Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas
My 15-year-old son watches porn on the internet all the time (I know because I've looked at the browsing history on his computer).
My friends tell me that this is normal now for teenagers in the internet age, but I find it deeply disturbing that he is exposed to films and images that give him such a distorted view of women and sexual relationships. I've raised it with him and done my best to explain that real life and real women aren't like that, but I doubt it has any effect. Am I right to worry? What can I do? Yours sincerely, Laurie
Virginia says... Isn't this really blokes' territory, rather than yours? Surely there's some dad who, if not on the scene, is at least contactable. Or an uncle? Or someone? Your son's at an age when, because he feels the pull towards women so strongly, he has to push his mother away when it comes to things even as harmless as hugs, lest his feelings stray into taboo areas. It happens to all mothers and son at this age. The last thing he wants is you banging on about sex and how it's a beautiful thing between a man and a woman and that women shouldn't be demeaned, blah blah. If all that came from a man, perhaps, but a woman, of course not. Certainly not his mum.
So stop talking about it. You've said your piece. If you can't get his father to sort it out then remember, it's your house and you decide what pieces of equipment are inside it. If you don't want him to use the computer, then stop him. Or install a parental control on it and say that it's going to stay there until he reaches 16.
But it's difficult to know from your letter exactly what's going on. What do you mean by "all the time"? Is he addicted to it? If so, he has got a problem and it could be that telling him he can only look at his computer at weekends, say, might help. Is his addiction harming his schoolwork? You could always threaten to discuss it with his teacher (I'm sure that's the last thing he'd want). Or you could insist he always uses the computer in the kitchen or the sitting room, so that you can keep an eye on what he's watching. And remove it at night so he can't stay up all night masturbating.
Up to a point, of course, it's natural that a normal 15-year-old boy wants to watch pornography. But unless you are a truly interfering mum, it looks as if your son hasn't got the hang of doing things discreetly, which would be the best answer to all this. So don't condemn his interest altogether or you'll be giving him yet another distorted view of male/female sexuality.
So I'd remind him that he's got to keep a limit on it, or you'll start weighing in with rules and controls; he's got to use the computer, except for the odd half hour on his own, in public; he mustn't on any account download anything that might be construed as illegal because he could get prosecuted. But first of all, dear Laurie, try to hand the problem over to someone else whom he trusts. In other words, get a man in. He might be able to help both of you.
Porn is not normal
There's nothing normal about pornography, which degrades women and encourages young men to think that women are nothing but objects who are constantly available for sex, and young women to value themselves only in terms of how "sexy" they are. A lot of porn is also violent – and if you allow your son to continue watching it then he'll grow up unable to form satisfying sexual relationships.
You can stop this now by laying down some ground rules. It's your house, after all.
LJ Wright By email
Questions to ask yourself: how does his father treat you and other women? Does he see you have good relationships with men in your life? What kind of language does he use in talking to women both within and outside the family? Does he have some good friendships with girls? All these will give you some idea of his attitudes towards women. There may be nothing to worry about. Whatever the situation, a histrionic mother will not help.
Elisabeth Storrs By email
Next week's dilemma
Dear Virginia, I have a friend I get on well with, but she never seems to appreciate what I do for her. I visited her in hospital every day and even took her nightdresses home to launder, I had her to stay, I have her round for meals – and I get no response except occasionally a grudging "thank you". I've tried to show her what manners are, so I write or phone to say how kind she is when she does something for me, and the other day I said I'd like a sign of appreciation occasionally, but she didn't seem to take it in. I feel so resentful. I feel I'm just taken for granted. Yours sincerely, Lisa
What would you advise Lisa to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent.co.uk, or go to independent.co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (finewinesellers.co.uk)
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