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 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.
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.
Yep, there is probably going to be some “hazing” in an auto shop or similar work environment. Lots of ways to approach this – from Laisse Fare to helicopter mode. Bottom line, you will not always be there and he has to figure out how to handle it on his own – eventually. Guide him with that in mind. If he is planning to go into this area of work for a career, he needs to have a firm understanding of what his stance will be and why – because that stuff isn’t going away. Then give him direction in how to make that stand, whatever it is. All the way up to busting some dude in the nose if he won’t back off. Since it is just this one guy at this point, I would advise him to simply say to the guy “I appreciate you’re efforts to help me fit in, but I would prefer not to be a part of such crude humor or suggestive things. Let’s share hunting stories instead.” It can be done in such a way as not to alienate him from his coworkers. Hopefully, his general good influence will spread. He also needs to know that if negative things start to happen, he needs to contact company personnel if this is a corporate or large franchise type shop. But either way, momma needs to keep separate from the situation. Dad may choose to get involved as long as he doesn’t emasculate the boy in the process. The world is cruel and harsh. Our job is to make our children strong and able to handle this world on their own, be resilient, able to fail without collapse and know where they stand on any subject given they have already answered the big questions in their minds.
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.
It is great that he comes to his parents for wisdom and advice. I agree with the above that it is best to prepare him to deal with difficult things like this so that he is capable of handling what he will surely run into in this broken world. Like the others, I’m a bit concerned about the guy who took him to lunch. Probably he is just inappropriately messing with him, but that doesn’t mean your son shouldn’t be prepared or have a plan if the guy goes out of bounds with him.
There are too many people in this world looking to do evil, so my trust level when it involves protecting kids/young adults is pretty low with people I don’t know extremely well. Your son is at an age where he should firmly tell the other guys that he isn’t entertained with this stuff. They should perceive that he isn’t happy about it in a “don’t push me” sort of way, not a “I don’t know how to deal with this” sort of way. This type of attitude discourages stuff like this if anything does. His demeanor should be “I’m not going to be messed with or bend on this.” Resolute. If someone goes out of bounds with him, he should have a plan (fight/leave) instead of not knowing how to respond.