Since our posts here at the Divas are all over the map in terms of subjects, and because some of us are potty-mouthed and irreverent, we get some pretty awesome search terms from time to time.
Today, I found this question nestled within the stats, and thought hey, this person deserves an answer:
what to do if you discover your child is writing smut
Well, anonymous internet person who landed here by a terrible google search, I can help!
First of all, let’s talk semantics. “Smut” is a great word. It’s even fun to say. Go on, speak it aloud. You know you want to. You can even sing it a little if you like. But neat as it is, there’s a negative connotation to it, too, isn’t there?
Oh look, Betty. Mildred’s reading those smutty books again.
It sounds dirty. Shameful. And, since we’re being honest here at the Divas, it makes the person saying (or typing) it sound kind of prudish. It’s a word you whisper in horror, nose wrinkled in distaste, especially when you can’t bring yourself to say “sex.” Or worse, “porn.”
I admit, I’m hopping to some pretty big conclusions here. Maybe you just didn’t want to wade through the scads of X-rated search results that would come up if you said “My fourteen year-old wrote about Elrond giving Legolas a blowjob.”
If that’s the case, this next bit isn’t for you.
Sex is not shameful. Writing about sex isn’t shameful. Our bodies are pretty awesome things, and, much as parents might want to shield their kids from it, teenagers are acutely aware of its existence. You can blame movies and music TV all you like, but when puberty kicks in, their hormones are going OMFG THIS IS GREAT. (And, an aside here: you have had that talk with them, right? It might be embarrassing and awkward and omg-mom-ewwwww, but as @officergleason said when I asked him to proofread this post: “parents should talk to their kids about sex, sexuality, porn and the difficult things as they need to. And they need to more reguarly than anyone would like to admit.”)
Writing stories with romance and sex is practically a rite of passage for teenagers these days, especially the crowd who devours books like they’re candy.
It’s another way of exploring their sexuality. They’re probably also sneaking peeks at someone’s older brother’s copies of Hustler and staying up late to watch themselves some Skinemax. Or they’re being really daring and finding the interesting corners of the internet.
Which, of course, might be how you discovered said smut, if you were looking at the Darling Offspring’s recent history.
I’m going to continue on with the assumptions here, and guess you’ve found some good old-fashioned fanfiction. You might recognize some of the characters from your kid’s favorite books/movies/tv shows/anime, only they’re doing things that were never in the books. Those characters are very likely performing some hair-raising bedroom acrobatics with one another. Harry and Draco! Snape and Tonks! Arwen, Galadriel and Frodo!
Any of those characters plus someone you’re pretty sure wasn’t part of the cast. Only, this invader seems to be suddenly more important that Harry/Frodo/Bella. Did a randomly kickass woman join up with the sausage-fest that is the Fellowship of the Ring? And all the men and hobbits are fighting to be her One True Love? Does she carry the ring for Frodo for a while before slipping off into the bushes for smutty-times with Legolas?
That’s what we call a self-insert. Your offspring has made him/herself a character in the story.
Sorry, Mildred, but that’s your kid fondling the Horn of Gondor. I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.
Which, I guess brings us back to the question:
What should you do if you discover your child is writing smut?
My first instinct here is this:
- Close the file and walk away. You probably weren’t meant to see that. Your son or daughter might be passing this around to his or her friends and sharing it with the denizens of the internet, but mom and dad reading it? That’s about as squicky for them as it was for you when you first read “And then Lupin’s soft rosebud lips encircled Snape’s engorged purple love-tool…” in Junior’s handwriting.
If you still feel the need to talk to them about it, there are a couple of things I want you to think about.
