What Do You Tell Your Children About The Internet?

by Belle Waring on November 3, 2014

When Zoë was maybe 10 and old enough to start randomly looking at things on the internet without much supervision other than Google SafeSearch (well, such a thing was likely to occur; I’m not sure she was old enough per se) I had a little talk with her. And Violet, but Violet wasn’t paying attention. I re-had the talk with Violet later. It went like this: don’t ever go to 4chan, OK? OK. Also, there are weirdos on the internet who are grownups but want to have sex with children. Her: “Whaaaaa–??@? I thought people had sex so that–” Ya, I know. Just, roll with me. They pretend to be other kids so they can talk to kids. So don’t talk to weirdos who ask you a lot of personal questions, and don’t ever tell anyone on the internet where you live, and later when you have photos and an email and attachments don’t send them to anyone. But also if somehow something weird happens and you get scared of someone or feel like something is wrong you should always tell me, and I’ll never be mad at you even if you didn’t do 100% “the right thing,” and it’s never too late to say something is making you scared or feel weird, like, there’s not a crucial window that goes by and then if you miss it you can never speak up because it’s your fault now, because you didn’t say anything before. Also, don’t go to 4chan. Shit, don’t even go to reddit. I’m not saying this because it’s cool and fun, it’s just gross. [Dear CT reader who frequents a perfectly nice and informative knitting sub-reddit that isn’t even sexist at all: them’s the breaks.]

I oke-bray the ules-ray by getting Zoë an FB account for Xmas one year that–her age being the number after ten–was not one of the approved years. It was her top request on her list to Santa. (And free!) I made myself a page administrator, set the privacy settings myself, and said she couldn’t put pictures of herself up. I couldn’t issue a blanket “no anything-chan” rule because of course zerochan.net has all the best pictures in the world. For several years she has obsessively searched for and downloaded both official and (moreso) fan art, and then uploaded it again into massive albums on her FB page. There’s over 5K images on there!

I made the account for her because expat kids have a sad problem where their best friends move away, all the time, and they can never talk to them again. I just now handed down my iPhone 4 to Zoë when John bought me an iPhone 5, so she could in principle call her friends, but in practice people on central daylight saving time in the US are sort of impossible to call when you also have Kumon and flute practice and stuff (N.B. PLEASE ELIMINATE DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME. I AM NOT A TIGER MOM.) She can more realistically WhatsApp them when they are in wifi in Jakarta or Sydney. It’s still not the same; for children friendships need constant contact and tending. Violet got her heart torn out this past year, when her BFF since Chinese International School kindergarten, Lara, moved back to England, Rena went back to Japan (she and Rena wrote stories every day at recess that were hilarious and amazing) and Nichola, also a longtime friend from her old school, went back to…I can’t remember. She’s like half-Dutch and half-British? White-blond curls? The UK I think. Before that Violet had suffered only once, the devastating loss of Nora, who, being from California, is naturally in Sri Lanka. Truly we should go visit her and her family (but Zoë will become apoplectic if we visit a country in Asia not Indonesia–to which I must go for business reasons–but not Japan. She really wants to visit Japan a lot. A LOT tho.)

I am overdue on making Violet a gmail account (also bendy of rules) so that she can gchat with friends. Last year she would get home from school and, after homework, chat with friends like in ye olden days on AIM, for hours. A point to which I will circle back but…OK, with safesearch on, the girls’ ability to search for their preferred Japanese fashion style, Gothic Lolita, was foiled until I helped them take lolita out and put Harajuku. This was a few years ago. Now we read enough manga with the style in question that we can search Pinterest together (the three of us) for Kuroshistuji cosplay and do pretty damn well. They can also search alone, of course. A year and half ago, or so, Zoë said something funny: “I knew how to say hentai in Japanese and Mandarin [the word is similar but I don’t remember it–B] before I learned how to say ‘pervert.'” I really think of hentai as like a particular genre of manga/anime that prominently includes tentacle rape of girls in sailor-suit school-uniforms, but then when we considered I realized it just means pervert. Or perverted. Pervert is kind of handy as a word. Creep is good too, I guess.

When my sister was little, she had exactly zero online supervision. (She’s 11 years younger than me. Also my family is both hella rad and hella lame.) She grew up on AIM, myspace, playing MMORPGs with my brother and a crew in Sweden that they raided with. People gave her cool stuff because she was a girl; she had different profiles but her main one had a female name, Valeria. Somebody gave her a Vorpal Sword one time. Just because she was so badass. I was like, how can they tell you’re cute through the screen? Her response “you write cute. What do you think. Anyway only like 20% are girls. Less, even.” Hmm. Seriously, she was legendary in this one game they played. She and my brother played for at least two years. When she got married (in-game) to this Danish guy (she was…14 or 15?) it was a huge deal. Needless to say she talked to many hentai guys. Wow much hentai. So pervert. (To be perfectly fair, I think it was way better than now. Like, better than just playing Destiny now as a female-voiced person using miked game chat. The extent to which gamers are talking about raping your mom and you being a faggot and girls needing to die in an ebolaids-needle-infected tornado is honestly worse than MMORPG text chat/raid coordination in 1997).

The best, though, was that she chatted for ages with this one guy who became the founder of the current biggest white supremacist prison gang in the country. He wasn’t in prison then (but maybe only between sentences). I mean, you’ve probably heard that when lots of men get to prison they end up more or less needing to pick a side if the place is formally divided and militarized? There’s currently one gang that’s the white power gang, and this dude was my little sister’s main AIM chat buddy when she was 12 or 13. Why? Because she’s my sister. Have you heard of anyone IRL who’s had a gun pointed at them by a Russian Israeli mafia guy, and then talked the dude out of robbing the jewelry store (more like taking back money legit owed by her sketchtastic boss) by flirting with him about the high-quality Russian gun he has? And then segueing smoothly to the bravery of Soviet resistance to the Nazi’s during WWII, with lots of specific knowledge about this guy’s hometown? OK, sure, NBD. She’s done that and SEPARATELY she’s been told to give up her jewelry and wallet, refused, and been forced on her knees to face the wall and lace her hands behind her head with her two friends while the guys behind them argued (in Arabic, but you could get the gist) about shooting them. (The guy without the gun was saying ‘shoot them,’ and the guy with the gun was saying ‘you shoot them, cheesedick!’) It turns out to be hard to execute people, and my sister still had all her jewelry and money at the end of the night, and her friends didn’t. But it wasn’t worth it are you insane ypougerjgbbhjwourengx?!?? [Belle expires 800th time.]

