It has been on my mind to bring up the subject of sexting with my ready-to-start middle school son. At 11, if he’s old enough to get his own cell phone, I reckon he is old enough to have his first conversation on sexting with his mom. So said I to my daughter who thought its too soon to “torture the poor guy” with “your conversations”. I beg to differ. Ready or not, here I come. I wait for the right moment for the first discussion on the subject. Of course, there’ll be many more. Many many more. For as long as he’s under my roof and even afterwards, he’ll have to hear on the topic from me.
I find the opportune moment when I head out to pick my daughter from her band camp. My son asks to join me, not realizing what he’ll be getting himself into. I’m happy. After all, car is my favorite place to have candid conversations with my cuties (fortunately he can’t read my thoughts- there would be lot of rolling of eyes otherwise). I decide to be upfront with him, “I wrote a piece on having a conversation on sexting with your sister and ever since I’ve been meaning to have that conversation with you as well”. I instantly see the “oh no” expression cross his face. Next, his eyes dart at the door and the road, as if contemplating changing his mind about joining me. Finding no escape, he braces himself for the inevitable, but of course, not without a fight. “I already know what it is, Mom. We were given a flyer about it in school. I already know I’m not supposed to be doing that.” Undeterred, I say pretty much what I had told my daughter, “There was this beautiful Cincinnati teen, Jesse Logan, who had committed suicide after picture of hers that was meant for her boyfriend’s eyes alone ended up being circulated around her high school. The incident had occurred in 2008, sending a shiver down the spine of every parent”. I tell him that as a boy, ‘not doing it’ means much more than simply not texting any private content, not sharing any private content and not forwarding any private content. It also means not pressurizing any girl to text you anything private either”. His response is “I know, I know, why will I? In fact, how will I, I don’t even have a girl friend.” Now I totally feel how much harder it is to have the conversation with my son versus my daughter. She was indifferent and had that uninterested look. He, on the other hand, has the look of can’t- believe- I-am-having-this-discussion-with-my-mom. I start to wonder if I should have let my husband take it on, like he had suggested, but I wanted my son to get a woman’s perspective. Next time, it’ll be my husband’s turn, I think. For now, I want to finish what I started, least it will remain as an awkward memory in his mind rather than a ‘moral value that he imbibed that day’ memory (I wish). Not letting the turmoil of my thoughts show, I continue calming, again saying what I had told my daughter, “sadly, incidents like these are happening everywhere. In this age of constant and instant communications, the expectations of intimacy is high at every level, yes, even virtually. We hear of pic pressure- boyfriend asking/ pressurizing girlfriend for a private picture. We hear of the picture going viral upon break up. We hear of the ridicule and the humiliation that the girl is subjected to. We hear of a life lost- because someone did something simply because they could, because today’s technology provides the means to”. Again I hear, “I told you, I already know.” I couldn’t resist saying, “You think the boys who did those things didn’t know?”. He is silent. By now I’m almost pitying the little fellow. Ambushing him like that when he’s a really nice person I know. But then I also know every mother feels that way about her son. But I’m willing to drop the conversation and give it a rest for another year probably. To my surprise, he says, “How about this? Since I already know, how about you just remind me occasionally?”. “Okay”, I say, eager to let him off the hook and at the same time loving this new suggestion, especially since it came from him. This is what I come up with- “once every year, around your birthday, I’m going to simply tell you to not indulge in sexting in any form- to not encourage, neither support; to not ask for, neither send”. He agrees and I am content.
Conversation with my daughter – On sexting
As my 15 year old daughter drives herself to her band camp with me at the passenger seat, I pick up on a conversation we had couple of years back. “Remember the story of that beautiful Cincinnati teen, Jesse Logan, who had committed suicide after a nude photo that was meant for her boyfriend’s eyes alone ended up being circulated around her high school?”. She did remember our discussion. The incident had occurred in 2008, sending a shiver down the spine of every parent. I told her, sadly, incidents like these are happening everywhere. In this age of constant and instant communications, the expectations of intimacy is high at every level, yes, even virtually. We hear of pic pressure- boyfriend asking/ pressurizing girlfriend for a revealing picture. We hear of the pic going viral upon break up. We hear of the ridicule and the humiliation that the girl is subjected to. We hear of a life lost- because someone did something simply because they could, because today’s technology provides the means to.
“Then what would you say to one of those girls, if you were the mom?” my daughter asks, looking completely uninterested, yet trying to humor me. I think about it very carefully. I’m not bothered by the apparent lack of interest in her tone. I’m undeterred by the forced attempt at making conversation. All I realize is that I am being given a golden opportunity to imprint my stand in her brain. I want to convey the perfect message, in a perfect way. I want to mince no word. I want to leave nothing unsaid. And yet, I don’t want to sound like I’m beating down on “kids these days”. I don’t want to sound like I’m ranting on the “evils of technology”. Trying to hold the rush of words that are eager to barge out of my mouth at been given the invitation to, I say, what I believe every mother of a teenage daughter would say- multiple times.
No mother would want her daughter to send revealing pictures of herself to anyone- not to a boy friend of 1 or less month, not to a boy friend of 3 or more years. Every mother’s hope is that no matter what the pressure, her daughter would be strong enough to not give in to any pressure or dare, to never compromise on what she believes in her heart to be potentially dangerous and risky, to stay away from situation or people that constantly put her resolves or judgement to test. That said, if I am the mother of a girl that makes that one mistake of her life and is facing the worst case scenario of such an action, I know I’ll be furious. I’ll furious with her for an hour. Maybe two. Perhaps even more. But I also hope that my daughter would know that the anger will subside soon. I hope that she’ll know that once it does, I’ll hug her tight and try my best to make her feel safe and secured. I’ll kiss her and do my best to take the feeling of humiliation away. But most importantly, I’ll look her in the eyes and I’ll tell her to not judge herself by her one weak moment, to keep her head high, to not let anyone shame her because of her one bad decision. Because end of the day, hers is just another body.
“Hmm. I hope all the mothers are already saying all that to their daughters. Even before anything happens”, says my daughter, as she parks, gets off the car and gives me back the control.