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Father Figures

February 13, 2013

I'm a 37-year-old single father with a 14-year-old son. I've raised him on my own basically since birth, with help from some good friends and nearby family. Overall he's a good kid: gets decent grades, rarely gets in trouble. Our relationship isn't perfect-I work a lot and he's a teenager, but no major issues. Over the past year, however, I have become increasingly convinced that he is gay. I've found gay porn on his laptop (yes, I snoop; I pay the bill and I'm his dad), he's shown ZERO interest in girls, and he has always been a tad effeminate, though I know that's probably an unfair stereotype. I have no problem with gay people and I support full equality for same-sex couples. And truly, if my son is gay, while I won't pretend it'd be no big deal and not require a bit of mental adjustment, I'd love him and support him fully.

My son has a friend, let's call him "Gomer," who comes over often. Sometimes they're here when I'm not, and often they're alone together with the door closed. If Gomer were a girl, these things wouldn't be allowed. I've had the (straight) sex talk with my son, and he knows that I don't want him to be sexually active yet. But a friendship with a guy isn't sexual... unless it is. I have no specific knowledge that anything has happened between them. Gomer is a nice kid, and I've met his parents. I have no problem with them hanging out. But if my son were gay, I would have a different, stricter set of rules regarding male friends. BUT HOW DO I BROACH THE SUBJECT?

He's a sensitive kid, and I worry he'd lie or resent me. And if he's not gay, I worry I could seriously damage our relationship and hurt his pride by suggesting he is. I'm swimming in unfamiliar waters here with no life vest.

Dad Under Duress

"In an ideal world, Dad Under Duress would take a slow and roundabout way to encourage his son to come out to him," says John Schwartz, a correspondent for the New York Times, a father of three, and the author of Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality. "Instead of a direct confrontation—are you gay or what?—DUD could make gay issues a part of the day's general conversation. Discuss issues like same-sex marriage and stories in the newspaper that bring up LGBT themes. In that middle ground between pushing and ignoring, his son might decide that his dad is safe to come out to."

Whenever possible, queer kids should be allowed to reveal their sexuality on their own timetable, Schwartz emphasizes, but there are times when a parent has to force the issue. For instance, if a not-yet-out gay kid is in crisis, or if a parent stumbles over evidence that a not-yet-out gay kid is doing something risky, a parent can and should go the "are you gay or what?" route. In your case, DUD, you already know your son is gay—"Browsers don't lie," says Schwartz—and the fact that your son might be having sex in his room, thereby breaking dad's house rules, may rise to the level of "are you gay or what?"

"If he'd tell a hetero boy to keep his door open, a gay boy should get the same message," says Schwartz. "He's not being the monster and he's not being insensitive. He's being the dad. He should keep in mind, though, that if his son is already having sex with his buddy, telling him he can't do it at home is likely to send them off to places—to school, to a car—where getting caught could have bigger consequences than getting grounded."

Let's pause for a moment to recall why—generally speaking—parents frown on their straight kids having friends of the opposite sex in their bedrooms: An unplanned pregnancy can quickly derail two young lives. While a couple of gay boys can get into trouble, DUD, and while sexually transmitted infections are a concern, Gomer isn't going to knock up your son. So if your gut tells you that your son isn't ready and that he would be traumatized if you forced him to come out, DUD, you might wanna let him think he's pulling one over on his clueless straight dad. There aren't many perks to being a closeted gay teenager—a few sleepovers that the straight kids couldn't get away with might be a small consolation.

John Schwartz shared your letter with Joseph Schwartz, the gay son whose coming-out story John tells in Oddly Normal. Joseph thinks it's time for a gay sex talk.

"Gay kids need sex education more than straight ones," Joseph tells his dad. While your son might have had sex education in school, even the best sex-ed classes focus on male-female. "There's less reliable information about gay sex than there is about straight sex," Joseph says, so gay kids turn to the internet—or to porn—for information and, as Joseph points out, "half of it could be physically dangerous, and the rest is poorly explained."

"If he's lucky," says Schwartz, "DUD lives near an LGBT center with a youth program, which will help his son find a community and also get a healthy dose of sex ed and risk reduction. If not, DUD could be in for an uncomfortable conversation or two. But the underlying message you'll be sending is that you care, and that you're the dad."

Oddly Normal is a terrific book, and any parent with a queer kid should read it—and since any kid could be queer, that means every parent should read it. You can follow John Schwartz on Twitter @jswatz, and there's a good interview with Joseph Schwartz at the Atlantic: tinyurl.com/oddlynormal.


What are the effects of perpetuating the myth that gay men should all be tanned and chiseled Adonises? Because that is all one sees.

Not All Adonises

In the last 24 hours of casual media consumption—cable news, daily papers, my Twitter feed, straight blogs, queer blogs—I've seen my fair share of tanned and chiseled Adonises. I've also seen pictures and/or video of Bayard Rustin, Barney Frank, Harvey Fierstein, Harvey Milk, Daniel Hernandez Jr., Ian McKellen, Evan Wolfson, Jinkx Monsoon, Jared Polis, Bruce Vilanch, Alan Turing, George Kalogridis, and more. All great guys, all of whom have made or are making a difference (leading the civil rights movement, leading the LGBT rights movement, making art, telling jokes, helping to defeat Nazi Germany, pushing the boundaries of drag as an art form), but not one of whom was, is, or ever aspired to be an underwear model.

Images of perfect male bodies can fuel body-image issues in both gay and straight men. Gay men in particular are at higher risk of anorexia, bulimia, and "bigorexia," aka muscle dysmorphia, aka "gay dude who lives at the gym." So those images of tanned and chiseled Adonises can do harm. But if all one sees are images of tanned and chiseled Adonises, NAA, then that's all one is looking for.

Yes, the media—gay and straight—focuses too much on the young and the hot. But if you're not seeing gay men of all ages, sizes, shapes, and colors, NAA, it's because you're choosing not to see them. Open your eyes.


Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.

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Comments (217) RSS

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217
I'm a woman and i look at chick porn, but i'm not gay. i also know a lot of effeminate men who are married with kids. assumptions aren't a good thing.
Posted by mikraas on February 25, 2013 at 8:27 AM · Report this
216
Why does it matter what gender your child is?
When a child reaches a certain age you have a door open policy. Teens can get up to more trouble than experimental sex behind closed doors.
Posted by crazymonkey on February 21, 2013 at 2:47 PM · Report this
215
Mr S - Quite all right; I bore no malice. I seriously do hope that we are on the same side in the near future.
Posted by vennominon on February 20, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Report this
214
My apologies for the rude implication, Mr. Ven. I meant only that your experience with your parents was different, not that you are broken. But that's not what I said, and I'm very sorry for the mistake. English isn't my first langauge, but it was my major, so I really have no excuse.
Posted by strangeway on February 19, 2013 at 9:23 PM · Report this
213
Rats! Sorry about the typo in @211 and the double post!
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 19, 2013 at 5:24 PM · Report this
212
@203 EricaP: Thanks! It's great to hear from you.
@204: No real secret---I just have to watch my blood sugar like the plague.
Until last month, I was a walking industrial size can of Hershey's syrup!
My ND is still in the hospital, so I'm nervous about sticking my neck out too far until I hear from her. I'm still watching my carbohydrate intake as well as avoiding gluten and sugar.
@205 vennominon: Thanks! It's comforting to know that I'm not alone.
I wonder if my body will ever be able to tolerate gluten-free cupcakes...?
@206 nocutename: Thanks! I doubt I'll ever again have a bikini body, but at least I'm healthy.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 19, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
211
@203 EricaP: Thanks! It's great to gear from you.
@204: No real secret---I just have to watch my blood sugar like the plague.
Until last month, I was a walking industrial size can of Hershey's syrup!
My ND is still in the hospital, so I'm nervous about sticking my neck out too far until I hear from her. I'm still watching my carbohydrate intake as well as avoiding gluten and sugar.
@205 vennominon: Thanks! It's comforting to know that I'm not alone.
I wonder if my body will ever be able to tolerate gluten-free cupcakes...?
@206 nocutename: Thanks! I doubt I'll ever again have a bikini body, but at least I'm healthy.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 19, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
210
The dad says, "I worry I could seriously damage our relationship and hurt his pride by suggesting he is."

And, there's the rub.

Here, the father clearly articulates his TRUE view of his son being gay.

That it is something to be ashamed of.

It is prideful to be heterosexual, and shameful to be gay.

Here's a thought, Dud/Dad, maybe take your son to a straight pride parade and see if he's any prouder of himself.

Sorry Dud, but TOTAL BARF. In your attempt to appear progressive, you've really only revealed how you truly feel about having a gay son.

I feel a bit sorry for him.
Posted by Bill432 on February 19, 2013 at 12:10 PM · Report this
209
The dad says, "I worry I could seriously damage our relationship and hurt his pride by suggesting he is."

And, there's the rub.

Here, the father clearly articulate his TRUE view of his son being gay.

That is is something to be ashamed of.

It is prideful to be heterosexual, and shameful to be gay.

Here's a thought, Dud/Dad, maybe take your son to a straight pride parade and see if he's any prouder of himself.

Sorry Dud, but TOTAL BARF. In your attempt to appear progressive, you've really only revealed how you truly feel about having a gay son.

I feel a bit sorry for him.
Posted by BillJ on February 19, 2013 at 12:09 PM · Report this
208
Mr Strangeway - "Intent matters" and "intent isn't magic" aren't incompatible. I didn't say, "Intent is irrelevant."

My apologies if I've confused you with someone else. I'm not going to look up chapter and verse now, but I definitely inferred about two posts ago that you were among the straight-hopers.

Clever implication, by the way, for which I bear you no malice, although I deny it. I hope you register and that some time soon we are arguing on the same side.
Posted by vennominon on February 19, 2013 at 9:28 AM · Report this
207
"Mr Strangeway - Yes, but you're also hoping the boy is straight, aren't you?"

Completely mystified why you would even think that.

All I ever meant to say is, in my life, intent matters. My parents aren't perfect, and they struggled more than a bit with the loss of the daughter they thought they had, but I managed not to be broken beyond repair by it, largely because I understood they were doing their loving best. Clearly, your experience was different. At this point, we're simply talking past each other, so I will retire from the field.
Posted by strangeway on February 19, 2013 at 7:45 AM · Report this
nocutename 206
Auntie Grizelda: Congrats and keep it up.
Posted by nocutename on February 19, 2013 at 7:07 AM · Report this
205
Ms Grizelda - Well done. I'm glad gluten-free works for other people besides Novak Djokovic.
Posted by vennominon on February 19, 2013 at 5:07 AM · Report this
204
@202 auntie g: That is genuinely terrific. I wish I knew your secret; I was losing successfully for a while, but my metabolism slowed down about a year ago and I am glued to 190 (would like to be 165).
Posted by avast2006 on February 19, 2013 at 12:39 AM · Report this
203
vennominom@200 "IF DUD fils appreciates and understands the fullness and depth of DUD's supportive position" LOL

@auntie - glad you're doing well.
Posted by EricaP on February 18, 2013 at 8:28 PM · Report this
202
Okay----for anyone interested (again, it's off topic, and those who don't give a shit can skip to the next post), here's another Auntie Griz new lifestyle update: I'm down to 165 lbs.! The weight has melted off like hot butter! I feel better, and LOOK better than I did at 28! My night vision has improved amazingly! And I can still eat cheeseburgers and macaroni & cheese (provided the bun and pasta are gluten-free)!!!!!!
The "SuperSize Me" guy was right: McDonald's can kill you!
If I only knew then what I know now......
I guess the main thing is what I'm learning and am doing something about.
One day, though, I shall be wildly seduced again by chocolate!! HA HA!!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 18, 2013 at 6:46 PM · Report this
201
Ms Cute - I'm fairly content with the way I summed it up - that It Was All Sex Was in the Beginning, Is All Sex Is Now, and All Sex Ever Shall Be, Forever and Ever, Amen.

I think, of the various option listed, Dismissed comes very near the mark. It's so tempting to rewrite feelings, especially after some decades.

One thing you illustrate so distinctly is that this is really a Process. I shouldn't like to bet either way, but could make a case that DUD appears to think that the Sex Talk was an Event.

Actually, I can say one thing it felt like. There's a novel called *The Youngest Director* in which the Chairman of the Colorado Trading Corporation decides to act on the results of a study that he interprets as showing that married executives are happier than unmarried executives, and happy executives are better workers. He therefore orders the only unmarried Director (who was, of course, closeted) in the company to report to the Chairman's secretary with his marriage lines within six months. I recall how familiar that passage felt when I read it.
Posted by vennominon on February 18, 2013 at 4:48 PM · Report this
200
Mr Strangeway - Yes, but you're also hoping the boy is straight, aren't you?

We aren't necessarily contradicting each other. If I understand you correctly, your point is that DUD's Magic Intent means that, even if he gives his son completely the wrong sex talk, his being a loving and supportive parent means that the boy will not come away from the talk feeling alienated because Intent Trumps Execution every time.

What I will grant is that, IF DUD fils appreciates and understands the fullness and depth of DUD's supportive position (perhaps iffy when dealing with teens), then that increases the likelihood that a glaring omission in The Talk might lead to a question from DUD fils and a clarification that might avoid the arm.

My whole point was not so much to assume harm was done, but to say that, IF the harm was done, the Magic Intent doesn't make it less harmful.

I don't go in for there being correct ways to feel. If DUD desperately wants wants WANTS a straight son, that's what he feels. Those feelings will just make it harder for him to be as supportive as he claims he wants and intends to be, unless he finds some way to cope with them. Now, he might do some good work and find that his feelings change. But I'd never tell him to change his feelings as the starting point.

Magic Intent often reminds me of Choice Feminism. I recall a recent thread elsewhere about marriage customs, and how a number of posters said they would dump a man they'd otherwise wanted to marry if he asked their father's permission. One woman then got quite huffy, because her husband HAD asked her father's permission with her approval because it was a custom that meant so much to Daddy and the family wouldn't welcome him in if he didn't go out of his comfort zone and blah blah fishcakes. (It was a whiny post.) She was reassured that she wouldn't lose her membership card, but the general consensus was that, even though Nobody Does Feminism Perfectly and even if their choice was the best among those available, going through with the Permission Ask with their fingers crossed behind their backs didn't make it a Feminist Act.
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Posted by vennominon on February 18, 2013 at 4:32 PM · Report this
nocutename 199
Thanks, Hunt, I try.
Posted by nocutename on February 18, 2013 at 3:18 PM · Report this
198
Nocute,

By assuming your daughter was straight, you have perpetuated the savage brutality against gays in this highly dysfunctional society.
Posted by Hunter78 on February 18, 2013 at 2:46 PM · Report this
197
I hate "mores" without any more to them. Esp on a cell phone with a weak signal.
Posted by Hunter78 on February 18, 2013 at 2:39 PM · Report this
196
Mr. Ven, we can definitely find common ground in hoping the letter writer does well by his son, regardless of what sort of person his son turns out to be, or if he even turns out to be a son at all. We can likewise agree it would be better for parents to give their kids a more complete and inclusive version of the sex talk, because even if the kid turns out to be cis and straight, they'll still meet people who are not and shouldn't think of those people as unknowable and alien.

I'm just not a fan of the Intent Is Not Magic meme. I have a loving family that does their imperfect best to understand me (as, indeed, I do my imperfect best to understand them)...and a bunch of not-quite-friends in the trans community who constantly repeat "Intent is not fucking magic!" when my family makes some minor mistake out of ignorance. I fail to see how being furious at my family for not being perfect enough is going to improve anything in anybody's life, but that seems to be how my acquaintances expect me to feel.

And, as the original Intent Isn't Fucking Magic post was a response to a post by another trans in a similar family situation to my own, it really bothers me how it's gone from, "This is MY opinion on your life" to "Everybody knows THIS is the proper way to feel". Sometimes intent isn't magic. Sometimes it is. It depends on the people involved in the situation, and what the situation specifically is, and whether there's harm. In the absence of evidence, you choose to assume there is harm; I choose to assume there is not.
Posted by strangeway on February 18, 2013 at 12:17 PM · Report this
mydriasis 195
@nocute

Thank you so much for sharing that an in so much detail. :)
Posted by mydriasis on February 18, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
nocutename 194
I'm curious, Mr. Ven, what the "Holy Heterosexuality, Batman!" sex talk might be. You don't say how old you were and how the talk went, but the implication is that you felt more than simply excluded from it, but actually either alienated or dismissed, even maybe harassed.

Before I had children, I had an ideal form of the "sex talk" in my head, but once I was actually a parent, I discovered that
1) there is no 1 sex talk, but several, and they unfold over the years.
2) they never, ever go the way you think they were going to go: kids tend to introduce them (by questions asked), so you are almost always unprepared and taken aback, and need to come up with something on the spot that answers the question(s) without necessarily giving more information than they need to know at the time, if they are very young. And then adding in something else you might want them to know, in a way that is age-appropriate.

For many years, when my daughters were young, it was impossible for me to go to the bathroom without an audience, so my girls saw tampons. I explained, again in age-appropriate ways, about periods and not being pregnant, long, long (I mean years) before we started having the "what is going to happen to your changing body soon" talk. So for the purposes of this long, long post, I'm addressing less puberty changes than interpersonal sexual relations issues.

As they get older, the talks change, but other than leaving a book around or giving one to your kids (for girls, I recommend the now slightly old "Deal With It! A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain and Life as a GUrl," by Drill, McDonald, and Odes, given to a girl at around age 11 or 12), the talks are almost always instigated by the kid herself, and frequently catch you by surprise. Unless, of course, you find/see/hear about something you need to address (i.e. porn on the internet, condoms in the washing machine, etc.)--found without, for the purpose of this comment, undue snooping.

So for instance, the first talk I gave, to a very young child, was the "how are babies made" talk, which focused on gestation and egg fertilization. I didn't mention how the sperm from the daddy fertilized mommy's egg, and she didn't ask (she was about 3-and-a-half). The next "sex" talk, which was really a relationship talk, happened a few months later, when she asked her best friend (another girl) to marry her. The friend quasi-rejected her with the statement, "girls marry boys" (ultra-ironically, that girl is now in a relationship with another girl--she seems to be bi--and my daughter is straight). This crushed my little girl and she asked me why girls married only boys. So I said, "Usually women fell in love with men and wanted to be a family with a man (which was how I described marriage or committed relationships), but some women fell in love with other women and wanted to be a family with a woman, and some men fell in love with men and wanted to be a family with a man. Her almost-four-year-old self accepted this, and she happily got engaged to another girl.

For a while, I referred to the gay couples she knew, such as neighbors, teachers, and some adult cousins, as married to each other, but when she was almost 6, and excited to hear that her beloved kindergarten teacher was going to "marry" her partner (marriage not being legal in California, the two had a commitment ceremony), I took the opportunity to say, "actually, they're not getting really married, because the government says that they can't get married, because they are both women. Do you think that's fair?" She was outraged (children have a highly developed sense of injustice). I said, "what if the government said, Oh, J-- can't get married to T-- because they're too much alike: they both have blue eyes, they're both Jewish, they're both girls? Would that be right?" She got angry--and my lessons in the name of equality rights began.

Several years later, walking home from school one day when she was in the 4th grade (so 9 years old), she brought up some disturbing graffiti she saw on the school climbing structure ("Suck my dick"). I first had to check that she knew the slang term "dick," and she did. I next asked what she thought/knew about the content of the graffiti and sure enough, she had a misconception: she told me that when a man was married to a woman and they didn't want her to get pregnant, he would pee into her mouth. So I had several pieces of information to correct, and I found myself plunged into a talk about several things I wasn't prepared to say to a 9-year-old:

First I had to explain erections and ejaculation; that what came out of a penis under sexual conditions wasn't pee but semen, which contained that magical egg-fertilizing sperm. Then I decided to go a bit further, and said that while having oral sex might be a couple's way of making sure that the woman didn't get pregnant, it was also something that men and women did because it felt good for the man and that it was a way for grownups who were in love to have a kind of fun. This was the first time I divorced the idea of sex from its strictly reproductive aspect. She was fascinated and somewhat appalled. But then I thought I needed to help her become a non heteronormative person, so I said, "you know that some men fall in love with other men, right? So it's not just men and women who do this. Men who are in love with other men do this too, not to prevent a pregnancy, because there's no egg to fertilize or not fertilize, but just because it feels good and it's something special that they can do together because when you're in love and a grownup, you want to do things to make the other person feel good in a special way." She had no issues with the gay aspect of oral sex (we didn't discuss cunnilingus that day, or I think, ever!)

She mulled all this over for a bit (thank goodness it was a long walk home!) and then asked me if I had ever done that (fellatio) and I said yes. Then she asked me a specific question about my own sexual experience, like "when" or "how often," and I said, "I will always answer any question you ever have about sex as honestly as possible, but I don't want to talk about my own sex life. Do you understand?" And she said yes, she got it.

Several years later (she was about 11 or 12, I think), she told me that the idea of having sex still grossed her out. I assured her that that was perfectly normal, that that response meant she was way, way too young to be having sex, and that when she was old enough to have it, it wouldn't seem gross anymore. Then, as she got older, I waited for her to bring up the topic and when she was 13, I responded to a question by introducing the topic that there were more considerations than just pregnancy or disease avoidance to consider when making decisions about sex. I told her that having sex nearly always introduced big feelings and emotional responses that many people weren't ready for when they were young, that it could put you in deep emotional waters, that it nearly always changed the essential nature of a relationship in ways that most young people weren't really ready for, and that I thought it wasn't a good idea for young teens. I don't know whether or not she took my words/thoughts into consideration. I think her lack of sexual experience may have simply been in response to not thinking any boys were worth it. Or she may have been uninterested still. My current 13-year-old, is fascinated by sex but also disgusted by the thought of it, and she has the simultaneous desire to stay a kid and to grow up. But she's also very anxious by nature, and fearful of engaging in any activity she considers risky in any way.