So, realistically, your kids are going to see a lot of gross pr)n on the internet. There’s not a ton you can do about that. I mean, safesearch up the place and all, but, c’mon. Is there an age at which you acknowledge this has taken place and address unrealistic beauty/what sex is like/violence against women problems? If they haven’t looked yet that’s going to be one majorly awkward conversation. “Jimmy?” “Yes, dad?” “Do you know, in two girls, one cup, when…” “…um, dad?” Thoughts? What have y’all told y’all’s kids about the magical funderful world of the intertubes? All I’m certain about is that the rise of gamergate means I’ve had to explain there are people who have managed to get themselves kicked off 4chan who were not /b/tards denizens of the infamous /b/ board* (Zoë blanched, reasonable), and are now on the double-extra-super-do-not-visit-list 8chan, which is sort of maybe infinity-chan? Also, I guess Americans don’t pronounce “chan” like Japanese people, so that’s been going wrong for me mentally for some time now.
*Sure they’re called that, but I don’t go around calling everyone an oldfag, do I? Sorry all. That was inconsiderate.

UPDATE: It strikes me that perhaps I was unclear. There’s nothing wrong with your fully teenaged children looking at pr0n; you’ll just each pretend not to know that the other knows. That’s how society works generally, or no one would ever shake hands. But, your four-year-old shouldn’t be in a pissing match with his friend over who can awaken Cthulu with the most terrifying image currently in the family computer’s browser cache. And then, you probably want to have some talks in the in-between years with your kids like, ‘hey, you should know that for all it’s fascinating, pr0n’s bizarre and unrealistic in many ways and–oh, you’re all about the amateur–you know that they make fake amateur–OK, point taken, but most people do grow hair there–fine, it varies, but—‘etc. Also, ‘there’s being a sex-positive feminist and then there’s thinking people are stuck in a shock-value ratchet, and we don’t need to see every damn body getting choked to death’ etc. None of these things is the same as needing to maintain Purity of Essence for your children, nor is it mere prudery to suggest that they not send anyone any photos.



Phil 11.03.14 at 9:36 am

My son told me about 4chan. He’s a massive gamer (by my standards, which probably means he’s a total amateur) and went to an all-boy school. We’ve had the usual kind of rows about how much time he spends glued to DOTA 2 or whatever, but (and this is going to sound cheesily virtuous, but I swear it’s true) the nearest I’ve come to telling him to cut down on a particular site was when I told him he should stop reading the comments on Feminist Frequency videos, because they were just making him angry. (We had a few conversations about sexism in video games, months ago, but they were short conversations – there wasn’t anything we disagreed about.)

I love my son.


Belle Waring 11.03.14 at 10:34 am

My kids are like “are you commenting at Kotaku again? You know it’s only making you mad, right? You’re not even allowed to read that.”

On reflection, my little sister’s AIM buddy may be the current head but not original founder of the prison gang. Still not sterling internet-boundary-setting on our part.


Pat 11.03.14 at 10:37 am

What do you tell your children about the Internet? “Stay away from the comments section” seems like worthwhile advice. Nothing good is ever found there.


SEK 11.03.14 at 12:18 pm

I think your sister is — how do the kids say it these days? — my brother from another mother?


J Thomas 11.03.14 at 1:15 pm

I told my kids to be careful about giving out personal information. I said lots of people lie on the internet, but any time you tell a lie think about how awkward it will be if you ever want to tell the truth to the people you lied to before.

I didn’t give them any sort of censorship, but told them to click off anything they didn’t like. And that sometimes people try to shock each other.

When I occasionally look at their browser histories they show no sign of any interest in any of the sexual stuff. They don’t pay much attention to the real horror stuff but get kind of scared by children’s horror. One of them spends more time on Imgur than I like, and she’s far more informed about internet memes than I am. Possibly that might be good for something someday.

I feel like they spend too much effort on activities that are intended to be addicting. They play games which are intended to keep them clicking for intangible rewards, special shiny pokemon etc. They feel satisfied trying out strategies that eventually get them rare rewards, and they discuss arcane strategies with each other. The oldest one explains that she enjoys the feeling of fake accomplishment she gets from it, and even though the accomplishment doesn’t mean anything the feeling is real.

I have a sense that this is going to be the biggest issue in the long run. We have all these operant conditioning techniques available, and they’re getting used randomly by game designers to no real purpose except to make small amounts of money.


Lynne 11.03.14 at 1:37 pm

“it’s never too late to say something is making you scared or feel weird, like, there’s not a crucial window that goes by and then if you miss it you can never speak up because it’s your fault now”

That is so important. I’m reading a novel where an 8-year-old is being molested by her teacher, and the first time anything happens it just feels bad but nothing she can put into words. She very nearly says something to her parents, but that window closes and after that, as things progress, she feels dirty and ashamed and guilty. When she believes her parents may find out, she panics because she believes they will send her away. It all rings terribly true. Good for you, Belle.


Greg 11.03.14 at 1:47 pm

My oldest is 2, he calls the computer the “booby”. So I mainly tell him not to call it that.

I’ve wondered, do kids intuit what the internet is and how it works, the decentralized structure of it, or do they have to have it explained / shown to them? Also, do you try to explain how new it all is, how this all used to be fields?


Greg 11.03.14 at 1:49 pm

And I’ll second the bit about the window, that sounds like real parenting, right there.


MPAVictoria 11.03.14 at 2:34 pm

No kids yet and I have no idea what the correct way to integrate all this new fangled tech into their childhood is. Hopefully I will be able to glean some knowledge from this thread. Thanks Belle.


Phil 11.03.14 at 3:05 pm

We have all these operant conditioning techniques available, and they’re getting used randomly by game designers to no real purpose except to make small amounts of money.

When I finish playing something like Bejeweled I sometimes get these “Ender’s Game” fantasies, wondering what problems I’ve *really* just been solving (and for whom).

Probably just normal paranoia, as Slartibartfast said.


Philippe 11.03.14 at 3:29 pm

There’s nothing “perverted” or “creepy” about japanese tentacle “rapes” . Its part of a subtle cultural tradition that goes back at least to Hokusai and which questions the union of the natural and human realms (that’s the definition of eroticism). The women in these depictions experience immediate, material, bodily pleasure by mating with multiple phantasmagorical creatures. And so the physical and phantasmagorical worlds coexist, intermesh in a shared heightened state of awareness, paroxysmatically. This questions the role of the biological and the phantasmagorical in human sexuality .
Granted the contemporary avatars of this tradition as present in mangas are coarse and do not rise up to the level of their woodcut predecessors but they are in no way perverted unless you believe that desire, fantasies and sexual exploration are unnatural . I find Superman to be a much creepier figure (with his fantasies of unlimited power and his totalitarian obsession of a pure world, entirely rid of evil )
The real perversion may be in conditioning a young woman to believe that natural human behavior is a form of deviancy.
As for the internet , I think its wonderful to see how young people today (although I’m not much older) seem carefree and curious about sexuality. They engage in role-playing and ritualized behaviors , multiple partners etc .. Seeing sex on the internet is liberating and educational – in fact the whole issue of sex education , which in fact in its awkwardness perpetuated taboos , is now moot . This generation may break some kind of barrier (I’m talking mostly about western societies, especially Protestant ones) This is good news in the sense that healthier , less repressed people sexually makes for a more balanced society in general and more likely to focus on and solve other problems.
In summary I think this is a wonderful time to be a young woman especially if you are not overly “protected” from the world but allowed to fully be pervaded, taken over by it , much like Hokusai’s fisherman’s wife who achieves mastery and control and lucidity in self-abandonment.
Sorry for my english.


