Parenting and sexuality: The time my son found my FetLife profile
By: Amanda Galea
Parenting is the ultimate headfuck. Nothing strips you as bare, nor finds you as wanting. You want to get it so right, and yet you are so goddamned imperfect.
From the moment my son was conceived, I knew I wanted to raise him with a healthy sexuality that he could one day enjoy, as I do. Mind you, when I began child-rearing I was 24, a closeted fundamentalist Catholic who thought the idea of masturbation as healthy was radical and progressive.
I had no idea where I would be standing in a short 15 years’ time. And where was that?
In front of my computer, aghast, reading my own FetLife profile that professed my penchant for everything from group sex to urophilia.
It also stated that I was in a polyamorous relationship with my wife of several years and my girlfriend of several months at that time – and my teenager had just read it all.
It was a little more open than I was aiming for. I had friends that didn’t know/wouldn’t comprehend this side of me. My son, like most children, was still struggling with the idea that I shagged my wife when he was in the house… and now this.
He confessed to ‘accidentally’ reading it seconds before hopping out of the car to go to soccer training. I now had 90 minutes to get my shit together and come up with a plausible rationale that didn’t cast me as the female version of Hugh Hefner.
From the moment he began inquiring, I began educating. I usually answered his questions in an age-appropriate manner, trying not to over-answer or over-simplify. As he got older and his awareness grew, ‘sex’ began to drift into our lexicon.
I started having conversations with other parents, with friends, with school mums, about sex education and our children. 95% of it horrified me. One of my best friends, who happens to love sex, said “No way am I talking about sex with my 11-year-old, why would I want to ruin her?”
Another response: “They’re not young for long enough, let them be children!”
There seemed to be a pre-occupation with ‘protecting’ their innocence. And yet, when I asked a soccer mum if she was concerned about what her 14-year-old was looking at each night when he took his phone to bed with him (my son had already told me said friend had a serious porn addiction that he indulged each night), she laughed her head off and said “God no, Chris wouldn’t even know what sex is!”
I found myself thinking, whose innocence are we really protecting here? Who’s kidding who? And who loses out in the process?
When my son started high school, porn was the next big thing to tackle. And not just ye old ‘tits & ass’ of magazine days, but hard-core stuff that even I couldn’t stomach. His phone, a recent acquisition, was inundated with clips from his mates – mornings before school consisted of the boys standing around swapping the latest porn or the latest app to hide it from your parents.
An in-depth and ongoing conversation began in our household, about the responsibility of watching porn, about how every click creates demand in an uncertain and unregulated market that sometimes demoralised and dehumanised women.
We talked about enthusiastic consent. We talked about ethical and unethical porn, and the people being portrayed in it. We talked about the difference between porn and real sex. About photo-shopping and women’s bodies and more again about consent.
I decided not to start covering up my body as he became a teen, because uncomfortable as I felt about my own nakedness, I wanted him to see what real women looked like. I showed him my prized book of vaginas, a beautiful anthology of women’s cunts and their stories about them – I wanted him to see the untouched, non-digitalised reality of women.
We talked about the neuroscientific implications of children over-indulging on porn, particularly those who are yet to experience sex, and how people like his aforementioned mate were potentially going to end up shit in bed as a result (yes, I actually used that as an incentive to encourage my teen to not watch excessive porn).
I talked a lot about the difference between sex feeling physically good, and then sex feeling holistically good on every level – and how to achieve that.
These conversations were only difficult for the first 30 seconds. The more we talked about sex, the easier it got. From an early age, even being a shy child, he began instigating these discussions, because my openness and willingness to discuss it gave him permission to.
I wanted him to have a safe space to discuss sex before he got into it. I wanted him to have somewhere to go to talk about the weirdness of sex and how it all works and how awkward those first moments can be.
He began to relay back incidents, such as perceiving that a friend was indulging in sexual behaviour that wasn’t really consensual, because she was too afraid to say no. I felt euphoric and confident that my son had ‘got it’, and had something of a road map for his own heterosexual, heteronormative leanings.
We had never really talked in great detail about queer sex, kink, or BDSM, because it doesn’t relate to his world or his interests – he’s a teenaged heterosexual boy still trying to figure out how HIS world all comes together. I didn’t want to complicate it or again, over-educate him on something he’s not ready for.
However, now that he’d read my FetLife profile, I figured it really was the last part of the conversation, the nitty gritty, the final fig leaf (for me). When that 90 minutes was up and I’d finished freaking out to my best friend, he got in the car, and I began to reframe the picture for him.
I explained the terms of my polyamorous relationship with my girlfriend, how my wife and I had negotiated these relationships long before they even happened and that we were all fully consenting, something he couldn’t quite wrap his head around yet.
I informed him that I got regular sexual health checks to make sure myself and my lovers were safe. I talked about fetish, safe words, consensual play. We touched only lightly on kink as this, to him, was the worst and weirdest of it all, and he was not keen to have the subject illuminated by his weird-ass mother with her breastmilk fetish.
At the end of it all I asked him his opinion. He said the whole thing was weird, and I agreed.
He also said he thought polyamory was wrong. This was slightly harder to swallow, but I told him he was completely free to have his own opinion on the matter, so long as he was never disrespectful to me or my partners about it, and we left it at that.
And so it came to pass – that two separate and distinct sides of my identity crashed into each other, and I was still standing, albeit slightly wobbly, and in need of a stiff drink.
Amanda is a queer, polyamorist kinkster from Sydney. She suffers from pathological FOMO and is still trying to figure out where sleep fits in with a life of parenting, partnering, partying and at least six different career interests.