As years went by, we had more sex talks, always initiated by questions, (there were a lot of questions after she glanced through the books I gave her when she was 11-12 and of course, as she got closer to puberty, I discussed the changes her body was going to go through), and in every one, I tried to make sure that she would feel included in the talk, regardless of what her sexual orientation turned out to be when it was revealed. I also always wanted to instill a sense of non-judgment and acceptance for others. But I must say, that I always started with the presumption that she was straight, if only because the majority of the population is and because she seemed to conform to stereotypes of "typical" femininity. I hoped that if she wasn't straight, she would realize that she could correct my impression and I wouldn't have an issue with it.

More...
Posted by nocutename on February 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM · Report this
193
Ms Cute - You're quite right, of course, if there were ever to be an attempt made towards practical implementation.

Ideally? Within reason. I don't know that there's any possible One Size Fits All [reference omitted to Chuck Woollery's tenure as host of Scrabble].

Now I shall make a great effort not to spend the rest of the morning wondering whether ideally sexual orientation would be the only marker determining skin colour.
Posted by vennominon on February 18, 2013 at 5:52 AM · Report this
192
Mr Strangeway - Motivation may reduce the probability of damage, perhaps, but that's still looking at it the other way around.

From what little evidence we have, DUD's son and I might have received the same Holy Heterosexuality, Batman! Sex Talk. I know how I reacted to mine. It was pivotal to my setting myself up as being in opposition to my parents, and I cannot say either way with certainty what I thought of their motivation at the time. Now, it's possible that DUD's son might, given a parent with better motivation, have been able to use his understanding of that motivation to avoid being alienated, but Ms Eirene and I were looking at the consequence first rather than calculating probabilities. If the HHBST alienated the boy, its being well-intended may be a mitigating factor in the court of public opinion, but will not magically make the boy less alienated.

You may recall the error recounted to us in the sex talk provided to Mr Savage fils, which resulted some time later in the accusation, "You and Daddy have sex for no reason!" Faced with his error, Mr Savage worked quickly to correct it. He concluded for the benefit of us all that almost every parent will err.

I'm perfectly content to take that as a given and not demand perfection (although, in the spirit of Henry Tilney thinking very highly of the understanding of any women with whom he happened to be in company, I shall state that it should not surprise me in the least if pristinely faultless sex talks were delivered to their offspring by Mr South, Ms Cute and Ms Erica - or is this more like Mr Knightley telling Miss Bates very loudly through the window that he must agree with her that Miss Woodhouse and Mr Frank Churchill danced very well together, as they could doubtless hear every word being said about them, and adding that Miss Fairfax also danced well, and that Mrs Weston was the best country-dance player in England?). I did detect that the response to my original LMB was a rush to give DUD cookies from a vast majority of the (both straight and parental in the main) commentariat. Now I am certainly willing to admit that I am capable of being driven a bit farther in the opposite direction than I might have gone had there not been such an outcry on DUD's behalf. I certainly didn't get across the point that Privilege isn't a suitcase - one doesn't just take out the shirts and the underwear and it's suddenly Unpacked for good until it's reloaded. But my goal was to get something proactive done on DUD's part in the area of orientation support - and Ms Cute had largely the same action in mind (as did perhaps a couple of others), despite our tone disagreement.

I do think that there is an inherent temptation for biological families to adopt a People Like Us mindset as part of Family Values in general (some of which is socialized away, but not all), which is why the phrase tends to make me suspicious regardless of who's using it. Ideally, I'd rather see Family Values disbanded and rebuilt from scratch rather than merely expanded to include the We're-Families-Too Assimilationists, but I rarely spout about it, as that's one I doubt will be addressed in my few remaining years.
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Posted by vennominon on February 18, 2013 at 5:41 AM · Report this
191
@155 Just as not every car accident results in death, not every unintentional slight does deep damage or even indicates shallow prejudice. By all means, if someone is hurt, take that into account, but if it isn't intentional, I feel that should be taken into account too. You feel differently, okay. You're you, and I'm me.

But, from experience: if you treat your allies like they just want cookies, like they're secretly terrible people who have deep -phobias and -isms and are just trying to hide them...you run out of allies really fast. Nobody can kiss your ass and walk on eggshells all the time.
Posted by strangeway on February 18, 2013 at 3:03 AM · Report this
nocutename 190
@187: Yes, but then one is relying on stereotypes., which is not a step in the right direction.

Ideally, don't you think people should out themselves? If parents or others suspect and want to put people they love at ease, they can take care to keep lines of communication open and to make comments from time to time that indicate their acceptance.

Posted by nocutename on February 17, 2013 at 10:27 PM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 189
@186
So I was trying to be folksy.

But I'm serious about the possibility of being killed just for a male same-sex kiss. Mind you, I've been reading horrifying news stories from Jamaica (via a gay friend originally from there) that may have me overly-sensitized to the potential for danger, but there are people who will be enraged at seeing people showing mere affection, enough to harm them. I guess it would be similar to gay panic but just for a public display of it causing offence.
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on February 17, 2013 at 9:16 PM · Report this
188
@183 "I hated that my parents offered me help all the time, but they were seldom ever there when I did ask for help, probably because they were unnecessarily available every other time."

Well put. Takeaway for parents: your kid is not going to be happy with you, whatever you do. Best you can hope is that they appreciate you a bit when they have kids of their own. Why should we be any better at this than previous generations have been? Hubris, that's all it is.
Posted by EricaP on February 17, 2013 at 8:37 PM · Report this
187
What with all the outs, not outs and varying degrees thereof, what we really need is to merge Mr Savage with Mary Crawford (who, as Ms Cute and perhaps Ms Kim will recall, required only a brief conversation before being able to pronounce, "Miss Price is not out," a matter on which none of the Bertrams had ever thought to form an opinion). Obviously a different meaning of "out" is in the case, but it would certainly be useful to be able to tell without having to consult the party directly concerned.
Posted by vennominon on February 17, 2013 at 8:14 PM · Report this
mydriasis 186
Betty-lou?
Billy-bob?
Farmer Jake?
Getting killed?

Dude, what part of Canada are you from?

Because that sure as heck doesn't sound like the part I'm from. Even back when I was in highschool, some gay kids weren't out and some gay kids even got teased from what I understand but no one got killed for kissing, I'll tell you that.
Posted by mydriasis on February 17, 2013 at 6:29 PM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 185
I've been fascinated to read the different paths the comments have veered onto. I've never been a parent (may have had the desire for about 5 minutes when I was 23), but can always imagine how I'd react to a similar situation.

However, the first thing I'd like to address is the idea that applying a different standard to gay vs straight children is unfair. How I see it is if Betty-Lou is caught actually having PIV sex with Billy-Bob in Farmer Jake's orchard, the worst that might happen is a disgruntled version of "You kids get offa my lawn", along with a wagging finger at both teens and possibly the threat of calling their parents. However, if two gay kids (especially guys) are caught doing nothing more than KISSING, they could be KILLED. If you know your son's friend to be a decent guy (as Dud appears to) and there is no appearance of coercion or power imbalance, then there is far less harm in allowing them to play where it's SAFE, as in your son's bedroom behind closed doors.

But, in this case, Dud isn't even sure his son is gay (or, for the sake of thoroughness, bi). Or that he's having sex with his friend. Despite the evidence of the porn, his son could still be straight but just checking other young guys out the safest, indirect way possible (via gay porn that's filled with cute young guys - or so I'd imagine, lol).

In any case, no matter what the son's orientation is, the worst thing Dud could do is to confront his son using the porn (and the lousy "I pay the bills so I can snoop" excuse). It's certainly not going to bring father and son closer together. I can see his son spending more time away from home (whether or not he's gay). When he's asked where he's going, he'll reply "Out". When asked when he'll be back, it'll be "Dunno".

IMO Dud would learn a lot more about his son simply by sitting back and observing his interactions at home and with others. Not simply to allay his curiosity about whether his kid is gay (and even that's pushing parental boundaries, as some of the comments above have indicated about personal mortification) but to see that his son is maturing into a responsible young adult.
More...
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on February 17, 2013 at 5:26 PM · Report this
184
I don't think it's all generational. I think there are big differences in different social circles, and we don't hear about them because people don't talk about it much.

In fact I suspect 16.8 was probably not that far off the actual average for my acquaintances. I just wouldn't have heard about it.

Again, I'm not claiming that 19 or 20 was anywhere near average for my age group. I'm saying there was a large swath of people I knew for whom it was unremarkable, and I'm betting that the same swath would have found the idea of sex at 14 very unlikely. And yeah, I realize you didn't necessarily mean intercourse, but even so. (It occurs to me that at that age 95% of my acquaintance still had braces. Even kissing would have been a bit fraught, never mind oral.)
Posted by Eirene on February 17, 2013 at 3:55 PM · Report this
183
@Lynx: Your suggestion can turn a kid crazy. For one, my parents have left a bunch of books for and about caring for me around the house, probably genuinely carelessly, and it heated me up so much. It was mostly stuff about an ineffective, distracted child, and so on, but they just served as something to rant at my friends about, and it's in my the back of my head whenever I get angry, heating me up more quickly. A kid sees a book that's set apart from any other book a parent might have, as a parenting book, that kid will just see it as being passively accommodated to. 14 is definitely the age where if DUD wants to be talked to, at all, not even opened up to yet, he has to wait, and be happy, and open. The book's probably great, and DUD should read it as an e-book. And, shouldn't do anything about it beyond that, at all. It's almost a perfect opportunity for the kid to snoop back, but that would hurt a lot more for both of them, with reactionary guilt simmering. Just, don't leave a fucking book out, just be there... but that's just me as a spoiled kid, that I hated that my parents offered me help all the time, but they were seldom ever there when I did ask of help, probably because they were unnecessarily available every other time. Be ready for action, showing nothing else.
From glancing @Fortunate, that's the best...advice.
Posted by @kphisch on February 17, 2013 at 3:48 PM · Report this
182
I wonder if there's something more basic at work when parents are shocked or disapproving of their teenager's sex lives, something like being surprised at every stage in a child's development.

There's something sweet when parents are delighted and surprised that babies learn to talk so young. The babies might be right on the scale for normal development, but it seems like such a miracle, amazing that something so small can express itself so well.

The next thing you know, the kids are going off to school, making friends, having independent ideas, coming up with things the parents never thought of. Nevermind that they're just being normal kids. It still seems like they grow up so fast.

I know I've experienced it. Friends' daughters date, go off to college, introduce parents to their boyfriends or girlfriends. It's obvious that they're having sex with those boyfriends or girlfriends, but from my perspective, they seem so young. Nevermind that I was 18 when I first started having sex with a boyfriend. It seems ridiculous that someone I've known since infancy would do the same at roughly the same age.
Posted by Crinoline on February 17, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
mydriasis 181
@Eirene

Again, you realize I'm not talking about real sex, right? Anyway I looked into it a bit...

When short, medium or longer term trends are examined, the available data suggest that the average age of first sexual intercourse has consistently but gradually declined.

For example, data collected from the 2000-2001 cycle of the Canadian Community Health Survey indicated that for those aged 15 to 24 at the time of the survey the average age of first intercourse was 16.8 years.

This compares to 17.9 years for those aged 25 to 34, 18.7 years for those aged 35 to 44, and 19.2 for those aged 45 to 59 (Hansen, Mann, McMahon, & Wong, 2004).


Maybe this is a generation gap thing.
Posted by mydriasis on February 17, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
mydriasis 180
@ Erica

The cleaning scenario can encompass a lot of different contexts. If there's a mutual presumption that the parent will be cleaning the room at some point then I personally don't think it's wrong to comment on it, so long as it's clear and understood that you weren't trying to go through something private ("I just happened to be cleaning your diary and it just happened to fall open to this very revealing entry" isn't going to fly)

I'm of the opinion that kids can hide things incredibly well if they're inclined enough. If the kid really wanted to create the illusion of virginity they wouldn't be having sex in their own home with their parents at home. I can say from experience that I hooked up everywhere from parties, to cars, to the boys' places, to a 3rd party's house, to public places like forests/parks in order to keep sex out of my parent's place. It worked well enough that my dad thought I was a lesbian until my mom was kind enough to correct him. Even she had no proof I was having sex, she just assumed based on my avid interest in undergarments and the way I dressed (not always a reliable method, I might add). Anyway long story short, any kid with half a brain knows that he/she might as well be telling the parents outright if they have sex in such an obvious way.

To be clear I think there's a big difference between making an honest attempt to respect privacy, and turning a blind eye to anything and everything.
Posted by mydriasis on February 17, 2013 at 2:36 PM · Report this
179
mydriasis@162: You think sexually active 14 year old girls are involved with other 14 year olds? I imagine that's rare.

I was talking about 14-year-old boys, actually, but basically, how the heck would I know? I've never talked to anyone face-to-face who admitted to having sex that early. In fact, I can't think of many people whose early sexual histories I know anything about. I know the year for maybe four or five folks (one of whom was 15, the others all 17 or later). Others I know it was at least by such and such a date (e.g., someone who got pregnant at 16), but can't prove it wasn't much earlier.

To me, when I was that age myself, the idea of a 14-year-old having sex was pretty much up there with a 14-year-old getting married -- obviously it has been known to happen, but I didn't figure on it happening to anyone I knew, let alone to me. I'm not claiming this is realistic, but I would not be surprised if a lot of kids still think that way. Kids are insular -- they're always way over- or underestimating what everyone else does. (It may be relevant that I was in 8th grade when I was 14, not high school. High school was a different world, and as I've mentioned before, I grew up in a social circle that was extremely age-stratified.)
Posted by Eirene on February 17, 2013 at 1:43 PM · Report this
178
@177:
If you can hear sex noises through the door, they are fair game to remark upon.

If you find something while cleaning, it depends on context. Condom wrappers in a 13 year-old's room: definitely talk about it, in a 17 year-old's room: don't talk about the wrappers but maybe casually have a talk about safe sex, consensual sex and whatever sex.
Posted by migrationist on February 17, 2013 at 1:28 PM · Report this
177
Not saying it was worth it. Not at all.

What are your feelings on parents initiating conversations based on things they find in their teens' rooms while cleaning, or sex noises they hear through the door? Destructive snooping, or constructive involvement, or does it depend on context?
Posted by EricaP on February 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
mydriasis 176
@Erica

Haha, are you suggesting that maybe/psuedo/unintented-byproduct-good result of snooping is worth the damage snooping caused to her relationship with her parents? :p

Pretty shaky stuff my friend.
Posted by mydriasis on February 17, 2013 at 11:57 AM · Report this
175
(That last paragraph @174 is addressing myd@164)
Posted by EricaP on February 17, 2013 at 11:18 AM · Report this
174
myd@132, I was kissing at 14, groping (hands under clothes) at 16, bjs at 17, intercourse at 20. My best friend in high school was having sex at 17, but she had a long-term boyfriend, and that seemed reasonable. BTW: It was the 1980s and AIDS was very scary, but I never even considered condoms for bjs.

My parents didn't snoop (by, say, calling my friend's parents to find out that our sleepover was not there, as I had claimed; or going through my backpack to find the baggie of pot). They did snoop on my older sister, who was spiraling downward: skipping school and hanging out with an unfortunate crowd. The snooping didn't help her --just drove the wedge further apart. But it persuaded me to keep my room neat and grades high, to prevent them snooping... so that may be a positive side-effect of their snooping on her.
Posted by EricaP on February 17, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
173
I agree with what DAVIDinKENAI said @161: "Clear expectations. Trust but verify. Consequences."

And I like what Melissa suggested @130: Teens can have a closed door, but the parent can knock any time and expect entrance without too long of an awkward pause. That means that if one kid has reassured me that s/he is being responsible, I have the option of ignoring sexual noises coming from that room, while maintaining the right to knock and walk in on a teen whom I think is behaving irresponsibly (ie, faking illness and missing school to fuck).

And I'm with Crinoline @172: my house means roughly my standard of cleanliness. If my teen keeps her room neat, I won't go through her drawers, but if it's a mess, then I will, and I might stumble on things she doesn't want me to find. Currently (she's 13), that's likely to be wrappers for candy she's not allowed given her braces; or flashlight and book under her mattress. The flashlight/book get ignored if she's generally awake during the day and finishing her homework. The candy wrapper calls for a conversation about ants, mess, and her dental responsibilities. Condom wrappers would be a different conversation.
Posted by EricaP on February 17, 2013 at 10:59 AM · Report this
172
When I wrote about snooping yesterday in 159 about snooping, I was thinking exclusively about snooping in the pursuit of the child's well-being, snooping to find out about serious issues that the parent could and should help with. I didn't even consider snooping to find out about rules infractions for the purpose of punishment and law enforcement. If that's what the parent is thinking, if it's to find out if the kid has tried a beer or making out with a boyfriend/girlfriend, then NO. Just no. don't do it. No good can come of it.

I was thinking of the instance where a teen is seriously depressed, considering suicide, and the parent has to know in order to help. Even there, the rightness or wrongness of snooping has a lot to do with what the parent intends to do with the information. If the parent snoops, finds a stash of junk food, learns that the daughter is bingeing and puking, and seeks to solve the problem by yelling at her, then she never should have been snooping in the first place. If the information is used to get her the medical and mental health treatment she needs, different story.

I'd like to put the rest the idea that every problem could have been solved long ago if the kids were just brought up with open and free communication in the first place, that there would be no problem with teenagers following sensible rules if they were disciplined properly as toddlers. Doing everything right in the early years improves your chances, but it's no guarantee. There are a lot of influences. Good kids still get into trouble and still need parental guidance, influence, and, sometimes, intervention.

There's also the question of what constitutes snooping. It would be ordinary enough for a parent to make up an 8 year old's bed, to put clean laundry into the boy's dresser drawers and to vacuum the room. When the boy is 14, he ought to be doing his own laundry, but if he doesn't, and if the parent cleans his room for him, the parent thinks he's doing his son a favor, not snooping. If in the course of vacuuming, he finds porn under the bed, a baggie of dope in the top drawer, and plans to make a bomb and blow up the school with his school papers, he needs to respond appropriately regardless of how he got the information. (I'm not equating porn and drugs with violence, just giving examples of what a parent might find and how the parent might respond depending on what's found.)
More...
Posted by Crinoline on February 17, 2013 at 9:08 AM · Report this
171
Mr Kenai - I spoke as another person victimized as a minor, and deliberately avoided a word I did not experience, instead selecting, after considerable debate, the word I could share. It was the best way I could devise to go beyond the sympathy I should offer an adult (which would, if peeled far enough, inevitably be Othering) without claiming an excess of fellow feeling.

Ms Cute appears to have taken my point. I did debate with myself whether an additional post of explanation might be in order, but thought that such a post would have come across all wrong in the context of the thread. I can accept that it might have been the better course.
Posted by vennominon on February 17, 2013 at 5:53 AM · Report this
170
Dud,

Your dilemmas:

You have a right, almost a duty, to know intimately about your son, including his orientation. But you don't have to snoop, just observe. He has right to his private space, where he can explore, and even make mistakes. But the snooping is not the big deal.

Suddenly you have an active hypothesis he's gay. If you now hang an open door policy based on this theory, you're outing him and Gomer. That's not your right.
Posted by Hunter78 on February 17, 2013 at 5:10 AM · Report this
169
mydriasis @164 and repinions @166:

I agree.
Posted by migrationist on February 17, 2013 at 12:21 AM · Report this
168
DAVIDinKENAI @161:

Parents can set rules and monitor and supervise their children WITHOUT snooping. My father missed privacy in his childhood and teenage years because of a snooping mother. He didn't snoop, never entered our rooms without knocking etc, pp. We still had plenty of rules.

My brother was pretty much out of control during his teenage years. Snooping wouldn't have changed anything. My mother set down with him, told him that she didn't mind alcohol and weed so much (it wasn't a secret that he consumed both), but was scared he'd take harder drugs. She gave him reasons why she was scared about them.
She got through to him. Up to this day, my brother is impressed how she handled that. There was trust and understanding between them. If she had searched his room to see if he had hidden away a stash of hard drugs, he wouldn't have listened to her at all.
Posted by migrationist on February 17, 2013 at 12:19 AM · Report this
167
The problem I see with the LW dad's objectives is that he is trying to accomplish too much at once.

1. He wants to find out his son's sexual orientation, which his son may well not know yet.

2. He wants to encourage his son to feel that it's safe to share with his father whatever he may know/wonder about his own sexual orientation.

3. He wants to know what kind of relationship his son has with his best friend, and if it has a sexual dimension, he'd like to place some limits on that.

The one thing that all these goals have in common is that they depend on trust. For that reason, it's important that whatever the LW does toward achieving these goals builds and strengthens the trust between the parent and the child.

I don't think that telling the kid that you've discovered his intimate secrets (porn viewing and possible sexual orientation) and that you don't want him to close the door to his bedroom or be alone with his best friend is likely to build the sort of trust that's required here.

The only thing that's missing from this discussion is the one person whose thoughts and feelings we do not know, even though they matter the most.

The LW is asking how to ask what those are, but there's no one here who can tell him.
Posted by repinions on February 16, 2013 at 6:55 PM · Report this
166
The problem I see with the LW dad's objectives is that he is trying to accomplish too much at once.

1. He wants to find out his son's sexual orientation, which his son may well not know yet.

2. He wants to encourage his son to feel that it's safe to share with his father whatever he may know/wonder about his own sexual orientation.

3. He wants to know what kind of relationship his son has with his best friend, and if it has a sexual dimension, he'd like to place some limits on that.

The one thing that all these goals have in common is that they depend on trust. For that reason, it's important that whatever the LW does toward achieving these goals builds and strengthens the trust between the parent and the child.

I don't think that telling the kid that you've discovered his intimate secrets (porn viewing and possible sexual orientation) and that you don't want him to close the door to his bedroom or be alone with his best friend is likely to build the sort of trust that's required here.

The only thing that's missing from this discussion is the one person whose thoughts and feelings we do not know, even though they matter the most.

The LW is asking how to ask what those are, but there's no one here who can tell him.
Posted by repinions on February 16, 2013 at 6:49 PM · Report this
mydriasis 165
*In terms of her ever HAVING a relationship with me. Sorry that was unclear.
Posted by mydriasis on February 16, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
mydriasis 164
Dear Parents;

Snoop at your own peril. Especially if your child is troubled (your relationship with them is probably already shaky).

