don't think he's rebelled yet and actively sought to route around us in secret. We don't act all puritanical or mystical about sex, though--we just try to be matter of fact and sort of unsentimental about all of it and that seems to help with not pushing him into a power-struggle mode that might make him more interested in sneaking around to learn on his own. We've just explained to him that he's not really biologically mature enough to need to worry about it too much and should enjoy the little bit of peace and simplicity he's got now, before puberty and all its attendant hormonal and social craziness really kicks in.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:49 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Not a parent, so I don't know anything, but...

If a kid came to me upset because they'd seen something online that traumatized them so much that they couldn't "unsee" it, my reaction would be "well, next time you'll know not to click on sites like that." We're not doing kids any favors by not letting them learn how to "protect" themselves.

Today, Visa will let you pay for it by credit card.

And if you can't keep your kid from taking your credit card, then you have other problems.
posted by Melismata at 7:49 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


Even in the last decade, the quantity and "quality" of easily-available, free porno has exploded.

Which isn't to say that we should shield our children from it at all costs, but that it does require a little more explanation than the rare copy of Hustler or lo-res cheesecake .GIF that took all night to download.


Here's the thing...you don't have to even search very far to find porn. For instance, your kids probably frequent a Tumblr site or two already. All it takes is a slightly mis-typed url, and you will suddenly discover that Tumblr is an unending ocean of porn.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:50 AM on August 26


God knows how I ever disposed of my Virginian

Nowadays, the internet has definitely changed things, but I'm old enough to remember when this was still done in person, at Appomattox Court House, where an honorable man would let his foe ride away on his horse.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:50 AM on August 26 [56 favorites]


To be fair, though, porn-wise, it really, really is different now.

I'd argue there are things on the Internet worse than brutal, stylized (but consensual) sex. I'd be more concerned with my child seeing a video of a journalist beheaded by terrorists. The Internet is a Pandora's box that requires more of parents today in general than it did of my generation's, but this isn't exclusive or even primarily about porn.

Again, I generally feel that most kids will see this stuff, and the best strategy for mitigating any negative effects on their development is to set a positive example and to be there when they have questions rather than trying to force conversations at really awkward times based on your own anxieties.
posted by echocollate at 7:51 AM on August 26 [23 favorites]


I mean, 4chan will give you "can't unsee" material for free and it is a widely known site. The best you can do here is use the filters and be open with your kids so they have a context for what they might see. The wide availability of porn has some real impacts on people but it has not correlated with an increase in things like sex crimes. It's something we have to get used to and confront in an adult way, for the benefit of the kids.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:52 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


It's interesting that the simulated violence that the child watches (Call of Duty videos) causes much less concern and embarrassment for the parent than sex videos. Why is that?
posted by clawsoon at 7:53 AM on August 26 [42 favorites]


Plus, porno sites ain't the most well-organized in the world. It's really easy to go from something relatively tame, to videos that contain (simulated or not) incest, rape, scat, etc. Even if you are actually not interested in that stuff and are actively trying to avoid it.

I guess it's kind of conservative or reactionary or whatever to suggest that pre-teens not watch HD videos of adults banging; but it's not clear to me that even the most savvy parents can prepare a 10 year old for the sight of, e.g., two dudes getting a woman airtight culminating in a finale involving her pooping on them. Not to mention a great deal of pornography is really super gross and degrading to the women involved; and even if they actually like it a kid may not "get it".

A far cry from discovering your dad's old Playboys IMO
posted by mrbigmuscles at 7:54 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


Back in my day, I downloaded UUencoded text from Usenet groups using ZModem (the computer with the modem was a Mac Classic with a nine inch B&W monitor), ferried it using floppies to the unnetworked PC with a color monitor, and UUdecoded and viewed there.

And we liked it!

(I know this sounds like one of those uphill both ways in snow stories, except it's actually true.)

And yes, I was caught by my parents once or twice... with dad giving me a lecture on AIDS and drugs and alcohol. ("I don't think I can catch AIDS with ZModem, dad" I didn't say out loud.)

Also got caught at summer science camp when I told the other kids (most of whom had never been on the Internet ever) about playboy.com...
posted by kmz at 7:55 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


We're not doing kids any favors by not letting them learn how to "protect" themselves.

It's obvious you don't have kids, because you don't understand that kids are not just small adults. There are very pronounced limits to their ability to "protect themselves" and while you are correct that they must learn it, that learning process by biological necessity is a slow one known as maturing. Kids are not developmentally equipped to "protect themselves."
posted by saulgoodman at 7:55 AM on August 26 [38 favorites]


mrbigmuscles: A far cry from discovering your dad's old Playboys IMO

Yeah, the poo was so much more natural back then, not this sterilized stunt poo that they use these days.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:55 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


The things I've seen on the Internet that I most wish I could unsee weren't porn and weren't presented as porn. Furthermore, even though I've watched maybe more than my fair share of porn, I don't think I've ever accidentally stumbled into scat or whatever. I have accidentally hit photos of mutilated corpses in non-porn "news" contexts, and not just once, either. Porn doesn't seem like an unusually rich source of trauma.

There are a lot of bad attitudes in a whole lot of porn. Many of them may not be so obvious to a child, which of course means that they may just be missed entirely (harmless) or they may be uncritically internalized. It seems to me that the big issue is helping kids to not internalize the bad attitudes without knowing it... and the best path to that may or may not be to prevent them from seeing the material at all, be it porn or whatever. There are tons of bad attitudes in all kinds of stuff, including "children's programming".

Why does everybody get into a tizzy about porn, and not about corpses? Even though people always make this point, it seems like the discussion always starts with porn. Why aren't there so many articles about "I found a beheading video in my son's browser history"?
posted by Hizonner at 8:09 AM on August 26 [12 favorites]


I'm not sure its all moral panic, there is a concern about the ability to get into a dopamine spiral for hormonal young males and ubiquitous porn. Its more of a biological/brain chemistry/healthy sexual function concern.

If I had the internet instead of the Playboy in the woods in the late seventies and Blondie on the Muppet Show as my fantasy material, I'm sure I would have spiralled on this stuff


posted by C.A.S. at 8:15 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


So far, I feel like we're talking like "kids" is "boys". (And of course, the linked piece is about a son.)

I surmise that it's going to be a lot more likely that girls will be looking at really standard, male-centric straight (or fake lesbian) porn than that they'll be stumbling across woman-centered porn (even finding, like, yaoi or whatever is a bit of a different process).

Now, this is certainly no different than "we found a Hustler when it was 1982", since lord knows that wasn't too focused on women's sexuality, but I do feel like a difference in quantity amounts to a difference in kind even more for girls. If it's not that great for little boys to first encounter gross commercial porn, it's even worse for little girls, since at least the narrative of the gross commercial porn is "men enjoy this because it's fun", whereas the message for women is "women should want to do this or at least consent to do it because that is what women are supposed to do". Honestly, my early encounters with porn were not that great for me as a young queer woman, and I'm certainly glad that it was just paper and a little internet and only intermittently available instead of a huge range of extremely detailed and various video.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I feel like this conversation tends to slip over into the idea that mainstream commercial straight porn is experienced the same way by boys and girls, and tends to elide the pre-existing misogyny of our culture/the schoolyard that also determines how whatever porn the kids see will be interpreted.
posted by Frowner at 8:17 AM on August 26 [56 favorites]


Why aren't there so many articles about "I found a beheading video in my son's browser history"?

Because that shit is on CNN 24/7. Which isn't to say that I think it's appropriate for kids (or anyone; I don't), but "we" have pretty much decided that unfettered violence is okay (so long as it's not video game violence), but that sex (even the vanilla variety) is traumatic.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:18 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I actually don't recall stumbling across much mainstream porn during my dial-up tween years, but I do have a vivid memory of back-buttoning away from stories on slayerfanfic.net every time Angel started making out with someone.

In my memory it was always Angel, too. Not sure why.
posted by nonasuch at 8:24 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Frowner, for what it's worth, when I personally think about "kids", I think about my daughter. And, yes, I am very concerned about the attitude a lot of commercial porn takes toward women, and about how she's going to process that. And other media, too. That's why I read these threads.
posted by Hizonner at 8:25 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Y'know the stuff I've seen on the internet I never saw before the internet, and that I never see of the internet, are dead people, many of them children, from the various wars and bouts of violence. That stuff has disturbed me far more than seeing some assholes. One minute you're watching cats play ping-pong and the next you stumble across a severed fuckin' head. Which is to say our society is severely diseased and it isn't sex, real fake, plastic, missionary or anal.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:26 AM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Kid I knew got caught looking at porn on his parents computer because he was printing out the images on an inkjet printer. The print queue got paused, his mom unpaused it, and out came porn!

He was a dumb kid.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


"Why does everybody get into a tizzy about porn, and not about corpses? Even though people always make this point, it seems like the discussion always starts with porn. Why aren't there so many articles about "I found a beheading video in my son's browser history"?"

1) Corpses are typically less morally problematic than sex; Corpses are either "this is a person who died and it's sad" or "this is violence and it's bad." Sex has a much wider range of issues surrounding consent, privacy, accessibility, when it's okay to engage in, etc.

2) There is greater public consensus on how to talk about death in public and with children than there is about sex. Even if you are the most open parent in the world, it's a little hard to know how to talk about sex with your kids with the knowledge they are going to repeat it at elementary school.

3) Children are naturally curious about sex, including and especially the act itself. Children are naturally curious about death but not generally about dead bodies (at least not for more than a short period of time); their questions are more about the existential aspects of death, which are more abstract and easier to talk about.

4) Children can and do engage in sex, repeatedly, in a variety of fashions. Children typically do not "engage in death." They typically do not kill themselves or others just to experiment. When they do so, it is so unusual it receives national and international media attention.

5) CHILDREN are more private about sex and their bodies than about death. This makes them more reticent to discuss sex or ask appropriate questions about it at certain ages. Sex is also a peer-focused activity; death is something that (most typically) happens to much older people. Sex is for friends; death is for grandparents. It's a much more awkward and uncomfortable conversation because the child doesn't want to have that discussion with a parent, even if the parent is comfortable having it with their child.

6) If I found a beheading video in my child or teenager's browser history, we would SURE AS SHIT be having an awkward and uncomfortable conversation about why they viewed it (there is NO WAY I'd let that pass uncontextualized), and if I didn't like the answers we'd be in therapy a LOT FASTER than if I was unhappy about their porn viewing habits. I know a lot of you guys aren't parents, but for most parents I know, even those who are very conservative about sex and porn, a fascination with beheading videos would be a MUCH QUICKER TRIP to professional intervention than a somewhat concerning porn habit.

