Advice from the Trenches: Peep Show

NudedDear C and Dr. B;

My 12-year-old son is in 8th grade. Yesterday he received a online photo of a naked girl from one of his classmates.  We were alerted to it because of his sheepish ad embarrassed behavior. He did show us when asked what was up. The question is, what should I do?

Embarrassed Dad


Dear Dad;

I wouldn’t discipline him for looking, we all looked at that age. In fact, before the internet, Playboy Magazine is how most of the male species in America learned about the birds and the bees; our culture does a pretty crappy job of it. Unfortunately, Playboy also encouraged unrealistic expectations of the female form. Since women were actually a huge part of Playboy’s readership, both men and women got the same misguided education. To his credit, Hugh Heffner’s mission was to eradicate puritanical belief and practices (he had a fund that supported lawsuits regarding these issues) and in his magazine his medical facts and forum column won awards for reporting and quality writing. It was the only place at its time in America that had an open conversation about sexuality and the only place to learn facts such as: “What is the average penis size?” and “Is a bent penis serious?”  This was information every boy in America wanted to know!

Considering this, I’d use this photo your son received to start a conversation. Your son needs to know that if he forwards this, or any other illicit photo, that makes him responsible for it. These are all traceable and possibly illegal if the subject is underage. Also, if the sender is a classmate, that needs to be reported. Photos have sometimes led to suicides – their distribution causes shaming and can be considered bullying.

Dr. B


C says: If you read the statistics on STDs, you’ll discover something surprising – ­many kids your son’s age are already sexually active. The fact that your son was honest enough to show you the picture instead of bending over backward to cover it up, is a very positive thing. It gives you an opportunity to open a dialogue so that your son feels he can come to you with questions, and not be condemned or shamed for his curiosity.

This is also a chance to set the record straight on unrealistic expectations. Your son needs to know that those naked photos are models and, like the pumped-up muscle men in body building mags, attaining those bods is a full-time job. A moderate healthy lifestyle is a more realistic goal. We live in a country where plastic surgery and performance enhancing drugs are the norm, and every commercial on television seems to be designed to make us feel that if we don’t have the whitest teeth, the perkiest butt and the latest designer clothes, no one will even bother to spit on us if our hair is on fire. No one pays attention to the divorce or suicide rates. They should.

As far as reporting the sender – consider the facts before you act. A naked picture of a classmate is a serious matter. Personal violations of that nature should ALWAYS be reported. But if this is a picture of a model from a magazine and you report this to the school, they may feel obligated to make a big fat hairy deal out of it anyway, because that’s what parents demand these days. This could backfire by making a normal, curious kid feel like a sex offender. The effect could be as inappropriately traumatizing as fat shaming or name calling. If you feel alarmed enough to have to DO something about it, talk to the kid’s parents, but don’t make a federal case out of it. If the problem seems to be bigger than a simple nudie picture, the parents are the ones who should handle it, not you.

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