If your teenager doesn't want to share with you, it's probably because they already don't trust you, if you snoop you will prove them right - that you cannot be trusted to treat them with respect and care.

My mother went through my things when I was a teenager. It did literally nothing to help or protect me, but it did put one of the final nails in the coffin in terms of her ever wanting a relationship with me.

You are not entitled to information about any other human being. You have to earn it through developing your relationship - even if that person is your child. Frankly, especially if that person is your child.

In fact, I'd like to hear from the person that benefited from having their privacy invaded as a child/teen, or the parent that had a good outcome from it beyond "I got away with it".
Posted by mydriasis on February 16, 2013 at 5:20 PM · Report this
nocutename 163
@158 (Mr. Ven): Thank you
@160 (DAVIDinKENAI: It's okay; I understood Mr. Ven's wishes to be benign and well-meant. I don't think any expression of sympathy and support is out of place. But I thank you for considering how some might have reacted.

My point was just that no one, not even a parent, should consider all children, even his own, as needing the same considerations addressed or fretted over. For different reasons, I am no less concerned about how my 13-year-old approaches her sexual life. The rape, for what it's worth, has affected her perhaps as strongly (though not in respect to her future sexual experience) it did her sister--the actual victim. (yes, I say "victim." I don't associate the word with self-pity, which is when I think most people object. She was a victim of incredible violence--she could have died, and was in fear for her life--and though the word "survivor" also applies, I don't view those words as being in ideological opposition to each other. She is both a victim and a survivor.)
Posted by nocutename on February 16, 2013 at 5:18 PM · Report this
mydriasis 162
@ Eirene

You think sexually active 14 year old girls are involved with other 14 year olds? I imagine that's rare. I never wanted to be involved with someone who was also sexually inexperienced and barely post-pubescent. And when I finally did have what I considered sex (PIV), at 16, the person it happened with was 18.

Among my high school friends (most of whom ended up in college including myself) I was not an anomaly at all.

I can't imagine waiting until 19 to have partnered sex. I wouldn't have been able to make it, quite honestly, we all need coping mechanisms to get us through the unpleasant stages of our lives. But that's exactly my point, everyone's different. My best friend is my age now and still a virgin - she isn't really troubled by it. Long story short, the average age for PIV is 17, and since a lot of kids start out with oral/manual/etc I don't think 14 is THAT unheard of. Maybe a little young, but not scandalously so as people have implied.

@cute

"I felt like she was trying to flee childhood"

Very astute. I know I did.
The question is, what was compelling her to flee?
Posted by mydriasis on February 16, 2013 at 5:05 PM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 161
@159, Crinoline: You accurately describe two ends of a spectrum and with my older, I'm at the first end - things going fine, mostly hands off.

My younger, now age 8, I suspect will be a little wilder but hardly to the extreme you describe. So not only will I be in between those two extremes, but my plan is to move around. Recent good behavior? - less supervision. Recent infractions? - less freedom for her and more monitoring by me.

And, maybe it is just semantics, but "If you have real reason to be concerned, . . . THEN and only then. . . . snoop." I disagree with. No kid gets a free pass, but when things are going well, it may be a pretty loose leash.

Something I'm always trying to teach to managers and Boards is, "Employees deserve a work environment in which they are not TEMPTED to lie, steal, or shirk." Clear expectations. Trust but verify (the only time I quote RR). Consequences. The same applies to children. It was so clear to any parent with a clue that a toddler and pre-schooler needed rules and that we'd be negligent to not provide them. The rules become more general and the supervision less constant with older children, but as they transition to adulthood, there are still some rules, some monitoring, and definitely some consequences for serious offenses. It doesn't harm them to know this. It prepares them for life in the big world.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 16, 2013 at 4:47 PM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 160
@158: ". . . your daughter that she should have to experience such serious victimhood."

Major Fail. "Victimhood" being a tone-deaf term for, say, welfare recipients who "could get a job if just they tried".

Repeat after me: Nocutename, I'm sorry your daughter was violently raped. I don't know what it would be like to have a child I love and want so desperately to protect be assaulted. I hope you and she are continuing to heal from that crime that was committed most directly against her but in a very real sense against your entire family.

Flame off.

For myself, I can only estimate the impact as being the overlap from my own life of "having a partner who was sexually assaulted in the past" and "having my own child die" but, horrible though both of those are, the first lacks the immediacy of the rape of your child and the second lacked the ill intentions of anyone else.

When you struggle for words, "I don't know the depths of what you're going through but you're in my thoughts." is an above-average response.

@154 nocutename: "As parents, we should be in tune with our kids enough to know what specific issues we are concerned about on their behalf and do our best to address those." +1.

There is no one-size-fits-all good parenting. We shouldn't aspire to it and we shouldn't try to legislate it. (There ARE bad parenting practices, and the Euros are better at legislating against them). My own parents did pretty well with the first two kids, but the youngest was just a different kid. "Being fair" wasn't as wise nor did it have as good an outcome as "being flexible" might have. As much as we all spout off about what the LW should do, he's got his own (likely) gay son in his own town, with a particular boy coming over to visit. A totally self-aware gay teen in Madison or Berkeley is a different story than a semi-self-closeted kid in Minot, North Dakota.
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Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 16, 2013 at 4:32 PM · Report this
159
Re: Snooping.

The general advice given to parents is to give teenagers privacy as long as those teens show signs of good age-appropriate mental health.

They have friends (though the friends might not be ones you'd choose). They have interests (though the interests might bounce around from irritating music to sports to absurd fashions to refrigerator repair). They do well in school (with the exception of the one subject they've always struggled with or the known-about learning disabilities that you're already treating). They seem happy (within the confines of teenager moodiness). They're healthy, that is eating and sleeping normally for a teenager, not suddenly losing a lot of weight nor suddenly gaining. They show no signs of drug use, not groggy or stoned or hallucinating. They're not withdrawn. Assuming all this is the case, stay off their computers looking for porn. Back in my day it was rifling around looking for a diary.

BUT! If you have real reason to be concerned, if your teen seems depressed or sick or unhappy, if there's real reason to believe your child is the victim of bullies, if it looks like your teen might be cutting or bulimic or taking drugs, THEN and only then, does the parent have the right, make that the responsibility, to snoop. You don't want to be in the position of saying at your child's funeral that you thought her privacy was more important than your stepping in. Imagine learning of his suicide, then later learning that he was talking about it for months; it was all there online, but you never cared enough to look for it.

The problem with this advice is that there are parents who use it as an excuse. They decide that they want to pry into their children's private lives, and, being clueless in the first place, decide that normal adolescent pulling away from parents is evidence of suspicious secrecy. They hear loud music and decide that it means devil worship. They see dilated eyes and don't associate that with the fact that their son just woke up. They can't put it together that their daughter doesn't confide in them with the fact that they always lecture her when she does. Moreover, they don't know that being interested in sex and checking out porn is normal behavior for teenagers.

DUD did a bad thing when he checked his son's computer history fishing around when the only thing he suspected his son of was being gay. Other than that, his question about open door rules is a valid one.
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Posted by Crinoline on February 16, 2013 at 1:59 PM · Report this
158
Ms Cute - I shall pay you the compliment of assuming there is no gender essentialism in 154. Very sorry for you and your daughter that she should have to experience such serious victimhood.

Ms Eirene - Thank you for explaining the limitations on intent.

Ms Cute again - At least you didn't have to cope with as much pressure as apparently exists in Tyraworld today. But you raise the speculation in my mind about how many of your modern counterparts, especially when they see their peers pressured into the oral arena, take a slightly different vow. Especially for the ones in equality states who can have wives instead of husbands, there are so many possibilities.
Posted by vennominon on February 16, 2013 at 1:03 PM · Report this
nocutename 157
@132, 156: I was 19, though I had felt that virginity was a burden I wanted to get rid of by about 18.

When I was 11, I took a vow, along with a few of my friends, that I would never, even after marriage, have sex, which seemed to me to be icky, gross and disgusting. As we turned 12 and then 13, the terms began to be modified (well, okay, but just to get pregnant. I want two kids, so I'll do it twice). But then some girls began to say, "maybe I'll have sex with my husband when I'm married, and more than just the two times necessary to get pregnant twice," at which I was outraged and betrayed. Where were their principles! At 14, though I had given up that vow and that attitude, sex was something that older, faster-moving kids were considering but it was a bit scary-sounding to me.

I remember being about 13 and having an older friend--15 maybe--who was already drinking and who began having sex. I felt like she was trying to flee childhood, while I was still enjoying being a child. I pulled away from the friendship. Later we reconnected, and it turned out she'd had a baby at 16.
Posted by nocutename on February 16, 2013 at 11:07 AM · Report this
156
mydriasis@132: To those parents I ask - honestly, when did you become sexually active? Did all your friends wait that long?

Nineteen, which for me was pretty much exactly right. And yeah, that was EXTREMELY common. (Among college-bound students, a surprisingly high percentage -- maybe not a majority, but way more than you'd think -- are not sexually active until college, often a year or two into college.) Most of the kids I knew who had had sex in high school still weren't all that sexually active. They'd just "done it" a few times, maybe even only once, because it was somehow unthinkable to be a virgin at X age. I knew maybe two couples who actually had something you could call a sex life (and one of those couples later got married, and are still married AFAIK, so they were essentially just beginning that process early).

I can't personally imagine being sexually interested in anyone who hadn't reached the age of being invested in their own personal hygiene (which most 14-year-old boys I've met aren't). I certainly wasn't interested in them when I was 14 myself.
Posted by Eirene on February 16, 2013 at 10:50 AM · Report this
155
@152: magical intent would mean something like the driver who had a stroke insisting that you couldn't really have been hurt by his car, because he didn't mean to hurt you. It's not that "intent" never matters. It's that it doesn't change certain impacts of one's behavior. Manslaughter isn't murder, but it still gets people dead.
Posted by Eirene on February 16, 2013 at 10:30 AM · Report this
nocutename 154
There is really no one-size-fits-all age to start having sex, and not all teens are alike, by which I don't just mean that gay teens have different issues than straight ones or that boys have different concerns than girls (although: yes). As parents, we should be in tune with our kids enough to know what specific issues we are concerned about on their behalf and do our best to address those. I am the mother of two teenaged daughters, 18 and 13, and my concerns are very far from those that From the South (as in LA)'s are. He has a son whom he wants to keep from adopting bigoted or intolerant attitudes. I have a young daughter for whom I want to have a vibrant, joyful, fulfilling sex life, but I don't want her to have sex to gain male approval or to internalize slut shaming, and given what I see going on all around her with her friends and knowing her general attitudes, issues, and maturity level, that is what I think would be the result of her having sex within the next year or so, at least. In the case of my older daughter (18), who was violently raped when she was a very sexually inexperienced 16-year-old, my concern is that she doesn't have sex in the context of a joyful, fun experience. I worry that her only experience of sex is associated with pain and terror and I don't think she is going to be able to have casual sex. Different kids; different parental concerns.

No doubt there are some kids (Fortunate and Mydriasis may represent them on this comment thread) who are psychologically and emotionally ready for sex at 14. But many 14-year-olds aren't that mature. To a lot of us parents, who live intimately with 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds, they still seem more like children than young adults. And not all kids go through the same teenaged experiences: some are drinking, smoking weed, driving too fast, what have you, but not all are. If I had a kid who was doing those things and I knew it or suspected it, I would probably adopt the attitude that I'd rather the activity happen safely in my home within that bedroom with the door closed. That is the pragmatic response to a reality for some kids.

But my older daughter never drank, smoked, or had sex during her her younger teen years, and I know that my younger one isn't yet, either. For that matter, neither did I, not because our parents didn't/don't want us to, but because it wasn't what our friends were/are doing. I was always allowed to have friends over and my bedroom was my own domain, where we could talk about whatever we wanted and listen to music. I likewise don't have a "no closed door" policy in my home, but so far, neither of my girls (whom I presume are straight) has ever brought a boy home to disappear behind that closed door, so I haven't had to confront what my attitude would be if/when that is the case.

I think a lot of what determines my attitude about my kids' sexual behavior is that I need to think about the context in which it occurs. If my daughter has a boyfriend whom she really likes and who seems to like her and respect her, then I think I will feel and react differently than if I think she's giving blow jobs to a train of guys in the bathroom at the middle school.

Because in the long run, being a parent means trying to prepare your child to be the most functional, well-adjusted adult he or she can be, and to that end, we have to consider how all their current actions will resonate with them later. All this with the knowledge that kids rarely if ever take their parents' desires into consideration when it comes to having sex.

Yes, there is often an illogical aspect to a parent's desire for a child to delay becoming sexual, but I don't think most of us really don't want our kids to have sex until they're 30. 13 is worlds away from 16, as 16 is very far from 19, and it all falls under the catchall designation of teenager. But just as few if any teens are going to ask mom and dad when they can start having sex (and fewer still will abide by that or make it a serious criterion when deciding for themselves), I don't think any of us can say, "oh 13-14: too young, 18-19: too old, 15-17: juuuust right." It's not a hard-and-fast equation; it differs from person to person, from context to context.
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Posted by nocutename on February 16, 2013 at 10:01 AM · Report this
153
While not as common in the West as in the East, lots of boys have sex with boys, and men, because they like sex, not because they are gay. Most, not all, grow up to become hetero.
Posted by Kaveman on February 16, 2013 at 5:49 AM · Report this
152
@148 - Intentions actually are magic. If a guy runs a stop sign and hits me because he's having a stroke, I can't be mad at him. If a guy runs a stop sign and hits me because he hates transmen, I can't NOT be mad at him. The only difference is his intent, not the physical outcome, yet to my feelings it's completely different. Fucking magic!
Posted by strangeway on February 16, 2013 at 3:54 AM · Report this
151
@143:
I completely agree.

@146:
You can discuss all these things with your kid without snooping. And if you have got an honest and open relationship with your kids, they will tell you some of that stuff voluntarily that you try to monitor by snooping. Because if they aren't aware that some words are wrong to use/ sexist/ racist etc., they will use them/ rant in front of you/ tell you about it anyway.

@147:
No, youngest kids aren't automatically granted more freedom. Especially not during teenage years if the older siblings have already flown the coop. How can parents avoid empty nest syndrome? Keep the youngest at home!
Posted by migrationist on February 15, 2013 at 10:40 PM · Report this
150
I agree with Kenai. Ven has become too omous of straight men. His attacks against Dud are unwarranted. Dud seems like a guy doing a good job raising his kid. He doesn't have to be right every time.
Posted by Hunter78 on February 15, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
149
Piss poor on that first one, Dan. "Letting them get away with a sleep over the straight kids can't" is truly bad advice and actively belittles attempts at "equality". You want a gay kid to be accepted like a straight one? Actually treat them the same way--I know you've given advice like that before, why be different now? Because straight kids might not opt for car sex?
Posted by ClerkBat on February 15, 2013 at 4:53 PM · Report this
148
Mr Kenai - Believe me, I know the difference between people who claim to be well-intentioned when they do hideous, evil things and people who genuinely are well intentioned who make potentially serious mistakes that might lead to hideous, evil consequences.

This is a tricky case for me, because I am not at all sure how I would present the not overly large number of problems I had with the letter to him. In this thread, I think his feelings are being centred, and people whom I generally find quite reasonable appear to me to be thinking that the point of this thread is to reassure him (in fairness, he is the LW). I always centre any non-straight teen in the case, and there is plenty of time to give him a cookie AFTER one well-adjusted young gay adult is delivered into society. But I certainly recognize that hitting him over the head with a hammer would not be productive. And yet, because intentions aren't magic, I've found that it often helps to be a little harder on people in the upper end of the power scheme than strictly they deserve. Most kyriarchs don't die of such an experience. But treading carefully with single parents is frequently helpful.

The one positive vibration I pick up about the LW is that he seems less likely than many to go into defensive mode prematurely. He does not remind me of Sir Walter Elliot, who had to be wheedled and coddled into doing even remotely the right thing and presented with a number of second-best measures as the only ones at all likely to be granted his approval.
Posted by vennominon on February 15, 2013 at 4:28 PM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 147
@143: There are "helicopter" parents and then there are ones who monitor children in response to the individual child and the risks involved.

Some kids are really well-behaved and thoughtful. Others are more impulsive or hang with a rougher crowd. Monitoring should be proportional to those factors and should also be adjusted by what they find when they snoop.

@144/145: So, yes, you were a "victim" of sexism. But you were also a victim of ageism as it so often plays out in families. The oldest kid is almost always on a shorter leash. Each subsequent child is granted more freedoms at an earlier age. Some of this is practical - you can't watch 4 kids as closely as you watch 1. Some of it is simply easier - Bring the smallest kid along for an R movie far younger than you did for the oldest just because the whole family is going. And some of it is that parents relax if no children died or were seriously injured previously. However, if a child does die in an accident, the younger kids will be even more tightly managed.

Also, we've seen this discrepancy in letters to Dan and he's called them on it: Be as strict with the gay kid as the straight one. "Ally" and "Supportive" doesn't mean abandoning your role as parent.
Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 15, 2013 at 4:22 PM · Report this
146
@143: I am guessing I did not articulate well enough if you think that I am monitoring my kid's sexual activities or that I have some desire to do so. I am saying that parental snooping - when the kids are young, living at home, using phones/computers paid for by parents - is fine. I am saying it is fine as a means to help monitor risky behavior. And you know what, it does go toward word peace. You know why? Because when I see homophobic rants from a kid, I can talk to my son and explain the problem. When I see denigration of women, I can explain to my son why that is offensive to me and why I think it should be to him. And when I see kids making comments that include insensitive racial stereotypes, I address that, too. Just like I'd want to know if some 18-year-old is fucking with my kid's head. And, as I said, these are kids from an ultra politically liberal place but, you know what, they don't understand that words have an impact and sometimes have meanings that they don't intend (adults have that same problem).

I care that he is healthy and happy. That he makes good choices (we struggle with that - he's a teen after all). That he treats people well - people who look and think like him and people who don't. Do I think it will help him be a respectful adult? You bet I do.

Does that mean I am watching him like a hawk? That I want to videotape him masturbating or fucking his GF or getting head? That's quite a leap in logic or my interest in snooping was not clearly expressed. Dan @135 is right on in his brief comment. While there are very different ways to parent and reasonable minds can differ, it is easy to spot someone who has no idea and is drawing from his or her own experiences which are not far removed from his/her present day.
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Posted by From the South (as in CA) on February 15, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
145
DUD's letter reminds me of something that happened in my family that really just made me mad. I'm the oldest kid, and the only girl. When I was in high school, there was a STRICT no boys in the bedroom policy. And I mean strict. We could sit in the living room with the door open, and mom would check in.

Meanwhile, little brother comes along, and when he turns 16, reveals that he's gay. Mom and Dad are so supportive, they let him and his boyfriend have sleepovers. SLEEPOVERS. All night, with the door closed.

I'm glad my parents aren't homophobic at all, but they are is sexist. And the pregnancy argument isn't gonna fly. There was no way I was gonna get pregnant/give birth to a child. I was always very careful- more careful than mom and dad; did I mention little brother was an 'accident baby'?
Posted by LisaM on February 15, 2013 at 3:34 PM · Report this
144
DUD's letter reminds me of something that happened in my family that really just made me mad. I'm the oldest kid, and the only girl. When I was in high school, there was a STRICT no boys in the bedroom policy. And I mean strict. We could sit in the living room with the door open, and mom would check in.

Meanwhile, little brother comes along, and when he turns 16, reveals that he's gay. Mom and Dad are so supportive, they let him and his boyfriend have sleepovers. SLEEPOVERS. All night, with the door closed.

I'm glad my parents aren't homophobic at all, but they are is sexist. And the pregnancy argument isn't gonna fly. There was no way I was gonna get pregnant/give birth to a child. I was always very careful- more careful than mom and dad; did I mention little brother was an 'accident baby'?
Posted by LisaM on February 15, 2013 at 3:31 PM · Report this
143
@135 Awmygawd I got a reply from Dan. Yes, I'm not a parent, but my parents find this abhorrent behaviour (I asked.) I mostly don't object to your readers' snooping because it's occasional and they apologetic about it. This guy seems to think he has a right to his son's personal life. Of course, parents have the right and responsibility to butt in in their children's personal lives. But at some point it just becomes creepy, invasive, and counter-productive. Just because you have a strong urge to, doesn't mean it's right.

@124 Oh, alrighty then, he might not be sexually active. So it's totally OK and not in the least bit creepy that you monitor your kid's sexual activities? Do you actually think that's going to help him in the wonderful ways you think/claim to think it is (healthy relationships! be a nice person! promote world peace!) or just mortify him? Why don't you put a camera in your kids' room, then, just to make sure they're developing a healthy sexuality? I'm sure they'll appreciate your protection loads, and thank you so much for it in the future.
Posted by oskomena on February 15, 2013 at 3:25 PM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 142
@133 Crinoline: Interesting Q (Is there a difference in the best age for an individual to begin sexual activity depending on their orientation?)

Stream of consciousness:

Straights can get pregnant. There are "cures" for that, but no one is "pro-abortion", "pro-choice" is ideally choosing not to GET pregnant in the first place.

Vaginas handle penetrative play with fewer micro tears than anuses do. So gay males are higher risk of transmitting all STIs than lesbians.

It ain't pleasant for anyone to be outed before their time, but the physical harassment and violence is greater towards gay males. Lesbians get to skate a little due to straight male porn habits as being a little more mainstream. Where I'm going is - apart of STIs and emotional drama - what are the risks of ostracism and bullying if you are discovered? Forever, girls were at risk of being slut shamed while sexually precocious straight boys were called studs. I think it is safer for lesbians than young gays.

But I don't think any of that would cause me to push/leverage one teen to delay more than another. In general, I'd say the gay male teen has to be more careful than the lesbian than the straight girl than the straight boy - medically careful, socially careful and emotionally careful. If a straight kid handles a relationship poorly (and we all did, didn't we?), there are other fish in the pond. That's much less true for the gay teen.