Doctor Science 11.03.14 at 4:25 pm

Until they were high-school-age, we had the computer spaces set up so that their screens were distantly visible from where I was sitting. This was before laptops were affordable for kids, however.

We both work online, so we made sure to talk at the dinner table about online issues. In particular, *security*: how to choose (and keep track of) passwords, what kind of info to give and to lie about when setting up accounts. How to keep from DLing viruses (this is v. important!). How to scan a list of google results and figure out which sites are likely to be bogus or infected. How to use and update an antivirus program, how to use Malwarebytes.

Always use Google Safe Search for images, because some things cannot be unseen.

How to choose pseuds and when to give people your RL name. Facebook is *not* for True Confessions, it’s too easy for people to track you there. Concealing your last name — their last name (and my husband’s) is extremely rare, an “Ellis Island Special” I call it, and they are the only people in the world with their names, so we’ve taught them to keep them a closely-guarded secret.

Before they were 13, I set up any social networking accounts. From 13-16, I had to have access to their social networking accounts, to see what they were posting. At age 17 they became “internet adults” and could lock me out of their accounts. That’s also the age when I stopped checking their browser histories.

Protip: the adults should check their *own* browser histories, because the easiest way to get around parental supervision is to use your parent’s computer when they’re not around.

The most important aspect of teaching kids about the internet is that it MUST be ongoing, because the tech and culture change so fast your advice is always getting outdated.


bill benzon 11.03.14 at 4:30 pm

Have I got a story for you. It’s about the olden days in the webtubes when Michael Bérubé was King of the Blogs. There was a guy there, The Constructivist, who was in Japan on a Fulbright. His family, of course, was with him. He had two daughters, one somewhere between 3 and 4 and the other one a bit younger. As things worked out, I ended up wrting stories about Sparkychan and Gojochan and posting them to the interwebs where The Constructivist would read them to his daughters. When the time came that the family had to go home back to upstate New York, onechan (the older daughter) was feeling anxious about having to leave her Japanese friends.

So, I conspired with The Constructivist to arrange a surprise. I put up one last episode of the Sparkycan and Gojochan adventures, a long one in which the two BFFs are captured, put into a cardboard box – I had photographs of them in the box, so you know it was real – and the box was tossed into deepest outer space. End. Of. Story.

What a bummer.

However, The Constructivist and I timed things so he read the story to the girls after they got home in Dunkirk, without, alas, their Japanese friends. When they were done with the episode and pondering the fate of Sparkychan and Gojochan, what should happen but it seems that the FedEx man had delivered a package for the two girls. They open it up and guess what they found inside?

In case you just can’t figure it out, I explain this more fully in a recent post, The Freedoniad: A Tale of Epic Adventure in which Two BFFs Travel the Universe and End up in Dunkirk, New York.


Glen Tomkins 11.03.14 at 5:00 pm

What do you tell your kids about the universe?

What do you tell yourself about the universe?

The internet is not, of course, the universe, but it’s sufficiently large and unedited (uncurated?) that the problem of controls and limits is about the same, not really an easier or smaller question.

The whole idea of trying to stand apart from the universe in order to pick and choose what you’re going to let in and what exclude from your own space and identity, is pretty fraught, but also obviously necessary. It makes us what we are, it is what we are. You do it, decide what to bind and what to loose, and your children do it as well, long before age 11. There’s some in-between period when you can and should make some of the choices about binding and loosening for them, but that has parameters no more definite than any other sort of choice we make. Well, the one definite limit is that some day you’re not going to be around to exert any sort of control.

The only influence you’ll have at that time is already the best sort of influence for any time, the one type of control that can’t go overboard in either direction. You have your example, good or bad, at choosing, and the results of that choosing. Either good or bad choices can be helpful, but you have to be transparent so that they have the full picture to judge from.

Just as you should tell your children the same things about the universe you tell yourself — because they can’t benefit from your experience if you cover the traces — tell them the same things about the internet you tell yourself. Well, insofar as you think it prudent to tell them anything. At 11 they’re already way ahead of you, but mostly will prove fairly indulgent of your backwardness, so go for it even if your ideas will be rejected.


Omega Centauri 11.03.14 at 6:11 pm

Interesting to hear how you handled it. I took more of the hands off Glen Tomkins approach, trusting that good parental examples and learning enough PC in school would do the trick. Oddly my kids are far more PC and anti-drug -even anti alchohol (they are 22 and 25 now) than I or my wife, if anything square and geeky kids overlearn these lessons. If anything they are a bit too correct.


The Raven 11.03.14 at 7:16 pm

Some thoughts. They are free and may be worth what you pay for them.

“She grew up on AIM, myspace, playing MMORPGs with my brother and a crew in Sweden that they raided with.”

Those were simpler times. The net still had major cooperative areas and every criminal on the planet had not yet figured out that the internet was a cop-free zone. I miss the old cooperative internet.

My impression is that growing up on the internet is less risky than walking to school in a big rough city; at least most of the dangers are not physical. “Never give out personal information” is good advice in both places.

From my viewpoint, the biggest risks of the internet are oversharing, overspending, time-sinking, and RSI; I am much less concerned with 4chan and reddit than Facebook and Amazon and iTunes. 8chan, though, stay away. Use pseudonyms where reasonable. They protect from possible harassment and snoopy future employers. Facebook – aka the book that reads you – I think is the biggest risk, and definitely the biggest distraction—it makes its money by being the biggest distraction.

I’m pretty sure the country where you live forbids the use of encrypted e-mail, but that is a shame; knowing how to use GPG is worthwhile.


Matt 11.03.14 at 7:41 pm

I grew up with conservative Christian parents. They sent me to private evangelical schools where swearing, sex, and anything contradicting young earth creationism were off limits. They were also careful about vetting movies and TV shows. I was living in a filter bubble 20 years before anyone used the term “filter bubble,” possibly indicating that we didn’t really need a new term for the online equivalent.

The big hole in the filter maintained by my parents was reading. I read a lot. What do you tell your children about books? The only warning I remember was when I checked out some of Isaac Asimov’s novels when I was 10 or so and my mom told me to be careful, because he was an atheist*. I read lots of science fiction, historical fiction, and non-fiction history. There is a lot of sex, violence, and racism in history. There’s also harrowing violence and weird pervy sex in fiction, depending on the author. These aren’t aspects that usually reveal themselves through the cover or the inside blurb. Strangers can’t ask children to do things through books, so they’re safer that way, and maybe text is safer than images in terms of driving odd attitudes or desensitization. But pretty much every weird pervy thing or horrifying act of violence you can encounter on the WWW I first encountered in library books. I don’t know if or how parents should pre-filter books their kids want to read, but the problem of teaching your kids to enjoy reading without uncritically internalizing everything pretty close to the same problem with material on the net.

*It turns out she was right. It really was contagious. Sorry, Mom.