In my house we're a lot more restrictive about violence in entertainment than about sex. We do worry, though, about the messages they receive through the media and the culture about sex and sexuality, and how we can ensure they grow up with healthy ideas about sex, about consent, and about women (in particular).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:39 AM on August 26 [57 favorites]


If I was a 9 year old boy, seeing someone get pooped on in a video wouldn't be traumatizing. it would be hilarious.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:39 AM on August 26 [22 favorites]


We can argue which is the greater of two evils all day, but can we not agree that gore and porn on the Internet are both bad for kids and then go from there? As others have noted, the Internet's more than your grandpa's Playboys or Faces of Death videos that some of us grew up with. I wouldn't even want my kids seeing any of that crap--much less the horrible stuff just a few clicks away. Of course they'll see it eventually, but I'll do my best to delay their exposure to it and preserve some semblance of their innocence as long as possible, until they're mentally and physically ready to process some of the more effed up aspects of our world.

Watching porn or seeing someone beheaded changes you forever. We all remember the first time we saw that stuff. I don't let my kids protect themselves from getting hit by cars or electrocuting themselves or eating poison--all things that could potentially change them forever. So I don't treat violence or porn any differently.
posted by resurrexit at 8:41 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Those of you who haven't listened to Adam's podcast should really do so, because the "punch line" (for lack of a better word) really sums up one big thing about one change the Internet Age has wrought.

He's been wracking his brains throughout the whole story trying to figure out what he can say to his son that would be the perfect right thing - it's a tricky tightrope, after all, because there's SO many ways this conversation could flip the wrong way - and finally ends up saying, after the initial fumbling "so....I saw you were curious about stuff online" opener, is that being curious about that kind of thing is normal and okay, "but what you have to understand is....the Internet hates women."

And he's right.

I also had some brief and fleeting exposures to porn as a girl - curious snooping in my father's or my friend's father's nightstands, stumbling upon copies of Playboy and looking at maybe two pictures before going "eek" and putting them back. I wasn't traumatized because I could put it away; but also because from what little I did see, it still looked like the women were at least having a sort of okay time. I mean, whether they really were having a good time and whether this was or wasn't exploitative in reality is a separate issue, but at least the women were allowed to actually come in 70's porn.

But today...online porn is all over the place, and is much more accessible - and there's a sort of....meanness to it. A lot of online porn (okay, yeah, I've checked some out) always ends with a money shot on the woman's face or body. Her own pleasure doesn't really enter into it; she's pretty much a standin for a tube sock. Combine that with the delightful way women are also treated in more general-access places on the Internet and you've got a double-whammy of "women don't count" messages, and they're way more accessible.

So yeah, the Internet has made porn more accessible....but it's also focused and concentrated an anti-women or women-don't-count feeling that's out there, which I don't remember there being in 70's era porn (at least, it wasn't as overt) and that's one hell of a big problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:41 AM on August 26 [66 favorites]


Just from personal experience, I would be very wary of those technical solutions if you have, say, a teenage boy who is actively seeking out porn. I mean I'm sure they've gotten better, but the thing is, the stuff they miss is the fringe, supremely fucked up stuff. So... yeah.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:41 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I've blocked a lot of sites from Boy's computer via the hosts file. That he will someday be exposed to, or go seek pictures of naked ladies is not unexpected. I do not care if he looks at pictures of naked ladies. (Or men, whatever his preference may be.)

However, I am not comfortable with him being exposed to the violence that has become a common factor in most recent porn that I've seen. I do not want him to think that holding the back of a woman's head while holding her nose closed until she opens her mouth wider is a good blowjob. I do not want him to think that it's normal to slap a woman's breasts hard enough to leave handprints. I do not want him to think that "cocksucking slut" is a term of endearment.

Are there people who enjoy a little rough sport? Certainly, but it isn't something that I think should be a kid's first exposure to sexuality.

That said; I will admit that I've considered buying a Playboy or Penthouse and leaving it in his dad's nightstand for Boy to find.
posted by dejah420 at 8:42 AM on August 26 [12 favorites]


> Why does everybody get into a tizzy about porn, and not about corpses? Even though people always make this point,
> it seems like the discussion always starts with porn. Why aren't there so many articles about "I found a beheading
> video in my son's browser history"?

Attractive vs. unattractive. Beheading vids don't pander in an unhealthy way to any fundamental inborn desire that is otherwise healthy and normal. If you're worried about your kid's weight, a lot of attractive junk food in the kitchen is more of a concern than those worn-out tires in the carport are. Sure it would be dreadful if the kid choked one of them down, but where's the temptation? Hence, first and greatest effort goes to clearing the kitchen of sugary fizz and Cheetos.
posted by jfuller at 8:48 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


The one thing I wish I could unsee from my years online is the Daniel Pearl beheading, so I've stayed the hell away from anything relating to James Foley. Even the pre-beheading stills I've stumbled on are awful because I know what a beheading looks like now and can (involuntarily) imagine it.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:49 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


"Why does everybody get into a tizzy about porn, and not about corpses? Even though people always make this point, it seems like the discussion always starts with porn. Why aren't there so many articles about "I found a beheading video in my son's browser history"?"
I don't know: the idea of my 8-year-old nephew stumbling onto a beheading video makes me want to cry. But I think the point with sex is that there's a delicate balancing act involved in telling kids that porn can be messed up without making them feel shamed about being interested in sex. Beheading videos are vile: beheading shouldn't happen; people shouldn't make or watch videos of it. But sex is not vile. It's challenging to explain to kids that you have some issues with porn, but you don't have issues with sex, and you don't want them to feel ashamed of their sexuality.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:49 AM on August 26 [16 favorites]


I'd argue there are things on the Internet worse than brutal, stylized (but consensual) sex. I'd be more concerned with my child seeing a video of a journalist beheaded by terrorists.

It's all cut from the same cloth. The Internet simply permits us to see more now with greater ease than ever before. Prior to the Internet, where was someone going to find images of journalists beheaded by terrorists? Prior to the Internet, where was someone going to find photos of gangbangs or "facial abuse" or whatever?

You COULD find them, sure, but it took a significant amount of labor. Now - click click, there you are, at your fingertips. And in a nation/world of voyeurs there's a market for both "products," where we're always trying to push the envelope, where explicit becomes old hat and more explicit becomes the gold standard. Twenty years from now? The images will be even more ubiquitous. Because that's what we want, to fly ever closer to the sun.

However, I am not comfortable with him being exposed to the violence that has become a common factor in most recent porn that I've seen. I do not want him to think that holding the back of a woman's head while holding her nose closed until she opens her mouth wider is a good blowjob. I do not want him to think that it's normal to slap a woman's breasts hard enough to leave handprints. I do not want him to think that "cocksucking slut" is a term of endearment.

Are there people who enjoy a little rough sport? Certainly, but it isn't something that I think should be a kid's first exposure to sexuality.


Because it may frame his sexual values. It may make him misogynist, leading him to believe that this is who women are, this is what they do and this is what they SHOULD do.
posted by kgasmart at 8:54 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I don't have to explain to my daughter that beheading or disemboweling or whatever is bad and wrong and violent but, like, punching someone in the nose or kicking them in the crotch is a great way to celebrate intimacy with your partner, and maybe actually disemboweling is fine if everyone is up front and consent is fully obtained. I mean it's just a totally different conversation.

"The internet hates women" is a good tack to take. It sucks, but it's true.
posted by KathrynT at 8:55 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


I must say, hearing about all the disgusting, degrading behavior that is apparently in "most" hetero porn these days makes me appreciate even more the old-fashioned, fairly egalitarian gay porn I have long enjoyed. Just nice, good looking young men having fun with their friends.

If I ever have kids maybe I'll try just giving them a USB stick full of happy little Belami videos at the appropriate age. You know, something that models healthy behaviors.
posted by General Tonic at 9:00 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


At one point my 10 year old son came to me and asked "Did you know there are Playboys on the top shelf of the closet in the extra bedroom?" "Yes, son, I knew that."
posted by Billiken at 9:03 AM on August 26 [21 favorites]


"It's different now" is the parenting mantra, always was and probably always will be, more to soothe oneself than to help in any real way.

It is so different now. When I first noticed the xtube links on our (then) 13 year old son's computer, I clicked on them. It's hard to imagine, or even anticipate, what it means to be saturated with videos of women being tied (tightly, masochistically) to a board in an active trainyard while being simultaneously beaten (with fists) and gagged (with cocks) to the point that vomit quickly gives way to just gastric mucous and blood.

We ended up having the same sort of conversation as the one brought up by this dad: that is a different kind of thing that is complicated to talk about until you're a little older, because it has to do with consent and other things that you can't legally ask for at your age. It got the conversation started, and we talked about it often over the years, and now he's 19 and well-adjusted and with a lovely girlfriend. Phew.

The intrigue of porn isn't new. The access to very advanced porn, and more, is pretty dang new. I'm glad we found out he was fascinated by violent sex instead of just pure violence--that would have freaked me out.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:09 AM on August 26


It is almost as though the systemic violence of the modern American military-police state is somehow seeping into our porn!
posted by b1tr0t at 9:14 AM on August 26 [11 favorites]


"Why does everybody get into a tizzy about porn, and not about corpses? Even though people always make this point, it seems like the discussion always starts with porn. Why aren't there so many articles about "I found a beheading video in my son's browser history"?"

Also, because for the most part, kids aren't looking for beheading videos so that they can learn how to behead others. On the other hand, the real concern for me about porn is that we are so ironically sex-repressed as a culture that kids are turning to porn for sex lessons.

I was a voracious seeker of porn in the 80s, starting from when I was about 10. I scoured the house of every family I babysat for. The biggest hits were things like the Joy of Sex and Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask. I found a few copies of Playboy in my parents' closet (the John Lennon interview issue from 1980). I was pretty fucking overjoyed when my best friend and I discovered a waist-high stack of Penthouse and Penthouse Forum (not at all hidden) behind the couch at the house she babysat at every weekend. We basically treated it like a porn library, checking out a few magazines a week, then exchanging them for more. It rocked. We're talking 30 years ago and I still remember the handful of scenarios that really turned me on--they were formative, they left a deep impression and I know they helped shape how I think about sex, still, today. Of course, now that I've had sex, I can also see how ridiculous they were, how some of the things they described wouldn't even get a woman off, never mind make her explode with passion, but what did I know at age 13?

So, I was really into looking for porn and hearing and learning about sex. But still, I was pretty traumatized when, at age 15, my best friend's brother in law's best friend, told us, in detail, about how much he liked to fist sex workers. I wasn't even sure I believed what he was saying was possible.

