I am a liberal parent. I raised a daughter who is bi and poly. I always thought that I could accept anything that parenthood might throw at me. I knew that I could embrace my son if he were straight, gay, bi, trans, etc. If there is a controlling consciousness of the universe, it has a nasty sense of humor. Putting it bluntly: My son is sexually attracted to Pokémon. He dropped hints that I didn't really pick up on. But over the last few years, I have stumbled across evidence of his browsing habits that left me pretty clear about his proclivities. He is now 17, so thoughts that he would "grow out of it" are fading. My biggest fear is that he won't find someone to pair with. I love my children and want them to be happy. Should I address this with him? Try to discourage an orientation that, to me, seems kind of pathetic?
Dad Of Pokémon Enthusiast
"It's possible that DOPE's son is just a curious kid who finds unusual sex fascinating, with his browsing habits no more revealing than discarded tickets to a carnival act," says Jesse Bering, PhD, the author of Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us. Bering is a research psychologist and science writer who regularly contributes to Slate, Scientific American, and other publications. "But if it's true that Pokémon lights this boy's fire in the ways DOPE imagines, there's not much DOPE can do about his son's 'pathetic' orientation. By age 17, his son's singular erotic profile is pretty much fixed, like it or not."
What might cause a young man to take a sexual interest in Pokémon?
"Scientists can't exactly do controlled laboratory experiments on humans to determine the cause of a given kink," says Bering. "So nobody knows why some people are more prone to developing unusual patterns of attraction than others. But whether it's a penchant for Pokémon, feet, underwear, or spiders, the best available evidence suggests that some people—mostly males—have a genetic predisposition for being 'sexually imprinted' during development."
It's like this, DOPE: Some kids are going to sexually imprint on random shit, kids are exposed to random shit all the time, there's no way of predicting which kids will imprint on what shit, so there's no way to prevent Pokémon fetishists or foot fetishists or sneeze fetishists or clown fetishists from happening. A small number of our fellow human beings, your son included, will have kinks that strike others—folks who don't share their kinks, folks who don't have any kinks of their own—as pathetic, twisted, sick, or silly.
And since being shamed by his dad or mom (see below) won't save a kid from his "pathetic" orientation, shaming your son is a waste of time that will serve only to damage your relationship with him. As for your fears that your son will wind up alone...
"Although DOPE might prefer a regular old queer child instead of a rare plushophile—someone with an attraction to cartoonlike stuffed animals, such as Pokémon—the good news is that his son grew up in a world where, somewhere out there, other people were being erotically molded by animated Japanese chimeras in exactly the same way," says Bering. "Reaching out to that community online can only empower him and help him to accept a now unalterable—and completely harmless—part of his nature. In many ways, life can be easier for DOPE's son: He's got a ready-made sexual niche, complete with hookup opportunities at annual conventions."
Follow Jesse Bering on Twitter @JesseBering.
I am a het husband. Before we married, I let my wife know that I loved spanking women and I was not a faithful man. Fast-forward 20 years: She does not like to be spanked and does not want me cheating, despite my earlier proclamation. So I watch spanking porn and remain faithful. Am I cheating on my wife with porn? Was I not specific enough when we got married?
Wannabe Intensely Spanking Husband
You are not cheating on your wife when you watch porn—spanking or otherwise. And I don't think getting together with other women for spanking-only playdates would constitute cheating. Sadly for you, WISH, I'm not your wife.
When I was a teenager, my mother found some dirty stories I wrote on my computer. They were hardcore (bondage, slavery, whippings), and some featured neighborhood MILFs that I had crushes on. I was 14 at the time. My mom went ballistic and terrorized me about my kinks until I left for college. I hated my mother so much during this time. I didn't feel like I could trust her, and I never confided in her about anything. It took me a decade to get over it. I'm now 30, straight, and married. My wife and I appear to be "normal." But we are both into bondage and S&M, we go to fetish parties, and we've explored cuckolding and forced bi. My wife and I aren't a perfect fit—I enjoyed cuckolding (my fantasy) but not so much forced bi (seeing me suck dick was her fantasy)—but our kinks have brought us a lot of joy. Cutting to the chase: My wife is pregnant. We announced the news to my mom and dad, and they were delighted. I was honestly delighted to make my parents so happy. Then my mother sent me an e-mail saying that I had her to thank for my relationship and my child-to-be. If she hadn't "nipped those dark sexual impulses in the bud," I would "not now have a lovely wife and a morally acceptable lifestyle," and she wouldn't be expecting her first grandchild. Mom thinks her five-year-long campaign of shaming me—and constantly spying on me and haranguing me—cured me of my kinks! I'm so angry. I want to tell my mother that she has my "dark sexual impulses" to thank for her first grandchild! I met my kinky wife on Fetlife! No kinks, no wife! No wife, no grandchild! My wife would rather not be outed as kinky to her mother-in-law and says to let it go. What do you say?
Mad Over Terribly Hurtful E-mail Received
I agree with your wife: Let it go. Ignore your mother's hurtful e-mail—just don't respond—and focus on your wife and the child you two are having together. The last thing you need is your mother getting in your wife's face about her kinks or running to fetus protective services because she believes kinky parents are a danger to their children.
Just in case your mother brings it up again—if she presses you for an undeserved thank-you-for-terrorizing-me note—write an e-mail to your mother, one that your wife sees in advance and approves. Something along the lines of: "My adolescent sexual fantasies were none of your business, and your inability to respect my privacy and sexual autonomy caused me great personal distress at the time. Your actions did not help me. They damaged our relationship. My adult sex life is none of your business, and I am not going to answer any invasive or inappropriate questions. All you need to know is this: My wife and I very happy together—both emotionally and sexually compatible—and if you want to be fully involved in the life of your grandchild, you will never bring this subject up again."
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