John Emerson 11.04.14 at 12:54 am

Belle, you’re so paranoid and puritanical.


rentierparasite 11.04.14 at 1:25 am

I’d like to congratulate Phillipe for the best troll comment I’ve seen in a long, long time.


William Berry 11.04.14 at 2:00 am

Matt @17:


I am sixty-three, and I think I can say with all sincerity that my world-view has been little changed by the Internet.


I say again, “books”.

(My dad, who has “passed on”, was a fundamentalist (Assembly of God) minister. He died not really knowing what I thought about the world. My mom is 86 now. I don’t want her to die, ever, but when she does, she won’t know (for sure) what I believe.

That might seem kind of sad, but it makes me feel relieved* somehow.

*Not “guilty”, just relieved.)


Belle Waring 11.04.14 at 2:17 am

Aw, John, you’re so sweet. Philippe: Hoskusai’s Fisherman’s Wife is great and all, but Many Japanese people think tentacle rape is hentai too. It’s just not bad, necessarily, but it’s hentai. I don’t think it’s bad necessarily either, except insofar as it’s not great for 11-year-old girls who go out in school uniforms every day and are particularly timid about monsters. Plenty of things I like are perverted. My daughter made the comment because she was reading the word in Chinese and in Japanese books, but not in English books, and she thought that was funny. So, maybe a comment on our uptight mores, or maybe the fact that she doesn’t care about any non-Japanese cultural products. Mmmm. That are being produced now.

Yeah, Matt, but no. I read all the Gor books when I was 7. There were some serious parental deficits going on there. Like, if I could conceivably reach it, and it was in English, sort of, then I could read it. My kids’ school library has age restrictions which they resent and when they find books they are not allowed to read the older checks them out of the upper school library for the younger, and then we can check them out of the general library for the older (within reason this being Singapore, ahem.) But no matter how ever many of all the Gor novels I read (and God, I swear there are like 12), and adult comics, and porn magazines at people’s houses, and all that, I still got to age 18 without knowing that some people have a chocolate milk fetish where it’s all about lactating black women. And even when I learned that it was still a lot, a lot different from being able to see an infinite loop of a million actual chocolate milk fetish videos by doing one search. It just is. I don’t think it will scar my daughter’s tender retinas and they will die of palsy or something, but it is a salient difference.


Belle Waring 11.04.14 at 2:19 am

Maybe I should have made it more clear that I’m not actually worried about to catch a predator-like bullshit so much as I am some random board deciding to doxx you and burn you to the ground because you entered their field of vision briefly. Bad guys that want to have sex with children and are likely to actually succeed on your child are already conveniently working at their school, or, are your cousin, or whatever.


dsquared 11.04.14 at 2:40 am

I think this would be a great opportunity for that guy to say “I can’t believe that everyone is calling us a white supremacist prison gang! Actually it’s mainly about ethics in video game journalism”


Belle Waring 11.04.14 at 2:48 am

[slow golf clap]


Hogan 11.04.14 at 3:13 am

(and God, I swear there are like 12)

I have the death of your soul right here, ma’am. Will there be anything else?


The Temporary Name 11.04.14 at 3:21 am

I think I made it up to #8 as a teenaged boy and thought “This is sick. I should probably stop here.”


Belle Waring 11.04.14 at 3:38 am

AAAAAHHHH HOGAN NOOOOOOOO!!!! On the plus side I’ve only read the 12? On the minus side I’ve read 12? On the gripping hand side one’s BDSM interests have got to come from somewhere, maybe the guy ever did some good with his life? It’s all so complicated. Except for the part where they are uncomplicatedly the WORST. Novels. EVER. So bad of novels. Yeah, The Temporary Name, I was just young enough and bored enough to…why on earth was I so out of novels then, though? I think I must have just read maybe two of them at seven and the others later when I was a pre-teen. Because we still had tons of other novels I hadn’t read yet then. They were much easier to understand than Philip K. Dick or something, being precisely equal in verbal difficulty to the Savage Sword of Conan comics but lacking the artistic panache or variation in theme. I couldn’t read Philip K. Dick till I was 10 at least, and even then not Ubik or VALIS. My dad’s house in S.C. had a decent but ultimately (well duh, but) limited library, and my grandmother’s in Savannah an excellent bigger library–for grown-ups mostly. It had Paradise Lost with the Gustave Doré engravings, that was good. Good poetry. Children don’t like to read plays IME. No, I didn’t like to read Shakespeare. If someone had given me Alfred Jarry I would have been delighted. It had all the Sax Rohmer Fu Manchu and other novels, so satisfactory. Molesworth. Mapp and Lucia. I didn’t get those for a while though. Asterix and Obelix in French. No television, no air-conditioning, just books. After re-reading LOTR for the 9th time, and Narnia, and Moebius’ Incal again etc. etc. I guess I returned to the Gor books. Sad, really. Poor little past self, and no internet.


mattski 11.04.14 at 3:57 am

Try to interest them in music.


ZM 11.04.14 at 4:09 am

This makes me very relieved 1. I could not read adult books at seven, and 2. I never really liked sci-fi .

I think the delicate years are where you are suddenly able to read adult books, and have no real understanding of how to contextualise adult books, so you start reading them as in the same way you read children’s books.

On holiday when I was about 11 (much older than 7 happily) I ran out of books and picked two about children from the shelves – one was To a kill a Mockingbird, the other was The Counterfeiters by Gide. I did not really see any difference between them at the time . But they are quite different.


bad Jim 11.04.14 at 4:32 am

Forget the internet, Belle, what have you told your kids about their aunt?


Belle Waring 11.04.14 at 5:07 am

mattski, I am afraid to click on those links in case the songs are about Gor. Anyway, Violet only listens to They Might Be Giants, and Zoë only listens to songs sung by Japanese synthetic voice programs.
bad Jim, the girls know that their aunt is the most beautiful, best sexy Soviet sniper WWII reënactor (you should click through, it’s funny), best Civil War reënactor who inherits the mantle of her great-great grandfather Gen. Kirby-Smith, best driver of small tanks, and most loving, most talented jewelry designer of all aunts, as well as their mom’s best partner in crime. I mean that metaphori…ha! Ha. We’re…no, she’s a better shot than me IRL. The girls know that if they get robbed they should give up their shit. It’s only stuff. My sister got felt up by a guy alone with her in the Takoma Metro elevator when she was 12, and she resisted that (OK, good on her) but also refused to turn over her wallet with $5 in it out of sheer stubbornness (why?!) and he beat her so badly he broke her jaw in two places. She’s so tough that she walked the 1/2 mile home and didn’t insist on going to the ER The dentist the next day was shaken and horrified–‘why aren’t you screaming in pain? Most people are screaming in pain at this point!’ My sister’s too awesome for that (unfortunately because she’s in chronic, agonizing pain). Which is cool and all, and I’ve told my kids to yell, and not let themselves get stuffed in any cars, but that they should hand over their wallets if it comes to it. I mean, I say this, but when I got mugged in NYC and got coldcocked hard enough for my nose to be broken and me to be one moment walking and the next staring into the bare branches of a sapling abloom with a plastic bag, and a sodium halogen streetlight on the black sky, and a ConEd substation, I snatched my purse back also. This is where my kids explain they never want to live anywhere but Singapore.