But access to porn is so ready and easy now that there's no gradual entry, from reading bad sex manuals to Playboy to moving images to Kink.com. I don't know, I don't think it's crazy to not want my 11-year old daughter's first exposure to images of sex to include videos of women getting fisted. I'd like her to have some training-wheel porn first.
posted by looli at 9:15 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


It's hard to imagine, or even anticipate, what it means to be saturated with videos of women being tied (tightly, masochistically) to a board in an active trainyard....

And now we're back to extreme violence and beheadings. So, for all you people in this thread going, "What's so different about porn from violence?" On the internet: not much!
posted by amanda at 9:19 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


We got dial-up when I was 13. A bit older than 9 for sure, but it certainly opened up a lot of opportunities to see things outside of my usual "porn" which at that time was the underwear section of the JC Penny's catalog.

My parents weren't computer or net savvy, and I'm not sure they ever knew the things I looked at online. If they did, they never confronted me about it. I guess I'm glad they didn't? I don't know.

Honestly, and this is just me, I don't remember any of the porn in any detail that I looked at from that time. I certainly doubt it was all very healthy, feminist porn, but I don't feel like it particularly affected me in the long term in a negative way (this is not to say I think all 9-year olds should have an internet porn free-for-all by any means). But I SURE AS SHIT remember stuff - to this very goddamned day - I saw on Rotten.com and Ogrish (back when those were really popular among kids my age) and I sometimes wish I could erase those images from my young memory.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:21 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


My earliest memory of porn was two friends who found a garbage bag of it on their street that had been put through a paper shredder. I guess some other kid's parents had found his stash. They brought it to a sleepover and like 10 of us stayed up til dawn trying to piece it all back together. Old school.
posted by mannequito at 9:21 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


> Kids need to be taught (and shown by example) how to live in this world, not in the one I grew up in

Knowing how to do that is the trick. Generals proverbially prepare for the last war, not the next one, which nobody can foresee. The only world parents can teach kids about is the one they learned about by experience in their lives so far, which is all in the past.
posted by jfuller at 9:27 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I'm glad we found out he was fascinated by violent sex instead of just pure violence--that would have freaked me out.

Is there a difference? I mean in terms of things being viewed on the internet, how is the influence of viewing pure violence necessarily worse than viewing violent sex? Especially for child with limited context?
posted by marimeko at 9:29 AM on August 26


So far, I feel like we're talking like "kids" is "boys".

I was talking about my daughter fwiw. Datapoint and all that. She's going to have an awful lot of ways to access an awful lot of things on different devices -- and does currently, though she hasn't gone hunting yet. We're still trying to teach her how to email. She's only six.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:30 AM on August 26


Hizonner: "...Why does everybody get into a tizzy about porn, and not about corpses? Even though people always make this point, it seems like the discussion always starts with porn. Why aren't there so many articles about "I found a beheading video in my son's browser history"?"

And worse - I walked in on him masturbating to it!
posted by symbioid at 9:37 AM on August 26


It's interesting that the simulated violence that the child watches (Call of Duty videos) causes much less concern and embarrassment for the parent than sex videos. Why is that?
posted by clawsoon at 10:53 AM on August 26


That word I bolded? I, for one, believe that's why.

FWIW:

As a kid I deduced pretty early on that a lot of the violence I saw in TV and movies was all make-believe (simulated), because (a) you could see the actors on talk shows after the movie or show came out, looking the very picture of health, and (b) the existence of Fangoria magazine, which always seemed to spend time explaining how those gross special f/x worked.

Since the violence wasn't real, it wasn't anything to be upset about. A bit analogous to your mom reminding you that monsters aren't real and living under your bed.

I rather suspect that the same sort of thing exists around video games. The characters are obviously computer-generated and can be saved / re-booted, you hear game designers talking about game engines and what-not, and of course in many video games there are obviously fantastical elements (if the dragon's not real, the blood pouring from the human skull in its mouth probably isn't, either). So even if a kid isn't actively looking for that information, I feel pretty sure the knowledge that all the violence is a simulation is in the background radiation of his gaming. And once again, if it ain't real, why be upset by it?

I don't know of similar resources explaining how sex is simulated. In fact, as a kid I got the distinct impression that the entire point of porn was that the sex shown wasn't simulated. And porn usually uses real people, so you don't get the video game argument of "obviously computer generated".

With the advent of the Internet, I have seem much more upsetting things in porn that I've ever seen in simulated violence, and what I've seen was made even more upsetting by the knowledge that those things were actually happening to a real person.

I'm sure there are plenty of kids who are upset by simulated violence and wouldn't be fazed by seeing sex acts. But I do wonder how many kids out there are like I was, shrugging away simulated violence because we knew it wasn't real, but alarmed by sex acts because they so clearly are.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:43 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


kgasmart: "Twenty years from now? The images will be even more ubiquitous. Because that's what we want, to fly ever closer to the sun."

There are people who are into melted wax, indeed.
posted by symbioid at 9:49 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I feel like this thread has gone in a very mansplainey, hurf-durf and disturbing direction. I don't like to think that all porn is the same kind of porn is an actual point of view held by thinking persons. When you take the range of what is available and turn to a hypothetical child and say the equivalent of, "That's life, kid, suck it up," it just reinforces the disturbing undercurrent of hatred toward women on the internet and in life.

The original post, how to talk to your kids about this kind of easily accessible imagery, is worth discussing on its merits. Standing up straw-man arguments about other kinds of violence that is also easily accessibly is disingenuous at best.
posted by amanda at 9:51 AM on August 26 [18 favorites]


I finally sat down and talked to my twelve year about sex. I learned so much.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:56 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that the simulated violence that the child watches (Call of Duty videos) causes much less concern and embarrassment for the parent than sex videos. Why is that?

I accidentally watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with my 11 year old. Somehow I had forgotten that in practically every scene someone gets murdered in a horrible graphic manner. Watching graphic sex scenes in Cloud Atlas with my 14 year old was a lot less traumatic.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:58 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I sent my teenage daughter a link to makelovenotporn.com after I realized she was having sex earlier than I had hoped and, moreover, didn't appear to be making good choices in her partners.

A few years earlier we'd had the safer-sex conversations (ok, monologue) and I'd horrified her by offering to take her to good vibrations to get her a vibrator. I was trying to communicate that there are many other choices than partnered sex or penetrative sex.

I don't know that the website did her any good but it's a good resource. I'm a kinkster and I think most porn (and most media, esp. marketing and advertising) degrades everyone, not just women. Yes, the Internet hates women. Modeling that hate sure as hell doesn't do anyone any favors, men included.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:58 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


It's easier to access, sure. But so is everything. Kids need to be taught (and shown by example) how to live in this world, not in the one I grew up in

Sigh. Modern commenters, always condescending and trying to imply they alone have access to common sense wisdom. When actually most of this thread is about how to teach kids how to live in a world that has dramatic differences from the one we grew up in.

The answer isn't nearly as clear as the problem is, and no amount of online exhalation makes it any clearer.
posted by bonaldi at 10:00 AM on August 26


There is some backlash about the privacy rights of the child, whose father has just written about his porn viewing under his real name: posted by honest knave at 10:04 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


There are people who are into melted wax, indeed.

Consider it, though. In a society where we must constantly push the envelope, what comes next?

Porn-wise, what can possibly be consided shocking, and thus titillating, 20 years after what we have now? How in the world are we going to get more gonzo? It's hard to even imagine where it might lead - but we're headed there, because that seems to be the default setting now, we need more, we need to go further. And so at that point, my kids will need to explain whatever comes next to THEIR kids. Ugh.
posted by kgasmart at 10:05 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


In a society where we must constantly push the envelope, what comes next?

In porn the latest thing is anal prolapsing - it's basically mainstream now.
posted by colie at 10:09 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


the latest thing is anal prolapsing

Ok, I want off this ride.
posted by thelonius at 10:16 AM on August 26 [20 favorites]


In porn the latest thing is anal prolapsing - it's basically mainstream now.

I've heard this but could never bring myself to actually watch it.

I mean, literally, what is next? Mutilation? Snuff films gone mainstream because hey, the performers gave their "consent?"

If we must push past all boundaries, why would any boundary be respected?
posted by kgasmart at 10:16 AM on August 26


Most porn, despite the "advances" going on, is still conventionally attractive woman has sex with disembodied large cock. It's what people are most likely to encounter.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:23 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Most porn, despite the "advances" going on, is still conventionally attractive woman has sex with disembodied large cock.

As was pointed out earlier, the extreme stuff is often a thumbnail right next to the vanilla stuff, and kids are curious.

The current 'Adult Video News Performer of the Year' (the mainstream industry's top award) is called Bonnie Rotten, and she performs anal prolapsing regularly in her films.
posted by colie at 10:26 AM on August 26


I must say, hearing about all the disgusting, degrading behavior that is apparently in "most" hetero porn these days makes me appreciate even more the old-fashioned, fairly egalitarian gay porn I have long enjoyed. Just nice, good looking young men having fun with their friends.

Seriously. While there are extremes in gay porn as well, on the whole it seems a lot less sociopathic than what is apparently mainstream in heteroville.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:29 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Why does everybody get into a tizzy about porn, and not about corpses?

A. what Eyebrows McGee said.

B. First of all, it's not everybody. Just read this thread. But I would agree that a very, very big number of people (perhaps a majority) do get into a greater "tizzy" about porn, than corpses. Why is this? Because sex really scares them -- maybe not on a surface, conscious level, but definitely down deep, in the gravity of their selves. Why does it scare them? Again, check out what Eyebrows McGee said. And then please expand from there. Let's have that discussion, and keep it going for as long as needs be.
posted by philip-random at 10:34 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Those people you saw in the videos, they’re playing a whole different ballgame. It’s like Olympic-level sex

I think the Queen of Analogies would have suggested a less flattering simile there.


Really good point Segundus; that had escaped me, and it makes it clear this dad is way more impressed by porn than he'd like to be, and that he found it somewhat deflating and feels that it diminished his own lived experience of sex.

That's tragic, but it seems to happen to a lot of people (mainly men?).

He evidently wishes to save his son from a similar fate, and I hope he can.
posted by jamjam at 10:36 AM on August 26


In a society where we must constantly push the envelope, what comes next?

I remember wondering this in the 80s when my peers were watching Ozzie Osbourne and the Beastie Boys.
posted by Melismata at 10:38 AM on August 26


magstheaxe: As a kid I deduced pretty early on that a lot of the violence I saw in TV and movies was all make-believe (simulated), because (a) you could see the actors on talk shows after the movie or show came out, looking the very picture of health, and (b) the existence of Fangoria magazine, which always seemed to spend time explaining how those gross special f/x worked.

