I didn’t watch the VMA awards. Like many friends, I was appalled at the amount of coverage Miley Cyrus’ presentation received, given all the other actually important stuff going on the world. I watched some of her moves on Facebook, got bored and signed off.
But then I thought, wait – there actually is something important going on here, and it’s called hypocrisy.
All Miley was doing was holding a mirror up to nature, as it were. In her gyrations, African-American appropriation and pornification of dance, all we are seeing is ourselves: American popular culture. In a sense, Miley was telling us the truth. She said, “this is who you are and this is what you like.”
Wake up, America. Our children are watching porn. All the time. And not the soft-core stuff I would shop lift from drugstores either. Hardcore stuff, with penetration, and fluids, and better (or worse). Our boys are watching it and our girls are watching it, and I’ll bet you whatever you like that Miley has seen nearly as much as as I have, and I am twice her age. This is the elephant in the room that no one is naming or discussing. Our children are watching porn. All. The. Time.
I watch porn. I have since I was a teenager. This doesn’t make me a pervert or immoral. It makes me a normal guy in 21st century America. I worried once that I was depraved, but then I began to look at the way some other behaviors that were truly obsessive – like drinking – had affected my life, and I placed porn in its boring, off to the side category. It is something I return to in moments of loneliness and ennui, a time-to-time distraction not unlike video games or brain-candy TV.
But then I had children, first a boy, and then a girl. And I love them in that fierce and life-altering way parents love children. And as my boy grew into a teenager, I was faced with a choice: to try and police and control what he sees on the internet, or not. I quickly discerned that the first option was not only difficult, it was impossible. Whatever I denied him at home, he would see at the homes of friends. And I also discerned that in denying him free access to the internet, I would be avoiding a difficult conversation, a necessary conversation.
“Hey buddy, let’s talk about porn.”
No, I haven’t had that conversation yet. Any parent will tell you these kinds of conversations are developed over time. But I have had conversations with him about the internet, and the amount of time he spends there, and the kinds of things he can see there, and the way what you watch affects who you are.
The other reason I haven’t had this conversation with him yet is that it requires me to tell him the truth, about myself. And I am working my way towards that slowly. I have some layers of shame to deal with first.
Which gets us back to Miley. As a young person, she is more advanced than us older folks when it comes to popular culture. She is, like my son (and soon, my daughter) on the cutting edge. And most young people were more shocked buy how bad her dancing was than by any supposedly sexual content in her performance. There is hope.
The hope is this: that porn, once made nearly unbearably exciting by the shame barriers erected around it, will soon become mundane. Already, many young people I know roll their eyes about porn, some of which is the affected world-weariness of the young, but some is also what it appears to be: boredom.
What wil happen when porn becomes officially boring? Two things:
- there will be new forms of sexual entertainment which use interactive live performance (something I have written about in my book The Deception of Surfaces)
- we will explore (again) the truly erotic territory of personal, intimate human relationship
One other thing. A lot of the outrage about Miley has a distinctly “old-fogey” aroma about it. If there’s one thing I have learned about being a parent it’s this: just because I feel strongly about something doesn’t mean my children will feel the same way. In fact, my feeling strongly about something is an invitation for my kids to explore it and take an opposing position. This is a story as old as time. So for all of you outraged and shocked parents out there, determined to instill a moralistic repugnance of porn in your children, I say . . . good luck with that. Instead, I recommend a conversation.
“Hey buddy, let’s talk about porn . . . “