Matt 11.04.14 at 5:16 am

When I was a kid a part of my strategy for avoiding a book famine was to finish reading everything I started, no matter how unenjoyable. But I didn’t read plays! Not then or now. Performances are great but reading them is like reading movie scripts. You read stuff like that only after you have run out of novels and interesting encyclopedia entries, and are starting to eyeball instruction manuals and mail order catalogs like a Donner party member who knows that hunger will triumph over willpower. The worst book of all is no book at all.

In the early 1990s it was a lot easier to download text than images. Video over the net was still science fiction. So I didn’t encounter any lactation fetish video loops when I was going through puberty. I did encounter a lot of incest and bestiality tales in the alt.sex.stories news groups, plus many stories of more obscure predilections. The worst is extreme violence. I once made the mistake of downloading a video of what turned out to be a Russian soldier having his throat cut on camera. I’m nearing 40 and I don’t think I will ever be old enough to watch those things. Even those bloodless gun camera videos of aircraft blowing up people from a mile away are horrible.


The Raven 11.04.14 at 5:41 am

Belle@21: “Maybe I should have made it more clear that I’m not actually worried about to catch a predator-like bullshit so much as I am some random board deciding to doxx you and burn you to the ground because you entered their field of vision briefly”

But isn’t that at least as much of a risk on Facebook as it is on 4chan? And the gods help you if some baddie breaks into your FB timeline; lots more there than your address.


dsquared 11.04.14 at 5:45 am

There’s nothing “perverted” or “creepy” about japanese tentacle “rapes” . Its part of a subtle cultural tradition that goes back at least to Hokusai

“There’s nothing perverted or creepy about it, it’s part of historic Japanese culture” is right up there with “there’s nothing gay about it, it’s just how the classical Greeks did things”


bad Jim 11.04.14 at 5:51 am

Glad I asked, because that link was hilarious.

It sounds like you’re all a pretty bad-ass crew, even more so than my family, which is all to the good. In the original post the girls seem merely confident and matter-of-fact, which is normal for young ones, in my experience. Now upgraded to tough and capable and may know how to deploy a dieresis, which is to say, however temporarily diminutive, threatening.


Belle Waring 11.04.14 at 7:02 am

Ya, good points The Raven. One’s FB and Instagram feeds are hazardous. The lord only knows what photos there would be of me online this very instant had there been more opportunities. Even as it stands my presidential ambitions are preeettttty much over.


J Thomas 11.04.14 at 7:39 am

#25 TheTemporaryName

I think I made it up to #8 as a teenaged boy and thought “This is sick. I should probably stop here.”

Oh, I remember those. Yes, #8 was probably about the right place.

I liked the first few. I mean, OK, BDSM, but #3 had giant ants! Intelligent giant ants with high technology! They had a giant insect that gave them beautiful dreams while it ate them, and they kept it as a sort of pet, they could look forward to the time when the ant colony didn’t need them any more and they could experience the joy of being eaten. They didn’t care about human beings much, except to make sure they never got enough technology to be dangerous. They were charming.

And then here’s the hero, who sees how utterly dysfunctional the society is and he plans to change it. He and his girlfriend against the world! Sometimes while they’re planning they do consensual BDSM, for fun. But then he decides the place is too dangerous for her, and he sends her home to earth where she’ll be safe. And away from him. He doesn’t consult her. She is understandably outraged. I think #8 is about the point the main character (MC) decides the society doesn’t need to be changed at all, he just needs to adapt well enough to be the best at everything. It lost its last fig leaf of decency about then, and it was all downhill from there.

It had a certain world-building consistency if you ignore the MC’s misunderstandings. The ants keep humans from having much technology, except somehow they let them do a lot of biology and somehow they never do much biowarfare, against ants or anybody. They cured old age in everybody. That would be enough to create a giant population given enough food, except the men enthusiasticly kill each other. I didn’t notice a book where the main character wasn’t involved in at least 10,000 deaths including at least 10 men he knew personally. They didn’t kill women nearly as much, though they sometimes used them as bait when trapping monsters etc. This reflected the population imbalance. So, lots of old infertile women who look young. Not nearly enough men to go around. Given the death rate, the women would need to be pretty much continually pregnant during their fertile years, but no, many slave women are given contraceptives. The men would be mostly young (unless it’s mostly the young men who get killed). The women mostly older. This explains why they kidnap women from earth when they have a surplus already — they want young impressionable women who don’t know as much about manipulating them.

The whole system run by a few mean old men. It largely fits together if you look at it right.

The writing was not so much bad as insufficiently edited. He used a technique where he would mention a flock of a particular kind of bird, or a special fruit that usually had an even number of seeds but the ones with long necks had an odd number of seeds, and the avid reader was supposed to remember the scene where the MC bet with a local about how many seeds, or what direction the birds would fly, and lost. Each reference to past stuff was supposed to build up a web of pleasant memories. But there was way too much of that. Also there was a whole lot of repetitious, boring BDSM. I think the author really enjoyed thinking about that, because he wrote it over and over without a whole lot of variation. As his books got popular he accepted less editing, the books got fatter and more repetitious, and much harder to read. He kind of got blacklisted for awhile, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was not only because his work was so offensive, but also because he was probably getting harder to work with.

Occasionally ageless beautiful women got sent back to earth. Wouldn’t it make sense that they would accumulate wealth and power? How much of current culture and news could be because of such women? I didn’t see him consider the possibility at all. Unless it was in the many books I skipped, he just was not interested in writing about an earth dominated by mean (or otherwise) old women.

Oh well. I wouldn’t forbid my kids to read it, but I sure wouldn’t encourage them. Or maybe I would. I tried to get my oldest daughter to read Atlas Shrugged thinking she should get inoculated to those ideas, and after a brief description she refused. I’m pretty sure she’d be less likely to read this stuff if I suggested it.


Joey 11.04.14 at 9:13 am

This is a really dumb question that I didn’t even know I was waiting to ask. But now I see maybe this is the thread for it.

For lots of reasons, I don’t like or use Facebook or other similar social networking anything; neither does my partner. We have a young daughter (so young that we have not yet had any of the talks about anything, so I’m reading this thread with great interest!). Here’s my question: As she gets older, is there going to be some moment in the future where we are legitimately actually being bad parents if we say no Facebook (or similar) for her? From what I sometimes read from parents I like & respect who have older kids, including in this post, it seems that even waiting until the age Facebook itself says is kosher may constitute some sort of hardship in the world our daughter will soon inhabit.

I ask, BTW, not as a Luddite, but as somebody who was hanging out with odd people on BBSes via a Hayes Smartmodem in the late 80s and still enjoys many things about the Internets — just not the whole “sharing everything with Mark Zuckerberg and the world” approach to life that now seems near-universal. I’m unsure whether imposing this apparently idiosyncratic view on my daughter is fair.


