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Question: Recently I walked in on my 12-year-old son masturbating. Needless to say, it was, and has since been, awkward between us. How can I get things back to normal between us? —Anna
Answer: Since you’re both embarrassed, the important thing to do is to make sure this doesn’t happen again. How you approach that depends on how comfortable you are with the idea that he’ll be thinking (and acting upon, with astounding frequency) lascivious thoughts for the next, oh, 40 to 80 years of his life, depending on future advancements in what my junk mail at work often refers to as “pee-pee boosters.”
One way is to open the lines of communication. You can do this somewhat discreetly so as not to hurt his feelings—for example, by printing up a sign for his bedroom door.
But some parents aren’t that cool, and you may very well be one of them. It’s this type of parent that will say or do anything to keep their son from boarding the spank-train, from which we all know that, once they get on, they’ll never, um, disembark. Teenage boys hear all sorts of ridiculous myths about masturbation—for example, that it will cause them to grow hair on their palms. Also, that self-pleasuring can cause blindness. Though neither is true—at least probably not—both were likely cooked up by worried mothers who wanted to stop their sons from self-stimulating. But those legends are age-old, and your son will see right through them. In today’s sex-saturated world, it’s going to take a lot more effort on your part. But by the time you’re done, he won’t want to so much as massage an earlobe. How? By ridding your home environment of any and all stimuli that might induce him to unload his rifle. Here, then, are the ways to spank-proof your house.
First things first: Ransack the place he’s most likely to keep his porn stash. Under the mattress is a classic storage area for provocative literature, pictures, and other things he might be hiding, such as anal beads. Despite the exposition of such paraphernalia from the source in question on countless family sitcoms, it is as if teenagers are naturally devoid of this associative component in the brain, and the mattress search will almost always yield results. Unless your child doesn’t have a bed, in which case you’re kind of a dick.
If your suspicions have not been confirmed there, check dresser drawers, closets, and even inside stuffed animals (especially if there are pre-existing holes in them, but use latex gloves). You might find other things throughout your search—marijuana cigarettes, say—in which case you should probably take a quick break. Also, be sure to look inside seemingly innocent magazines, books, CD/video cases, and Henry Miller novels he might have lying around. These are all quite useful for disguising pornography.
Once you’re certain you’ve left him nothing in the way of blatantly libidinous source material, it’s time to get creative. Do the walls of his quarters boast bawdy posters of swimsuit models? What about major league baseball players? If it’s a picture of something that has or once had a pulse, it’s gotta go (yes, this includes the framed photo of grandma). To be safe, other reading materials—such as pre-algebra textbooks or discarded candy wrappers—should be confiscated, as should any blankets, comforters, or bed sheets he might employ as cover to perform his skin flute concertos. Finally, you’ll need to confiscate the television set. If he’s got a VCR, take that too. You don’t know what he might be capable of. With that, his room should now be exorcized of anything lust-worthy.
Household restrooms will probably be his second-favorite hide-out for dolphin flogging, as they frequently boast the following major advantages: locking door, lotions/soaps, and the shower. A few minor adjustments, though, can discourage him from this.
Remove the doorknob. He will likely protest this maneuver, citing some sort of right-to-privacy argument. He’s 12; do you truly believe he is worried about his right to privacy? Or is it really the right to his privates? I think we both know the answer.
Lotions, soaps, and, in a pinch, toothpaste can be used as lubricants, and their general ubiquity in modern bathrooms will only fuel his urges. Get rid of these materials. Boys don’t really use lotion, (except when masturbating, of course). Soap can be replaced with some sort of sturdy-bristled brush like Ethan Hawke uses in Gattaca (though you probably shouldn’t let him watch those scenes). And don’t even worry about toothpaste—everyone knows flossing is more important.
Finally, there is the shower. For this, you should stand outside the shower while he scrubs down with his sturdy-bristled brush. Tell him to make sure he scrapes behind his ears, and offer to get his lower back if he can’t reach it. Bet him that his “lil’ bum” is still just as cute as it was when he was a baby. Does he remember those wonderful songs you used to sing together during bath time?
“Now we’re all clean and looking like a prune! / Mommy says it’s time to go to bed very soon!”
Can you imagine? At 7:30 in the morning, no less? I’d say his chances of arousal in this situation are about on par with an all-original-member Lynyrd Skynyrd reunion tour.
You wouldn’t guess it, but this part of the house can go from a feast to freak fest faster than you can say “spank-a-lank-a-ding-dong.” I think we’ve all seen American Pie. Do I need to elaborate further?
Stick to dry foods, such as ramen noodles and pasta. Limit the presence of fruits, vegetables, and dessert foods in the house—keep only enough for basic needs. And stay alert for suspicious behaviors on his part. Has he microwaved any bananas lately? Been caught with a zucchini down his pants? Admittedly, it’s tough to keep up with youth trends these days, but you should try your best to discern between normal teenage behavior and deviant sexual food fetishes. This will be no small task.
The Laundry Room
I read somewhere—don’t recall where, exactly—that fabric softener is an aphrodisiac. Seems plausible, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s soft and smells really good. A close enough match for what, at that age, he’s probably looking for in a partner.
You could always get a lock for the laundry room door. But he’s old enough and tall enough now to get around that eventually. I would recommend moving any of his younger siblings from their current bedroom into the laundry room. This will provide a sure-fire deterrent for him, and will free up some much-needed space in the form of a now-vacant bedroom. Say it with me: pool table. (Just stuff the pockets with socks when not using, and keep all balls and cues out of his sight.)
One particular area parents often forget to neuter is the garage. Often filled with shapely tools, various lubricants, and unspecified amounts of rope (if that’s his thing), garages can quickly become salacious dens of sin. Be sure to sweep this area thoroughly, lest years later your child appears on the cover of the local police blotter beneath a headline like “Lewd with A Leafblower” or “Area Man Humps Bandsaw.”
Whichever way you choose to handle it, the important thing is to be consistent. And a little empathy never hurts, either. Remember: You were once his age. I think putting yourself back in those same awkward shoes could really help guide you in dealing with your son’s current coming-of-age dilemma. So lock your bedroom door, pull out the strawberry lube and the double-sided strap-on, crank up your Joy Division cassette, and prepare for a trip down memory lane of Proustian proportions.
Life ain’t so bad at 12, is it?