Siri, Queen of Porn


You guys. It’s happening. For real.

My barely-second-grade son came home from a play date while I was at a girls night and had the following conversation with his father:

Dad: Did you have fun at So-and-So’s house?

Kid: Yep.

Dad: What’d you do?

Kid: Mostly talked.

Dad: Talked? [curious beat of silence, because what 7-year-olds sit around and talk?] Talked about what?

Kid: Naked girls.

Boom. There is is, y’all. Second grade.

Neither of us saw this coming. I asked my husband, “What did you say?!” He said, “I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.”

Holy Lord. Okay. So, it’s up to me. I’m going in. I’m taking the undercover cool-mom approach, while truthfully being 100% not cool with it.

I have the exact same conversation the next day with the exact same results. He looks at me with a look that says, “I’m going out on a limb by admitting this, and I think it’s probably not the right answer, but I'm going to try it anyway to see what happens.” Then he answers, "Naked girls."

And there it is, hanging in the air. Naked girls. Naked. Girls.

Deep breath. “Cool!” I say in a way that sounds anything but cool. “Human bodies are amazing, aren’t they? And it’s pretty cool to see a body that looks so different from yours.” I pause. He’s buying it. He looks like he’s relaxing a little bit, seeing that my reaction wasn’t anger or punishment. “Did you, um, watch any videos with naked girls in them?” (I need to know exactly how far down the rabbit hole we are here.) “No,” he responds. I breathe a sigh of relief. “How did you see them?” I ask, slightly terrified of the answer. This seems to open the flood gates of conversation though. “Oh! We asked Siri! If you ask Siri, she’ll show you pictures of naked girls! [My friend]’s mom and dad deleted YouTube from his iPad and phone, but they didn’t know about Siri!”* Sweet Jesus.

“Oh wow!” I say with too much excitement. “That’s pretty tricky!”

My brain is spinning. I’m trying to figure out how to address this without making it taboo, and therefore even more enticing. I mean, if I make it "a thing," then it's "a thing," right? So, as a pre-emptive apology to my delightfully über-feminist friends, I went with the approach that I knew would be most effective:

“Hey, buddy, here’s the thing. I get that looking at other people’s bodies is cool and different. And it’s not going to be the last time that happens, but I want you to think about this: you have two sisters and some good friends who are girls.” “No, I don’t!” he interrupts. “Yes, you do. Sporty Neighbor Girl comes over to play baseball with you almost every day. She’s one of your best friends and she’s a girl.” Crickets. I press on, “Anyway, when you look at girls for just their bodies, you don’t see the whole girl. You don’t see her whole personality or know who she is. And that can make girls feel bad about themselves. Imagine how Sporty Neighbor Girl would feel if she thought you were only paying attention to what her wrists looked like? Or what about if someone was doing that to your sisters? Would that be right? Would they know how awesome they are if they just looked at pictures of them without clothes on?”

He thought about it and said, “Yeah, you’re right. They would be sad. Or probably mad.” “Right, “ I continued, “I just want you to keep that in mind. Got it?” “Got it.” “Good talk, now go play.” And I ate my weight in chocolate-covered almonds after that.

So, parents, don’t be fooled. You’re there. You may not know it, but thanks to technology, we’re all there. Even if you don’t let your kids have their own phones or tablets (mine don’t either), this doesn’t mean they’re immune to it. Be aware of that.

Several months later, the same second-grader came home from school and said, “Mom, Different-So-and-So had their phone at lunch and showed me the weirdest thing. It was a grown-up man sucking on a woman’s nipple. It was so weird. He wasn’t a baby. He was a grown-up. That’s so weird, right?” Now, thanks to the three younger siblings in his family, he’s seen a lot of breastfeeding and I'm generally pretty open about things, but I was at a total loss for how to handle that one. “That is totally weird!” I replied, justifying his response. “Why would he do that?” he pressed on? “I don’t know," I answered. "Lots of people do things that I can’t explain.”

I know that’s a cop-out, but I couldn't have that conversation at that moment. My head was still spinning. I mean, did you catch it? The lunch table. Edit: the SECOND GRADE lunch table. Our little boys are looking at pornographic pictures at the second grade lunch table. I don’t even know what to do with that.

I’m hearing my friends with older kids talk about checking their teens (and tweens) phones and seeing boys asking girls to send naked pictures of themselves. That’s at 12 years old. News flash: these kids aren’t waking up at 12 years old and saying, “Let’s discover sex today!” It’s starting a whole lot earlier. I happened to hear about this in second grade. It could have been happening earlier. After all, I know a bunch of kids who have stumbled on questionable videos accidentally (mine included). You’re always two clicks away from awful.

So, consider this your public service announcement. It’s happening. At your kids’ school. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think that it’s not.

And I’m begging you: please, please, please start having conversations with your kids early. Even if you don’t know what to say, start by saying something. Start by talking about how not everything they see is meant for kids (or even real). Start by talking about respecting other people’s bodies (and how they should expect other people to respect theirs), physically and verbally. Most importantly, start by saying that if they ever see something that they don’t understand, they can talk to you about it, without judgment or punishment. And mean it. My friends who have had those early conversations continue to have healthy relationships with their tweens/teens. I’m hanging my hat on that, because it’s the only thing I’ve got.

Of course, I suppose I could ask Siri for parenting advice on this topic. She seems to be an expert on all sorts of things these days.

On second thought, I think I’ll double-check my parental controls and triple-check that my password is keeping my kids out of the rabbit hole (for now).

* Update: I tried it. I asked Siri and she requested more information, so maybe Apple has added an additional security component. I hope so. Then again, I'm also betting that some particularly savvy kids will figure out a work-around. I also didn't go any further with it because I don't want that in my browser history or affecting the ads I see. Be aware, y'all.

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Allison Harvey