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Quote of the Week

Monday, April 12, 2010

Savage Love Letter o' the Day: Sharing A Laptop

Posted by Dan Savage on Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 3:50 PM

I'm usually pretty together on the sex-and-relationship stuff, but I'm having trouble finding a good solution to my current problem. First, some backstory: My wife and I are in our mid-20s, and my wife is the oldest child in her family. Her mom is twice-divorced, once-abused, and frustratingly adherent to the Mormon faith. Her youngest son, who is 15, spent most of his formative years living with a somewhat abusive and angry stepdad, and now has anger issues of his own, especially when he's around his mom. It was clear that he needed to live apart from his mother (who isn't very stable herself), but his mom won't let him live with his dad, because his dad is gay and she's... well, she's Mormon. Long story short, the brother-in-law is now living in the most stable environment available: with my wife and I.

So far, as fucked up as this has been, we've managed to handle taking care of him so far, and he's starting to work through his anger issues. The problem is, the other day he was trying to convince me that he needed to use my wife's laptop for schoolwork and I'm 99% sure what he was actually angling for was an opportunity to look at pornography while my wife and I were asleep.

Now, I personally have no problem with pornography, and I realize that it's a perfectly natural thing for teens to be curious, but this is the first time I've had to look after a teenager. Part of me wants to give him the laptop and pretend I don't know what he's planning on doing. The other part is worried that this kid is going to find all the crazy, creepy, and weird shit that's so pervasive on the internet, and he'll end up with a messed-up view of relationships and sex. I mean, I'm not anti-porn, but I'll be the first one to admit that there is a lot of misogynistic stuff out there, and I don't want him getting the wrong impression.

I guess what I'm looking for is some way of letting him satisfy his curiosity and learn about sexuality in a healthy way, without exposing him to the entirety of the Internet all at once. Is there a site that I can direct him to and say, "You can look at this and you don't have to feel ashamed about it?" Would print publications be a better alternative? Also, for the record (as if I even need to say this), his mom believes pornography is a horrible sin and has caught the kid looking at stuff before and it resulted in shame, punishment, and parental controls on her computer. I hope I can react in a more productive fashion.

Shameful Pornography Hypocrite

My response after the jump...

Would you have wanted an adult—would you have allowed an adult—to control and direct your explorations of porn the way you seem to want to direct and control his?

No, right?

Look, SPH, your heart is in the right place. But you can't control where he goes online, or what he looks at, or what turns him on. You can, however, let him read the letter you wrote to me—at least paragraph three—because he would benefit from hearing that. But then you gotta step back.

As for the wife's laptop, well... if this kid were my teenage BIL I wouldn't let him use my laptop. Not because I have any moral objections, of courese, but because I wouldn't want lube all over my keyboard or dried-up loads flaking off my screen. Tell him to go ahead and sneak peeks at online porn when and where he can, but that if he wants privacy—if he wants alone time with a laptop—he's going to need to get an afterschool job and save up his money and buy one. (Or, if you're feeling generous, offer to get him a laptop after he gets a job and then let him pay you back over a few months.)

And for the record: fuck your wife's mother and GOOD ON YOU for providing your young BIL with a stable home environment.

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