And, all that said, would I want my straight male teen to screw around - sexually and emotionally - early and often? NO. Think with your head and your heart instead of your dick and you will have a happier life. You may start a little later, but ultimately have sex more often than the jerks do.
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Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 15, 2013 at 3:15 PM · Report this
141
If DUD's discussions with his son have not included discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the kid's already 14, he is behind the curve. He's been hearing things on the streets and in the locker rooms for years - not the best place for real education. I must reiterate a previous comment recommending the Our Whole Lives program. This "sex ed and beyond" program is essential for helping young people understand sexuality and the importance of respect for others in relationships. AND it is done by trained adults who are not their parents. Combine it with some casual conversation at home, and things will open up.
Posted by rosacoke on February 15, 2013 at 1:53 PM · Report this
seandr 140
@kersy: Why not?
Posted by seandr on February 15, 2013 at 1:01 PM · Report this
139
@138: a teenager has been exposed to way more than we were, no question about that. But to say that they "know" more is absurd. Even connecting what they have seen with what they "know" is a huge leap in my view. And DUD framed the discussion about his 14-year-old (8th grade/9th grade), not a 16- or 17-year-old. There is a world of difference.

You can turn a blind eye if you want. But if my son is looking at something that talks about "fucking those bitches", I am not standing idly by. Again, not because of the sex but because of the "those bitches". I am not trying to stiffle his sexuality but understand that he has a resource in his parent(s). There's something wrong with that? I am not trying to be his friend and say "all is cool. You're 14 after all. Getting much pussy? Heh heh heh". I am trying to be his dad and explain that if he sees girls as "bitches", he needs to change his view (after all, those "bitches" end up including his mom and his sisters). My friends who have been involved with their kids - as parents, not friends - are the ones who get the call at 1a when the kid has been partying and needs a ride home rather than getting in the car with a bunch of drunk kids. They are also the ones whom the kids can talk to if they do discover a weird itch or sore or miss a period. The dialog is open. Turn a blind eye and your kid might think, "he does not understand me", he'll think (or might), "they don't WANT to understand me or what I'm going through". I don't think a parent can expect the teen to say, "now that I am going through some serious shit, my parent, who let me do what I wanted, did not interfere, is probably there for me." I think he or she will more likely say, "My parent does not really give a shit" and then you are hoping there is another adult who can help guide the kid through whatever she/he is facing.

Maybe I misunderstood your point, @138.
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Posted by From the South (as in CA) on February 15, 2013 at 11:37 AM · Report this
138
Turn a blind eye. Please. Having a parent talk to you about sex (at any age) is traumatic. Unless he was raised by wolves, a teenager today knows already, possibly in much greater detail, whatever daddy might think of saying to him.
Posted by cockyballsup on February 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
137
@Dan: very true.

I think it is great for those of you who are around young teens who show a great capability for making good, safe, healthy decisions all the time. They are clearly ready for sex at 14 and you might get them a special closet of toys "for when the time is right". I have no problem with that because I was a 14 year old, mad sound decisions and have no regrets over escalating sexual activity from about age 13.

But I live among really cool 14 year holds who don't always make the best decisions and sometimes engage in risky behavior. That might be shouting at someone on the street who decides to make an example of a punk. It might be playing with matches. It might be buying weed from people they don't know. It might be fucking around without a condom (remember: mechanics - pregnancy/disease) or when they are talked into something they will regret (remember: sexuality = feelings). 14 year olds do deserve a level of privacy - if he keeps a journal, that's his. However, as a parent, I have a responsibilty to protect him against risky behavior and for most of us, that can't happen unless we do some level of snooping. I remember talking with my son about some porn he watched with buddies a few years ago (he was scared I'd see he'd been on FB (he was 11, I think)). Was I bothered by the porn or his interest in it? Not in the least. But do I want my then-11-year-old thinking that what he was watching was the norm or real or what would be expected of him (or of his future dates)? No way. Snooping gives me a chance to educate and to further the discussion on sexuality.

Snooping also gives me a chance to keep him from engaging in relationships with assholes who prey upon kids (I am not really worried about 40-year-old predators or pedophiles but I am about the 18-year-old who likes to fuck around with younger kids (I remember those when I was that age)) and engaging in discussions that require some explanation as to why and how it could be taken as racist, homophobic or mysoginistic. Those of you who are all trusting may not have these worries about your 14-year-old or about his or her friends. Good for you (I mean that sincerely). I love my son very much and I want him to have healthy relationships. But right now, despite my attempts at teaching him respect/responisbility/decision-making, he's a 14-year-old who is not an adult and does not merit the privacy of an adult. No fucking way. He'll get there. He'll earn it. But until there, he knows I can access his phone, I will watch his facebook and other social activity. And, when I can, I wlll look at his 'cookies' and browser history (he knows how to delete it but him knowing I KNOW that can help).

I spoke to him yesterday because I found something that scared me (not on his computer but in his room (some supplements)). We talked about drugs, sex, school, etc. Next time, he may hide his contraband better but I made it clear - on some things, he won't get in trouble but he will rate a "conversation" (not yelling).

(sorry for the long post; I love these discussions - always interesting and educational about different approaches to similar problems)
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Posted by From the South (as in CA) on February 15, 2013 at 10:20 AM · Report this
136
@134 "But all this is logical stuff. Parents don't typically react to their kids having sex with logic. They respond emotionally. Also there are other considerations. Logically it makes sense to be more concerned about straight teens having sex than gay ones, but if you actively treat your gay child different from your straight child it creates a double standard that is so obvious and not going to be seen a fair that you can undermine your own authority with your children."
I'd imagine this is the hardest thing in the world to manage as a parent. Gay or straight, no matter how hard you try to treat children equally, you don't. They're different people, and you've (hopefully) grown as parents since you went through the same thing with a previous child.
If you're more lenient on one child regarding sex than another, you're either seen as a tyrant by the one you're tougher on, or potentially as uncaring about the safety of the one you're going easy on. So, when you're dealing with a child that's already going through a metric fuck ton of emotional shit, it's a tough minefield to cross.
Posted by KateRose on February 15, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Report this
135
@121: Ha ha ha. You're obviously not a parent.
Posted by Dan Savage on February 15, 2013 at 9:29 AM · Report this
Fortunate 134
That's hard to say Crinoline, although I already did make a case for a double standard in an earlier post.

I think a case could be made for straight teens being better off waiting for very practical reasons.

As has been mentioned by several people, being ready for sex is as much a matter of being able to negotiate the potential negative consequences, and the consequences for straight teens are actually higher, and so I think require a bit more maturity to negotiate.

While STIs are a possibility for everyone, I think it not unreasonable to conclude that most 14 years olds don't have a whole lot of sexual experience, if any at all. If the teens in question are at about the same age and that young then they most likely haven't had much chance, if any, to become infected with an STI.

In my own experience we were both virgins, so there was no risk of STIs. And there was no risk of pregnancy. And since we were pretty evenly matched in terms of size and both of the same gender there was really no issue with risk of force or coercion. So physically there was virtually no risk of negative consequences.

Straight teens always have a risk of negative physical consequences in terms of pregnancy.

Both pregnancy and STI risk can be mitigated, but that is the part that takes more maturity to implement consistently, but is more imperative for straight teens.

How parents should react should, again, be based on their kids and the circumstances. Personally if I had a gay teen who was engaging in a sexual relationship with another gay teen who I knew and had a good idea about his or her history and character I would probably be far less concerned than if my straight teen was doing the same thing.

However if my gay teen were involved with someone I thought untrustworthy, or who already had a reputation for sleeping around at that age I would probably be just as concerned.

Also it would depend on how much I felt I could trust the particular teen to take proper precautions to protect against STIs or pregnancy.

I don't have kids myself, but I have always been very involved in the lives of my nieces and nephews (all straight so far), and as they hit their teen years there were some I (and my siblings) worried about and others not so much, and it was all because of how responsible and thoughtful we knew each to be as individuals.

But all this is logical stuff. Parents don't typically react to their kids having sex with logic. They respond emotionally. Also there are other considerations. Logically it makes sense to be more concerned about straight teens having sex than gay ones, but if you actively treat your gay child different from your straight child it creates a double standard that is so obvious and not going to be seen a fair that you can undermine your own authority with your children.

So there are other considerations than just the child being ready for sex or who has the more practical risk on their plates. There is the whole family equilibrium to be maintained and if you should be more worried about one over the other or not, that may not be reason to translate that difference in worry into action.

Also I would point out that my mother worried about me more than any of my many siblings, and in the end I was the one she should have been worrying least about. I gave her far less grief and experienced far fewer hair raising situations than any of my siblings.

Parent just rarely see clearly or objectively so ultimately it typically winds up a moot point. What you should do, what makes sense to do, what is practical often takes a back seat to the impulsive, emotional and subjective view parents have of their children.
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Posted by Fortunate on February 15, 2013 at 9:02 AM · Report this
133
Next question.

Is there a difference in the best age for an individual to begin sexual activity depending on whether that individual is gay or straight, male or female? We all agree that we don't want 14 year olds preyed on by 40 year olds. Is there a difference in how a parent should react to 2 14 year old gay boys starting a sexual relationship than, say, 2 14 year old straight early teenagers?
Posted by Crinoline on February 15, 2013 at 8:13 AM · Report this
mydriasis 132
Yeah I have to roll my eyes at all the people scandalized by 14 year-olds having sex. Especially considering the SL definition of sex. I was having 'sex' at 14 according to SL.

To those parents I ask - honestly, when did you become sexually active? Did all your friends wait that long?
Posted by mydriasis on February 15, 2013 at 5:43 AM · Report this
DAVIDinKENAI 131
nocutename (@23, etc): I agree that Mr. Ven should give the LW a break and not project near so much of his childhood trauma onto some well-meaning straight parent. But. . . . the thing that I tweaked on in the original letter is similar to what Crinoline said @70 but which I'd summarize in:

I want my kids to have sex at home.

Not that 16 isn't better than 14. And 14 is a whole lot better than 12, but when they become sexually active I'd rather it is:

- with someone they can bring home to Dad or Mom.

- in a safe place.

- lube and condoms are handy.

- no one else is filming, commenting or gossiping.

- there is no inclement weather, slick roads, and, if there's any alcohol, at least no one is driving.

So their bedroom, the garage loft, the treehouse, one of the many other tree houses - those all seem like better options than a beer-fueled HS party, the back of a car seat, or while fearing the partner's parents might come through the door and hurt someone.

Almost everyone becomes sexually active at some point and unlike the teen years, driving, or going off to college, many parents are uniquely in denial about this one topic. They will become sexually active. If you don't have a religious reason for this to be after marriage (i.e. if you would buy a car without test-driving it first), then you expect it will be while dating.

If while dating, at what age? Before a parent objects to their 14-year-old having sex with an age peer in a safe location, I want them to say, honestly, what is the age at which they would be comfortable with it. Most parents will joke, "When they're 30.", but they're NOT joking. At some level, they are so uncomfortable with their children's sexuality that they would wish the pathetic "30-year-old virgin" scenario on their child.

Once the parent can get to a point of saying something like, "16-17 might be ideal", then they can relax about 14 or 15. Or 19 or 20. And accept that individual kids, due to their own hormones, maturity, and the luck of the draw while dating, will become sexually active earlier or later than the kid him/herself might have wished. But a thoughtful child, who has a good sense of who they are, what they want, and what they don't want; will likely become sexually active very close to the time that is right for them.

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Posted by DAVIDinKENAI on February 15, 2013 at 3:39 AM · Report this
130
I have a suggested compromise on the door open/door closed thing.

DUD should tell his son something like "I know teenagers can be stupid, I was one once, and there are some things that I don't feel you're ready for yet, so I'd like to be sure that you're not doing them."

And then make a deal with him. He can have his door closed, but whenever he has a friend over, you have the right to come in at basically any time. You will knock first, and give him a few seconds... but no more than a few seconds.

That way, he can still discuss things he doesn't want to discuss in front of his dad, and he can still make out a little or whatever if he and his friend are, ah, romantically interested, but he won't take the risk of getting actually nekkid or anything. He has a fair amount of privacy, but DUD has a reasonable amount of insurance that his son isn't getting in over his head.

And if he's concerned about any premature outing or whatever, DUD can always claim he's worried about drugs...
Posted by Melissa Trible on February 14, 2013 at 11:25 PM · Report this
129
I agree with @121 and 127.
Children and teenagers have a right to privacy.

Re "hurt his pride": I was single and did not talk about my romantic life to my family apart from one short romance at 15 until I was in my late 20s. At the same time I had lots of male friends.
My uncle asked me how my love life was doing every time I saw him. I hated it. My sister suggested I should say something like "Her name is Susan and she is very nice." to get him to shut up.
In my mid-20s, my father asked me very delicately if I was lesbian. I almost choked on my wine, laughing. I found it sweet how carefully he had asked, not wanting to pry but making it easy for me to come out. My sister had suggested it to my parents. I thought she was teasing them.
When I was 29, I told my sister that I was in a relationship- with a man. She was genuinely surprised. Apparently she hadn't teased my parents but had been sure I was lesbian.
It didn't hurt my pride. I was a bit flummoxed. But I had been quite good in hiding all my crushes from my family.
Posted by migrationist on February 14, 2013 at 9:27 PM · Report this
128
Hey, Ian McKellen is still very good looking! ; )
Posted by CoyoteConscious on February 14, 2013 at 8:42 PM · Report this
127
My kids don't get to have computers of their own, or in their rooms, until they're eighteen. I find that a lot less distasteful than making a point of snooping through their stuff. And I'm in total agreement that kids need privacy with their friends for bazillions of reasons.
Posted by Eirene on February 14, 2013 at 8:03 PM · Report this
126
Septimus Warren Smith hurled himself out the window onto the iron fence spears of Western misosodomism, but I, also defenestrated, remain suspended several feet above the fence, levitated by stoic ataraxy. My ox has been gored too often, and I have no dog in this fight.

Onomastectomist

From Kamloops to L'Anse aux Meadows, horny young Canadians like me have had fun engaging in extremely rapid serial monogamy, of a kink-free, non-bisexual natural, without the use of sildenafil or other artificial sweeteners, although Warnansky and Beckett have recently shown that a new class of antagonists to dopamine reuptake inhibitors can diminish the refractory period between one boyfriend and the next to 27 seconds, without any danger of over-engorgement to the corpora cavernosa. You people in Baja New Brunswick (I don't mean this perjuratively!) should be so lucky.

Diastasis

Ms. Ass-stasis, you were not the foul offspring of Beelzebub and the Australopithicine Lucy you would understand that you don't even exist.

Cacciatore_nero

Cack-balls, I know you dream every night of amputating my arms and legs and toying with my ever-more-petite young body, but that's not going to happen.

Diastasis

I don't hold with pederasty myself, but if the umpire calls the pederastic equivalent to the infield-fly rule, you're safe, unless you're out. Nothing human is alien to me, and my tolerance is limitless, but no one can violate Grimm's law without getting his or her ass handed to him or her in a sling. And I'm not even a native speaker of English!

Glyptodont

I don't have any idea what anyone is talking about--it's like a clarinet concerto written by Schoenberg! I'm writing a clarinet concerto too! You ROCK, Dan! Unless I'm wrong about that!

Grizabella
More...
Posted by Ialdaboth on February 14, 2013 at 5:57 PM · Report this
125
Septimus Warren Smith hurled himself out the window onto the iron fence spears of Western misosodomism, but I, also defenestrated, remain suspended several feet above the fence, levitated by stoic ataraxy. My ox has been gored too often, and I have no dog in this fight.

Onomastectomist

From Kamloops to L'Anse aux Meadows, horny young Canadians like me have had fun engaging in extremely rapid serial monogamy, of a kink-free, non-bisexual natural, without the use of sildenafil or other artificial sweeteners, although Warnansky and Beckett have recently shown that a new class of antagonists to dopamine reuptake inhibitors can diminish the refractory period between one boyfriend and the next to 27 seconds, without any danger of over-engorgement to the corpora cavernosa. You people in Baja New Brunswick (I don't mean this perjuratively!) should be so lucky.

Diastasis

Ms. Ass-stasis, you were not the foul offspring of Beelzebub and the Australopithicine Lucy you would understand that you don't even exist.

Cacciatore_nero

Cack-balls, I know you dream every night of amputating my arms and legs and toying with my ever-more-petite young body, but that's not going to happen.

Diastasis

I don't hold with pederasty myself, but if the umpire calls the pederastic equivalent to the infield-fly rule, you're safe, unless you're out. Nothing human is alien to me, and my tolerance is limitless, but no one can violate Grimm's law without getting his or her ass handed to him or her in a sling. And I'm not even a native speaker of English!

Glyptodont

I don't have any idea what anyone is talking about--it's like a clarinet concerto written by Schoenberg! I'm writing a clarinet concerto too! You ROCK, Dan! Unless I'm wrong about that!

Grizabella
More...
Posted by Ialdaboth on February 14, 2013 at 5:52 PM · Report this
124
@121: we don't know the kid is sexually active, just that he has looked at porn and has a friend over with the door closed. Sexually interested? For sure. Active? Could be.

And I am on the side of "snooping is just fine" for DUD. I have no interest in reading my son's texts to his friends or looking at his instagram photos (if that's what you call them). I am interested in seeing whether he is engaging in inappropriate public (in particular) discussion - as I wrote earlier in this discussion, teens don't get how things they say can be so hurtful and hateful and a parent SHOULD point that out (when I see a teen write, "He sucks cock", they are doing so in an insulting way; do they think about how that creates an atmosphere of ridicule for one of their male friends who just might want to suck cock? No - so they need an adult who is snooping to point that out to them and explain why that discussion creates a hostile environment for friends of theirs (and if you ask these same kids - at least the ones I know - how they feel about Gay marriage or Gay rights, they will all be enthusiastically PRO)). I am also interested in seeing if he is involved in any destructive relationships - with a girl/woman, boy/man, whether he's the one being inappropriate or being victimized. I am not going to freak out over him watching porn but I am going to be proactive if I see that he has some online relationship that might be concerning. And I expect I will do the same thing with my daughters.

When the kids are 18 and paying for their own shit, they will get a level of privacy that they don't at 14. At the same time, as a parent, even as I respect their boundaries (and those of the future adults they will become), I doubt I will stand idly by if something sets off bells and whistles. And if they are living at home, I am more apt to hear those alarms.
More...
Posted by From the South (as in CA) on February 14, 2013 at 4:57 PM · Report this
123
@ 97 - Very nice idea; well said. I would allow a closed door - kids do need privacy and I would prefer they hang out in my house. I would not say anything about snooping on his laptop or the porn. I would say - after saying what @97 said and then giving the talk - I love you and if you have a girlfriend, a boyfriend, or want to try both, all that matters is that you treat each other with respect and are safe, sane and consensual as @71 said very well. I would provide condoms although say there is no rush to use them, but just in case, I want you to have them for any penetrative sex with a girl or boy...
Posted by aNYCdad on February 14, 2013 at 3:26 PM · Report this
122
Oskomena,

Apparently you're unaware that our Dan believes lovers have the right to snoop, regardless who pays the bill.
Posted by Hunter78 on February 14, 2013 at 3:16 PM · Report this
121
"yes, I snoop; I pay the bill and I'm his dad"

I skimmed the comment section, but, am I the only person who finds this bad? I don't think either paying the bill or being the kid's dad gives him an excuse for snooping. His kid is a separate individual, and especially being sexually active, has a right to a private life. Dad needs to back off.
Posted by oskomena on February 14, 2013 at 2:54 PM · Report this
120
Ms W@112 - Well enough spotted that I won't even take up the perfectly good opening you left about lesbians.

I am quite convinced that the Straight-Only Sex Talk (and, it does not seem unfair to add, its usual follow-up) is a major factor in the cases of gay boys who grow up to be misogynists. As a rule not being yet of an age or level of sophistication to incline them to blame the patriarchy, the most likely targets for their blame and opposition seem the women or girls they're being told they're supposed to want rather than the men or boys they do want.

My exception to this would be straight-chasers, who may well be beyond influence.
Posted by vennominon on February 14, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Fortunate 119
Crinoline,
Of course you can convey any message you want to your kids about waiting. They are your kids. If they do or not, however, will have to do with far more then you telling them you want them to. But you can try to express to them that you hope they do.

The problem is that many parents, when conveying that message, load it with a lot of judgment. The message they end up sending isn't just, "I hope you will wait". It typically ends up being, "I hope you will wait, and if you don't I will be very, very disappointed in you".

But keep the context of the original scenario in mind. You can say what ever you want about what you hope your child will do, but if they decide are going to do it anyway they will either feel they can do it in the safety of their home, in their room with the door shut, or they will find someplace else to do it.

If they get the message that they have to hide, are forbidden, and otherwise can't be open about it then that isn't going to deter them but rather just push them to do it in a riskier environment.

So sure, suggest what you think is best for them. But it is all too easy for suggesting to cross over into controlling and manipulating, and that just results in riskier behavior, so I recommend caution in how that message is presented.
Posted by Fortunate on February 14, 2013 at 1:20 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 118
I disagree with Dan that unwanted pregnancy is the main driver for keeping teenagers from having sex. Sex is a big deal, it can get you in trouble, it can be confusing/upsetting/formative... I don't think teenagers should be having sex because teenagers shouldn't be having sex.

Also... @3 WHAT? Teenage boys have circle jerks? Is this true???? I can't believe it...

My mom always told me I was a prude... I think I'm starting to realize she was right.
Posted by ScienceNerd http://stanichium.tumblr.com/ on February 14, 2013 at 12:54 PM · Report this
117
I'm afraid I've been misunderstood. I'm fully aware that parents aren't able to control when their children start having sex, even if they were able to know the magic date they're ready, even if such a magic date existed.

My point, however, is that to have no opinion on the matter is to abdicate responsibility for guidance. Parents do have an influence on their children's lives, hopefully a (mostly) positive one. I see no reason why a parent can't, when giving The Talk, say something along the lines of hoping that the child waits until s/he's older. If the parent thinks that the child isn't ready when the child is convinced that s/he is, then the parent (hopefully) asks him/herself what the child needs to do to prove readiness.