Sounds like we need some "Porn: Behind the scenes" videos for our kids to show them how much fakery is going on there, too, so they can see how unreal most of it is.

"See, kid, she didn't actually have an orgasm after that pounding. And you'll notice that as soon as the camera turns off, she stops looking at the male star with lustful, worshipful eyes. Also, take a close look at that legal contract. It's simulated pleasure, just like the simulated head explosions you see when you play Call of Duty."
posted by clawsoon at 10:39 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Well - this is an interesting topic, despite all my jokey comments above.

As a child living in the countryside in the early-mid 80s (for the general 7-12 time frame we're talking about), I didn't have much access to porn.

First porn I ever saw was probably around 1980. The racist connotations of Grace Jones holding a watermelon under her breast escaped my mind, as I wasn't raised to be racist.

Most of my "adult" material was Nat. Geo and Figure Drawing books. My dad didn't have any porn in the house, so that was what was available. It let me appreciate form, other races and saggy boobs. Mmm... Saggy boobs.

In 4th grade, Hustler and other hardcore 'zines, including "Penhouse Letters" where tales of incest abounded (eessh)

Then the old porn video that my sister dropped in my lap when I was in 6th grade (her Senior year). Very Dirty Dancing (renamed later to "Sexy Ballet")... Well, that was interesting.

Online, of course, dial up was slow as shit and not worth it. My first "computer 'porn'" was printed ASCII nudies on an old CPM/80 around 7 or 8 years old is my guess.

Anyways, lots of porn, but certainly not hardcore (even my first early porn was mostly softcore).

I may or may not have downloaded a credit card number generator which may or may not have generated a number which may or may not have been used to order a 1 month "subscription" to some cheap online porn site which may or may not have been any good.

Anyways, slowly porn became more accessible, easier to find, for all intents and purposes Free. In the same way that albums slowly died in the favor of singles and smaller releases, so too did porn seemingly shift from full movies to clips of scenes, forget the plot, just do the deed. "Cuz players don't have time to fast forward, baby"

---------
What's my point? I had some access early, but not to the "good" stuff so much. That's ok.

And I don't know what I'd feel if I had to raise a child with such bountiful access to porn these days. I watch hardcore porn (and I mean hardcore in today's terms, not 1980s where intercourse itself was "hardcore" or mere "anal"), I admit it. I also consider myself a feminist. I feel conflicted and complex.

My parents raised me with respect for women. My father was close to his mother, I guess and had a real ability to get along with women in comparison to most men who grunted and shit for the type of men in his day/age. I was a momma's boy, too.

I think if I had to discuss it with my child, I would do the best I could to teach them tolerance, respect for personal boundaries, understanding the right and choice of an individual to do what they want with their bodies, the difference between fantasy and reality (which is good for many things, not just porn). That's the best way I can think of teaching them something while not being puritanical and accord the teachings with my liberal (free speech, sexual freedom) stances.

It's hard, because of course, we do have a social issue in terms of how we relate to sex the puritanical combined with the glut of smut. It leads to a hypersexualized culture that revolts against the religious attempts to censor and limit human sexuality, but it doesn't necessarily create a real respectful and authentic "free" sexuality for all people.
posted by symbioid at 10:44 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Sounds like we need some "Porn: Behind the scenes" videos for our kids to show them how much fakery is going on there, too, so they can see how unreal most of it is.

But the endlessness of porn is partly driven by the unquenchable desire to see something 'real' - and this is not the case with Grand Theft Auto.

You can in fact watch Behind the Scenes porn clips and they feature things like make up and lube and laughing over dildoes (not money changing hands, just like the DVD extras on Hollywood movies don't include that, and not Viagra because that would belittle the males), but the sexual act must still always be incontrovertibly real. There is no porn movie any more where they fake the penetration, and if there were, it would be most derided thing on the internet.

The most popular/potent porn is always that which manages to transmit the idea that the performers all really love doing it - the Playboy models used to say it was their lifetime ambition, and we saw an update recently with the Duke college porn performer's comments about how much she liked it.
posted by colie at 10:51 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


"See, kid, she didn't actually have an orgasm after that pounding. And you'll notice that as soon as the camera turns off, she stops looking at the male star with lustful, worshipful eyes. Also, take a close look at that legal contract. It's simulated pleasure, just like the simulated head explosions you see when you play Call of Duty."
posted by clawsoon at 1:39 PM on August 26


I was thinking more in terms of body parts rubbing against/entering other body parts being a non-simulated act (as well as some of the more extreme acts).

And the contempt for women--well, you can't really fake that, I suppose.

On preview, what colie just said.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:54 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I feel like this thread has gone in a very mansplainey, hurf-durf and disturbing direction. I don't like to think that all porn is the same kind of porn is an actual point of view held by thinking persons. When you take the range of what is available and turn to a hypothetical child and say the equivalent of, "That's life, kid, suck it up," it just reinforces the disturbing undercurrent of hatred toward women on the internet and in life.

The original post, how to talk to your kids about this kind of easily accessible imagery, is worth discussing on its merits. Standing up straw-man arguments about other kinds of violence that is also easily accessibly is disingenuous at best.


I just Googled several definitions of "mansplain" to double check my understanding of the term, and I confess I have no idea what you're talking about with regard to this thread. Several men, including myself, have given personal anecdotes of our early experiences with porn, but those have in no way circumscribed related and relevant posts from women's perspectives (for example, this post by Frowner).

My points were as follows:

1. Your kids will find this stuff online, whether on purpose or accident—sophisticated (for lack of a better neutral word) depictions of sex, extreme violence, and shitty behavior toward others in forums and in comment sections. Even if you lock down his or her personal electronic devices like Ft. Knox, you can't lock out the rest of the world, his or her peers, or basic curiosity.

2. Your relationship with your partner is, I feel, a more important indicator of how your kid will come to view sex, consent, and respect for his or her partner, and that example is the best bulwark against a) your son growing up to be a misogynist asshole or b) your daughter growing up to feel like a sexual object whose sole purpose is the gratification of men.

3. Kids are way less fragile than we fear. Even if they can't process an image or act they see at a certain age, it doesn't mean they won't eventually process it in a healthy way. Exposure to bad shit doesn't mean your kid will grow up to be a victimizer or a victim, unless he or she receives no better guidance or example or support. As for what form that support should take, I think that depends on you, your kid, and a whole host of other circumstances. What's important is that you're engaged and cognizant and willing to listen and offer guidance when it's most needed.
posted by echocollate at 10:58 AM on August 26 [13 favorites]


The good-ish news is that, along with the glut of grotesque commercial porn, there's also fairly open access to a fair amount of truly homemade material: people who just like to show off for the camera doing real things. Some of it still doesn't model great attitudes, and boy is the lighting bad, but at least it's "real." Maybe it's a watch-this-not-that situation.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:03 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I feel like this thread has gone in a very mansplainey, hurf-durf and disturbing direction.

I would respectfully disagree with that characterization, and ask in equally respectful terms that we please not take this discussion in that direction.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:18 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I'm not necessarily convinced by the rise of new horrifying mainstream porn popularity. This previous FPP lets you check word frequencies of video titles yourself.
posted by squinty at 11:23 AM on August 26


I read this article yesterday and for once actually found something worth reading in the comments. As some people have noted here, the "Olympic analogy" or Red Sox analogy is problematic, though given that he came up with it on the fly, understandable that it's not perfect.

A better analogy (from the comments) is WWF wrestling. Real wrestling -- say Olympic wresting even -- is an act of athleticism, strategy, self-discipline, skill, etc. etc. WWF wrestling is a show the purpose of which is not to display any of those things, but to entertain. It might display some of those things some of the time, but only if and only in the sometimes distorted ways it might provide entertainment. Similarly, real sex is an act of intimacy, interaction, pleasure, compromise, reciprocity, and many other sometimes conflicting things, but porn sex is none of that, it's distorted for entertainment.

And there's nothing necessarily wrong with watching WWF wrestling or porn, but just as if you want your kid to be an olypmic wrestler you don't have them learn to wrestle by watching Hulk Hogan (yes, I'm old), if you want your kids to develop healthy attitudes towards sex, you don't want them watching a steady diet of porn during their formative years. Neither a single WWF wrestling match nor a single google search is the end of the world, but you don't want your kid to base their lives on a mistaken belief that fake things are real, and then to spend their lives wanting fake and either be disappointed in reality or find that they're not very good at reality.

I think it's great that this guy tried to convey that to his son, however poorly analogized, rather than just telling him it's somehow wrong or bad.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:38 AM on August 26 [12 favorites]


This previous FPP lets you check word frequencies of video titles yourself.

Prolapsing may be called 'rosebudding', and the idea that a specific act would have to appear in the movie's title is in any case not really relevant - a performer like Bonnie Rotten will perform dozens of sexual acts in any one movie and fans can find out a full menu of what is on offer in any given title with just another click.

Additionally, few consumers buy DVDs any more and so perhaps a more relevant inventory would be of domain names of websites and their search engine terms - e.g. www.prolapseparty.com.
posted by colie at 11:39 AM on August 26


Whoops, I assumed "videos" meant clips viewable online, but I was mistaken.
posted by squinty at 11:45 AM on August 26


Or maybe I wasn't. The Atlantic says it's all videos uploaded to xhamster.com.

But really what would be great would be popular searches, since maybe someone uploading is really into elf-robot sex but nobody else is.
posted by squinty at 11:47 AM on August 26


Popular searches, you say?

Or did you want a map?
posted by Hizonner at 12:00 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


MMM... elf-robot. Hairy BBW Saggy Elf-Robot...
posted by symbioid at 12:15 PM on August 26


Part of what's interesting in this thread is that it's really really obvious that some people are parents and some aren't.

For those of you who don't have kids, I *guarantee* that you will fully inhabit the attitudes you now find so curiously naive and inappropriately sheltering if you do have kids.

It's hard to explain how that happens, but that kid is going to be the most precious thing imaginable. It'll feel like your heart is outside your body. And you will do *anything* to protect that little being.
posted by jasper411 at 12:28 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


That popular searches list isn't as nice as I'd hoped (how popular are each of these? And what time period?) but it is something.

Rosebud and prolapse do not exist in it. Neither does Bonnie Rotten. Of the 13 AVN award winners for female performer of the year from 2001 (Jewel De'Nyle) onwards, all are popular searches except for Jewel De'Nyle and Bonnie Rotten.

