Sex, Computers, & Auxiliary Mothers


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

41 Responses

  1. Avatar Jello says:

    what is bbs?Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    What about coaches, mentors, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, teachers, and so on? The idea that the only adults who take interest in kids who are not their own are perverts is ignorant and absurd, and quite frankly, dangerous.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

      Chris: The idea that the only adults who take interest in kids who are not their own are perverts is

      …at least to some extent a modern America thing. I question to what extent it would be considered weird in places with a less virulent media.

      And it wasn’t even weird in America in the 60s. I think Will put this in one of the Linky Fridays:

      And what’s that little girl doing with that man?

      “In the very first episode, Gordon takes a little girl’s hand who he’s just met on the street, befriends her and takes her into his home to give her ice cream,” Rollins Westin said. “That’s something we wouldn’t do on the show today.”

      At some point, that kind of thing was considered so benign as to be in a children’s show. Now such a scene seems like a setup for a Law and Order SVU episode.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Yeah, it’s happened sometime in the 20 years that separated my childhood and my son’s.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Chris says:

          My guess is that we became more aware of the idea of sexual violence aimed at children by seemingly friendly and respected adults. We overreacted to this.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I think it is probably more American. Maybe European. My girlfriend is from Singapore and she said any older adult (besides older siblings and your parents and grandparents) is always aunty or uncle.

        An Indian friend of mine once wrote a line on facebook about how she found it hard not to call her older Indian colleagues, “aunty” and “uncle.”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Vikram Bath: The idea that the only adults who take interest in kids who are not their own are perverts is

        …at least to some extent a modern America thing.

        And even then, it’s not — or at least it’s not to the degree it’s portrayed, or perhaps just in a different fashion.

        I know a lot of people — mostly men — who have said over the years, “If a kid on the playground falls and is hurt, you have to let it cry because if you try to help the other parents will treat you like a pedophile.” I mean, I have heard this a lot.

        But playgrounds are playgrounds and kids are kids and so this situation happens all the time, and other parents (men included) are always lending a hand, and in all my years I have not seen anyone treated with anything but gratitude (from the kid’s parent) or solidarity (from the other parents at the scene). Likewise, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t have given the stink eye to some dad just sitting there pretending a kid who was hurt right in front of him pretended the kid wasn’t there.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

          In fact, in my less charitable moments I have wondered if a lot of the “but I can’t help a kid because: pedophile” is just a rationalization stemming from men fearing an un-masculine stigma being attached to them if they contribute to child rearing.

          “I know you’e been watching the kids all week and would like a break, and God know I would love to take them to the park so you could have a day off, but…

          Anyway, I’ll be at the golf course if you need me.”


          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            If it’s your own kid, you’re being a dickface if you use that as a reason.

            I’ve never worried about it with Juju, but I’ve heard enough stories to believe people might bother you if you and the kid are of different ethnicity.

            Be that as it may, if we adopt a #2 and #3, I will live with that.Report

            • Will Truman: If it’s your own kid, you’re being a dickface if you use that as a reason.

              What would be the legitimate reasons?

              Will Truman: I’ve heard enough stories to believe people might bother you if you and the kid are of different ethnicity.

              It depends on the ethnicities involved. In general, I think people understand that white people often adopt kids of different ethnicities.Report

        • Tod,

          I don’t hang around playgrounds and I do try to avoid kids in general, but sometimes I do do a certain thought experiment where if I saw, say, a child that’s obviously lost. Perhaps in a store, or worse, on the street. And I wonder how I could both help that child and yet not come across as a weirdo should the parent find the child before I can make it obvious I’m trying to help.

          That may seem like a weird thing to think about in my idle moments. But I really don’t see it as a way to protect my masculinity. It’s at least a sincere concern–maybe not legitimate, but sincere–on my part. Of course, I should add I’ve never really been in such a situation, so I don’t know what I would or wouldn’t do or how that would seem to others.Report

          • Gabriel Conroy: I don’t hang around playgrounds

            It’s off topic, but I’m reminded of this from the Ferguson report.

