A teen and “shop talk”, how would you handle this?
My youngest son, who is a senior this year (17/18yo), works at what is basically a mechanic shop, the same company his oldest brother works for (but he doesn’t work in the shop.) In a span of one week, he has come home with a couple of stories of things he has been exposed to in the sexual nature. The first thing was some kind of video/gif/photo of the backside of a man with a cucumber up his rear. Then he had a calendar of women, thankfully not nude, but in “swimsuits” put on/in his tool box. This has been done by the same man, whom he works with the most and I am told is friendly. He even took my son to lunch for his birthday. I know that there’s coarse joking and such there, and these things are probably common in this kind of environment, but it bothers me, especially when he was legally a minor with the first incident.
How would you handle this if it was your child? Would it be no big deal? How would you advise him? Would you do anything as the parent of this high schooler?
A side note, which may make me a little more sensitive to this is my husband’s first exposure to porn, and the beginning of an addiction, was in the shop of his dad’s work place.
I’d ask my son questions about it. What does he think about it. What does he feel when put into that type of situation. I’d also share an example of what I’ve done in the past when put in a similar situation in the workplace and I would ask him what he thinks I could’ve done better.
Is your son honest and open with you as his mother?
My kids are very young, so anything I “would do” is hypothetical. This kind of a feedback is probably best from someone who’s had or has teens. I have worked with many teens.
I have talked to my son. I have tried to get a feel for how it has made him feel. He has a good head on his shoulders, but I let him know that he is not in the position that he HAS to stay working there, if he ever gets to the place he is not comfortable. I will be a support in the back and will keep a tap on what’s going on, but it doesn’t mean I have to agree or like it.
I also asked my husband about it…. the nonchalant attitude bothers me. Should we really have to put up with things because “it is normal” or because “that’s how it has always been”? Isn’t this the mindset that the “me too” movement came out of….we just need to suck it up and take it, it’s “normal” to be sexualized and exposed to things we don’t want to see or experience? What’s the big deal if a guy backs you against the locker or the wall and wants to grab your butt, your breasts, or make reference to sexual acts, or try to force a kiss upon you….after all, it’s “what guys do”? Right, it’s the girls job, who is at least half the size of these guys, to push him away and tell him to leave her alone. It’s the minor’s job, to tell an adult man to back off and act appropriately.
My first instinct is that this IS sexual harassment, whether your son feels that way or not. I’m impressed that he told you about it in the first place. I’m certain my son would have been too embarrassed to let anyone know at that age.
Just because it’s a male environment and it’s ‘just joking’ doesn’t make it right. Honestly, this is where I would have DH take over, because I feel as though it’s a father/son conversation to have. I’m not certain how your son feels, but if he’s uncomfortable about it, he should say something directly to the coworker, preferably with someone else present. It doesn’t have to be confrontational, just “I’m not comfortable with the pictures, etc. that you are putting (wherever that is). Could you please stop doing it?” Hopefully, an adult would respect that.
I started in the workforce when I was 16 and had to deal with this kind of thing as a young man. Fortunately, with my conservative Christian upbringing, the dangers of porn were so drilled into me that these unsolicited exposures to it never turned into a temptation to seek it out on my own. So hopefully, your son is solid enough to withstand what he’ll run into his entire working life, if it’s anything like mine has been. I’ve pretty much been the only Christian at any of my jobs ( or at least the only one who tried to act like one), and I have heard and seen the most vile stuff in my 24 years of being in the workforce. We even had coworkers paying each other for sex and bragging about it at my current job a couple of years ago. The world is a vile, evil, filthy place, and we have to dig into God to get through it, and we have to hammer that into our kids as well. My kids are real young yet, but knowing what they will face when they get closer to adulthood is definitely weighing on me too. The ONLY solution is getting strength from God, because it ain’t getting any better.
People have already weighed in plenty but I will add:
- It’s great – outstanding, really – that your son has come to you with this issue at all, and is a good sign that he has moral character and resilience.
- Did he tell the guy that he didn’t appreciate these actions? Sometimes – sometimes – people just need to be told directly that their behaviour is not welcome or accepted. Is your son the type of person able to have a possibly difficult conversation like that?
- Is it likely that even if the one guy stops, another might start – or is he an exception? It’s been a while since I worked in that kind of shop, but I remember that while there were a few guys who put up girlie pics and made crude jokes, the majority were more mature and made it clear they didn’t have time for stuff like that.
- Since the images are unwanted and of a sexual nature it is indeed sexual harassment. If he was a girl, in the year 2020 there would be a strong case to immediately bring this to management’s attention. It would be a pretty dim workplace that did not cut out the behaviour immediately, and the offending employee himself should recognize it is not acceptable. But because he is a boy, there is a strong risk that his concerns would be taken less seriously and not seen as ‘sexual harassment’ (even if it technically is).. It is “hazing” which is also unlawful, but not as straightforward. A more extensive pattern would need to be documented.
I hope it resolves well but again I think it’s a great sign that he came to you in the first place.