Pat 11.04.14 at 9:32 am

Lynne @6, any chance that novel is by Anne-Marie MacDonald?


Andrew F. 11.04.14 at 10:25 am

You can also simply block access to, i.e. blacklist, certain sites – or categories of sites with some services – from your network.

I think for certain ages restricting access to more controlled sites is wise – to accomplish this, you can allow your network to only connect to, i.e. whitelist, certain sites.

Not saying any of that can substitute for keeping an open dialogue with one’s children and maintaining an appropriate level of supervision, but they can be useful tools and are easy to set up and use.


Saurs 11.04.14 at 10:45 am

Commenters thinking they scored a triumphant gotcha! by asking Belle Waring what she tells her kids about books ‘n’ films ‘n’ “the universe”: books and films and the Actual Universe, Actually (the sort of disembodied big one we occupy, not the metaphor we employ when talking about ourselves), don’t attack kids, don’t target them, try to groom them, throw slurs at them, send them dick pics and threats when the books (films, universe) don’t get their way. No one is owed access to kids because: freedoms against nags and killjoys trump all.

Negotiating the inevitability of your children losing their childish naivete and wonder and becoming A Small and Hardened You while fearing the consequences of insulating them too much (thus setting up a much harder fall later in life) is a dilemma worthy of discussion. Explaining why we are socialized as a culture to do and feel horrible, dehumanizing things is something most parents will more or less screw up, if they attempt it at all, because they’re drowning in the same shit and we lack a vocabulary that is free from prejudices (the kind that sets up traps for well-meaning adults) and simple enough to explain complicated things.


Trader Joe 11.04.14 at 12:15 pm

@36 Joey

At some point, sad to say, you will be actually disadvantaging your kid by not letting them on FB.

Many club and team sports have pages and that’s where coaches put out information and impromptu team pictures and other chatter happen and if your kid participates on these teams (and hopefully wants to feel a part of that team) they will want and somewhat need access to the ‘chatter’ that goes with being on the team…it becomes to some extent an extension of the locker room (not that youth soccer has a lockerroom per se – but thats the metaphor).

The same goes for parents of kids on these teams – very often the ‘team mom’ uses FB as the medium to say who is meant to bring drinks or snacks for after the game or help arrange rides for kids who might need transport to or from etc…..you can choose not to participate, no one will make you, but you will be out of the loop and could miss informaiton that you might deem important.

Not saying I like any of this by any means, just my observation about how it is in Suburbia.


Ronan(rf) 11.04.14 at 1:15 pm

” No one is owed access to kids because: freedoms against nags and killjoys trump all.”

But no one has said that, I don’t think, just that all the problems that exist online exist X100 offline. (Is online bullying worse than the offline kind? The odds of being groomed online is far lower than by someone in your family, a local taxi driver/gang etc .. perhaps buying drugs online is easier now, but I’d doubt it, or at least would imagine the vast majority of young ‘uns still do it the old fashioned way)
‘Saturation by disgusting porn’ is certainly something relatively novel, but again you have to go looking for it. I’d assume most people looking up s**t eating videos are (1) those curious of what it entails/doing so ironically (2) people who find it sexually arousing. I dont see why we should lose any sleep over either demographic. It might be, to my eyes, pretty disgusting, perhaps unhealthy, but too each their own.

Having said that, I dont have any kids – and so as my mother always said to me ‘ all your stupid ideas will dissapear once you do’.. so there is that.


J Thomas 11.04.14 at 1:55 pm

‘Saturation by disgusting porn’ is certainly something relatively novel, but again you have to go looking for it.

Well, no. If you want to not see any of it at all, it takes great effort to prevent looking at anything that might have some. Because some people want to be shocking, and they will occasionally try to goatse you.


I’m afraid there is no real solution. Your children will see goatse. They will also see far more disturbing things, like videos of sharks eating porpoises, and herons eating fish. It’s just part of modern life.


Lynne 11.04.14 at 2:04 pm

Pat @ 37. Yes. I’m more than half way through and sadder by the page, reluctant to read on but I probably will.


Lynne 11.04.14 at 2:08 pm


You can get your daughter a FB page under a name that isn’t her own full name. Instead of Elizabeth Smith, Lizzy Ann, for instance. Her friends would know who she was but future employers wouldn’t be able to find her. As for pictures, IMO nothing should be posted that you aren’t happy to have out there in public forever. My adult son has a friend who has a picture of himself looking obviously drunk on FB. Not a good idea.


Belle Waring 11.04.14 at 2:38 pm

Ronan(rf) if you read Jezebel you would know that two months or so ago someone *cough/b/cough* started…trolling isn’t even the word; posting really vile porn and violence gifs as comments, endlessly, way faster than the mods could keep up. The Denton empire at large was inclined to ignore it so long as they were only hating on the ladies, but then they started posting them at Gawker and io9 also (though never at Kotaku I think, hmm–and then it separately occurred to me that the Jezebel editors might be passing them on?) and the banhammer came out. Thus there was a brief period when I could be reading a Saturday longform personal essay on Gawker with my daughters next to me in the bed and when I scrolled down to the comments it would be coprophagia as far as the eye could see. Even now they have a button to click “show pending,” i.e. comments not yet approved, and you do so at your own risk. And you’re just reading an article about whether the guy who discovered the new, puppy-sized spider should have killed one as a scientific specimen! So it’s not that easy to avoid. It’s more disturbing when strangers show you their dicks IRL obviously, but the frequency with which they want to show you online sort of balances out sometimes. My older daughter, particularly, is just really sensitive to being frightened by movies that aren’t scary to anyone else over the age of 8; she won’t be able to watch The Shining till she’s 45. If she had happened to glance over and see a five second loop of someone being beheaded (and for real though) she would have found it very, very upsetting and still be freaking out this actual moment (I just heard her cough. She is sometimes afraid serial killers will scale the side of the building and get in her window. Our living in a glass and slick-stoned condo on the 24th floor doesn’t seem to ease that as much as it ought.)


Joshua W. Burton 11.04.14 at 3:04 pm

If I had it to do over again with the kids . . . .

New Mac of their very own at age 7, no physical supervision or time limits. Under “Parental controls”, restrict their account to Terminal as the only allowed app. Email account with their own first name, on the family domain. Install lynx in /usr/local to give them the web. Teach them emacs. Give them root access when they have an Arduino project that needs a driver. Social networking can wait until they’ve figured out Tor for themselves.


David 11.04.14 at 3:28 pm

All of which raises the question: is Game Of Thrones anything more than Gor without the giant birds?


William Timberman 11.04.14 at 3:42 pm

As an old, white, American guy, I find this thread creepy and depressing, but also perversely interesting — hearing what much younger people from all over the place make of our very weird (to me) post-internet post-modernity. I don’t have anything useful to say about it, but I do wonder.

The phenomena that puzzle me — on the one hand road rage, gun fetishism, belligerent misogyny, ignorance as the codpiece of the masses, and on the other corporate regimentation, Dilbertism, public hypocrisy — seem as entangled at the root as one of those hundred-acre toadstool colonies I’ve read about. I’m thinking here of he return of the repressed, of monkeys who’ve remembered suddenlyu that bananas won’t grow in the glass boxes their cleverness has built for them to live in, yet don’t have the patience to look for a doorway into the garden.


