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Talking about Oppression First

When my ex-wife found pornography sites on our fifteen-year-old son’s phone, she said, “Yikes! What do we do now?!” I had tried to talk with him about porn a year before, but—as is usual with “difficult” topics—he hadn’t contributed anything at all, so it hadn’t gone too well. 

After the discovery on his phone, I decided to talk with him about it again. But I realized that I wanted to talk about sexism first. Then I realized that, before sexism, we needed to do a “class” on oppression in general. So we had a series of talks over several dinners. I tried to keep them short, interactive, and personal. That went pretty [quite] well. We talked about every oppression we could think of: who the targets and non-targets are, what the excuse is, what the messages are, what the internalized oppression looks like, and especially how a non-target person can be an ally—so many interesting things. 

With sexism it got a little harder, I guess because of the pull to feel bad about ourselves as males and the difficulty in looking closely at ourselves. I had noticed my son acting out sexism toward his mom, much like I used to do, so I used myself as an example of how this hurt gets passed down through society and family, how it’s not our fault (we’re totally good), and how we can decide to end it. 

Somewhere in there we also talked about addictions and I listened to and watched some online talks and videos about porn. 

Then both my son and I watched a TED talk, “Why I Stopped Watching Pornography,” by an Israeli sex educator who speaks in schools to teens. [TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) is a nonprofit organization that spreads good ideas in short, powerful talks that are available on the Internet.] It was pretty good. The man talked about how porn had taken over his mind, how he hadn’t liked that, and how porn perpetuates sexism and male domination. He missed some things—especially how a person can give up [stop acting out] an addiction—which I filled in. Again I used myself as an example. I had given up watching porn some years before—by decision, with a few sessions, and by having trusted people track me. 

A thing I didn’t talk much about was actual sex. How do you talk about that?! I also didn’t talk much about frozen needs, because my son is not in RC and does not know the jargon and philosophy. I did talk some about how men’s oppression leaves males feeling that there is only one small, desperate possibility for real closeness: sex (or sometimes porn). 

Before all this, I had written pages of notes, talked to other parents (mostly non-RC parents, which hadn’t been that helpful), and done a number of sessions on pornography and on father-son feelings and such.

It was a great experience for me. I have no idea what it was like for him. 


Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of parents

(Present Time 190, January 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00