First, does your kid have an expectation of privacy in the place where you found this story? As in, when you bought them that laptop, did you tell them you’d be checking their browser history and reading their emails while they were at school? Or if you found a hard-copy version, was it stashed somewhere that you’d have to go digging around to uncover? The extent to which you allow your children their privacy is, frankly, none of my business. While on the one hand, I think it’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure their kids aren’t doing things online that can endanger them, I am also a staunch believer in personal space, and the respecting thereof. Where that line falls in your household is your call. But if your kid expected that wherever you found their story was someplace parent-free, be ready for some upset words and a good bout of yelling.
Also. They’re probably not going to stop writing it; they’re just going to hide it better. Not that I think keeping your mouth shut so you can keep on monitoring their Friendface account without their knowledge is a good solution. But just sayin’ — if you start breezily with “Oh, I borrowed your computer to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe and came across This Shocking Thing,” chances are the next time you start up their machine, you’ll either find it password-protected or they’ll have buried the smut in a folder you’ll never ever find. Likewise with “I went into your desk to borrow a pen and found Edward and Jacob: Forever Fangs.” It’ll get moved out of the desk and into somewhere even more secret.
If you’re still dead-set on Having a Talk…
- Figure out what your concerns are. What is it that truly bothers you about this piece of writing? Why? If you’re going to wave around a printout and essentially say “OMG TEH PR0NZ,” you’re not going to get very far. It’s, uh. Probably a little late for a birds-and-bees talk, but it could be a good time for those other puberty-related chats you might want to have with your kids. Y’know, the ones I don’t really know about from the parenting side since I only have cats, and none of them have working bits.
- Deliver your concerns calmly. Ask questions.
- Listen. You might get some eyerolling or angry/embarrassed silence. Chances are, your kid had an idea for a story — one that happened to involve teh sex — and wrote it down. No deeper, hidden meanings there. But if you’ve twigged onto something that truly needs talking about, have a conversation. Don’t judge, be supportive.
Stuff that is cause for concern: if you think it’s not fiction after all, and that the story is about your child or one of their friends being harmed, or inflicting harm on another person, it is perfectly valid to talk to them about it.
That said, hoooooold up a second. There is a… sub-genre? Trope? in fan-fiction, one that to a fanfic outsider can look awfully disturbing. You’re going to find stories where one character is treated horribly by another so that the love-interest can come to the rescue. The villains are essentially turned up to eleven. Sometimes the love-interest is the one inflicting the pain. A closer examination of that trope is a whole other post, but the short form, the tl;dr form, is this: almost always, one character either saves another, or turns the evil-doer around. It might creep you the hell out. You might be thinking, “but things don’t happen like that.” Or, “that character needs to go to the police, not back to their abuser.”
Again, I will say this: chances are, your kid knows that. And in the real world, would come straight to you or another trusted adult if something happened. However, I don’t think it’d be entirely amiss for you to check in on that point if you’re not sure. Nine times out of ten, ninety-nine out of a hundred, nine hundred ninety-nine out of a thousand, you will be preaching to the choir.
Those fears assuaged, think about it this way: your child is not huffing paint or sacrificing squirrels to dark gods. They’re writing stories about sex they probably aren’t actually having.
They’re writing. Call me biased, but that’s a damned good hobby to have. Someday it might even turn into a career. Hell, there are people who get paid to write stories set in other people’s already-established universes. Go to your local bookstore and browse through the sf/f section. See those rows and rows of Star Wars and Star Trek novels? Those are officially sanctioned fanfics.
And if they stray out of fanfic but keep writing smut? There’s good money in that, too. After you’ve checked out the media tie-in books, turn around and look at the romance section. Look at the imprints with names like “Blaze” and “Spice” and “Bow-chicka-wow-wow.”
Okay, I might have made one of those up.
What I’m saying is, your kid is flexing some literary muscles. Sure, right now they’re playing in someone else’s world, with someone else’s characters, but while they’re doing that, they’re learning about what makes a good story. They’re figuring out plot and setting and dialogue. Yes, even porny plots. This isn’t a bad thing, or a sign of a troubled kid.
If you take no other comfort from this post, I’ll leave you with this:
Hey, at least they’ll pass English.