If we go from 1993 to 2000 most of the 8 winners are also not in the list, with the exception of Asia Carrera (1995), Stephanie Swift (1998), and Inari Vachs (2000). I suspect this is because pornhub got registered in 2000.

I would like better info but maybe the internet as a whole just isn't that into prolapses or Bonnie Rotten.
posted by squinty at 12:30 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


It sounds like what is needed is a carefully curated list of porn to provide a good introduction, ala the lists where people have worked out the correct order people show Star Wars to their kids.
posted by Joe Chip at 12:33 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Some of the readily-available stuff out there on the net still makes me cringe in horror. What a nine-year-old's response must be, I can't imagine.

My nine-year-old experience was of seeing the Hustler Star Wars spread, which (as I recall) featured Darth Vader with a black, spiked dildo for a penis.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:36 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Your relationship with your partner is, I feel, a more important indicator of how your kid will come to view sex, consent, and respect for his or her partner, and that example is the best bulwark against a) your son growing up to be a misogynist asshole or b) your daughter growing up to feel like a sexual object whose sole purpose is the gratification of men.

Hard cheese on those children without such parents.

Took the young daughter to her first Broadway show last week. In the middle of Times Square, we found ourselves walking past several stark naked women painted in many colors. Skeeved her out, I can tell you.

Google informs me that we had witnessed the work of one Andy Golub, who apparently thinks that doing this in the great outdoors is somehow for the greater good.

The law lets him do this, but I don't see that it's a net benefit or elevates the general discourse. An offense against good manners. I mean to say, in Vermont, they took down an homage to bacon because one woman on social media said she found it offensive.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:39 PM on August 26


Hard cheese on those children without such parents.

Yup. Hard cheese on everyone, actually.
posted by echocollate at 12:47 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


jasper411:
For those of you who don't have kids, I *guarantee* that you will fully inhabit the attitudes you now find so curiously naive and inappropriately sheltering if you do have kids.
I have a kid, and she's basically the most important thing in my life.

I'm not sure which attitudes I'm supposed to be adopting or rejecting, though. Can I have a list? Apparently this sharp divide isn't as obvious to me as it is to you.
posted by Hizonner at 12:57 PM on August 26 [9 favorites]


It sounds like what is needed is a carefully curated list of porn to provide a good introduction, ala the lists where people have worked out the correct order people show Star Wars to their kids.

Exactly. Meaningful sex education that addresses consent, pleasure, intimacy and at some point, how-to instead of just fear-mongering and moral panic would be so so so much more meaningful than hand-wringing about porn.

I mean, I am not into violent porn, and the level of meanness mentioned above freaks me out. But if there was like, good porn, that was just normal people doing it in vanilla ways, and talking about consent, etc, I would be ok with my kid finding that. I think that it would be actually really useful to have as a tool to help kids understand how healthy sex works, since they are being overwhelmed with negative images everywhere they look.

But yeah, that's my fantasy world.
posted by ohisee at 1:16 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


Ya know - ok, so we have these fucked up attitudes towards nudity and sex and all that shit. Seeing ohisee's comment makes me think about how we educate kids with sex (or don't, or only cursory, etc...) I tried to picture this concept - like - how one might smoke up with their 18 year old kid once you say "ok, we've talked about the importance of not smoking when you're too young and the brain is still forming, but now, let's smoke up!" But ok, like, with sex/porn. And it's weird to think of something like that. How would you do that without getting caught up in issues surrounding abuse of power, what is ethically "correct" and such. And I started to think maybe this is somewhat cultural in the sense that, like, ok fucking is a natural thing to do. Non-human animals, AFAIK, don't (no pun intended) give a fuck if someone sees them. But we have all these rules and expectations of privacy, etc...

And how would it mess up your kid if you did something like this, even though I think this concept is actually intriguing from a rational/liberaltarian sense...

And then... What about tribal societies? Like, where they're all in a hut together, a small family or whatever, and then the mom and dad get to doing it... do they do it with the kids in there? Do they go find a "love-hut"? Do they go into the wild? Do they use a friends hut for privacy? Is there privacy between the whole family unit when having sex? What about amongst the whole tribe in general?

Now I'm curious about tribal societies and how they deal with sex and the aspect of privacy. Hmm...
posted by symbioid at 1:38 PM on August 26


I think there's something wrong with the 'protect kids - or adults, for that matter - from that which cannot be unseen' notion.

Every now and then, people, including kids, find things they encounter deeply distressing, often in a quite unpredictable fashion. I was twelve when I saw a destitute old woman jump in front of a slow-moving garbage truck, clearly a suicide, which crushed her. She was making unearthly sounds for about half a minute. I knew what happened there, and it was intensely sad and depressing for a while. It is now a sad memory. It changed me forever, but I don't wish it had never happened. It taught me to be sensitive to the fact that misery is the river of the world (a teaching that has been much reinforced ever since). One of my kids (I have 6 of them) was also about 12 when, watching Monthy Python's Meaning of Life and appreciating the humour a great deal, suddenly freaked out when it came to the "Can we have your liver then?" bit. Screaming, hiding under a table. Took a great deal of talking, but his mind was eased.

I think one of the most important things that kids should learn by example is that it is okay,that it is a 'thing' to be deeply distressed about something you come across, and that the way to deal with it is to discuss it, to tell and retell it, to question it, to work with it, with help from others that you trust. And definitely not to keep it secret.

Our culture has a deep prejudice against distress, as evident from the treatment of illness (mental illness in particular) and death . This goes deeper, I think, than either sex (about which there are also terribly convoluted hangups, of course) or violence (about which, unfortunately, there are far fewer reservations). If you can't be confident that your child would turn to you if something freaked them out without finding this very act awkward, the technological solutions, the filtering, the difficult talks and the cleverly curated content all seem a bit... pointless. To me.
posted by holist at 1:47 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


symbioid: Non-human animals, AFAIK, don't (no pun intended) give a fuck if someone sees them.

Some of them do.
posted by clawsoon at 1:48 PM on August 26


Well - all I know is my cat sure doesn't have a problem staring! O_o
posted by symbioid at 1:49 PM on August 26


Meaningful sex education that addresses consent, pleasure, intimacy and at some point, how-to instead of just fear-mongering and moral panic would be so so so much more meaningful than hand-wringing about porn. ... But yeah, that's my fantasy world.

All it takes is money. And can you imagine how much such a film would piss off the Christian Right?

I'm basically broke, and I'd still contribute twenty or thirty bucks.
posted by mr. digits at 1:50 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Yep, I'd finance me some of that, too. But I imagine it wouldn't actually be an easy thing to do, the great thing about great sex being that it is definitely not matter-of-fact... I'd still like to see someone talented give it a try.
posted by holist at 1:55 PM on August 26


"For those of you who don't have kids, I *guarantee* that you will fully inhabit the attitudes you now find so curiously naive and inappropriately sheltering if you do have kids. "

The other thing is, I try to be cool. I think I'm pretty cool when it comes to sex and relationships. But kids SPRING these things on you. They don't wait for the perfect moment when you're ready to talk about it and have something prepared. They ask in traffic, with four other kids in the car, "MOM, WHAT'S A PROSTITUTE?" (as I did to my mother, during carpool). And I have boys; I feel like I'd be better prepared to deal with girls in a lot of ways, but I wasn't a boy and I've never been on the receiving end of a parent-to-boy sex conversation. Sometimes they have penis-related questions that I do not know the answer to and, indeed, have never considered before.

And then there's context. SO MUCH CONTEXT. I have a five-year-old so right now I spend what feels like half my waking hours asking, "Are you holding on to your penis because you have to go potty or because you like to hold on to your penis?" "I like it." "That's fine, that's okay to do, but remember you need to do that in your bedroom or the bathroom, because holding on to your penis is private, right?" So maybe you are cool and prepared for this and you get through it fine the first time without dying with embarrassment, and then the next 300 times because Lord knows children are nothing if not repetitive.

But now have this conversation with your child in front of your friends.

Now have this conversation in front of a mom of another five-year-old that your five-year-old loves to play with, whose political and personal views you do not yet know, whom you hope will allow your children to have playdates.

Now have this conversation in front of a senior-to-you coworker that you just ran into at the supermarket or the local funfair.*

Now have this conversation in front of your mom.

If you can do all of these without at least a little internal quailing, you are a better woman than I.

*And keep in mind that if you try to get away with, "Don't grab your crotch, dear," or something similar, your five-year-old will rat you out by shouting, "WE ONLY HOLD OUR PENISES IN THE BEDROOM, RIGHT MOM? DOES THAT GUY HAVE A PENIS?" Because that's what kids do.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:30 PM on August 26 [26 favorites]


symbioid's speculations about the "love-hut" make me think that there needs to be a genre of historical reenactment porn dedicated to scrupulously accurate realism like this stuff.

In cold climes where they had to keep the livestock indoors, were certain species of barnyard animals regarded as natural aphrodisiacs and segregated to the love hut? Are satyrs the randy ones in Greek mythology because in Ancient Greece it was the goats which were kept in the black-thatched love huts of the Achæans?
posted by XMLicious at 2:31 PM on August 26


The stack of my dad's stack of porno mags that my brother and I found when we were kids had one Penthouse that included a bunch of paintings involving...insects...I wish I hadn't seen at that age (or ever). And yet they were probably pretty tame compared to a lot of the shit on the internet these days.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:33 PM on August 26


The Card Cheat: Dn't go to genki genki dot com... Do NOT go there.

Speaking of children and education... My friend said her husband and children were roughousing a bit and her daughter comes up and said "Mommy! Can I say "bagina"?" and my friend says "Yes..." feeling happy that her daughter knows the correct words to use and that she's trying to protect her body and knows how to assert herself.

"I'M GONNA PUNCH YOU IN THE BAGINA, DAD!"
posted by symbioid at 2:44 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


symbioid: "I'M GONNA PUNCH YOU IN THE BAGINA, DAD!"

And people upthread were saying that sex and violence aren't completely comparable because violence can't be safely enjoyed in a loving relationship the way that sex can. Hmph to them.
posted by clawsoon at 2:50 PM on August 26


Not how I would handle it, but I never did. I had a girl. I don't know if this was covered above (in the comments: tl;dr), but I assumed she saw it and handled it maturely, understanding the content, etc. I'm assuming (hoping) that she didn't see porn on the Net when she was ten, but I suppose that's possible. But she got a very graphic sex ed class when she was 12; that's why I never worried about her sexuality. (Oh, it was a Unitarian Universalist sponsored class, called OWL…for Our Whole Lives, not public school, where she came home from "The Talk" in 6th grade and had one question for me: "Daddy, how exactly does the sperm get to the egg?" Pretty pathetic, no?)