(In my case, my mother decided that she didn't want to think of me as having a sex life so I was going to remain a virgin for her sake, but that was the least of the her dysfunctions.)

I agree that there's no age that's right for everyone. It's not like turning 16 and taking a test to get a driver's license. But if we can all agree that 8 is too soon, and if we can all agree that 32 is time to start ready-or-not, what's wrong with deciding on the side of caution with a 14 year old? Why not say, I'd rather you didn't because there's too much at stake.
Posted by Crinoline on February 14, 2013 at 12:15 PM · Report this
116
Fortunate,

"My side of the argument is simply arguing against some arbitrary cut off that assumes that someone is incapable of making a rational decision about sex at 14."

I've spent a lot of time working with juvenile delinquents. One of the mistakes we make in dealing with children, teens, and young adults is to assume that it's all black or white wrt to decision making ability. It's complex and messy.

There is no magical litmus test. There is no stage at life where "BAM!" you are an adult and making appropriate, rational decisions.

Most ADULTS don't make rational, informed, great decisions on sex.

In this guy's shoes, I wouldn't talk so much about "don''t do this"...I'd talk about negative consequences and how he, as a father, would support his son if the son ever did face negative consequences.

That is IF he can do so without freaking the kid out.
Posted by ABW on February 14, 2013 at 9:38 AM · Report this
115
"how would you advise parents to gauge whether their 14 year olds are emotionally mature enough to start sexual relationships? What criteria? What would you look for? What sort of test?"

You can't. And it's not a parent's decision. If we really believe in choice and bodily autonomy, we have to believe it for our teenagers as well. (Note: I said TEENAGERS, not 10 year olds. The difference is huge.)

Quite honestly, this is a VERY American discussion. Most of my European friends with kids don't freak out about a 14 year old starting to explore sexuality.

Also, I honestly believe that no one, be it 14 or 44...no one is emotionally mature enough for their first sexual relationship. No one. It's of such a fundamental different nature than anything you've ever experienced that no amount of maturity or preparation or education makes you ready.....You just have to dive off the deep end and go for it.

Therefore, the only question to me is this: does the person have the type of personality as an individual and a support system in place so that they can mitigate any negative consequences?

A 44 year old with personality issues and no friends is not going to be able to deal with an unwanted pregnancy or curable STD. A 14 year old with a strong personality and a good family can.
Posted by ABW on February 14, 2013 at 9:34 AM · Report this
Fortunate 114
@110 - "Your conversation implies "

Crinoline's side of the conversation maybe. I was just answering her question about how a parent would be able to tell. The only thing you could do would be to talk to the kid and judge for yourself as best you can, but that there is no objective measure that can be used.

If you look at my own personal account I shared you will see I never mentioned having my parents approval. I made my own choice and my parents knew nothing about it (even still to this day).

I am just pointing out that this idea that some arbitrary age can be used to determine when someone is ready or not is bogus. A person is ready when they are ready, and that can be at a wide range of ages, including 14.

My side of the argument is simply arguing against some arbitrary cut off that assumes that someone is incapable of making a rational decision about sex at 14.
Posted by Fortunate on February 14, 2013 at 9:34 AM · Report this
113
Noctuename,

Thank you for 110...I barely understand what's going on in my husband's head, understand what's going on in teenager's? (Insert Dowager Countess snark here).

One thing I constantly tell my friends in re their children's bodies (e.g., haircuts, sexuality): THEY ARE NOT SLAVES, YOU DO NOT OWN THEIR BODIES.

This goes double for their personalities: be it "I want an athlete" "I want you to believe X" or "You're not ready for sex".

It's hard to let them go make stupid choices...but unless they are going to commit a felony or cause permanent damage to their bodies or psyches, you have to let them make their own mistakes.

If the child were 9, I'd be worried, but 14 is old enough to start taking ownership.
Posted by ABW on February 14, 2013 at 9:29 AM · Report this
112
(1) They boy could be bisexual, homoflexible, or heteroflexible. Just because he looks at gay porn doesn't mean he has zero interest in girls. Unless he tells you that he has no interest in girls, don't assume pregnancy isn't a risk for him.

FWIW, bisexuality is a LOT more prevalent in young men today and it's a lot more accepted than it was even 10 years ago. I have a bisexual nephew. Most of the family doesn't know, but all his friends do.

(I only know b/c I caught him groping his "best friend's" ass.)

(2) There is no magic answer on what to do. Children are unique. My kid ran screaming any time we tried to discuss things even though we had an otherwise open and trusting relationship...but read any sex books we gave him and used the "guest condoms" we left in the guest room. (We have condoms, lube, tampons, meds, etc. in there....)

My nephew (different one than above) asked me what snowballing meant when he was 9.

It's not just about your relationship with the kid, it's about the kid's base personality. No outsider can tell you this.

(3) If you absolutely can't deal, tell him you are unsure how to talk to him/help him through the teenage years and you are therefor going to setup both individual and joint counseling for the two of you. This will give him an opportunity to say "no, we can talk it out". Any other response, you go see a counsellor.

(4) He needs to learn about the risks of sex beyond what they teach in school. That means you need to do a lot of reading and thinking.

(5) Even if he's gay, he still needs to know about the heterosexual world, as heterosexuals are the majority AND he needs to understand that women are people, not just something "other". (I also think heterosexual kids should be taught about gay sex both so they can relate to gay individuals AND they know how to react if a friend comes out or needs help).
More...
Posted by ABW on February 14, 2013 at 9:24 AM · Report this
111
@2- yeah I like the dad too.

Are you and Dan buddies or is it cool if I wait around hitting the refresh button like a monkey in a cocaine experiment trying to get my spam at the top of the comments every week too ?
Posted by The wrong Andrea on February 14, 2013 at 9:23 AM · Report this
nocutename 110
@Fortunate and Crinoline: Your conversation implies that parents somehow can gauge when their children are emotionally mature enough to have sex and that the children will furthermore ask for or abide by parental injunction or blessing before they embark on their sex lives.
Posted by nocutename on February 14, 2013 at 9:20 AM · Report this
Fortunate 109
How to gauge? Just talk to them. There is no litmus test. That's my point. There is no gauge, no chart, no clearly defined objective criteria for when someone is ready for sex or not no matter what their age.

It's a matter of understanding them as a person.

In my case would I have been harmed? That depends on what you mean by "harm".

I think that relationship helped me greatly. It helped me figure out what was going on with me and my sexuality. It helped me feel more confident that I wouldn't end up alone, because even though I knew that it was temporary, I also walked away knowing that I could do it. Meet someone and be intimate with them.

From the time I was 12 and started to figure out I was different until that point I lived in a constant state of fear and stress over the idea that I was a freak and that my life would be one of loneliness and isolation.

The intimacy of that relationship broke through that and saved me years of continued worry and stress about it. I walked away with a much greater understanding of myself and my potential.

So would it have harmed me? I don't know because I don't have crystal ball to view all the possible parallel universes where I made slightly different choices.

But could it have? Yes. Did havening sex harm me? No, it didn't. In my assessment it greatly helped me.

I'm not against suggesting people wait if in any doubt. But I am against the blanket, automatic response that it is always better to wait and that if you don't you are in for some disastrous consequences. It is simply not always the case.

There are always risks with sex, as with pretty much all facets of life. But even at 14 some people are able to weigh the risks and the benefits and make an intelligent decision that is right for them.
More...
Posted by Fortunate on February 14, 2013 at 8:22 AM · Report this
108
107 Fortunate-- For the sake of argument, how would you advise parents to gauge whether their 14 year olds are emotionally mature enough to start sexual relationships? What criteria? What would you look for? What sort of test?

I have to believe you when you say that you handled it well with no emotional drama or irresponsible behavior, but do you think you would have been harmed if your parents had somehow encouraged you to wait?
Posted by Crinoline on February 14, 2013 at 8:04 AM · Report this
Fortunate 107
@100 - "Two 14 years old are not mature enough to be responsible to their sexual health or emotional well being in this matter gay or straight."

That is a sweeping, blanket statement that isn't true.

Sure, there are a lot of 14 year olds who are not mature enough. But there are a lot who are.

I had sex at 14 and I was not too young. I handled it well. There was no emotional drama and no irresponsible behavior. We knew each other, and each other's history. We trusted each other. Our ages were appropriate relative to one another. We made a decision based on our relationship at that time, and we handled it well. It wasn't harmful to me, and in fact was very helpful to me and I have no regrets.

Some 14 year olds are better able to handle these things than others.

I wouldn't recommend that all 14 year olds go out and have sex, but I think it is equally incorrect to say that 14 years is always and automatically too young.

You have to judge each 14 year old on their own merits.

We make these arbitrary ages of consent because for legal reasons we need some number. But to assume that because we have some number on the books for legal reasons that means there is some real world reason for that number (which changes drastically from country to country and even state to state) that inherently applies to all people doesn't make rational sense.

A person is ready when they are ready. That may be 14 for one, 16 for another, 18 for another, and even never for some.
Posted by Fortunate on February 14, 2013 at 7:51 AM · Report this
106
Jeez, I don't know...Alan Turing could have been a great underwear model...
Posted by interdisciplinarian on February 14, 2013 at 7:26 AM · Report this
105
Ms Book - In terms of doing harm to the parent-child relationship, most blinkered parents get lucky. The odds are in their favour, and the lack of visible harm is treated as the lack of a foul.

Just off the top of my head, here are three possible responses of an LG teen to a Sex Talk positioning Holy Heterosexuality [Batman! reference omitted] as All There Was in the Beginning, All There Is Now, and All There Ever Shall Be, Amen (I'm sure there are more, but these should be enough):

* Pregnancy. Mr Savage has mentioned the increased risk of this to LG teens for various reasons, and a non-inclusive Sex Talk can't help the odds.

* What's Wrong With Me? After all, if this is How Humans Experience Sexuality, a teen or tween completely out of the mold might well feel inhuman.

* Increased Disregard. To a youngster secure in a personal LG identity, a completely off talk could add incentive to distrust or tune out other parental wisdom.

I have not personally known a case of the first, but have seen plenty of the other two. As I said, most parents skate, but it's only because the odds are so high in their favour.

If one wanted to look deeper, I'd also make the case that the Straight-Is-All-There-Is Sex Talk does the overall societal ill even with heterosexual recipients by instilling or reinforcing heterocentricity in them, with various unpleasant effects later on.
Posted by vennominon on February 14, 2013 at 6:22 AM · Report this
104
100-JAB37-- Because how to put on a condom is a relatively easy thing to talk about compared to emotional maturity. How babies are made is dry and scientific whereas the whole world of heartbreak, infatuation, love, and responsibility is not. See my comment in #75 above.
Posted by Crinoline on February 14, 2013 at 5:24 AM · Report this
103
@91:I would never dream of giving condoms to my 14 yr old, boy or girl. I think that is too young to be intimate, so unless they asked...nor would I put my 14 yr old on the pill.

@102: no 14 year old kid is going to want to go talk to strangers about sex!

I really wonder how many people here are parents of teens! I don't think most parents of teens include gay or bi options in their sex talks, and I really don't believe that neglect is harmful or damaging! I would have no idea what to say to my kids if they were gay other than be safe, be careful, and I guess I'd find a book or something. GLBT center would never occur tome, don't know what that even is or where there is one!
Posted by bookaday on February 14, 2013 at 3:28 AM · Report this
102
What about:

I doesn't matter if you are gay, straight or bi - but in case you are thinking about having sex with guys I want you to get the right sex ed first, so this is the address of the nearest LGBT center and I'll take you there if you want me to.

I don't want you to fuck around, not just because of STDs but also because of the potential heart break (That's the point were dad tells son about his heart break and that it wasn't fun for him to be a teenager overflowing with testosterone either).

In any case, should the day come, anal sex requires hygiene, condoms, water based lube and lots of time.

How about that for a start?
Posted by IIIOOOIII on February 14, 2013 at 2:16 AM · Report this
101
Um, I'm a lesbian and I watch gay porn. Sometimes what turns your crank visually has nothing to do with what you want physically.

Also, my parents always allowed me closed doors, and I took the opportunity to...have lots of boys over, because those were my friends, *shrug* We went elsewhere for the drugs and drinking.
Posted by glass on February 14, 2013 at 12:21 AM · Report this
100
Why are more people not worried that 14 is really young to be having sex? Dan has even advised young teens to hold off on having sex for a few years in letters before. Gay or Straight there are emotional issues to be considered, not to include the worry about STIs. I feel that homosexual teens get pasted over when it comes to the "sex talk" because the main concern for most parents and society is pregnancy. I would bet that if you polled 100 parents and asked if they would whether their 16 year old came home home with gonorrhea or pregnant most if not all would choose the STI every time. Two 14 years old are not mature enough to be responsible to their sexual health or emotional well being in this matter gay or straight.
Posted by JAB37 on February 13, 2013 at 11:03 PM · Report this
99
I am thinking at about this point in the thread that it might be of great value to hear some bi-identified voices. I suppose that the majority of parents who assume that a child showing signs of interest in one gender but not the other (sorry for resorting to the binary) is monosexual are correct, but there are so many possible bi experiences that I'd have to sit up way too late to formulate questions.

Also, as some people have observed, I tend to use opposite-sexer or same-sexer in particular cases without self-identification from the person in question fairly often as opposed to straight or gay because negative evidence is so tricky (I'm about as Kinsey Six as possible, but suspect that a clever cross-examiner might be able to make reasonable doubt) and because it feels bi-inclusive, but I've been starting to wonder if that's potentially unfair to monosexuals. I don't particularly think so, but suspect I could be swayed by a strong case.
Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 9:35 PM · Report this
98
oh please don't get rid of those images of tanned/chiseled gay guys! as a straight female, I love the eye candy.

Agree, there are plenty of images that aren't tanned/chiseled and I don't want any male to get sucked into eating disorders...

but please leave me some eye candy!
Posted by abrock_ca on February 13, 2013 at 9:06 PM · Report this
queerness 97
DUD, you can also couch the safe sex convo in these terms- "I don't trust the schools to give you a comprehensive education on this stuff, so we're going to have an uncomfortable conversation right now but it will be vital to you and your friend's health. And because your friends might not get this same education and might end up having questions or confiding in you one day, I'm going to tell you how both opposite and same sex couples can be safe, so you have the information for yourself and anyone in your life who you want to be safe too."
Posted by queerness on February 13, 2013 at 8:38 PM · Report this
96
When I was 14, I had a best friend who was also gay. But we were NOT having sex -- we were "sisters". This is the most likely explanation that I can think of, but no one else here has seemed to have thought of it (I read most but not all of the posts). If this is the case, they're probably comparing notes on the cutest boys in school or guys in the neighborhood -- all perfectly harmless.
Posted by Gay Movie Fan on February 13, 2013 at 8:31 PM · Report this
95
"Dad Under Duress,"

SIR, THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO.

IF YOUR SON AND HIS FRIEND ARE IN HIS BEDROOM WITH THE DOOR CLOSED, THAT SIGNIFIES HE IS QUITE COMFORTABLE WITH HIS SEXUALITY. "Dad ... ," IF YOU SAY SOMETHING, YOUR SON WILL MOVE HIS ACTIVITIES ELSEWHERE.

THE "STAGING" FOR HOMOSEX IS NOT LIKE THE "STAGING" FOR HETEROSEX. IN HETEROSEX, FEMALES WANT TO HAVE SEX IN A SECURE PLACE - WITH A BED - IN ORDER TO FEEL SAFE AND "NON-WHORISH." AND, FEMALES WANT THE "TRAPPINGS" OF ROMANCE TO BE INCLUDED. ON THE OTHER HAND, HOMOSEX HAS A TIME OF DURATION AGREED UPON BY THE PARTICIPANTS. SINCE YOUR SON IS A TEENAGER, "SIMPLE" FELLATIO, OR, ANALINGUS TAKES LITTLE TIME TO PERFORM; "SIMPLE" ANAL SEX CAN TAKE A LITTLE LONGER, BUT, IF YOUR SON HAS A CURFEW, HE CAN BE HOME IN TIME WITHOUT CREATING SUSPICION.

SO, "Dad," SINCE SOME HOMOSEXUALS FEAR CRIME AND LAW ENFORCEMENT WHILE HAVING SEX IN PUBLIC PLACES [BUSHES, DRAINAGE CANALS, ETC.], IT IS BEST TO ALLOW YOUR SON TO HAVE SEX IN HIS BEDROOM - IF INDEED, THAT IS THE CASE.

CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON
Posted by CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON on February 13, 2013 at 8:00 PM · Report this
mydriasis 94
@ seandr

"Pregnancy is by far my biggest fear about teen sex, and that doesn't apply"

Really?

Not rape? Not HIV?

At least an unwanted pregnancy can be terminated. You can't cure HIV, and you can't unrape someone.
Posted by mydriasis on February 13, 2013 at 7:56 PM · Report this
93
@91: I really like your comment a lot but I will admit that I am not sure I can get behind providing condoms to a 14-year-old as a way to initiate this phase of the sexuality discussion. I think the conversation can happen and the parent can make sure the son sees him as a resource for condoms but that's a big leap from closing the door to assuming intercourse was going on (I started closing the door at about 13 and had a couple of years of good ol' fashioned making out and "heavy petting" before I was having sex just prior to my 16th birthday). At the same time, I see value in providing the condoms before the kid is having sex.

I do talk to my son about sex and sexuality (I reconcile the two as the mechanics (and pregnancy, disease, etc.) and the feelings (joy, love, like, pleasure, etc.)). I have not provided him with condoms (to my knowledge his only experience with girls is virtual) but @91 you may have changed my approach - not sure I will give them to him but I may get some (maybe even when he and I are at the drug store), tell him where I am putting them for him to have unfettered access and then tell him that as much as you might WANT to fuck w/o a condom (sexuality/feelings) you are taking a risk in going through with it w/o protection (mechanics/pregnancy/disease). I am assuming my son is straight (based on his overt interest) but other than the "pregnancy" part, my approach with him will be the same.

And I know there are some who found DUD a bit lacking but I applaud him because I think he loves his son and wants to support him. The use of "pride" may have been regrettable because it puts a spin on the LW that I did not get from the rest of the letter. For those of us who don't know what it's like to be gay or for fathers who don't know what it's like to be a girl or mothers to be a boy, I was able to identify with his struggle to get it right w/o hurting his son. It is a great road map for me - good and bad - as I think about my many daughters who will go through this after my son.
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Posted by From the South (as in CA) on February 13, 2013 at 7:50 PM · Report this
92
@88: For the win!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 13, 2013 at 6:55 PM · Report this
91
My first boyfriend's mom let me sleep over and gave us all the privacy we wanted. And that was the right decision, because her son was safest when in his own home. She had the least to worry about.

Intruding upon and manipulating your kid's sex life can really make you a creep.

I also had a "sensitive" but straight friend who I would come home with after school to listen to music. His mother kept making him turn the music down (new-age music, can you believe it?) so I would close the door out of consideration. Then she kept bursting in like she expected to catch us in the act. Very creepy. I was nothing but respectful, and nothing ever happened... but bitch banned me from the house. Funny thing was, he later ran away from home and lived with me 2 weeks; nothing ever happened. He later got married, had kids.

DUD should just sit down with his son and say "hey, I just remembered what it was like to be 14. Here's a carton of condoms. You WILL use them if you have intercourse with anyone. Go find a tutorial on the web about the proper way to roll one on. I've seen your web history, so I know you know how to find what you want there. Other than that, you're free to make your own choices. I raised you, and I know that you will make responsible choices. And set a good example for your buds. I want you to know I've got your back, no matter what. Now, are you hanging out with Gomer tonight, or do you have time to go out for a pizza with your old man?". And don't bring it up again unless there seems to be a crisis arising.
Posted by Keef on February 13, 2013 at 6:54 PM · Report this
90
@83 " one's orientation is something one's friends should know. "

It is? Why?
Posted by kersy on February 13, 2013 at 6:51 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 89
My parents would not allow me to be in my room with the door closed with either boys or girls. I could have the door ajar, but not closed. I think they were afraid of smoking,
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay http://www.danlangdon.com on February 13, 2013 at 6:35 PM · Report this
88
Also I think that any teenager should be reading Savage Love.
Posted by SifuMark on February 13, 2013 at 6:14 PM · Report this
87
I know of one or two cool parent types who bought a big box of condoms their teenagers would have access to. If DUD did this it would at least give him the opportunity to point out that they are for ANY anal oral or vaginal sex act.

Having condoms around don't cause one to have sex. I was disappointed to learn this as a teen but it's true.
Posted by SifuMark on February 13, 2013 at 6:12 PM · Report this
seandr 86
@Eirene: Personally, I think I'd give a gay son/lesbian daughter a lot more sexual leeway than my het kids would get.

Pregnancy is by far my biggest fear about teen sex, and that doesn't apply. There are a lot of negative sexual experiences resulting from men/women approaching sex different angles, or just not understanding how the other person's bits work, and those aren't quite as relevant.

Really, my biggest fear would be my gay son getting AIDS, but that's reason in my mind to give him room to experiment at home with partners he knows (and I can meet) rather than with random hookups god knows where.
Posted by seandr on February 13, 2013 at 5:44 PM · Report this
85
I hear that the position of Pope (aka Head of the R.C. Church) is coming vacant and any single, adult male of Roman Catholic upbringing is eligible for the job. I immediately thought of you Dan. You meet all the basic requirements and would be a blast as Pope. Please consider yourself nominated. Let the write in campaign begin.
Posted by Julieinweimar on February 13, 2013 at 5:06 PM · Report this
84
Just a quick comment to tell you that I admire and respect your work, Dan, very much.
Posted by Zoe's mom on February 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM · Report this
seandr 83
@KateRose: one of my closer friends thought I was a lesbian, I was hurt

A gay friend of mine once told me, after a few drinks, that he was convinced I was attracted to men. I thought that was funny, but it was nevertheless important to me that he believed me when I said I was straight, because I am, and one's orientation is something one's friends should know.