Philippe 11.04.14 at 3:46 pm

@32 –

There’s nothing “perverted” or “creepy” about japanese tentacle “rapes” . Its part of a subtle cultural tradition that goes back at least to Hokusai

“There’s nothing perverted or creepy about it, it’s part of historic Japanese culture” is right up there with “there’s nothing gay about it, it’s just how the classical Greeks did things”

Thanks for you reply but you are misreading me and your statement is not logically equivalent to mine. Just to be clear: japanese tentacle rape is not perverted not because it has a cultural history but simply because in itself it is neither perverted nor creepy. Also I find the idea of perversion applied to the imagination or to creative works disquieting. As far as I know there have been no documented cases of women being assaulted by molluscs.


J Thomas 11.04.14 at 4:45 pm

Philippe, people find things associated with sex creepy, when they think about them but are not interested themselves. Or worse, when they are kind of interested but don’t want to be.

And so what’s creepy varies a lot with the particular people, but anything which is not mainstream will be creepy to a lot of people. And any sexual depictions on the internet will be creepy to some people.

Japanese tentacle rape is associated with sex. With, specifically, rape. And forced orgasm. And magical rape. I have seen this myself, when I did a survey of the major forms of perverse internet sex stuff. When the tentacles spurt slime all over the schoolgirls, that is connected to bukakke. When they rape the girls in all orifices at once, that’s something-or-other.

The magical male figure who controls the tentacles might keep it from being bestiality, or maybe not.

When you get down to it, there’s a lot there which might disturb people and make it seem perverted to them. There are people who consider anything except extremely vanilla sex with no recording devices, in complete privacy, with only two individuals of different genders married to each other, is perverted.

So when you say that tentacle rape is *not* perverted, you are trying to impose your own meanings on other people. You are attempting cultural domination. And I have the impression there are not nearly enough of you to succeed.


Ronan(rf) 11.04.14 at 4:54 pm

Yeah fair point Belle (and JT) I had actually heard of that Jezebel situation now that you mention it. (JT – Goatse was a little before my time online. Thanks for making me aware. Pretty disgusting)


Rich Puchalsky 11.04.14 at 5:41 pm

I have a high-functioning autistic son and I’m not even going to write about how I try to monitor his Internet use, because all it would do would be to prompt you’re-parenting-wrong comments. Suffice it to say that there’s a whole lot of assumptions about how fast kids get more Internet-capable than adults do that aren’t necessarily true if the child isn’t neurotypical: development can be very uneven.

My daughter is neurotypical and really would like to be more up on social media than I’d like. I’ve found that it’s quite possible to make a FB account with a flat-out fake name; you don’t have to use a variant of your own name as in comment #44. Similarly she can’t put up pictures or videos or herself unless it’s her whole class or her whole camp or something. I’m fully aware that FB is trying hard to make pictures in which you’re one of 20 people just as trackable back to you as pictures of just you, but not putting up group pictures in which she appears would be too much of a hassle for the rest of the kids in the group.

There are various ways of screening out pr0n, but I haven’t found anything that will screen out horror movie ads / clips, which my kids get scared about and complain about for weeks.


mattski 11.04.14 at 6:52 pm


Fear not! Weird & humorously subversive but no Gor.


Philippe 11.04.14 at 8:16 pm


You are attempting cultural domination. And I have the impression there are not nearly enough of you to succeed.

Yes , you are right about the second part . Increasingly so , I’m afraid. There’s been a global resurgence of “repressive” attitudes in the last decades – islamism in the east and puritanism in the west . David Hamilton today would probably not be able to publish. Norms of behavior are converging. Conformism is taking over. I’m not trying to be polemical . Entire microcosms and singular, wonderful , elaborate forms of human interaction that have taken centuries to coalesce are vanishing to be replaced by a unique standard of behaviors that carries with a singular form of moralizing historically situated in a portion of the west .
Given this balance of power I would’t say I’m attempting “cultural domination” . Just trying to keep a small place for personal freedom in a world increasingly dominated by social control and moral surveillance.



“Globalisation and Americanisation of women’s portrayal and sexiness in France has pushed away gentle (and generally harmless) French eroticism towards porno, frontal, hyper-sexualised consciousness,” she says. “Nudist, beach-like freedom is not what it used to be … breasts no longer feel innocent or temporarily asexual.”

Paradoxically, moral control corrupts.


MPAVictoria 11.04.14 at 8:21 pm

Really interesting Philippe.


William Berry 11.04.14 at 8:23 pm

Philippe gets my vote for prize-winning defense of imagery depicting the rape and subjugation of women.

Now, that’s real creative freedom right there!


Watson Ladd 11.04.14 at 9:16 pm

If you want to imagine a world without depictions of rape or abuse, imagine a world without Nabokov, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, A Boy and His Dog, or Infinite Jest.


Rich Puchalsky 11.04.14 at 9:18 pm

I know that I shouldn’t help threadjack this, but consider the case of the guy convicted for receipt of yaoi before you go to town on Philippe. I think that his theory is basically wrong, but his conclusion about the kind of moralizing that’s taking over might not be. Note that I’m certainly not opposed to moralizing (since I moralize all the time), but contemporary sexual morality should, I think, be based on consent, and that has little to do with what kind of drawings are out there.


bob mcmanus 11.04.14 at 9:42 pm

57: Or the Kuroshistuji manga/anime that Belle is allowing her children, written by a mangaka who built his reputation on hardcore yaoi. Apparently toned way down in the manga, and suggested allegorically rather than explicitly. Still, the central theme of a murderous demon serving an extremely jaded and cynical pre-teen Faustian boy with consistent physical contact is not material many people would permit pre-teens. The manga is still ongoing, interminably but very profitably, the anime provided the logical conclusion to the story, in which the Black Butler ate the 14-year-olds eternal soul.

But the late Victorian fashions are so kawaii.


William Timberman 11.04.14 at 9:47 pm

Pornography as Aphrodite’s revenge on puritanism, squeamishness on the left toward any kind of eroticism, regardless of whether or not violence and exploitation are involved, the prurient interest of the middle class in their own child-rearing — all of these phenomena and more exist, and have been discussed either as pathologies, or more charitably, as understandable responses to a daunting pace of change in our social expectations. Phillipe has a point, in other words, but in the present climate of opinion, and general state of fearfulness, it’s not surprising that it should generate more heat than light.


bob mcmanus 11.04.14 at 9:48 pm

Sorry, her reputation, the Black Butler mangaka Toboso Yana is a woman as is usually the case for fujoshi art.

Doing a search for her, I find that explicit “shotacon” was her specialty starting out.


David 11.04.14 at 9:50 pm

“Watson Ladd 11.04.14 at 9:16 pm
If you want to imagine a world without depictions of rape or abuse, imagine a world without Nabokov, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, A Boy and His Dog, or Infinite Jest.”