The funniest part of the story is when my wife found porn on my computer and said something about it to me and my 21-year old daughter rolled her eyes and said, "Mommy: all boys look at porn."
posted by kozad at 3:23 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Make Love Not Porn's Myths sections is a good resource on the differences between real-world & porn sex. It's probably the sort of thing they should be teaching in sex-ed, but aren't.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:46 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Meaningful sex education that addresses consent, pleasure, intimacy and at some point, how-to instead of just fear-mongering and moral panic would be so so so much more meaningful than hand-wringing about porn.

Sounds like U-U's OWL, but I've only heard about it 2.5th-hand. Based on SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) guidelines.
posted by morganw at 4:12 PM on August 26


Bimbos.com doesn't actually exist (it's squatted), and even the more plausible "Bimboes.com" with an "E" is just a warning page followed by a domain squatter page with some links. This makes me think the whole article was just made-up from whole cloth and no such conversation actually happened.
Bimbo.com has the most delicious content of the three.
posted by w0mbat at 6:09 PM on August 26


I no longer have little kids and I don't know much about porn except what I've read in comments like these, but

if I had a child, boy or girl, who was looking at porn on the internet, what I'd tell that child is that it's a natural thing to want to see exactly how it all works - how sex happens, naked people - so that part's okay - but what I want them to know is that porn is almost always people putting on a show for money and the more extreme they get the more money they make. So - daughter or son mine, know that sex and porn are two entirely different things and you mustn't expect or allow sex in your own life to copy the violent, crude, demeaning, women-hating, foul business they make of it in porn. Because if you do those things, you will ruin your chance for a good life - it's just that simple.

So when you look at porn, try to avoid the violent stuff and the gross stuff - sex in real life is neither violent nor gross.

The kids WILL look at porn. If you manage to keep them away from it at home, they'll look at it on a friend's phone or computer or a friend's dad's movie collection. So you must differentiate sex from violent porn when you talk with your kids. I'd be all for some video material depicting ordinary intimacy, arousal and full penetrative sex between two ordinary-looking people who love each other. Then I'd like to see that material made available for free to anyone and everyone who wants to watch it - kids of all ages included.

Wouldn't it be nice to know the kids began their sexual adventures from at least a realistic and respectful square one? If they grow interested in kinky stuff when they're older, that's their choice, but to be given the idea that the grit and violence in porn is normal behavior - that's not fair to them.
posted by aryma at 7:29 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I'm not a parent, so maybe I just Don't Get It, but...

I thought the guy basically half-assed the porn talk. Is it not obvious his boy is masturbating to porn? If he was merely "curious", then it's kind of a self-resolving situation, no? You're 9 years old, you're curious, you look at an image called tubgirl.jpg, and bam! Curiosity: Satisfied. I'm being facetious of course, but usually the response to childhood curiosity is to encourage it and participate in it, not flag it as taboo.

The boy isn't a Porn Appreciator. He's not admiring composition and lighting. He's discovered masturbation and his dad is basically implying masturbation is Fiiine Just Fine, but his method is wrong and maybe bad. Is that really the best that dad can do?
posted by um at 8:10 PM on August 26


Here's the thing...you don't have to even search very far to find porn. For instance, your kids probably frequent a Tumblr site or two already. All it takes is a slightly mis-typed url, and you will suddenly discover that Tumblr is an unending ocean of porn.

Yeah... This is just not true, is it? For the most part you need to actively search for porn to find it and if you're not interested, you don't need to actively avoid it.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:28 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Are you holding on to your penis because you have to go potty or because you like to hold on to your penis?" "I like it." "That's fine, that's okay to do, but remember you need to do that in your bedroom or the bathroom, because holding on to your penis is private, right?


I've raised three boys, and I find that conversation quite unnerving. I don't mean to judge and it may well say more about me that I do, but I do. My kids all went through that phase of often hanging on to their willies for dear life, so to speak, which sometimes occasioned mild mirth, never embarrassment (except possibly for others, but I think if it did, they deserved it), and it all stopped. But that kind of either-or question... I'd be thinking, "can I answer I don't know"? And the "That's fine, that's okay to do" bit... I think as a kid, I would find it rather ominous. Also, the private-public distinction, at least in my experience, is lost on five-year olds, particularly when they are emotionally agitated (which seemed to lead to grabbing on to the built-in safety bar a lot). Also, did the "Why is it private?" question not come along immediately? And then what?
posted by holist at 3:10 AM on August 27


I used to be pretty let kids do whatever and they'll be alright as long one is a good parent until medical school. I had to do a few days at our child abuse research center during my pediatric rotation. The fast growing number of cases is older children molesting younger children. We are talking 10 year olds to 5 year olds and the only thing that they could find that really changed in the last decade was access to porn. The worst part is that it happens despite the caregivers best intention. Maybe the let their kids stay with a relative during the day and they get a hold of their uncle's laptop. It's probably best to wait till a kid is a teenager to expose them to this stuff.
posted by roguewraith at 3:20 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


But didn't you wonder whether the parents of those 10-year-olds were good (enough) parents? I find it totally unbelievable that the only or even the main causative factor behind a 10-year-old abusing a 5-year-old is exposure to porn. Sure enough, it is clearly better not to be exposed to porn (of the kind that's statistically "mainstream" today, in particular), but the countermeasures required to ensure that it does not happen have convoluted consequences, too.
posted by holist at 3:27 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


...a carefully curated list of porn to provide a good introduction for kids...

I actually would bet they've tried this in Scandinavia or the Netherlands...
posted by colie at 4:25 AM on August 27


I saw my first porn when I was about 10, so we're talking 1977 or so, when my sister's older friends (about 14 or 15) discovered my parent's porn stash which my uncle had brought back for them from Europe (my Mum told me where it came from about 20 years afterwards). I was like ew why is that man peeing in that woman's mouth? My sister's friends thought that was hilarious. (It wasn't pee, it was cum, but I had no idea). I found it fascinating and sometimes snuck in and had a look through it but it was all very weird. This was full on, hardcore porn but admittedly there was no anal or anything particularly kinky, that I recall.

I've never been particularly embarrassed or coy about speaking to my sons about sex or bodies and at this stage they're still pretty willing to talk about stuff with me, which is nice but I'm not expecting it to last so I'm getting as much factual stuff in as possible right now, when the subject comes up. I'm also using this limited time before they become deathly ashamed of my existence to push the whole idea of girls not being some weird trophy or really, all that much different to them as far as also being fellow human beings.

There's been no porn on their browser history yet, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if they'd seen some.

We don't do gore and we don't do war (unless it involves aliens) because I'm opposed to the desensitisation of such things. They're pretty aware that when they get older they'll be able to make their own minds up about what they want to be exposed to, but at this stage I get to make the rules because they're 9 and 12 and I'm 47 and I have supreme executive power.

As far as porn goes, they are human and they are growing and they'll find and see what they want and there's not much I can do about it if they're determined to look, but what I've told them is that it's for older people, just like swearing and alcohol and death metal and they seem pretty cool with that, so far.

Which is all to say, I like the cut of this fellow's jib.
posted by h00py at 5:16 AM on August 27


"Also, did the "Why is it private?" question not come along immediately? And then what?"

It did. (Basically we explained nobody in the living room wants to see your private parts or your bathroom habits and that it's okay when you're in diapers but once you're in underpants and don't need so much grown-up help, you need to start keeping private parts more private.) This child had some problems with potty training that had to do with muscle and nerve development, so grabbing his crotch is frequently a signal he requires immediate bathroom assistance and we can't ever let it pass uncommented or there will be a crisis ... but sometimes a dude just likes to hold on to his boy-parts and it's not an emergency signal for assistance. This method works for him and grew naturally out of longer conversations over time about privacy, private parts, bathroom training, etc. He's also not at all shy about telling us if he finds our questions dumb or incomplete. Every kid is different!

(Actually the worrrrrrrst part was that he's a tiny little litigator and when we talked about who can and can't see your private parts, he wanted an EXTREMELY DETAILED LIST of people and circumstances, and then he started quizzing everyone he talked to, including complete strangers in line at the grocery store, about who was allowed to see THEIR private parts. It was awful. His pediatrician thought it was hilarious, partly because he kept quizzing her med students and making them want to die, but she was the only one.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:38 AM on August 27 [5 favorites]


My early encounters with porn made it clear that porn was for (straight) men, sexuality was for (straight) men, and women were supposed to be objects for men's pleasure. Porn for women was unknown to me, and there were no depictions of people other than heterosexuals.

So I love the internet and especially tumblr and wish I'd had access to it much earlier, and I think this is a really interesting discussion, but I also agree with Frowner that this is too much a discussion about boys and porn, and would add that it's too much a discussion about straight people finding their kids looking at straight porn.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:06 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


IndigoJones: The law lets him do this, but I don't see that it's a net benefit or elevates the general discourse. An offense against good manners.

Huh - different strokes, I guess. I find Golub's work to be really beautiful, and a great opportunity to show that the naked human body is not automatically a sexual object.

On the main topic - Been there, quite recently, with our 11-year-old son.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 6:46 AM on August 27


(Actually the worrrrrrrst part was that he's a tiny little litigator and when we talked about who can and can't see your private parts, he wanted an EXTREMELY DETAILED LIST of people and circumstances, and then he started quizzing everyone he talked to, including complete strangers in line at the grocery store, about who was allowed to see THEIR private parts. It was awful. His pediatrician thought it was hilarious, partly because he kept quizzing her med students and making them want to die, but she was the only one.)

Eyebrows, this story is one of those (very, very rare) things that makes me wish I had reproduced.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:49 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


My early encounters with porn made it clear that porn was for (straight) men, sexuality was for (straight) men, and women were supposed to be objects for men's pleasure. Porn for women was unknown to me, and there were no depictions of people other than heterosexuals.

So I love the internet and especially tumblr and wish I'd had access to it much earlier


That's a really interesting take: That the ubiquity of the Internet grants queer/female kids access to depictions of sex they can relate to in a positive/affirming way. It relates to some general comments above about whether porn in some forms can be a safe space for sussing out elements of sexuality and socialization.

I think this is a really interesting discussion, but I also agree with Frowner that this is too much a discussion about boys and porn, and would add that it's too much a discussion about straight people finding their kids looking at straight porn.

No one is roping off the discussion in terms of gender or orientation. Straight people are speaking to straight experiences. Men are speaking to male experiences. If the conversation has skewed toward straight/male perspectives, that's really just incidental. Adding non-straight, non-male takes strengthens the dialog.
posted by echocollate at 7:55 AM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the clarification, Eyebrows, makes a lot more sense now.
posted by holist at 8:06 AM on August 27


"it's even worse for little girls, since at least the narrative of the gross commercial porn is "men enjoy this because it's fun", whereas the message for women is "women should want to do this or at least consent to do it because that is what women are supposed to do"."