Mistaking someone's orientation can sometimes come with unflattering assumptions. I have a gay friend who I thought was straight for the first 2 years I knew him. He never seemed to get any "trim", so I just figured he was a loser with women. Finding out he was gay turned over the entire sad story I had made up for him.
Posted by seandr on February 13, 2013 at 4:43 PM · Report this
82
I don´t know if anybody above has suggested this, but how about DUD tries a roundabout way of telling his son that he knows?

Oddly Normal sounds like a nice book. How about buying it and "casually" leaving it lying around the living room, maybe with a PFLAG leaflet inserted as a bookmark for good measure? This will let DUD's son know his father is A-aware or at least strongly suspects his sexuality and B-is entirely accepting of him. He may still opt to not say anything initially, but it'll be sure to send the message "I'm OK if you're gay" loud and clear.
Posted by Lynx on February 13, 2013 at 4:27 PM · Report this
81
Then there is the other extreme that TV (yes, especially you, LOGO) loves to portray gay men as effeminate girly men or drag queens. Where are all of the masculine pool playing sports loving fags that I know? Billy V - Los Angeles
Posted by Billy V on February 13, 2013 at 4:08 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 80
Coming out isn't like turning on a switch. Most times, it's about degrees. You're first out to your close friends, then family, then the world, etc. DUD's son can be out to his Dad, and that doesn't mean he has to be out to everyone else.

And once he's out to his Dad, it will make coming out to the rest of the world all the easier.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on February 13, 2013 at 4:07 PM · Report this
79
RE: Adonises:
Then there is the other extreme that TV (yes, especially you, LOGO) loves to portray gay men as effeminate girly men or drag queens. Where are all of the masculine pool playing sports loving fags that I know?

Billy V
Los Angeles (not WeHo)
Posted by Billy V on February 13, 2013 at 3:56 PM · Report this
78
After reading the other comments -- My thought is to suggest the Dad says to the son: "The closed door makes me uncomfortable, and reminds me that many boys fool around together when they are teens. I want you to know that it is risking your health --even your life -- to trust that someone has no other sexual contacts. In the event you mess around sexually with any person, I would prefer you were older first, but I insist you do nothing unsafe"
It is good not to rob the boy of his right to reveal his sexuality in his own time. The part that is really the Dad's business is the "keep it safe" speech.
Posted by BOBKELLERMAN@AOL.COM on February 13, 2013 at 3:45 PM · Report this
77
After reading the other comments -- My thought is to suggest the Dad says to the son: "The closed door makes me uncomfortable, and reminds me that many boys fool around together when they are teens. I want you to know that it is risking your health --even your life -- to trust that someone has no other sexual contacts. In the event you mess around sexually with any person, I would prefer you were older first, but I insist you do nothing unsafe"
It is good not to rob the boy of his right to reveal his sexuality in his own time. The part that is really the Dad's business is the "keep it safe" speech.
Posted by BOBKELLERMAN@AOL.COM on February 13, 2013 at 3:38 PM · Report this
76
To this day one of the most traumatizing experiences was when my dad confronted me over very soft gay images(Abercrombie ads, etc) on my computer when i was 13. I denied it, and went deeper into the closet. I would honestly leave him alone and definitely make it known you're a safe person to talk to. And now isn't the time to be setting rules on who can come over, i had dozens of male friends stay the night throughout high school and to my knowledge they were all straight.
Posted by scottdenm on February 13, 2013 at 3:37 PM · Report this
75
Why do parents discourage sexual activity for early teens (12-15 years old), instead preferring that they wait until their later teens (18-22 years old)? My point of reference is for straight girls. I'm going through the thought process so I can apply it to gay boys as DUD's son.

Pregnancy and STDs (easily avoided with the Pill and/or condoms).

Wanting to protect a young person from being taken advantage of by an older one (avoided if the early teen is dating someone his/her own age).

Societal mores.

Sex hating parent wants to control out-of-control young sexuality. Include other negative emotions like jealousy and fear. (Let's hope DUD isn't in this category. He doesn't sound like it. I had to include it for completeness.)

There's another I've been having trouble putting a finger on. Eirene hints at it in 70 above. For this, I'm left comparing early sexuality with driving a car. Granted, my analogy is absurd, but I can't think of anything better. Sex is powerful stuff. It unleashes powerful emotions. It holds the potential to do damage to the emotions of others. (Not only can you get killed in a car crash, you can kill someone else.) We like to keep young people away from big dangerous machinery until we think they can handle the responsibility.

It doesn't always work. Kids steal the car keys. They figure out other ways to do equal emotional damage. They can get hurt when they're older too. We don't want to raise our children to become callous jerks. We don't want our children to get so hurt that it colors their sexual lives from then on out. We know that they can't become wise in these matters without practice, but we'd prefer they become better decision makers before getting started on sexual matters. The field is just so dangerous! That's emotionally dangerous; I'm not thinking about the STDs.

Granted just telling a young teen to keep the door open when friends visit isn't going to do it, but I do think, when giving The Talk, it ought to be possible to convey the idea that waiting, in as much as practical, is preferable to diving right in. That's what I read in the DUD's letter. How does he tell his son, even though no one is going to get anyone pregnant, that it would be better to wait with a full-on affair until he has a bit more maturity?

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Posted by Crinoline on February 13, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
74
John Schwartz hints at this, but it should be much clearer: Parents need to ask their children what they believe on such topics as same-sex marriage when they come up. First, it allows this father to openly state his opinion and can then (hopefully) agree with his son's opinion. Allowing his son to openly speak on such topics will go a great way to letting his son understand that home is a safe space.

Secondly, it's just a matter of treating children as people, especially when it comes to crafting informed decisions. It's on opportunity to say "What do you think" and "Why do you think that way" and "Why does it matter or not matter." Those are lessons every child must learn. We cannot expect children to think clearly without some direction, and we can't expect it to come naturally as soon as they leave the home. It's rather like looking at porn for safe sex tactics. Watching TV isn't the best way to have them shape opinions that matter.
Posted by Stanford on February 13, 2013 at 3:35 PM · Report this
eclexia 73
The dad should get his son vaccinated for HPV, pronto, if he has not been vaccinated already.
Posted by eclexia on February 13, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
72
Jared Polis can model underwear for me any time he wants! Sexy man.
Posted by nf12 on February 13, 2013 at 3:29 PM · Report this
71
just to add my two cents... as a parent...
occasionally people say things about or to my kids that assume a particular orientation, and i will always 'add options' or call them on their presumption. or, people will ask me, in front of my kids, what i think about their orientation. i always say, "i have no idea, and it's not really any of my business". i've been doing this since they were toddlers. because people say stupid stuff to kids. i'm pretty sure they know i don't think it's even relevant what sex their partner/s turn out to be.
sex ed: i've been requiring all play to be 'safe, sane & consensual' since they were old enough to be playing with other kids. i figured that those things had to be taught early - and apply to the whole of life's interpersonal interactions. and they've both known what condoms were for since before they knew what sex was.
i feel it's very simple: what do you value more highly? your own sense of propriety/shame, or your child's well-being?
Posted by sappho on February 13, 2013 at 3:22 PM · Report this
70
I think if we really stopped and thought about it, the biggest objection a lot of parents have to their teens having sex is the worry of teen pregnancy.

That's certainly true, but I also worry about the impact of early sexual experiences, especially for younger teens, that don't go so well. I mean, relationships of any kind, even friendships, are at their most difficult during the middle school years. Trying to manage an actual sexual relationship at that age seems like far, far too much to expect under ordinary circumstances.

And incidentally, while "teen pregnancy" by definition involves a teenage girl, it very frequently also involves a much older guy (and the younger the girl, the older the guy is likely to be). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teenage_pre…

It would be nice if we could separate out safe, consensual peer-to-peer sex from the phenomenon of abuse of younger teens, but it's pretty difficult.
Posted by Eirene on February 13, 2013 at 3:02 PM · Report this
69
Dr Sean - LW thinks his son is probably gay. He has made no effort to address any harm he might have done in the Sex Talk by assuming the son to be straight. Unless he turns out to be completely wrong (and I think most of us would acknowledge the odds to be fairly low), there we have a case of ACTUAL harm already done that the LW doesn't even recognize. Instead he is getting his knickers in a twist about the HYPOTHETICAL harm he might do if he has seriously miscalculated AND if his son has a particular negative reaction that could well be considered an indictment of the LW's parenting in the first place. This isn't a sure thing, of course, as some people just turn out far worse or far better than their upbringing for no discernible reason. But, had DUD really raised his son along the lines of Mr South, to use him as an example, he'd be far less likely either to expect such a bad reaction or to regard such a reaction as catastrophic if he got it.

But, in the end, these are all just suggestions. A long round of cross-examination would be in order before I considered any harsh verdict. I just picked up on some problematic statements in the letter. A number of you who are almost certainly better parents than the LW are ascribing to him your own motivations. That's very loyal and very sweet. For the boy's sake, I shall go so far as to hope against reason that you might all be right. I shall not, however, hope that the boy turns out to be straight after. However understandable the "easier life" wish may be, it opens the door for so much prejudice that I cannot approve it. I'd add, into the bargain, that those parents who are sincere in the Easier Life Wish would be well advised not to want a genius child.

I am uncertain whether to raise the question of how to handle bi-identified teens or whether to leave that to those whose proper domain it is.

At least Ms Cute and I have some modicum of agreement about what is likely best to be done at this point, which is more than I expected from this thread.
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Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
68
@64 "Moreover, you realize there's a huge difference between actually being gay and being mistaken for gay, don't you? "

This. I went to an all girl private high school that was down the street from an all boy private high school. The majority of my friends were gay males from our sister school, and as such, I spent quite a bit of time at out local GLCC. While I didn't care so much what the closeminded people around us thought (I did get to experiment during those years to confirm that I am straight) when I found out that one of my closer friends thought I was a lesbian, I was hurt. Not because there would have been anything wrong with me if I was, but because my identity was in question. I know it was very difficult for my gay friends to be perceived as straight, even if at the time it was "safest". The assumption that I was a lesbian gave me a small taste of that.

@66 Every time I went out, the words, "Have fun. Be careful." came out of my mothers mouth. And every time I would respond with, "It's one or the other, you know that right?" and we would laugh. She got her point across, I got to remind her that I had to make decisions on my own, and luckily she respected that. It's so hard to get through to a teenager that doesn't want to listen. So throwing out a quick, "Be careful." at least gives you a chance to let them know you care.
Posted by KateRose on February 13, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
67
The son could be bi as well. LW#1 should not conclude is son is gay because he looks at gay porn.
Posted by Ashley Amber on February 13, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
66
25, 28-- Parents say "be careful" wishing to convey love. It's saying "you're precious to us."

Teenagers hear "be careful" as conveying fear. It's saying "the world is a horrible place, and we don't trust you."

The middle ground is "be careful" as nonsense syllables, like the "la la la" in a song chorus, just something people say along when someone leaves the house.

That's all independent of whether or not the teen in question really isn't trustworthy or even whether the parents in question actually want what's best for the kid.
Posted by Crinoline on February 13, 2013 at 1:00 PM · Report this
nocutename 65
@60: Thank you, Fortunate, for that very interesting and valuable perspective.
And @53(from the south [as in CA]), your response to the "pride" issue was excellent.

I think if we really stopped and thought about it, the biggest objection a lot of parents have to their teens having sex is the worry of teen pregnancy. But for many, it's still a big step to seem to condone your teens (especially young teens, like 14) having sex.
Posted by nocutename on February 13, 2013 at 12:17 PM · Report this
seandr 64
@vennominon: Do you have kids? I'm guessing not.

LW's parental obligation is to maintain a loving and trusting relationship with his 14 year old son. If LW thinks his 1son would be uncomfortable being mistaken for gay, LW should be sensitive to that. From what I've seen, parents who bulldozer their kids' perspectives and needs with rigid political belief systems, right or left, generally suck as parents.

Moreover, you realize there's a huge difference between actually being gay and being mistaken for gay, don't you? Personally, I think I'd be happier and more satisfied as a gay man. Alas, I'm straight, so being mistaken for gay doesn't exactly help my beleaguered yet determined efforts to find happiness with women.
Posted by seandr on February 13, 2013 at 12:08 PM · Report this
63
@43: you're obviously not a Star Trek fan. Takei certainly used to be pretty ripped. http://i557.photobucket.com/albums/ss17/…

It's true 14-year-olds are relatively unlikely to be carrying STIs, but (a) there's no guarantee neither of them has had unsafe contact with anyone else, and (b) surely condom use is something that should be taken as a given these days? And there's way more to safe sex than that -- a lot of it's plain hygiene, for which 14-year-old boys are not noted.

I'd recommend Heather Corinna's book http://www.amazon.com/S-E-X-All-You-Need…
Posted by Eirene on February 13, 2013 at 11:57 AM · Report this
62
Mr Fortuante - An interesting history. I had no sex during my minority, but I did have vast quantities of much-needed privacy. I don't feel sufficiently in the loop as to how the overall decrease in privacy and what changes may be occurring to the concept affects teens at present to comment on that aspect of a Closed Door.
Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 11:45 AM · Report this
61
Mr South - Yes, but you've been walking the walk, and could be set up as a role model DUD could have followed to advantage. You provide an admirable answer to the question of how to cope with a possible HP reaction, but it might not be possible for DUD to pull off such a reply, as he has not put in the years of ground work that you have.

I can almost allow that he might just be a worrywart - but he expresses no worry about the harm he's likely already done via the Straight-Exclusive Sex Talk.

I have some sympathy for him in that it appears he hasn't been any worse than the vast majority of parents who have skated on their mistakes in this area. He's like the one driver among a hundred who happens to get the speeding ticket.
Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 11:36 AM · Report this
Fortunate 60
I am kind of torn about how to respond to DUD. Not just because I think there isn't necessarily a one, right approach to how he should address his concerns, but also because I don't want to necessarily dismiss the experiences that others have shared.

But to share my own, and give my take only, I think that despite a few people feeling traumatized by being confronted by their parents, I don't see it as such a big deal.

Certainly it's best if a kid can be left to come out on their own, and I won't deny that being confronted on your sexuality can be a bit mortifying, but I think the benefits in the long run are far greater.

Although I came out on my own to my parents when I was 17, and I fully admit I would have been momentarily mortified by my parents asking me when I was younger, all I can think is "so what"?

Because lord knows my parents, like most people's parents, have caused moments of mortification in many other instances, and I survived fine.

Would my parent's saying they knew I was gay be any worse than the birds and the bees talk my father had with me? I doubt it.

But once the embarrassment wore off it probably would have had a much greater benefit. If they knew and expressed that they were at least somewhat OK with it I wouldn't have had to live with the years of stress worrying that if they found out they would kick me out, or freak out, or become tyrants trying to control my every move.

I could have redirected all that energy I used to keep them from finding out into something healthier and more productive.

So not to discount the experiences of those who didn't have a good experience with being confronted on their sexuality, but I don't think that is how it is destined to go down with everyone.

As for the closed door thing, I am kind of conflicted.

On the one hand I think it is almost sweet that Dad wants to treat his (assumed) gay son the same as he would a straight son.

However, even despite that I think that at a certain point even keeping straight kids from having sex is pointless and counterproductive, and that I hate to have to lay out a double standard, straight kids and gay kids simply aren't the same.

Not only for the reasons that Dan already pointed out, that Gomer isn't going to knock the son up which is the real main concern that most parent really have concerning teenaged sex, there is different dynamic I think between straight and gay kids. Or I should say FOR gay and straight kids.

Because gay kids also are more likely to have people of the gender they are attracted to who are just friends. And teenagers need privacy with their friends to discuss the crap they are going through that they don't feel they can share with their parents.

Forget the gay stuff. I would have been very stressed if I had to sneak and find times and places away from home just so I could speak with my friends openly and honestly about things that were bothering me or confusing me.

Also I think that sex can play a different role in the lives of gay kids.

I had sex for the first time at 14. Most would say that was too young, but looking back I have no regrets. In fact it was probably the best thing that happened to me at that age because it helped me more than anything to clarify in my own head what was going on with me.

He eventually turned out to be straight. I am not sure if what we did (which he actually initiated the first time) was just experimenting for him, or just to get off, or if he too was trying to figure things out. But he eventually started seeing a girl and it stopped between us, and that was fine. He ended up straight, and although we never mentioned it again, we also never felt weird about it or treated each other funny.

I didn't fall for him and have my heart crushed. Our friendship didn't fall apart. We are still in contact even though we live on opposite sides of the country now. We get along as well now as we always have. He knows I am gay and never seemed put off that after we had sex I realized I was gay any more than I was put off that afterwards he realized (or perhaps just reaffirmed) he was straight.

But whatever it was to him, to me it was a gift that I will be forever thankful to him for. It ended all the confusion and worry about what I was, and what I had in store for me. Basically I ended up knowing I was gay and knowing that I could do these "gay" things. Not just that I could physically have sex with another guy, but that I would have opportunity to. It greatly eased my mind.

And there was no danger for us. We were both virgins at the time. There was no risk of disease or pregnancy. We were basically the same build and size, and both being guys there wasn't any real risk of force or coercion. It was just two horny teenaged boys figuring stuff out together.

And since we didn't always have a private place to fool around at either of our homes (although sometimes we did) we fooled around where we could. Often in the woods behind my house. A place where we could have been caught. And there is the other difference. A couple of straight teens get caught fooling around in public they may end up with their parents being told and getting mad, but most other people, including the cops, are just going to shrug it off as kids, and most of the other kids at school would at worst be indifferent.

A couple of gay kids getting caught are going to most likely have bigger legal problems on top of not only their parents finding out they were having sex but basically being outed by the incident, and most likely everyone at school finding out and possibly making their lives hell from then on.

While I think that parents would do better by letting all their kids have a safe environment to have sex in private, even if they aren't thrilled with the idea, it is far more important for gay kids to have that safe place because the repercussions for them if they get caught can be far worse.

Also I know that when I fooled around with my friend I was ready. I wasn't hurt. It was a good experience that really helped me. If I had been straight I probably wouldn't have been ready at that time for the possible repercussions of sex with a girl.

And as far as having crushes and getting my heart broken, yes, that happened several times in high school. But it didn't have anything to do with sex. It had to do with not feeling able to be out to any but my closest friends and having to have crushes from afar.

But at least I had friends I could talk to about it, in my room, with my door shut.

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Posted by Fortunate on February 13, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
59
@52, "as if one were raising a child from another culture"

I agree with you, but I think that, to a lesser degree, all parents are raising a child from another culture.
Posted by EricaP on February 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM · Report this
58
How do you know, Dan, that Bayard Rustin, Barney Frank, Harvey Fierstein, Harvey Milk, Daniel Hernandez Jr., Ian McKellen, Evan Wolfson, Jinkx Monsoon, Jared Polis, Bruce Vilanch, Alan Turing and George Kalogridis have never aspired to be an underwear models?
Posted by Nevada Mark on February 13, 2013 at 11:07 AM · Report this
57
@ 36. You're welcome. I am trained to be a facilitator for the Jr Hi and High School programs. They are awesome. The program teaches about sex ed, but also communication, self value, self responsibility and it helps them make decisions for themselves about what is right for them, and when they are ready for more.
Posted by SeattleKim on February 13, 2013 at 10:49 AM · Report this
56
@10,21 Mr. Vennominon, it has been my experience that, at 14 one can have one's pride hurt and other negative emotions surrounding being labeled as a member of any group which one has not fully and purposefully identified oneself, without any need for a qualitative or other judgment against that group.

Adolescence is also a time of self discovery and identification and these labels and groupings are considered of deathly import.

It is possible for homosexuality to be the bee's knees and still have a 14 year old mortified to be labeled gay, correctly or not, until they self-identify as such.
Posted by I've Had Friends Who Freaked About Being Labeled Smart on February 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM · Report this
55
Mr Major - I should have perhaps specified counterbalance to what. Take the opening two sentences of the second paragraph. The level of perfection required to be deemed worthy of Getting Some in messages aimed at gay men makes me rather wonder, much as Elizabeth Bennet thinks it unlikely that Mr Darcy knows six whole women who have cleared his extremely high bar for being deemed "Accomplished", that there are more than six gay men in North America having sex on any given night. But any straight schlub wanting reassurance can easily find support for the point of view that he deserves a supermodel.
Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 10:19 AM · Report this
54
Agree with your answer to NAA, but a correction: Ian McKellen was a babe when he was young. (And not bad for a man his age now!) And this is coming from a straight guy.
Posted by Correction on February 13, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
53
@50: I never experienced a circle jerk (HS, college, post). Unless I was intimately involved with someone (or was going to be), I can't imagine doing that. (I have never had sex while another couple was screwing in the same room at the same time but my friends who are a bit younger have described that as the norm in the college/just post college era for them)

My parents always allowed me to keep my door closed. My wife - whom I first dated in HS - talks about us being in my room and my dad would do one knock and say good night. Sometimes we were just talking, sometimes screwing around. (I had discussed w/my dad when I was 16 how my then-girlfriend and I were going to go to planned parenthood to discuss birth control - I think he's still traumatized by that conversation some 30 years later but his response still resonates: "well, I can't agree with you doing that (meaning having sex) and for a few minutes of pleasure you might change your life but I appreciate you being responsible"; I think after that conversation, he did not want to lay any ground rules and my mom always trusted me). As the parent of a HS student (and some others to follow), I am not sure what I'd do - probably no closed doors at all and not because of the sex but because of drugs and doing shit on the computer that will infect it (my HS student also has the burden of being the oldest; I don't want his younger siblings having to deal with imagery that they cannot possibly get).

We live in an area with a great mix of people and families. There is no shortage of same sex couples, mix-race couples, interfaith couples, kids with married parents and kids with unmarried parents. And other than the fact that I know it would be a much harder road for a child who is gay (even in this very progressive community - how many have LGTB clubs at the MIDDLE SCHOOL? Woo hoo!) (@50 is right - we want an EASY way for our kids in many respects), I can't imagine it changing my reaction. I am tough on my kids - honesty, respect, effort, etc. - but am effusive with my love of them. I believe they know from my words and actions that this straight guy would support their gay selves if that is who they are. It would not be because I tell him I think he's gay or because of my reaction if he were to come out but because I call out homophobia when I see it (and, boy, if any of you have teens who are on FB, watch their posts - and those of their friends - you may cringe at what they write as they don't always see how their posts/likes/comments can be seen as sexist/racist/homophobic/hostile to anyone who might be different than they) and explain to them WHY it is an example of homophobia and WHY all people - gay and straight - should take offense.

