I'm a 50ish mom with a 17-year-old son and a younger daughter. I have tried to instill sex-positive attitudes in my kids and also help them be aware of treating others respectfully and with kindness. My son is an athlete and tends to be a bit of a "bro," he hooks up with girls but hasn't had a serious girlfriend, and his dad and I have talked to him about sex being more than just a physical act, etc. However I don't have the impression much of that has gotten through to him. Today he came home from school early because he was sick. When I got home he had left his email open and there was an email activating an account on a free web cam viewing site. Perhaps he had been reading the business section in Sunday's New York Times and got the idea from this article? (And I thought he never read the paper!) What should I or his dad say to him? I know porn is a reality for teenage boys but it seems unhealthy for a young person who has never had a relationship to spend time and money interacting with a paid sex worker over the internet. It feels creepy and weird. Help me out Dan! Thanks!
Mom of Camwatching Kid
My response after the jump...
There are worse things he could do—there are far worse porn sites your son could visit—than your typical camming site, mom.
Let's get this out of the way first: you have a 17-year-old son and he has access to the Internet. Bro or not, serial hooker-upper or not, your son is gonna watch online porn. He's gonna watch porn whether or not mom thinks porn is particularly good for him at this stage of his emotional, social, and sexual development. Your son isn't gonna wait until after he's been in a relationship or two before he starts watching porn.
And be honest, mom: You would probably object to your son watching porn even if he were in a relationship right now. ("Why does he need porn? He has a girlfriend!") And you would probably object to your son watching porn even if he were between girlfriends. ("What incentive does he have to find a new girlfriend if he gets all his needs met with porn? And porn is going to give him unrealistic expectations when he does find a girlfriend!") Because you really don't want your son watching porn at all. Which isn't just unrealistic, mom, it's also pretty sex-negative. Gotta say.
All that said, mom, did you read the New York Times story about camming? The story you sent me the link to? The story that lead to your innocent 17-year-old son's first exposure to online pornography? (Ha ha ha, mom! Seriously!) Because Matt Richtel's excellent piece ("Intimacy on the Web, With a Crowd") makes camming sound a lot safer for the women involved—kinder, gentler, and more respectful—than other forms of sex work.
Richtel's story details the pitfalls and potential abuses—"economic desperation or even enslavement" may get some women involved in camming, vengeful creeps have outed cam performers and gotten them fired from their day jobs—but cam work comes across as a safer, more humane, and more empowering form of sex work than appearing in "traditional" porn videos:
The money generally comes not from subscriptions or pay-per-view, but rather from credits or “tips,” electronic tokens viewers give that allow them to interact with the models—instructing them through typed messages to use a certain sex toy or use it in a specific way. The Web sites provide the platform and then collect and distribute the tips to the models. This payment structure, and the fact that the models can work in a safe place, slyly inverts the traditional power dynamic in the sex trade. A cam model does not need a pimp or protector....
Todd Blatt once produced pornographic movies in Southern California and had several Ferraris to show for it. Last year, he sold 72,500 pornographic DVDs he had collected over the years, getting $30,000 for all of them, compared with $700,000 he once thought the collection would bring. “If you’re the middle guy who has been eating off this industry for 20 years, it’s a big change,” said Mr. Blatt, 45, who recently sold the last of his Ferraris. “The girls don’t need anybody.”
Bearing that in mind, mom, here's what I think you should do: close your son's email and shut your damn mouth. Don't bring up the email you saw from the cam site activating his account—don't tell him you snooped (even if your snooping was aided by his carelessness)—and DO NOT tell him that what he did was "creepy and weird." Because it wasn't. It was boring and normal. And if you're worried about the effect that viewing porn—traditional or cam—might have on your son's development, send him the link to this video (nearly 10,000,000 views):
And now, because it's stuck in my head, a bonus video for your son that he's sure to love:
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