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Levey Live

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A 12-Year-Old Learns Porn Is Boring

By Bob Levey

Wednesday, March 22, 2000; Page C13

The more time I spend as a father, the more I become convinced that there's no "book" way to do the job. The phone call I got last week proves this again.

The caller was a man from Annandale who asked that I call him Curt. He told me he has a 12-year-old son with whom he's very close.

"We have a great relationship," Curt said. "Hunting and fishing together, ballgames, everything. There's nothing I wouldn't tell my son, and nothing he wouldn't tell me."

Until one afternoon last week, anyway.

Curt came home from work early. Junior was allegedly doing his homework in the den, in front of the family's computer.

As Curt walked into the front hall, "the strangest noises" started emanating from Junior-land, Curt told me. Moans. Groans. Whoops of glee. "I knew right away that it was sex, but who was having the sex?" Curt said. "Not my son, I hoped."

No, not his son. People on a pornographic Web site that Junior had called up--using Daddy's credit card.

The child had hoped that he was just taking a quick, private look at what all the guys in school were talking about, he later told his father. When he heard his father come in the front door, the son tried to close the porn file.

But it can be very difficult to exit a porn Web site, aficionados tell me. Also, many porn sites routinely enhance the viewing experience with voice tracks.

"One of those fatherhood moments, Bob," said Curt.

"Sure must have been," I said. "How did you resolve it?"

Curt's answer wouldn't occur to every dad, and might not win the blessing of many.

"I sat down with my son and I looked at the porn site with him," Curt told me.

Curt said that he and his son had had "the conversation" within the past few months-- where babies come from, the physical differences between men and women, what actually happens during sex, "all the classic stuff." But what Curt and his son were looking at in the den had nothing to do with reproduction.

"Even so, I thought this was the right way to get it all on the table," Curt told me. So father and son sat there and wandered all through the sexual Web site. "We saw everything two humans can do," Curt said.

I asked if this wasn't a way of rubbing his son's nose in it.

"I wondered about that," Curt said. "But what I really had in mind was showing my son that pornography is exploitation. I was able to sit there with him and say, 'You don't see these people talking about love, do you? And you don't see them talking about how to raise the children, do you? All you see is organs. That isn't all there is to sex.' "

"Did your son go for it?"

"In a bigger way than I hoped," Curt said. "After 15 minutes, he said, 'You know, Dad, this stuff is really boring.' "

Curt knows (and so do you) that the child may have said that just to get his father off his back. I've never met a 12-year-old boy whose interest in sex disappears after 15 minutes, and I never expect to.

Still, if Curt has shown his son that watching others have sex for the sake of sex is boring and skin-deep, hasn't he accomplished a great deal? I'm sure some readers are horrified at what Curt did. I'm not horrified at all. Best of all, his son is not, either.

Proof of the pudding: Curt came home from work a little early again, a few days after "Porn Day." His son was online in the den. There was no scrambling or frantic clicking of a mouse--and there were no incriminating sounds emanating from a Web site.

"Just a boy doing a research paper," Curt said. Who's to argue with results like that?

My recent valentine to Volkswagen Bugs brought forth lots of fond memories.

Greg Hawkins, "now an over-the-hill boomer" from Bethesda, got gooey about Cuc.

"That was short for cucaracha, or cockroach, which is what I named my black beetle, for the very good reason that a cucaracha is what it looked like," Greg said.

He and Cuc made it across the country in the summer of 1968. "Today, you cross the Painted Desert and it's no big deal. There's a gas station every 200 feet," said Greg. But 32 years ago, "I carried a gas can, a canteen of water, extra motor oil, whatever I might need to get Cuc and me to the other side."

Of course, Cuc needed none of it. "Great car, best I ever owned," said Greg.

Naina Mistry's family dreamed up the cleverest name for their Bug. They called it Ringo, because it was "the ugliest Beatle."

Ringo not only lived to a ripe old age. He spent most of his life in Fresno, Calif., Naina reports. In case you've never been there, Fresno is "only slightly less hot and dry than Death Valley," she writes.

For Bug ethos, we return to the reader who started it all, Marie Schum-Brady, of Arlington. Marie says that in my original column, I left out one important piece of Bugmanship:

The Twin Toots.

Whenever one Bug would pass another in the halcyon days of Bug-dom, it was "etiquette" for the drivers to beep at each other, twice. This was a way of saying, "I see you and acknowledge our connectedness through our mutual ownership of these marvelous vehicles," Marie writes.

Quaint, and eminently resurrectable.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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