I think the LW seems like a concerned dad who wants to be supportive of who his son is. The "pride" comment is not because he (the dad) thinks his son's pride SHOULD be hurt but because some kids might take offense. If my son did, I would make the effort to explain that it is not an insult for me to have asked - I did it because of the porn - because there is nothing wrong with being gay. I'd say something like, "it looks like your pride has been hurt. Let's leave that at the door, shall we? If someone asks me if I'm gay, I say 'no' but I am not bothered. It is a question like any other about who I am, what I'm about. There is nothing wrong with those questions. You are not less a young man because of the question. A gay man is a man. Just as I am." Based on DUD's letter, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he would go deeper with his son if his son were to take offense.
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Posted by From the South (as in CA) on February 13, 2013 at 9:47 AM · Report this
52
YHB = You Homophobic Bigot! (that one strikes me as potentially useful; it may be seen again, only I don't often call people that)

POGT = Parent of Gay Teen

OS I've used often enough as Opposite Sex; that post was so long I wanted to shorten as much as I could.

I shall agree with you about the minefield and the Closed Door Policy. Whatever the policy is, it seems possible for any parent in question to be clubbed over the head about it. It reminds me of an article I read recently about how hating Fashion Week is sexist because, when it comes to fashion, women can't win. (I had a bit of a hunch that the point could be expanded so that Women Can't Win could be used as a club by any woman who disliked any man's reaction to Fashion Week, whatsoever it might be, but told myself that the important point was that I didn't disagree with any of the points in the article, and that there was still work to be done.)

Your conclusion has some justice, which is why I do want to avoid the appearance of being in permanent scold mode. I might suggest an adjustment to, while allowing for the best of intentions and execution, There Are Some Things You Just Can't Do "Right", but certain Others can.

It's hard to pin down a "Right Line" to recommend, but treating the situation as if one were raising a child from another culture comes nearer the mark than the Cheerleaderesque attitude I'll sum up in a jingle:

"So what the H* is in a name
Trans-gay-bi-straight, it's all the same!"
Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 9:41 AM · Report this
smajor82 51
@8 I don't see that message as a counterbalance - just the opposite in fact.
Posted by smajor82 on February 13, 2013 at 9:18 AM · Report this
50
48 year old suburban mom of two straight (as far as I know) teens. Parents want the best for their kids, and that includes an easy life – and being a gay teen is just not easy. Doesn’t mean disappointment, doesn’t mean being gay isn’t “the best” even - just means, for many parents, an adjustment of thinking, and often a fumbling of how to express that. I don’t think most parents imagine they are damaging their kids when they attempt to say or do the right thing when presented with a scenario they perhaps were not expecting – saying I love you no matter what or saying be careful are not intentionally hurtful and I have a hard time believing most teens would take it that way. I’ve only met 6 or 8 gay/lesibans in my life (that I was aware of, that is, who were living their lives out and open), but have no gay friends, my kids don’t seem to know of anyone in their 5000 person school who is publically out, nor are any of their friends’ parents gay (no one seems to have two moms or dads). I just found out a casual friend’s child is transgendered – and let me tell you, when she said so many of us who were there were consumed w/questions we didn’t feel comfortable asking (but we did discuss among ourselves later) – as this was our first encounter w/anything like that. All that said, I think addressing the porn issue is a good way to start (didn’t I read somewhere that it is not uncommon for teen males to look at gay porn for curiosity, as well as comparison of physical aspects, etc.) – as in, 14 is a bit young to be looking – and if you are looking, make sure you understand most of it is made up exaggeration, etc.

@25: Parents do their best – sometimes they fumble, sometimes they are spot on. And as for your friend’s gay son buying a $30 ring for a friend and the dad felt it was too $$ – my son bought a $30 necklace for his girlfriend for Hanukkah – and I said it was too $$ and made him wait a few more months before giving it to her. Not sure what you think Dad saying “No” implied.

P.S. seriously, boys really do the circle jerk thing? I always thought that was an urban myth – even asked boys when I was in college (and later my hubby) and they all looked so horrified at the idea of whipping it out in front of another guy!
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Posted by bookaday on February 13, 2013 at 9:08 AM · Report this
49
The Gay Adonis letter made me think of Grandpa Simpson's rant: "Dear television producers, I am DISGUSTED with the way old people are portrayed on television these days. We are NOT all vibrant, fun-loving sex maniacs! Many of us are BITTER, RESENTFUL individuals, who remember the good old days, when entertainment was bland and inoffensive!"
Posted by Dragonrose36 on February 13, 2013 at 9:04 AM · Report this
nocutename 48
FWIW, I've always told my kids that I will love them "no matter what." The "no matter what" usually refers to behavior. ("Would you love me if I killed someone?" "I would be very upset if you killed someone, and I wouldn't like that you had killed someone, but yes, even if you killed someone, I would love you. I always love you, will always love you, no matter what.") But a kid could extrapolate from that there is no reason for me to stop loving her.

There's a thought that straight people can't model for gay people, that gay teens need, as Mr. Ven put it, someone of their own kind. But I think that that straight people can and should and do model whether their own kids are gay or straight. We do it not to pat ourselves on the back. We do it because it's the right thing to do.
I put my money where my mouth is. The first political campaign I ever worked on was the "No on Prop. 8" campaign here in California. I've gotten my kids fired up to see same-sex marriage as a civil right since the oldest one was 5: kids have a very strong sense of inherent unfairness and injustice. I have a huge number of gay friends and acquaintances and my kids know them. Our neighbors are gay, some of my kids' friends' parents are gay, and their two much-loved cousins are a couple that has been together for close to 40 years.

I try to show compassion for everyone and make it a goal to treat all people with decency and humanity, and I don't consider myself to be beyond learning. I think a gay teen of straight parents does need a few adult gay role models. And they can be found through the parents or by the teen himself, but I believe that the unconditional love and support of parents goes a long way.
Posted by nocutename on February 13, 2013 at 9:02 AM · Report this
nocutename 47
@Mr. Ven.
First of all, I need help with your abbreviations. You once explained LMB, so I've got that one, but YHB and POGT are mysteries. Additionally, you use OS in a way that mystifies me. I would think that OS meant "opposite sex," but here you say "I touched on "the" (Exclusively) straight Sex Talk but could have been much more severe about such a talk, even with a child who had already given ample sign of OS attraction, omitting at least the bisexual possibility as being a grave fault." Could OS mean "Other" Sex? But that still has the connotation of "different," or "opposite." SS could be "same sex," but also "straight sex." Oh dear: maybe abbreviations are hindering more than helping.

The reality is that most gay teens will have straight parents. These parents, no matter how enlightened and non-judgmental they may be in general, may get confused and tripped up when sexual issues arise in their kids's lives. It might not be unlike the way a parent who wants to be very sex positive stumbles, in a well-meaning way, into the category of TMI or "Here, dear, is a vibrator for you to use." It's a bumble, but one that comes from a well-meant impulse.

The issue of whether you set hard-and-fast rules about doors closed or try to control your 14-year-old's sexuality--gay or straight--is a giant, writhing can of worms. You can forbid sex, but teens who want to have sex will find a way to have sex. You can try to be pragmatic, and this might be interpreted as encouraging sexual behavior. You can try to examine why you really object to your 14-year-old having sex and come to the conclusion that if there is no pregnancy risk, and the chance of either very young teen being infected with an STI is incredibly low, it's probably not as big a deal, but you still don't want to be seen as condoning sex for 14-year-olds. Then you also have to think about the fact that you are enforcing a double standard: allowing more sexual freedom for your gay son than you would for your straight son or daughter. This in turn might be interpreted by said teen as your being so uncomfortable with his sexuality that you aren't willing to parent in the same way you would or do his straight siblings, or it might be interpreted as a signal that you don't ever want your teen to come out to you because you can't handle the reality of who he is. You can feel trapped between the knife and the wall.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's tricky. And apparently, from what I'm reading @25, even the most well-intentioned parents make mistakes which leave children traumatized for life. I like the way # 30's script goes, but in the moment, it's sometimes hard to stick to a script, and now I'm left worrying that if I say "I still love you," or "I love you anyway," in a moment of clumsiness or an attempt to reassure my kid that my love isn't conditional, I've suggested that there's something wrong with being gay.

I don't believe you're a parent, but parenting is often very hard work, and the stakes are pretty darn high. I think that those of us who came of age in a homophobic society, who THINK we have no issues with homosexuality (though, of course, you're right; we probably have some unexplored issues) are trying to do the best we can. We don't pat ourselves on the back, don't expect medals, but it's apparent that we're walking through minefields without detectors, and rather than offer support, we're getting told that simply by virtue of being straight ourselves, we can do no right.

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Posted by nocutename on February 13, 2013 at 8:14 AM · Report this
46
Probably better off leaving gay-son alone with his bud to do whatever they are doing together unless there are other signs that things are not going well, (hard drugs, emotional abuse, etc.). Dan does bring up a good point in that playing with a bud is one the few perks of gay closet teenage life, so I really don't see the harm in letting them experiment and figure things out on their own. Since the two boys are the same age, (and Gomer doesn't sound like a jerk), DUD is actually in a good situation. It would be a real, scary problem if gay-son was hooking up with adults on Craig's. The suggestions of working at centers, bringing up gay news issues, etc., are going to come across as being ham-fisted and clumsy no matter what. It sounds like gay-son is progressing along at a good pace anyway so he will probably make the jump before too long.
Posted by kylecheez on February 13, 2013 at 8:06 AM · Report this
45
Want to see non stereotype gay men without chiseled, tan bodies? Look on any dating site. Woof.
Posted by AbeFroman on February 13, 2013 at 7:55 AM · Report this
44
Ms Canada - I salute you. Give yourself credit, though; you seem well ahead of DUD. I cannot imagine your ever penning the Hurt Pride sentence.

I'm perfectly willing to grant that DUD is doing as well as he can. The danger to the kid lies in what happens if DUD is led to think that he's doing a good deal better than he is.
Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 7:41 AM · Report this
43
You forgot George Takei. Good-looking man, but not chiseled.
Posted by truthspeaker on February 13, 2013 at 7:33 AM · Report this
42
Ms Cute - I do not have a low bar to earn the title of Homophobic Bigot. I accept your objection - Those People is too much (equivalent: Fleur changing, "It's affected her beautifully," in Warrender Chase to, "It's affected her very well," and alas, I cannot even claim to have been reading too much Henry James).

Here is an inner monologue of the mindset I did not succeed in describing:

"My son is showing stereotypical signs of homosexuality. I want to be okay with that and have no problems with it. I want to have no problems with gay people, even though I feel that they are very Other from me. Luckily, I can't recognize any problem I may have with gay people. That must mean I don't have a problem. What a relief! If I knew I did, I'd feel honour bound to see to it that he got help from gay people who could give him something he needn't that I couldn't because of my hypothetical problem. But luckily, because I don't have a problem, I can handle all the gay issues myself rather than having to let him spend time with gay people who, whether they mean to or not, will make him feel more like People Like Them than the People Like Us like which I want him to feel."

Now this LW is already well ahead of that particular mindset - he is, after all, consulting a gay person for assistance. (I really ought to go to bed when it's well past time and not try to reply to people just because my idea is still fresh.) But recall, if you will, Fanny Price's assessment of Miss Crawford's soul - "darkened yet fancying itself light" if memory serves (not exactly thoroughly enlightened, but I'll not follow that path this time). That is the impression the LW gave me.

I'll accept this comparison as a little dramatic, but gay teens with straight parents make me think of the film version of Mary MacGregor. We are, to some extent, alone in the world, or at least the family. Our needs are great (not that a straight teen's aren't, but again, different conversation). What scares me about a potential outcome for straight parents of gay teens is very similar to the portion of the climactic confrontation that mentions Mary. Miss Brodie asserts that she was devoted to Mary, and I'm willing to accept that she thinks so. Sandy points out that she was only attracted to Mary (because Mary proved such an excellent blank canvas). How easy it was to send Mary off to Spain to fight for the wrong army - and how apt Sandy's thought that Miss Brodie always called Mary by both names because she had such a hard time remembering who she was. (I omit Sandy's listing of Miss Brodie's priorities being first that she had been betrayed and second who was to be her proxy in Teddy Lloyd's bed.)

For clarification, at least at this moment, in the matter of Otherness, seeing somewhat more than really exists strikes me as on the whole a little less dangerous than seeing somewhat less. The Assimilationists have won more of a victory than that for which we were prepared, and the dismantling of gay culture and community, although much to the rejoicing of Mr Savage's dear friend Mr Sullivan, is proceeding too quickly, without concern to leave a permanent infrastructure for the support and benefit of future generations.

My main point is that one LMB does not equal a cry of YHB! that I recognize might be attributed to someone disinclined to throw in a bit of soft soap to a POGT. Plenty of time for soft soap later. Had I wanted to cry YHB! I'd have come down hard on a couple of points:

I touched on "the" (Exclusively) straight Sex Talk but could have been much more severe about such a talk, even with a child who had already given ample sign of OS attraction, omitting at least the bisexual possibility as being a grave fault. I chose not to ride this one because it struck me as being probably comparable to people not observing posted speed limits - too ubiquitous, and people skate far too great a majority of the time, for serious firepower.

I also chose not to comment about their being no evidence of an already existing gay influence in the boy's life. For one thing, it would seem a bit much if one were to have to befriend a representative of every group whose causes one happened to support. For another, I can acknowledge that on this one we have no clear consensus on any way a straight LW can win. Exactly what is the "correct" thing to say about the presence of gay people in one's straight life? It's similar to what I was saying to Ms Crinoline about LWs acknowledging their own faults in a relationship; whatever they say, they're likely to be second-guessed.

The only thing about which I particular care is that the boy turn out a happy, healthy, reasonably adjusted (presumably same-sex-oriented) adult, prefereably one without a lot of problematic internalized attitudes that might be traced back to formative influence from a source that thought itself more enlightened than it was. If that happens, I can even live with the LW getting a good deal more credit for it than he deserves, however much that might actually be. I actually give him a good deal of credit already, but choose to emphasize the flip side in part because the time for sympathy is later and in part because I was quite sure that there would be a flood of comments reassuring him that he's 100% on the right track. I am also willing to appear not to be watching him eagle-eyed for any error or failing, such watchfulness being counterproductive.
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Posted by vennominon on February 13, 2013 at 7:29 AM · Report this
41
What if this was a heterosexual 14 yr old boy? Would people be ok with them being in the bedrooom with the door closed, possibly having sex? Just tell him, there are house rules, no closed bedroom doors. When the son asks why, you tell him, you are gay, no boyfriends in your room with your door closed. If he says, I'm not gay, you say, oh I assumed because of the porn. If he gets insulted, you say, why are you insulted, there is nothing wrong with being gay. So what, they will sneak and do it elsewhere. That's usually what teens who are sexually active do. No special treatment. And of course have a few same sex, safe sex brochures on hand
Posted by alwaysright on February 13, 2013 at 7:05 AM · Report this
40
@23 Thank you for what you wrote. I couldn't have expressed it better myself. I'm a straight woman who has a three-year-old son with my bisexual, genderqueer husband. I will always love and support my son without condition, just as I do my husband. And no, I don't deserve a medal for this, either. I call it being a decent person.

If I weren't sure about how to support my husband and/or son when it came to sexual orientation and/or gender identity, I'd try seeking Dan's advice as DUD did. I think DUD is doing the best he can by his son and am glad he wrote to Dan on such an important topic.
Posted by canada girl on February 13, 2013 at 6:57 AM · Report this
smajor82 39
Great response to NAA.
Posted by smajor82 on February 13, 2013 at 6:53 AM · Report this
38
In Love Actually the father asks his son, "Aren't you too young to be in love?" and the son answers, "No."

Is there anybody on here who looks back on his first time and says, "I was chronologically too young"?

I think a parent's job is help his baby bird learn to fly and safely leave the nest, not confine him to the nest. If the bird can fly, it should fly. It's ridiculous to say to your son, "You're too young to jerk off. Don't touch your willie until you are 18." Or 21? Or 30? Or 65?

The son needs lots of good information about not getting an STD and lots of loving information about treating people in a loving way, not using them.
Posted by Killdeer on February 13, 2013 at 6:20 AM · Report this
37
In Love Actually the father asks his son, "Aren't you too young to be in love?" and the son answers, "No."

Is there anybody on here who looks back on his first time and says, "I was chronologically too young"?

I think a parent's job is help his baby bird learn to fly and safely leave the nest, not confine him to the nest. If the bird can fly, it should fly. It's ridiculous to say to your son, "You're too young to jerk off. Don't touch your willie until you are 18." Or 21? Or 30? Or 65?

The son needs lots of good information about not getting an STD and lots of loving information about treating people in a loving way, not using them.
Posted by Killdeer on February 13, 2013 at 6:10 AM · Report this
TVDinner 36
@9: That is a terrific resource. Thank you so much for sharing it. I've been wondering how to handle this when my kid is older, and it's a godsend to find a program that matches my values. Phew!
Posted by TVDinner http:// on February 13, 2013 at 6:08 AM · Report this
MythicFox 35
I'd probably advise DUD to make sure to have a fuller STI talk with his son, maybe emphasizing that there are studies talking about how STIs tend to migrate in high schools a lot more than among 20s-and-up adults.* And then maybe segueing the conversation from there to "and this applies to gay or straight kids, whatever you wind up being into." and seeing where the conversation goes from there.

But after that, as people have pointed out, Gomer is not likely to knock up DUD's son. And as has been pointed out, forbidding him from spending time alone with Gomer at home simply means they're going to go somewhere else and risk getting in trouble. I say at that point, if he's going to experiment, just suggest he keep the noise down and pretend to not notice -- same as if he was masturbating in his room.

*-- For those who haven't heard, it's been found that once you're older than college age, you tend to stick to certain social circles for partners. Whereas in high school, the sexual relationships are like chains -- Abe is dating Barbara who's dating Chris who's dating Dana... etc and a disease that Zeke has might wind up passing all the way down to Abe.
Posted by MythicFox on February 13, 2013 at 4:33 AM · Report this
34
Oh, and of course provide them with access to condoms and drive them to any doctor they feel like visiting.
Posted by smoakes on February 13, 2013 at 2:18 AM · Report this
33
@32 I tend to agree. Parents do not own their offspring's genitals. Give them info, keep them safe from predators, but after a certain age you've got to MYOB about what they do alone or with their peers.
Posted by smoakes on February 13, 2013 at 2:17 AM · Report this
32
I think it's worth asking, that if it's NOT okay to tell a teenager you think he might be gay, why is it okay to tell him not to have gay sex in his room?

Do you see what I mean? It's like, "I'd like to allow my kid a little privacy around his sex life, so I'm not going to force him to tell me what gender he prefers, but I'd really like to forbid him from sex with that gender so I need to ask what it is."

I know lots and lots of parents "forbid" their kids from having sex, so mine might be a fringe opinion. I just generally think grown ups should butt out a little more.
Posted by SarahTheUnstoppable on February 13, 2013 at 12:41 AM · Report this
31
Wait, what is this about straight teenagers sexually experimenting with each other? Circle jerks are what gay frat boys do.

As for the first letter, dad should mandate that the door to the bedroom stay open, and if he wants to make that rule without confronting his son's sexuality, he can start by saying it's just to help his son not be tempted to do anything he's not supposed to do, and if his son calls him on what that might be, the dad can go with using drugs.
Posted by raehl311 on February 13, 2013 at 12:39 AM · Report this
30
I skipped a whole bunch of the comments so this may be repeat advice, but DUD--as a lesbian whose mom once tried to do the "compassionate premature outing" thing when I was thirteen and sent me scuttling in tears to the very back of the closet in fear, here is my advice:

Address the porn.

Not whether it's gay, not whether it's straight. Not whether it's moral, not whether it's kinky or vanilla or stereotypical or WHAT-THE-FUCK-EVER. Just the fact that there is porn, and it is on his computer:

"Hey, bud, I want to borrow your ear for five minutes. I've noticed some adult sites on your laptop. [Give him a second here to offer up whatever protest it is he wants to give you, from "I clicked it by accident" to "I didn't know it was porn".] Okay, that's fine--I just want to make sure you know free adult sites have a tendency to come with a metric asston of viruses attached, so if you do decide you want to browse--I'd rather have you looking at porn than having sex--make sure your firewall is turned on and don't bypass it just because something looks tempting, okay? There's more than enough out there and it's not worth risking your computer. [Give him time to agree.] One more thing. I want you to read this. It's by a columnist who actually gives pretty damn good advice." Then give him a printout of Dan's column on getting your twenty-year-old self laid. It'll embarrass the hell out of him (especially the part about masturbation), but it'll embarrass--and mortify--him far less than actually hearing this stuff from YOU. You sound like a good dad, DUD, but the last thing teenagers want is to hear their parents talking to them about how to have sex. I should know--my mom tried to take the open-and-honest approach and I was a terrified prude until I left her house.

That's it. Address the porn. Especially if he's been visiting sites where the address makes it blatantly obvious what's there. And do so NATURALLY. Don't "avoid" mentioning that it's gay porn--just don't mention it because in the context of what you're saying, it doesn't matter. Your kid is exploring. Let him explore and tell him to do it safely. If you let him see that it's not such of a much--that your first priority is his health and safety--he will be more willing to come out, especially because you've already made it not a big deal between you. (Feel free to freak out to a friend who can keep his or her mouth shut WELL OUT OF THE HEARING RANGE of your son, though--my mom did when I finally came out. It was the "out of my hearing range" part she failed at. The telephone does not count. Get out of the house, AWAY from the kid and talk there. You needing to adjust does not make you a bad ally or a bad dad. You having a big sad in front of your son would not be a gold star, however.)