Having worked at a mainstream porn producer, the narrative for women in commercial porn is also, "Women enjoy this because it's fun." There's definitely misogyny and fucked up normative biases, but part of the narrative is definitely that women enjoy this.
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


And man, there are a bunch of insane comments about what's mainstream now — the idea that prolapsing is the next big thing is moral panic like thinking kids are having rainbow parties.
posted by klangklangston at 9:00 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


(In the commercial porn that I have seen - which I'd say is a reasonable and representative sample circa maybe five years ago, plus another reasonable and representative sample when I was in my late teens/early twenties - I'd say that my take-away was very much that it is fun for women because they enjoy being objectified and performing female sexuality, whereas it is fun for men because doing whatever sexual act itself is pleasurable. That was what really messed me up, because it took me a long time to distinguish between "I feel good because someone thinks I am attractive enough to fuck" and "I feel good because I enjoy this act and/or am attracted to this person". "I feel good because someone thinks I am attractive" feels authentically sexual enough in the moment, but it wears off, and that's the death knell of relationships, when there's nothing else making you want to sleep with someone. I contend that "women enjoy performing being sexy while men enjoy the act of sex" is a pretty persistent and standard framing for straight porn, even if it is not universal.)
posted by Frowner at 9:06 AM on August 27 [11 favorites]


And man, there are a bunch of insane comments about what's mainstream now — the idea that prolapsing is the next big thing is moral panic

My point is that porn gradually becomes more extreme, and acts that were niche and hard to find at one time (double anal, gape, squirting, 12+ men gangbangs, vomity blowjobs, etc) all gradually begin to appear in mainstream porn settings. It's a kind of 'porno drift'. So you have the top award-winning porn performer of 2014 doing prolapsing.

I didn't even say it was necessarily a terrible thing either. I don't really care. it's just it can be a shock to find this stuff is one click away when ten years ago you'd have had to really try very hard to find it.
posted by colie at 9:09 AM on August 27


klangklangston: the idea that prolapsing is the next big thing is moral panic like thinking kids are having rainbow parties.

At the very least, what would have been considered a bug 10-15 years ago is now sold as a feature, and inclusion of said feature in mainstream titles wouldn't really shock anyone at this point.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:10 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Now that we're discussing access to non-cis/straight porn, I wonder how much readily available access to that has helped open minds in general, especially since much porn sorta of mushes together on sites. I mean sometimes the sequester stuff, but other sites don't care and just mix it up! Perhaps in this sense, it's a good thing, this explosion, because it explodes the heteronormative narratives that is abundant in mainstream media.
posted by symbioid at 10:25 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The porn search term map site linked above has "straight" and "gay" and then an entire third category for people who masturbate to people like me. I have not personally come across anyone for whom porn was a gateway to nuanced understanding of trans people, and I'd actually argue that the mass fetishization and objectification of trans women in porn has contributed more to our mistreatment than our acceptance. I could be wrong, but those are the vibes I get from weird internet dudes who send me unsolicited messages, and from police here and elsewhere who round up women and charge them with prostitution simply for walking around while being trans and black.

I honestly don't watch porn, though, and so I'm not sure if there's a new wave of trans-positive porn like there is to some extent a general new wave of feminist porn. How much does that kind of feminist porn cross-pollinate onto the mass market streaming sites?
posted by Corinth at 10:45 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


"I'd say that my take-away was very much that it is fun for women because they enjoy being objectified and performing female sexuality, whereas it is fun for men because doing whatever sexual act itself is pleasurable."

I understand what you're saying, and there's certainly a big strain of porn that has that as its dominant narrative, but I think it's more complicated than that — female pleasure in the act is definitely a major narrative in most mainstream porn. It's that narrative that female performers faking orgasms supports, and is behind the rise in squirting (which is more Bonnie Rotten's claim to fame than prolapsing). Even outside of mainstream porn, e.g. Kink.com, this is a major narrative, with scenes often starting with the female performer describing how she gets pleasure from the acts (which is also a framing device that helps offset some of the BDSM for mainstream audiences). This is also a narrative that is subverted in e.g. casting videos, where the narrative is often that women want to be porn stars because they enjoy sex, and then that enjoyment of sex is either exploited or subverted through the putative "casting," which often seems at least moderately unpleasant for the female performer, generally under the rubric of disabusing her of naive views of the porn industry.

Part of my disagreement may be in how "mainstream" porn is defined; while niches and subgenres have exploded and are now more accessible than ever, mainstream porn is still pretty pedestrian stuff where some facsimile of a plot brings two people together for mutually enjoyable sex. Gonzo, which tends toward the degrading misogyny, is kind of definitionally not mainstream even if it's become popular enough to have produced crossover stars. Part of this is marketing; mainstream porn is marketed with the theory that it's something you should be able to watch with your partner and porn producers recognize that if you don't show the woman enjoying sex as sex, you won't sell as many copies. Another part is that women who enjoy sex are often part of the production of mainstream porn; at Hustler every single product that comes out is approved by at least one woman, and women are part of the actual production (i.e. non-performer; directors, producers, etc.) for a majority of it.

"My point is that porn gradually becomes more extreme, and acts that were niche and hard to find at one time (double anal, gape, squirting, 12+ men gangbangs, vomity blowjobs, etc) all gradually begin to appear in mainstream porn settings. It's a kind of 'porno drift'. So you have the top award-winning porn performer of 2014 doing prolapsing. "

Yeah, that's not really true though. Double anal, gape, 12+ gangbangs, gagging blowjobs, that's all still niche. It's not as obscure as it used to be, but the biggest porno drift was facials, something that's now pretty standard in porn. But even anal is still niche in terms of the porn being produced — it's something that has been a shift over the last 10 years in American porn, since it was standard in Euro porn and has only become more mainstream through the increasingly globalized porn production world. Specifically, it's Pierre Woodman at Private who was the biggest influence on American producers, since he did big budget flicks that sold worldwide. (A photographer at Hustler hated him for it; "Woodman thinks that women only have one hole and it's the ass.") But anal is still something that if you include it in a mainstream scene, it will lose you a significant amount of viewers and something that a lot of performers aren't really into. (Those lost viewers are generally balanced by the folks who won't buy anything if it doesn't have anal, but they're significantly more than the number of folks who you'll lose by including facials. That's part of the reason that most mainstream porn releases have only one anal scene.)

I tend to think of porn as a pretty fucked up (no pun intended) industry, mostly because of the way capitalism distorts it, but the tendency to engage in the fallacy of misleading vividness combines with the democratization of niche distribution to give an inaccurate view of what the norms of porn are.
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Double anal, gape, 12+ gangbangs, gagging blowjobs, that's all still niche.

Really? I look at web porn like any other guy for arousal sometimes, but have also followed from things like Vice magazine the careers of the porn performers who cross over into non-porn media like Sasha Grey, and she has performed all of those things apart from maybe double anal? She, like Bonnie Rotten, is the most recent 'porn star' as far as I can tell. Go to pornhub.com and there are regularly numbers like 4 million + views for a scene in which something like 'gape' and 'gagging' is not remotely niche or hardcore.
posted by colie at 12:27 PM on August 27


Would it be too chatty to ask what the allure is in the choking/vomiting/blowjob porn? And is one expected to believe that the vomiting is fun for the performer, or is it framed as explicitly not fun? Certain of these extreme things seem like they could be framed as "la la by happy coincidence I am just another woman who enjoys submitting to really aggressive sex that crosses over into choking and weird bodily distortion"* but very few people actually like throwing up.


*Which is not to deny that some women do, but it seems like far more in teh porns than in reality
posted by Frowner at 12:31 PM on August 27


So - umm... I guess this will veer into personal territory perhaps (in terms of personal porn preferences - not in acts or whatever. lord knows I wouldn't mind cuddling let alone a good shag, these days!)

I think gagging is different than vomiting. I honestly don't know if it gets the blower "off" or not. I mean, in the same way, say, someone who's into being whipped gets off. I would imagine that they're different sensations in terms of the pain stimulation (which, now that I think about it, does seem kind of strange since they both are a sort of pain).

But I think in that sense, it's more about submission? That is the subservience mindset, not so much the masochism part? That said, I think the gagging stuff doesn't really have the same "submission" stuff that a more traditional BDSM scene has... I mean, Kink.com and such of course, has that, but even the "mainstream" porn that has it, then doesn't carry the whole BDSM tropes, necessarily.

As for the allure for a viewer (as opposed to the "blower")? I'm not sure I should totally digress into the thoughts of it, but I guess this is my "coming out to the world" as one who watches it and for some reason enjoys it. I consider myself a feminist/ally, so I feel guilty for this. Less so now than I used to. And I'm certainly aware of all the ramifications of the role Capital plays in the production of this stuff...

Maybe it's because of the viscerality of it? The "authenticity", in the sense of fake orgasms in porn vs I mean, you can kind of fake gagging, especially if you're one who's trained in the art of the deep throat/skilled in that technique, then I suppose you could like - do a real deep throat, and then, maybe somehow lightly gag, and tear up with added sound effects in the studio, which I think does happen in some of this stuff.

The vomiting, perhaps, is maybe, because that's even harder to fake (that said, I'm not one who's so much into the actual vomiting. Doesn't gross me out as it would probably gross others out, but it's not my thing.)

I think there may be a fantasy element in terms of size (admission or not, you may feel free to read into that statement). If you are on the smaller side, this may be a fantasy thing whereby the larger-statured cocks elicit a response that mere sex doesn't. Of course, you could say that about just looking at it, like, I dunno, Dongzilla or whatever it is.

It might also be fantasy from the other end - that one fantasize not that they are the giver, while watching, but the receiver. A sense of "fulfillment" as it were. In my case, being a dude, I would think that I would gravitate to non-straight gagging if that were the case, but, frankly, dudes are ugly. I don't like guys much at all really. I am pansexual, personally, so bi-curious I guess in this respect one could say, but as much as I may appreciate seeing myself in the receiver role, I don't want to see myself in that role, because, FUGLY.

I think I read something somewhere that said men tend to look at faces more in porn than women do. Though I'm not sure if it was with respect to cross-gender faces or faces in general. So perhaps that's some part of it (in terms of why women, and not men when it comes to fantasizing) though I have seen clips of bi/gay gagging, and I'd imagine it's just as rampant in that scene as in straight porn, but that's just a guess.