            In the summer of 2012, a 32-year-old African-American man sat in his car cooling off after playing basketball in a Ferguson public park. An officer pulled up behind the man’s car, blocking him in, and demanded the man’s social security number and identification.

            Without any cause, the officer accused the man of being a pedophile, referring to the presence of children in the park, and ordered the man out of his car for a pat-down, although the officer had no reason to believe the man was armed. The officer also searched the man’s car. The man objected, citing his constitutional rights.

            In response, the officer arrested the man, reportedly at gunpoint, charging him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. One charge, Making a False Declaration, was for intitially providing the short form of his first name (e.g. “Mike” instead of “Michael”). and an address which, although legitimate, was different from the one on his driver’s license. Another charge was for not wearing a seat belt, even though he was seated in a parked car. The officer also charged the man both with having an expired operator’s license, and with having no operator’s license in his possession.

            And then he lost his federal contracting job because of the arrests.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am with Chris. I disagree with your co-blogger.

    That being said, this is an area where society seems to give women a lot more leeway than men Society, rightly or wrongly, perceives women as being more trustworthy and less pervy than men who hangout and mentor much younger people. Gawker does like to publish stories about female teachers who get arrested for inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor but this gets treated differently for a bunch of reasons:

    1. There seem to be a lot of idiot guys out there who will talk about how a middle or high-school guy having sex with his teacher is totally every guy’s fantasy and every guy who disagrees is a Wimpy Mcwimperson. They seem absolutely sincere in their belief that with an older woman and younger guy, it is always “Hot for Teacher” to these guys. Mad Men portrayed it differently and so did a cheesy 80’s movie interestingly called “One of the Guys.” One of the Guys features a teenage woman who goes undercover as a guy at a different high school to gain respect. She befriends the outsider misfit. She tries to do the guy thing about asking how her friend lost his virginity. The outsider misfit said that when his dad died, one of his mom’s friends did it to “comfort him”. The movie’s view (via undercover female) was “this is totally not awesome.”

    2. Older women who have sex with underage people tend to get more favorable psychological readings and it is attributed to their being abused. IIRC abuse tends to beget abuse and it is a horrible cycle. A friend of mine is working on a PhD in psychology. Part of her training was working with sex offenders. Surprise surprise, a lot of them were horribly abused as children as well. Hearsay but she told me that one of her patients said something like “Sex is how he was shown love as a kid” or something like that. From what I read in news articles, women caught tend to get more of a listen when it comes to stuff like this.

    I remember in college that there was an thing about cons and needing to tell guys in their 30s and 40s not to hit or perve around the teenage girls. A frequent refrain was “15 will get you 20.” Then again, there were also stories about cons that needed to remind attendees to bathe daily. But I also had a female friend who said she liked being Big Sister and I remember thinking that she had a lot more leeway to being a Big Sister. If I (or any other guy) said something about liking to be a Big Brother to people younger than myself, people would think it is creepy.

    Basically a woman in her 20s befriending teenagers and mentoring them is not seen as creepy or needing to raise alarms.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      One of the upsides of more women becoming prosecutors and judges is that they are much more likely to prosecute women sexual criminals vigorously. Women prosecutors and judges tend to treat points 1 and 2 with eye-rolling and suspicion. Evidence seems to suggest that Point 1 is not as fun in reality as it is in the movies.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I am a bit confused on point 1 since I never really liked Mad Men. Are you stating that Mad Men portrayed a women teacher-boy student affair as abusive and manipulative?Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Saul Degraw: A frequent refrain was “15 will get you 20.”

    They really eased up. In the seventies, all it took for twenty was five.Report

  5. Avatar Fnord says:

    I saw it pointed out, elsewhere on the internet, that “only perverts take a personal interest in children that are not theirs” can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if it is, when children whose relationship with their parents is poor go looking for other adults for guidance/affirmation/etc (auxiliary mothers, as Will describes them), the only people willing to take a personal interest will be perverts looking to take advantage.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    You want a community with a lot of support structures? You need a lot of volunteer support workers.