And if he goes "uh, dad . . . about that . . . . " when you give him the two-minutes-or-less porn chat, be ready to NOT GIVE ADVICE, and say the following: "Yeah, I gathered. I love you." Nothing about "I still love you" or "I love you anyway." Don't make it out to be an "in spite of that fault . . . " thing. Just LOVE HIM.

Don't overwhelm him with PFLAG information. Don't offer to call the school and demand a GSA. Let HIM tell YOU what he needs. He will know best. Then make sure you follow through--that your door is always open.
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Posted by Ninalyn on February 13, 2013 at 12:27 AM · Report this
29
@28: You're right, of course. My long-ass comment (like this one, sorry) isn't meant to be read as a definitive smackdown of my parents, who were and are in lots of ways really great parents (just as Al's dad is in lots of ways a really great dad). Yes, they were scared ("fucking terrified" is probably a pretty good way of putting it), as I'm sure all parents get scared sometimes. I can't and don't blame them for that.

But, look, with that experience, which may have been an innocent misstep on the part of my parents but which nonetheless *was* a really bad experience for me, under my belt, I am who I am. So now if a well-meaning-parent with a maybe-gay kid and a possibly-legitimate-concern asks me for advice, I'll maintain that if that parent really wants to help that kid, the parent needs to get his/her own "fucking terror" of what may happen to the kid under control *before* talking to the kid!

It's about your kid, not your fear, and your kid doesn't need you to add your fears to his/her problems. Do you want your kid to have to conquer *your* fears as well as his/her own? Your kid's problems are not only big enough as it is -- they're also a lot more tangible than your fears, and some of them, being tangible, may actually have solutions.

Showing your maybe-gay kids, by example, that there's nothing to be afraid of, and that even the things which *are* potentially scary can be defeated/avoided, is one of the best things you can do for them. Showing them, by example, that the world is full of incomprehensible and terrifying horrors which you can't help with because you're paralyzed with fear? Not so much.

Or another way of saying that is: Come on parents, if you want your gay kid to rise above all the scary stuff that comes with being gay (which you do, right?), you've gotta be able to do it too. Which you can, right?
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Posted by mouseandclown on February 13, 2013 at 12:08 AM · Report this
28
@25: I don't know your parents, and forgive me for making assumptions, but I think you could cut them some slack for telling you to be careful, especially given the number of gay men who were dying in the eighties. You say that being very careful was just part of being a gay kid, but a lot of gay kids, just like straight kids, aren't careful. Kids usually aren't. Again I'm probably projecting and making assumptions, but given the stakes (seroconversion)and the homophobic culture they were likely raised in, it sounds like your parents did the best they could. I guess what I'm trying to say in my overly long message is that your parents weren't trying to be insensitive, they were trying to be supportive, and all the time they were probably fucking terrified for you.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on February 12, 2013 at 11:30 PM · Report this
27
Stupid !@#%^& keyboard!! And there's nothing spilled on it, either!

re: @26: I meant: "....I'm not a parent, but I couldn't...."
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 12, 2013 at 11:18 PM · Report this
26
Great column, Dan, again!

@23 nocutename: Well said! I'm not a parent, bit I couldn't have expressed my feelings any better than yours regarding DUD's letter to Dan, and @21's response.
Posted by auntie grizelda on February 12, 2013 at 11:15 PM · Report this
25
Sorry, this comment is long.

I have a lot of friends who are parents, and who come to me (their gay friend) with variations on "I think my teenage son is gay, but I'm not sure, he hasn't said anything to me, but I'd be totally okay with it if he was gay, and I think he knows that, but I'm *only concerned* because [dot dot dot]."

Here is what I tell them:

When I was 17, my parents told me "we know you're gay," and also "we know you're in a relationship with Fred" (not his real name), and also "we want you to be careful".

I am now 42, and I haven't gotten over it. I mean, on the one hand, it was a relief, because they didn't blow up or throw me out of the house. But on the other hand, I had spent *years* trying to have them NOT know I was gay, and furthermore they were wrong, I *wasn't* in a relationship with Fred, I was madly in love with Fred and it wasn't working out and I felt horrible, and I *was* being careful, really fucking careful, all the fucking time, because I had to be fucking careful all the time because that's what being a gay kid IS, and I really needed my parents to tell me not "be careful" but to just be me and it would be okay and they would love me and they'd have my back, and what's more, somebody else, not Fred, but forget Fred, somebody else would love me, someday, and it would be awesome, and my parents would be there for me enjoying my happiness and joy, not just my "carefulness."

But no, they just wanted to make sure I didn't do anything "stupid" or "dangerous". Which, basically, I internalized as "we think it's risky that you're gay." Maybe they imagined they would have behaved exactly the same way if I were spending a lot of time with a girl -- but I had no way of knowing that. And I feel confident that if I had been in a relationship with a girl, I could have counted on them to act like it sort of mattered, not just because of whatever fluids might have been being exchanged.

My point is, don't come crashing into your son's most intimate personal life with your "knowledge" and your "concern" blazing. You *don't* know what he's going through, and your chances of being 100% correct are much smaller than your chances of getting something important wrong.

His sex life, if he has one, may well be your "business", you being his dad, but it's still his *life*. And he needs to know that you care about him, and love him, and support him, but also that you want him to have a full and complete life, which means a life not always under the watchful eye of Dad. (I mean, what if he and Gomer are just making out? Is that okay with you? If not, why not? Are you sure you know how you feel about this? Do you think you can communicate your feelings which you admit "require a bit of mental adjustment" to him in a way that doesn't make him feel like "Dad doesn't approve of the fact that I have a boyfriend... which is sort of the same thing as him not approving of me being gay...")

Contrary to popular belief, there are other things going on in teenage boys' lives besides hormones and erections. They also have emotions and (in the case of gay boys) unbelievably difficult emotional challenges coming at them every day. PARENTS ARE ONE OF THOSE CHALLENGES. Your son doesn't know what will happen if you find out he's gay. Will you beat him up? Will you ridicule or belittle him? Will you prevent him from ever being alone with his boyfriend again? You may think it's obvious that the answer to all those questions is no, but you're wrong. Believe me, gay kids have a strong survival instinct, and they know they've got to be ready for *anything*, and you are one of the most powerful corners out of which *anything* could come.

Before you even remotely approach the question of him being gay, let him know that you are the kind of person, and the kind of dad, who would *never* do any of those things.

(How, you ask? Well, talk to him about some other kid who you heard was gay, and how great you think that is, and how you really admire that kid for his bravery, and how well you think that kid's parents are doing at supporting him, and how you see them as a model for how you'd like to behave if you were ever in that situation... and yeah, let your son think that maybe you're talking about him but let your son be the one to make the decision that he wants to turn the conversation that way.)

I know a dad who has a teenage son, named Al (not), who "might be gay". But Al and his dad haven't talked about it. And Al's dad tells me he's okay with the idea of Al being gay. But when Al bought his teenage friend Jim (not) a $30 ring for Valentine's Day, Al's dad told Al "$30 is too expensive."

Study questions: How's that make Al feel, you think? Do you think Al hears that as a remark about economics? What might Al conclude his dad thinks about Al's might-be-gay-ness?

You have incredible power over this kid's life. He NEEDS you to show him you're going to use that power to make his life as a gay kid better, not worse. He needs to see you DO that. Now. Because otherwise he's going to think your "concerns" are just euphemisms for "I accept your homosexuality, as long as it doesn't actually occur."

So do it. Make his life as a gay kid better. Now. Tell him what you would do if someone harassed a gay kid at his school. Tell him what you think of homophobic assholes in the media. Tell him you're glad being gay is easier now than it used to be and you're looking forward to it getting even easier. Don't tell him you "have gay friends" -- invite your gay friends over for dinner.

You can do this. It's what you want to do. It's what you would want to do even if your kid turned out to be actually *not* gay. So do it.

*Then* you can talk about your concerns. If you still have them.
More...
Posted by mouseandclown on February 12, 2013 at 11:11 PM · Report this
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What's the read on Gomer's parents? Are they as open minded as DUD? Will all hell break loose if they find out the boys have been snogging under DUD's roof?
Posted by Dunnwood on February 12, 2013 at 10:55 PM · Report this
nocutename 23
@21: I am a straight parent. I don't have a problem, big or small, with gay people. But I don't think I deserve a medal for it. I don't see this father as self-congratulatory, either. And as far as your thinking that the letter writer, or any other straight parent of a gay child thinks he "can go it alone and not have to involve Those People," well, I don't quite know what to say. There's literally nothing in the letter to suggest that this dad isn't willing to learn from gay people. You have hinted at a truly terrible experience with parents who forced you to try to change who you are. That's wrong, and I feel very badly for you. But not all straight parents are your parents. You seem unwilling to accept that not all straights are homophobic bigots. Whereas I believe that not all men are misogynists.
Posted by nocutename on February 12, 2013 at 10:54 PM · Report this
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Wait, what is this about straight teenagers sexually experimenting with each other? Circle jerks are what gay frat boys do.

As for the first letter, dad should mandate that the door to the bedroom stay open, and if he wants to make that rule without confronting his son's sexuality, he can start by saying it's just to help his son not be tempted to do anything he's not supposed to do, and if his son calls him on what that might be, the dad can go with using drugs.
Posted by raehl311 on February 12, 2013 at 10:27 PM · Report this
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Ms Cute - I'll acknowledge that he's a vast improvement over my own parents. But excessive hand-wringing does less harm than premature or unjustified self-congratulation, which could lead the LW into becoming another Miss Brodie.

I suppose the degree of fault to be assigned to anyone who gives a Sex Talk that doesn't include at least bisexuality as a possibility is one of those topics for quasi-theological discussion in this set, a sort of sideways equivalent of angels dancing on pinheads.

My only real interest in what this LW should actually do concerns whether he provides the boy with access to resources from his own kind. It's the parents who think they can go it alone and not have to involve Those People who do far more damage. And at least this LW did have the good judgment to consult Mr Savage.

As for his having a (big) problem with gay people? Big whoop. Find me a straight parent who doesn't. Okay, there are some, but even wanting a medal for it is a sort of disqualifier.

That Hurt Pride sentence comes off as increasingly desperate with every reading. Talk about building straw men at which to grasp...

In conclusion, though, I suspect that you would get me to LIKE a straight person who thought hurt pride a reasonable and appropriate response to the suggestion of homosexuality about as often as I would get you to like somebody who sincerely believed that women never used more than half their understanding. Fortunately, I don't have to like the LW. I wish him well for his son's sake. If he makes substantial progress in dealing with his own issues, I am open to changing my mind.
Posted by vennominon on February 12, 2013 at 9:50 PM · Report this
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By disaster, I mean that if my straight male friends had found out that I couldn't hang out with them at their places, and found out why... that would have been very, very bad for me as a teenager. Most of them would have been fine with it, but one loose tongue and the whole school would have known-- and there were plenty of bullies at my school. I would have had to change schools. No joke!
Posted by HC on February 12, 2013 at 9:50 PM · Report this
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I have a possible suggestion that I'd like to run by the Savage Love commentariat to see whether it might be a good idea:

DUD might consider taking on some volunteer work through a local LGBT group/center/etc., pushing for equality, and tell his quite-possibly-gay son that equality is something he values strongly. Yes, the archetypal "PFLAG parent" can be a bit of an embarrassment to the archetypal queer teen -- but it's a embarrassment that combines the obligatory teen attitude towards parents with an undercurrent of genuine pride and acceptance. Getting involved with a pro-LGBT campaign would be an education that DUD may need if he wants to keep on being a better-than-most parent, a sign to the gay son he might have that it's OK to come out, and an indication to the straight son he might have that homophobia is not OK, etc. It's a win for all parties involved.
Posted by MGroesbeck on February 12, 2013 at 9:50 PM · Report this
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When I was growing up, I knew I was gay, but just wasn't able to handle it yet. All of my friends in high school were straight-- I didn't even know any other gay kids in my school! (Turned out there were several, but everyone was closeted). I'd hang out with my straight male friends without much supervision all the time. I can't imagine how mortified I would have been if my parents had figured out that I'm gay and told me that I couldn't hang out with my friends without supervision! Man, that would have been an utter disaster for me (and high school was rough enough as it was)
Posted by HC on February 12, 2013 at 9:46 PM · Report this
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vennominon, the father acknowledges his personal discomfort with homosexuality, but wants to help and support his son, and expresses a desire for a fair and just world. Cut him a break.

DUD, I think your son is gay. I don't know if he's having sex with Gomer. If he is, he is unlikely to stop. But Gomer is "a nice kid" and about the same age as your son. As Dan points out, neither will get the other pregnant. If they are only messing around with each other, they won't catch anything, either.

Rather than trying to prevent your son from having sex, I think you should focus on keeping your son healthy -- both physically and emotionally. He should know about STIs. (I recall Dan saying that "straights worry about birth control, gays worry about death control." You should keep him away from creepy or manipulative older men. I'm not sure you have to keep him away from Gomer.

And I don't know if you have to tell him that you know he is gay. He may not have come out to himself, yet. I think it would be pretty weird to learn that from your father. [Although I do know a gay man who sort of learned that from his mother, and he survived that. :) ] My advice is to make sure he really knows about safe sex, and to make sure he knows that you are there for him. And good luck.
Posted by mother of two on February 12, 2013 at 9:42 PM · Report this
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Another angle to consider: When I was a teenage faggot, me and my best friend used to hang out in my bedroom with the door closed. We weren't fucking (he was straight) we were getting gloriously high and destroying our eardrums with the sort of loud, terrible music that only teenagers and idiots love.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on February 12, 2013 at 9:26 PM · Report this
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@12 - Oh, it's possible. I'm inclined to give him half a point for the instances you cite. After all, I just said that his blunder made me doubt that part of the particular sentence in question. I could have said a good deal more about, "I have no problem with gay people," and am quite prepared to believe that he wrote that phrase in all sincerity, but that's often the problem. And I'm far more concerned, really, with his claim that he would support his son fully, which I think the gaffe definitely disqualifies without a good deal of work.

Obviously, "supporting full equality" is such a vague phrase and can entail so little actual action that on one level one almost can't argue with it. I can think of several things I "support" where the practical extent of that support just amounts to voicing a favourable opinion when the subject comes up in conversation. I may be doubting the "full" by suspecting that his concept of full equality is flawed enough that what he's actually supporting and what he thinks he's supporting aren't the same thing.

I do take your point that on many important causes we must all acknowledge and own our faults as we strive for progress. But I'd suggest that the people who do that really well tend not to call something "PROBABLY an unfair stereotype". (That word just hit me.)
Posted by vennominon on February 12, 2013 at 9:11 PM · Report this
nocutename 14
@Mr. Vennominon: I see your point, but I think we should cut this dad a bit of slack here. He seems to genuinely want to support his son, regardless of said son's sexual orientation, doesn't want to be seen as giving the green light to the son's having sex as a 14-year-old, and doesn't want to risk alienating the son. Maybe the kid assumes that his father already knows he's gay, but maybe he thinks he's hiding it and he isn't ready to come out yet.

This is a forced outing, and the only reason it would happen is all wrapped up with his father's distrust of what's going on in that bedroom. Maybe the son is gay but Gomer is straight, and nothing sexual is happening. Maybe the son is gay and Gomer is straight, and sexual things are happening. As others are pointing out, two straight boys could still be experimenting sexually, and it's likely that they're covered, excused from scrutiny or suspicion of sex by their presumed straightness. And of course, maybe Gomer and the son are both gay. Even if that is the case, they could be rather cold-bloodedly experimenting with sex, or they could be in the throes of 14-year-old Romance, and someone is probably going to wind up with a broken heart.

I think the father needs to examine his own responses to a variety of scenarios, and then address them. He should address the issue that his son is most probably gay completely independently of whether or not the son's having sex. He can start by bringing up the browser history ("hey, buddy, I saw you've been looking at a lot of gay porn and I want you to know that I still love you exactly the same whether you're gay or straight. But I want to know you and who you are"). This should lead gently into the Sex Talk for Gay Kids. I imagine that were I to be the straight single father of a gay boy the talk would focus most on self-protection, both physical and emotional.

Then, in a different conversation (perhaps separated by a few days, perhaps by a few weeks), he can bring up how he feels about Gomer's being alone with the son in the bedroom with the door closed and set some ground rules for having friends over that he (the dad) feels comfortable with. If the son protests that nothing's happening, or that Gomer's straight, the dad can just say that these are the rules.

But in any case, I'd advise some tolerance for the dad: he's in what for him are uncharted waters and he's scared of doing the wrong thing. I don't get the sense that he's a homophobe, just not very experienced in dealing with issues pertaining to his kid's sexuality--no matter what that sexuality is, and needs a little guidance.
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Posted by nocutename on February 12, 2013 at 8:47 PM · Report this
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@11 - So did I; I just didn't recall Mr G. Pyle as being the sort of character one would wish a loved one to emulate, although, if memory serves, Mr Nabors himself possessed quite a good singing voice at one time.
Posted by vennominon on February 12, 2013 at 8:44 PM · Report this
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@10, Dad acknowledges his internalized stereotype ("gay = effeminate"), and that his son being gay would require substantial adjusting to. Isn't it possible that he can have a bit of internalized prejudice AND support full equality?

I'm guessing that lots of progressive folks - myself included - might harbor conscious and unconscious prejudices and stereotypes of one sort or another. We can recognize these as flaws that require work -- and while we work on them they needn't get in the way of desiring and working for fair treatment for all.
Posted by NC Reader on February 12, 2013 at 8:37 PM · Report this
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@10, I assumed the 'Gomer' was in honor of Jim Nabors' recent wedding to his male partner of many years.
Posted by clashfan on February 12, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Report this
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As for the first letter, I can give the LW the benefit of the doubt about his selection of the moniker "Gomer".

Moving on: [I've had the (straight) sex talk with my son, and he knows that I don't want him to be sexually active yet.]

The LW omits "with girls" from the end of the sentence. Possibly telling.

But now, I ask everyone who would like to BE an ally and mot just be considered one, to take this seriously:

[And if he's not gay, I worry I could seriously damage our relationship and hurt his pride by suggesting he is.]

The LW sees nothing wrong with having given "the" straight sex talk to a child who'd showed no signs of heterosexuality and has not worried at all now that he thinks it likely he gave the "wrong" (or at least an incomplete) talk about having damaged the relationship but thinks that a reasonable and likely response to an erroneous suggestion would be hurt PRIDE? Even if we decline to make the case that straight males whose pride would be hurt by a suggestion of their being gay are probably the ones most in need of just that experience, this is big enough to make me doubt the LW's claim to "support full equality" for SS couples and I think rules out the possibility that he could "support him fully" that concludes the first paragraph. L.M.B. Probably not an LMB delivered in the tone in which, in The Mirror Crack'd, Kim Novak belts out the line, "S**** Scotland Yard!!!" at the end of Lola Brewster's interview with Dermot Craddock, but still a serious LMB.
Posted by vennominon on February 12, 2013 at 8:07 PM · Report this
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For DUD, if he can find an Our Whole Lives sex ed program in his area, it is comprehensive and inclusive. It provides accurate sex ed for straight and gay kids, as well as trans kids. It is created by the UCC and UUA, but the program is primarily secular. It can be taught in either a religious or non religious setting, and the curriculum is the same.
Posted by SeattleKim on February 12, 2013 at 7:56 PM · Report this
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The answer to the second letter was all right as far as it went, but omitted that gay men do not have the counterbalancing message that every schlub deserves a supermodel.
Posted by vennominon on February 12, 2013 at 7:35 PM · Report this
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Dan, I remember reading something you wrote to the parents of a just out teen...something about teenage boys being teenage boys, and that fact doubling the amount of testosterone in a relationship. Perhaps when dad gets over this step, he should read that.
Posted by kataan on February 12, 2013 at 7:08 PM · Report this
lolorhone 6
I commend the father for knowing the limits of his knowledge and actively searching for answers he doesn't have. It's a minefield- physically, emotionally, or both- being an adolescent, especially a queer one. The LW's boy is lucky to have a father determined not to be damaging to him.
P.S. The gay porn thing, while not a slam-dunk in the queer-kid sweepstakes, does make for a particularly strong case. Just stay away from the accusatory "Are you?" and try the more disarming "I know". Regardless, you have to update the sex talk, no way around it. "Wear a condom or your dick might fall off" is pretty much universally true. Good luck.
Posted by lolorhone on February 12, 2013 at 7:06 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 5
@3- Good thoughts, but.... gay teens get emotionally involved with said circle jerks, unlike straight boys. So the thing that's no big deal to a straight kid can be a minefield for a gay kid. Let's just hope that son and Gomer have a good understanding between them.
Best to keep dad in the loop, if at all possible. No easy trick unless the kid's already out to himself. Good advice.
Posted by OutInBumF on February 12, 2013 at 6:28 PM · Report this
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If he wants to make sure that he can have a sex talk with his son that has a lot of the gay sex areas covered, but without trying to out his son before he's ready, he could just frame them in straight contexts. The good practices that apply to anal sex with a man are the same as with a woman, etc. Or he could just make it as gender neutral as possible, and only use the word "partner," and try to leave "he" and "she" out of it as much as possible.
Posted by donaisabelle on February 12, 2013 at 6:21 PM · Report this
3
Just to be a little bit contrarian about the first letter, adolescent boys have been having circle jerks and similar adolescent sex play with their friends pretty much as long as there have been adolescent boys. Somehow it doesn't seem fair to say that it's okay and normal for boys we think will grow up to live straight lives to do this, but that it's not okay when we think a boy will grow up to lead a gay life instead.
Posted by Sancho on February 12, 2013 at 6:19 PM · Report this
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Meanwhile, Harvey Fierstein's like "Heeeey...wait a minute."

p.s. I love that the dad is so on it and sensitive and just ready for whatever. obv. now's not perfect but seems a lot better than that kid and dad circa 1963 or whatever.

viva you, dan!

jill
http://www.inbedwithmarriedwomen.com
Posted by inbed http://inbedwithmarriedwomen.blogspot.com on February 12, 2013 at 6:08 PM · Report this
1
First?
Posted by ppaatt on February 12, 2013 at 6:04 PM · Report this

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