I grew up in an auto shop. The guys who work there can be some of the nicest guys you ever want to meet, and then turn around and be utterly crude and disgusting all in the same day–the same minute! Having been very familiar with the atmosphere of an auto shop, I would say it is important for your son to adopt an attitude that says, “Hey, I’m ready to be one of the guys, but don’t mess with me.” They respect young men that are there to do their work and stand up for themselves when razzed–and a certain amount of razzing, teasing, even what some would consider hazing really IS all in good fun. At the same time, when there is someone who is “off”, everyone knows it. He should keep his eyes open, watch how others interact with this guy, listen to how they talk to him and how he talks to them, notice whether he is different when the boss is around or not, and if he is just a little cruder than most but has other good qualities (helping others, generosity, pride in workmanship) and people seem to think he “doesn’t mean any harm”, then just letting him know firmly that the crude humor is not appreciated but coming back with some cleaner interaction will go a long way toward securing your son a positive work environment. (Use the vernacular, though; someone suggested a very proper Oxford English statement that would have shop guys rolling on the floor laughing at him.) OTOH, if he gets the sense the guy is “off”, your son should RECORD AND report everything the guy does to the supervisor or boss and request to work separately. He might lose a little general respect if the guy is one of the sneaky ones, but probably not much if others have picked up on his vibe. We’ve had several “off” guys weasel into our shop over the years. Some of them would have been gone a lot sooner if people had only spoken up about the little things. OTOH, we had some guys who were great guys, all except they just seemed to think it was incumbent on them to be filthy. They will do whatever they think bothers you just to get a rise out of you, but they aren’t going to hurt you. Finding the balance of getting along with them without compromising your values is like a young soldier sparring with an experienced warrior. It’s good for him and teaches him to earn the respect of his peers. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen men who cuss like sailors STOP because another, younger man wouldn’t put up with it, and I saw a man who claimed to want a Christian environment lose everybody’s respect (and cooperation) because he just complained and tattled about everything.
You have raised your son well. Trust that he will hold fast to his values. But he’s probably going to have to get a little “mouthy” to succeed in an auto shop.
I agree. Go ask the boy. Also, we call this sexual harassment these days. If they know he is a christian then it should be obvious as to what’s really going on. I went through the same thing except I was 19 at the time and the guys at the shop placed extreme porn in from of me in an effort to corrupt me since I was the bosses son. I was a naive catholic guy at the time.
If I had a son (two daughters) I probably would only address him. Our youth are exposed to so much in the world these days, and I don’t want to “shield” them forever. They have to know how to combat these things on their own. I would make sure he understands what is inappropriate about it, and empower him to speak up if he’s truly bothered. Again, I have daughters, so I think the only way I would step in and have a chat with another person about their conduct in from of my 17yr old daughter is when it is personal…i.e. the other person is making advances or whatever.
I think PKind said it well. Have the conversations with your son. He’s old enough to be making, and will be making, his own adult choices. It is certainly ok to share with him your concerns as well as your husband to do so and the problems it created for both of you over the years AFTER you ask you son the ???s PKind shared.
If it continues, it seems to me your son will have to decide if this is harassment and then stand up for himself as he is basically an adult and will need to learn to do so for the rest of his life. I would have the same concerns you do SC, the thing is how you react and the relationship you have with him can help direct him towards or away from this man and stimuli but it’s ultimately his choice
The dude with the cucumber picture then taking the son out to lunch is just a bit concerning. Why would any man want a picture of another man’s butt, especially with a cucumber in it? I have a son about that age. I might say not to let any gay men try to recruit him. If someone showed me a picture like that, I’d probably ask him if he was gay. Why did he like to look at pictures of other men’s butts, and why are you showing that to me? I’d probably tell my son that is how I’d respond and talk about some other things he could say. He could say he doesn’t want to see porn pictures, and especially finds gay porn disgusting, so please refrain from showing it to him. A gay recruiter might back off if called out on it. If the guys are just teasing him, it’s also a way for him to stand up for himself a bit.
You could explain to your son that not everyone out there holds to the same morals. You could also say while chances of this are slim, some men are homosexuals and they try to find teens or young men to have sexual encounters with. Feeling out someone with a gay porn picture is one way to do it. But it could be he just thought it was funny or shocking and was using that to tease him.
The man may have just thought it was funny. People with poor sexual morals often do not realize that their morals are poor. Those who see nothing wrong with porn may see nothing wrong with 17-year-olds watching it. Many people do not realize it is a sin to look at a woman with lust.
Another approach to someone showing you porn is to use it as an evangelistic opportunity. The co-worker shows him a calendar of semi-nude women. He can tell him that while the woman is attractive, he is not going to look at her because Christ taught that he that looks on a woman in order to lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart, and go from there to discussing sin and ask the man if he’s broken any of the other ten commandments. What will he do when he stands before God on the day of judgment? Then talk about Christ’s work on the cross and the resurrection. If the man hears the Gospel, great. If he doesn’t want to hear it, he might stop showing your son porn if doing so turns into occasions for evangelism.