Posted in Sexuality, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

Feminist or Whore?

After telling my son that he wasn’t allowed to date until he was 18 (I was only half-kidding), I shocked him at 15 with this (private) Facebook message:

I’d rather you have real sex–with a real girl–than use porn.

His response was priceless–and was actually in person–because as a mother I opted not to send my teenager a message with the words  “porn” and “sex“–but instead invited him to read it on my laptop before deleting it.

It took him a moment before he “got it”–and then he drew a quick breath and attempted to suppress a shy smile, saying:

Woah…that’s intense.

I smiled too–satisfied that I had driven my point home (despite how it unnerved me.)

It’s important to me that my teen not confuse my parental attention to his choices as a lack of passion for life itself.  I want him to know that I celebrate all that is good in life–including sex–but I want him to be intentional with his choices.

That’s how we ended up in a half-hour conversation around the word “whore” last week after he relayed a comedian’s skit that included the label.

“What does that mean to you?” I asked him.

Right away, he turned to leave the room, wishing he’d never stopped in to say goodnight to his parents or made the mistake of sharing something funny with his mother.

“Have a seat,” I said, with my–this is not an optional conversation voice–which I reserve for “these” kind of talks.

He sat himself down at the edge of my bed, prepared for a quick escape.

“So, what does ‘whore’ mean to you?” I asked again, keeping my tone lightwhile making sure he knew that this question was NOT going away.

He fumbled a bit and then said something like:

…That a girl is easy.

“What does ‘easy’ mean?” I probed, wondering where he was gaining this socio-cultural literacy and how much he had already been informed by it.

“Well how about guy?” I asked.  “What are they called when they’re ‘easy’?”

Our conversation continued in this manner with me asking lots of questions with the aim of greasing his thinking away from convention so that his mind might open beyond these gender stereotypes.

Some of his responses were surprising (given that I was certain that I had the final word on the subject.) My son thoughtfully spoke to the “economics” and power dynamics of the male-female exchange and how that determined why women would be called “easy” and men wouldn’t.

I pressed him further on this distinction, reminding him that women wanted sex too.  He was taken off guard by this response and then took me off guard with his own followup:

Mom, are you a feminist or something?

My husband and I looked at each other with suppressed smiles.  We both wondered how it was that our son could live with this particular mother for 15 years without knowing this about her–and we also wondered where he had learned the concept of feminism–and what it actually meant to him.

“Ask your grandfather about that,” I said, knowing that my dad would love to give his grandson an earful about this particular first-born daughter of his.

“What would Poppop have to say?” he asked, still bewilderingly unclear on my stance.

“A lot!” I said, and then to his dismay, I began the next chapter of our bedtime lesson on culture and sexuality–with this new leading question:

What is a feminist?

(to be continued)

Kelly Salasin