    If you’re okay with just a few, you can probably get by with hiring some.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Even men who work with young children professionally draw extra scrutiny and suspicion. Many men point to this as a reason for leaving or avoiding the field. The ranks remain sparse and those who are present remain anomalies and therefore suspicious. Sigh.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    “In a conversation about Jared Fogle, Sheila Tone, my erstwhile coblogger at Hit Coffee said something to the effect that only perverts take a personal interest in children that are not theirs.”

    Allow me to file this with “all gay people are really pedophiles,” “men who can cook are closeted homosexuals,” and “the only reason a woman ever goes to college is to find a husband.”Report

  9. Avatar aarondavid says:

    As someone who doesn’t particularly like being around children, I have a hard time understanding why someone does. It is just not in my wheelhouse to get involved in things like this. As an adult, I have found that in reality, I am the odd man out and that many people both enjoy it and feel it is important. While I love my son, enjoying spending time with him only increased as I got older. My wife likes to comment that before we were married (we married when he was 10) that I had no idea what to do with him, mostly because what you do with little children (play and such) doesn’t interest me, outside getting to read to them.

    I do think that as our society has become less community focus and more individual focused (see Bowling Alone) the idea of someone wanting to be community/child focused seems stranger to us, as it is no longer what we expect from people. And just a thought, maybe as we as a community have moved away from children only activities and adults only activities to always having our children with us has further cemented this.Report

  10. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    I never had a paternal or sibling like relationship in my life with someone who wasn’t directly related to me, but I’ve always had trouble forming healthy relationships. I probably have a touch of an attachment disorder with my commitment issues.

    My son has a close relationship with my one of my male friends who I spend a ton of time with. He buys my son shoes, we all have sleepovers and movie nights together and he finds fun things for us to do all together (hiking, pumpkin patch, the zoo, etc.). He doesn’t have any children, and he and I dated for three months when we originally met. By the time I introduced him to my son, we were done dating and decided to be friends. That being said, it does freak him out to be alone with my son. He thinks people will think it’s inappropriate, but after a year and a half, he is doing much better. He even babysits for me.Report

  11. Avatar Chris says:

    I dunno how the maybe makes it that much better. It’s a horrible thought to entertain, even. One that undercuts basic concepts of community.Report

  12. Avatar notme says:

    So on one hand, men are bad b/c they don’t do more child care but on the other hand they are perverts if they take an interest in kids. What can men do?Report

    • Avatar Blomster in reply to notme says:

      People complain because men don’t take on more child care responsiblities for their *own* children. The entire point of this article is the concern people have when men show interest in children *not* their own (check the wording in the OP). Which I also find very sad and disturbing, but it’s got nothing to do with men shirking their responsiblities for their own offspring. Totally different and unrelated issues.Report

  13. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    I am forever grateful that the teachers at my sons preschool, and the other parents, don’t look at me askance because I play with their kids when I visit Bug during the day.

    I don’t “pursue” or “groom” the kids, I’m just an adult willing to get down to their level to play with Bug, so they are happy to join in.Report

  14. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Kiddo recently said, in I forget the exact conversational context, “I have a dad and a stepdad.” (me and Mr. T respectively)

    That made me really happy. I don’t think we’d ever gone into how to define our family relationship with her, but she’s figuring it out on her own in a really sound way.Report

  15. So… did any of y’all have auxiliary mothers? Do you think such relationships are creepy even without the specificities of Cyclone? And for those of you who are parents, what sort or nature of attention would it take before you started getting nervous?

    I’m not a parent so I can’t really answer that last part, but for the other two.

    First–as I said at Hitcoffee–I didn’t have an auxiliary parent, but I did have an auxiliary family that I hung out with a lot. I didn’t completely leave my family–and my family wasn’t bad–but I sometimes felt more comfortable around them than my own (sometimes it helps while growing up just to have a world outside one’s family). Still, it wasn’t a creepy thing at all.

    Second, I suppose my default is to think such relationships are….not creepy, but suspect. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do.Report