Again, these are the best hypotheses I can come up with for myself at the top of my head, for now. I haven't put much thought into WHY it appeals to me. And again, in some ways I feel dirty about it. I've talked about it with other friends (women -- I generally don't talk to guys about porn and stuff) who tend towards the feminist side of things and some more libertine than others, but none have been utterly squicked or eeked about it when I mention that I like watching it. I do have some friends who I think *would* be squicked/eeked about it, but I don't know if I've ever really talked about the issue with them.
posted by symbioid at 2:50 PM on August 27


Damn, I suppose I should pony up for a puppet account or something.
posted by symbioid at 2:54 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


maybe somehow lightly gag, and tear up with added sound effects in the studio, which I think does happen in some of this stuff.

There is no 'studio' in most porn - they can't even be bothered to compress the sound even if it's just a button on a Mac laptop.
posted by colie at 3:10 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I dunno - I've seen some baaaaaaaad overdubs.
posted by symbioid at 4:05 PM on August 27


This is only my story: it was a difficult and decades-long process for me, but once I realised that my long-standing, guilt-inducing and to myself inscrutable excitement at watching emphatically pseudo-forced oral sex as well as, once more, clearly play-acted acts of sexual domination is connected to my mum's unfortunate and bizarre ideas about how to manage a baby's feeding and elimination (which was the relatively easier part), and once, in a safe setting, I revisited a few times the emotional territory she unknowingly pushed me into with the loving and well-meaning torture that she had inflicted in my first year (which was very hard), the excitement subsided. And porn with nuanced emphasis on mutual pleasure became a great deal more exciting - but much less frequently. I realise that this maneuver may have worked in a few distinct ways, but the main thing for me is that it seems to have worked. Not feeling regularly compelled to do something I know will induce significant guilt is a relief. A major one.
posted by holist at 11:19 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


"Really? I look at web porn like any other guy for arousal sometimes, but have also followed from things like Vice magazine the careers of the porn performers who cross over into non-porn media like Sasha Grey, and she has performed all of those things apart from maybe double anal? She, like Bonnie Rotten, is the most recent 'porn star' as far as I can tell. Go to pornhub.com and there are regularly numbers like 4 million + views for a scene in which something like 'gape' and 'gagging' is not remotely niche or hardcore."

Yes. Vice is not a mainstream publication. Sasha Grey came out of alt-porn and explicitly pitched herself (no pun intended) as an antidote to mainstream porn stars like Jenna Jameson. She described herself as a feminist reclaiming hardcore porn.

And yes, gaping and gagging are definitionally hardcore pornography. Both involve explicit sexual acts. Even vanilla fucking is hardcore pornography if penetration is shown. There is increased access to hardcore pornography as a result of the internet but that doesn't mean it's not hardcore.

"There is no 'studio' in most porn - they can't even be bothered to compress the sound even if it's just a button on a Mac laptop."

… most by number, but only because of the sheer explosion of homemade porn. Most commercial porn still involves editors, directors, camera ops and PAs (though small crew shoots overlap those roles a lot). The reason is because if you're going to sell porn, you need to keep fairly extensive ID records. There's a surprisingly high infrastructure cost that comes with that, and a ton of fake "reality" outfits that make the porn equivalent of Lizard Lick Towing.
posted by klangklangston at 10:30 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


"*Which is not to deny that some women do, but it seems like far more in teh porns than in reality"

So, this actually gets at one of my central complaints about porn, how money distorts the business and the relationship of capital to labor. The analogy upthread to WWF is pretty apt in terms of how performers I've known have approached the industry, and I know a couple who have done pretty rough stuff including gagging to retching (Ashley Blue is one). They get off on pushing their limits, and porn is a place that will pay them to do so. But that also means that a lot of things that happen in porn are directly as a consequence of who pays for it, and that can erode consent in a way that makes me really uncomfortable. People can get pushed beyond their limits, with slim to no insurance, and there's still enough stigma about sex work that it can be hard to get out of.

And it means weird things for consumers, because people who are into very specific things are the ones who are more likely to pay for porn, especially now. (Again, facials are the classic example — enough people are really into them and willing to buy videos that feature them and far fewer would refuse to buy a video that does have them, so they end up becoming a norm of porn videos that doesn't reflect their popularity out in the real world.)

Ironically, for the performers that I've worked with, the kinkier the production the more likely it's something they'd be doing in their own time anyway; the ones that really skeeved me were the dead-eyed rail-thin Estonian girls getting paid $300 for a shoot.
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: My only point is that porn becomes more and more hardcore as time goes by, and you're kind of making it for me now.

Sasha Grey ...explicitly pitched herself as an antidote to mainstream porn stars like Jenna Jameson.

Jameson was AVN Performer of Year 1996, Grey won that accolade in 2008. Grey was the big feature in Penthouse in 07 and Playboy 09 (they're mainstream, right? Surely any mainstream porn customer is likely to be aware of her due to multiple appearances in those two?).

12 years pass and the popular porn stars of the day do ever more extreme things. I don't really see how that can be argued with.
posted by colie at 2:07 AM on August 29


"Grey was the big feature in Penthouse in 07 and Playboy 09 (they're mainstream, right? Surely any mainstream porn customer is likely to be aware of her due to multiple appearances in those two?). "

… so, in those Penthouse and Playboy spreads, she was doing 12+ gangbangs and gaping? I know she wasn't in her Hustler spreads. But perhaps that's the only Playboy issue with fisting?

"My only point is that porn becomes more and more hardcore as time goes by, and you're kind of making it for me now."

That's sort of true, but you're wildly over-estimating the rate and effect of that. When you say things like that vomity blowjobs are mainstream, you kind of show that you don't know what you're talking about and are confusing availability on tube sites with audience size and market position.
posted by klangklangston at 8:33 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


this actually gets at one of my central complaints about porn, how money distorts the business and the relationship of capital to labor.

The fact that your biggest complaints about porn come from your looking at it from a Marxist perspective just.....delights me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


… so, in those Penthouse and Playboy spreads, she was doing 12+ gangbangs and gaping?

This is just ridiculous. She was certainly talking about them in all her interviews, and she is the same person. She is famous for those things and she appears in the mainstream constantly. It makes no difference that the softer magazines did not publish images as hardcore as that.

Go to pornhub.com, type in 'sasha grey' and then select 'most viewed'. The scene that you see has over 17 million views and contains gagging, gape and goodness knows what else. By contrast I think Penthouse has recently gone bankrupt.
posted by colie at 9:47 AM on August 29


"This is just ridiculous. She was certainly talking about them in all her interviews, and she is the same person. She is famous for those things and she appears in the mainstream constantly. It makes no difference that the softer magazines did not publish images as hardcore as that."

No, it's not. Penthouse is on the edge of hardcore (usually one couples shoot per issue, the rest solo girls in the gray area of spread genitals), Hustler is generally hardcore, and Playboy is softcore. Being the same person doesn't really mean anything — it's like saying that Bill Murray is currently a mainstream movie star because he was in Ghostbusters. Wes Anderson movies are more accessible than ever, but that doesn't mean they're mainstream movies — the budgets, distribution schemes and audiences are different.

"Go to pornhub.com, type in 'sasha grey' and then select 'most viewed'. The scene that you see has over 17 million views and contains gagging, gape and goodness knows what else. By contrast I think Penthouse has recently gone bankrupt."

The top scene from Jenna Jameson has over 105 million views and includes none of that (and she's been retired longer than Gray has). I've talked with Gray about her persona; she wants to cross over to Soderbergh and Cohen Bros. films, not Michael Bay and James Cameron films. She was pretty intentional in constructing her image, and while I disagree with some of her views on feminism and porn (I last talked with her when she was, like, 19 and I think anyone's views on feminism at 19 are likely to be inchoate).
posted by klangklangston at 12:26 PM on August 29


Penthouse is on the edge of hardcore (usually one couples shoot per issue, the rest solo girls in the gray area of spread genitals)

The whole point of the discussion is the shifting nature of what is considered to be hardcore, and how easily available it is.

Buying Penthouse used to be quite difficult for 14 year old boys. Now they can watch Sasha Grey, who they saw that afternoon on a newstand magazine cover, get sodomised by 15 men on an old mattress for free and without anyone knowing. So they do. That's the point of this thread.

I contend that porn gets steadily more extreme and you've already agreed with that anyway, just not with the 'rate and effect.'
posted by colie at 12:41 PM on August 29


"Buying Penthouse used to be quite difficult for 14 year old boys. Now they can watch Sasha Grey, who they saw that afternoon on a newstand magazine cover, get sodomised by 15 men on an old mattress for free and without anyone knowing. So they do. That's the point of this thread."

They can, but most don't. Which is why your continual hyperbole reads like someone who doesn't know what they're talking about, similar to how though you can spend hours murdering prostitutes in gory ways with Grand Theft Auto, most people just play through the story and even more people don't play GTA at all, instead playing something like Candy Crush.

Rate and effect matter.
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 PM on August 29


They can, but most don't.


Any source for this assertion?

You've told me twice that I don't know what I'm talking about, and you have also told us that you are a former pornographer - but it might be more convincing if you'd point me in the direction of any evidence that contradicts the notion that porn gets more and more extreme as time passes, and that the current popular stars perform more extreme acts than those of 10 years ago.

And there is no hyperbole in me noting that the current AVN Performer of the Year performs anal prolapsing, or that one of Sasha Grey's most popular scenes on pornhub.com consists of 15 men sodomising her on what appears to be an old mattress.
posted by colie at 1:21 PM on August 29


Because if they did, it would be reflected in the numbers? You cited Gray's 17 million views as evidence that she was representative of popular porn taste; I pointed out that she has an order of magnitude fewer views than someone who's not performing any of the acts cited with a similar upload date. If that's not evidence that those acts are less popular than relatively vanilla hardcore then I don't know what to tell you — for pretty much any gonzo scene, I can find a mainstream one with far more views. It's like you're an Arcade Fire fan trying to pretend that they're a mainstream pop group without acknowledging that their best selling album did, like, a quarter of what Eminem's did that year and didn't even make the top 10.

You're right that the median hardcore flick has gotten more extreme over the last two decades, but that's because it would now include an anal scene and several facials instead of no anal and few facials, not because it would include gapes or huge gangbangs or anything like that. It's the fallacy of misleading vividness, and attempting to make a broad statement by focusing on outliers isn't persuasive. It's the same thing as arguing that the Democrats have moved left to socialism over the last decade — the median Congressional Dem has moved left, but the outsized claims of socialism just aren't credible.
posted by klangklangston at 2:02 PM on August 29


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