Parental controls

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Photo credit: Rachel Robinson
Rachel Robinson

Dead Dan: My father passed away suddenly. I had a very idyllic childhood and was close to my father and my mother (who is also deceased). Upon sorting through my father’s stuff after his death, I stumbled upon his erotica collection. If it were just a stack of Playboys, I would have thought nothing of it — that’s just men being men. However, his collection contained material that was quite disturbing to me, including photos depicting violent sexual acts and fictional erotica books and magazines with themes of incest. Additionally, there were letters from people with whom he was obviously having extramarital affairs, including during the time that I was a child and believed that we were a “normal” family. Since discovering this, it has been hard for me to come to terms with it and think of my father in the way that I used to. I can barely stand to look at a photograph of him. I consider myself to be a sex-positive person, and I realize that even parents are entitled to be kinky, but I simply can’t get over this. Any suggestions for how to deal with what I’m feeling and how to try to get past it?

—Parent’s Arousal Really Ended Nice Thoughts

Dear PARENT: Sex-positive, huh? Could’ve fooled me.

Your dad was a kinky motherfucker — you know that now — and if you’ve been reading Savage Love for a while, you’ll know that lots of people are kinky and, distressingly, lots of people out there “enjoy” incest porn. “Of the top hundred searches by men on Pornhub,” Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes in his book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, “sixteen are looking for incest-themed videos.” And it’s not just men: “Nine of the top hundred searches on Pornhub by women are for incest-themed videos.” That’s cold comfort, I realize, and it doesn’t make it any less squicky, but your dad’s tastes weren’t as freakish as you thought and/or hoped.

As for his affairs, your happy childhood, and your suddenly conflicted feelings…

Your mother isn’t with us, PARENT, so you can’t ask her what her arrangement was with your father. But it’s unlikely you would have had such an idyllic childhood if your parents’ marriage was contentious and your mom was miserable about your dad’s cheating and his kinks. It seems likely that your mom didn’t have a problem with your dad’s sexual interests or she tolerated them or — and I hope you’re sitting down — she was an active and happy participant. (Kinky women weren’t invented in a lab in San Francisco in 2008.) If your mom didn’t have a problem with your dad’s kinks (which she had to have known about) or his affairs (which she might not have known about), I don’t see why they should be a problem for you. 

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