All of them suitable reading/listening for 10-year-olds.


MPAVictoria 11.04.14 at 9:52 pm


Most people don’t realize it but Black Butler is actually a Japanese adaptation of Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster.


J Thomas 11.04.14 at 9:59 pm

#54 Philippe

“You are attempting cultural domination. And I have the impression there are not nearly enough of you to succeed.”

Yes , you are right about the second part . Increasingly so , I’m afraid. There’s been a global resurgence of “repressive” attitudes in the last decades – islamism in the east and puritanism in the west . David Hamilton today would probably not be able to publish. Norms of behavior are converging. Conformism is taking over.

Yes, I agree. I don’t like it and I don’t see what to do about it.

I think you should not get to dictate what’s creepy, everybody should get to choose that for themselves. But we’re getting more of a consensus on that than I like.

In the USA the leaders in this jihad seem to call themselves feminists. They say that they have had horrible experiences which make them react badly to things, so the whole world is responsible to never do anything that might remind them of things that hurt them. If you do say something that might set them off you must first include a trigger warning which will let them avoid looking at it. The basic attitude is that the things they disapprove of should not exist, and this is entirely incompatible with a live-and-let-live approach.


William Berry 11.04.14 at 10:00 pm

@57, 58:

Oh, horse-shit.

The issue isn’t the “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”, or of the radically patriarchal and misogynist culture that produced it. Nor, for that matter, is it about “Lolita” (nah, that one wasn’t written by the original fedora-wearing douche-bro, now, was it?).

It’s about using these as a back-door to slip in the defense of pornographic images that depict sexual violence against women (cf, JT’s relatively high band-width [!] remark on bukkake, above).

Philippe’s arguments are little more than “sophisticated” versions of those put forward all the time by MRAs and others of that ilk.

His theme of the “convergence of norms of behavior” is fine as far as it goes. But he is trying to get it to do too much work, and there is no good reason to fall into that trap.

YMMV, but I don’t see a lot of suppression of creativity outside of wing-nuts trying to cut funding for Mapplethorpe and “Piss Christ” and the like.


William Berry 11.04.14 at 10:04 pm

Well, I see that one or two of the brothers of the “old left” have chimed in to take Philippe’s side in this debate.

Why am I not surprised?


bob mcmanus 11.04.14 at 10:23 pm

63: Wodehouse?? Have you read Kuroshistuji? It’s available online in scanlation

1) Black Butler is late-Victorian blood-drenched opium horror of the darkest variety. I am not clear on how Belle’s daughter who is sensitive to scarey stories is able to handle it.

2) Ciel Phantomhive, being a 13 Chess master who runs a toy company, is very far from idiot Bertie Wooster

3) Sebastian Michaelis, although a hypercompetent servant, will obey any command, will kill anyone Ciel asks and does, and is always staring hungrily at Ciel’s soul.


MPAVictoria 11.04.14 at 10:39 pm

“Ciel Phantomhive, being a 13 Chess master who runs a toy company, is very far from idiot Bertie Wooster”
Here I must call Nolle Prosequi. The Pride of the Woosters’ shall be avenged!

The trouble with you, Bob, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting “Heil, Bob!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Bob swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?

“Sebastian Michaelis, although a hypercompetent servant, will obey any command, will kill anyone Ciel asks and does, and is always staring hungrily at Ciel’s soul.”

So… basically Jeeves?

/it may be time to get your snark detector adjusted…


MPAVictoria 11.04.14 at 10:41 pm

“Well, I see that one or two of the brothers of the “old left” have chimed in to take Philippe’s side in this debate.

Why am I not surprised?”

Any left that excludes sex workers is not a left that I would support.


Andrew Smith 11.04.14 at 11:27 pm

My five year old caught some brony’s My Little Pony video where Twilight Sparkle was saying some rather rude things. Stupid internet.


bob mcmanus 11.04.14 at 11:27 pm

For the record, whatever “Philippe’s side” might be, I am not on it. I am fairly indifferent to the substance of Free Speech issues and politics although interested in them sociologically.

Although I wouldn’t touch the stuff (or it’s male counterpart, if such exists), I am interested in fujoshi/june/yaoi/shounen ai/slash fiction etc as particular sociological and political phenomena, and in the regulation of culture and expression in general.

The Black Butler live-action movie changed Ciel P into a young woman. That’s interesting.


Collin Street 11.05.14 at 12:00 am

I think you should not get to dictate what’s creepy, everybody should get to choose that for themselves.

Love to. But we can’t, because our society has to be structured around the people our society actually consists of, and significant numbers of them are disturbed in various (often quite minor/narrow) ways. In the general case — the case that matters when we’re writing rules — we can’t trust everyone’s judgement.

[there’s a deeper problem here: “”everything is permitted except that which absolutely 100% needs to be prohibited” only offers hard negative feedback. People drift along until they bump into one of these absolutely-must-be-prohibited things. With absolutely no warning or prior indication, btw; “no guidance until you cross invisible lines, when Bad Things happen” is not a very efficient way to get people to behave in manners you want to encourage. You want positive feedback, you want graduated responses.]


J Thomas 11.05.14 at 12:21 am

“everything is permitted except that which absolutely 100% needs to be prohibited” only offers hard negative feedback. People drift along until they bump into one of these absolutely-must-be-prohibited things.

That is a cultural thing. I have read that austrian culture tends to do things that way — there are hard limits that no one must break, and everything is fine within those limits. I don’t have much personal experience about that, but I met an austrian man who explained to me that once when he was in his teens he took an apple from a tree he was passing on the way home from school. The owner saw him and called his father. He wound up working for two weeks after school until the man agreed he had paid for the apple and declared it was over. He said, “We do not steal. We are all happy together in society, snuggle like bugs in a rug, do what you want, but if you cross the line then you are outside of society and all alone.”

I don’t know whether that is better than the US way where people struggle to be richer, to be more stylish, more with-it, more normal than their neighbors and the competition never ends.

There isn’t just one way to do things. But within each culture, maybe in fact there is just one way to do things and if you violate the norms you are on the outside, unable to encourage others to change with you. And if the culture does change there is nothing you can do but try to keep up.

Maybe that’s just the way it is.


Belle Waring 11.05.14 at 1:59 am

You guys, mcmanus-sensei has got us dead to rights here, hilariously. The answer is that Zoë had to stop reading Black Butler for a while when the first zombie story arc started because she HATES zombies. She made me read ahead in scanlation to give her the all-clear to continue reading, but curiosity naturally got the better of her, and she loves Black Butler so much that she persisted, and is now able to read about zombies drawn in hardcore-shojo-style with weird Victorian face-masks. Toboso-sensei, for the record, is a gay dude. 90% of online Kuroshitsuji fandom is yaoi slashfic, sure (wait, um 99%), but it don’t have to be like that. We like to play “talking games” where we play that my daughters are characters in various stories, and we put Ciel in there for entertainment’s sake though he can never be the center of attention because he’s fundamentally a very bad person.

Philippe, I think you misunderstand my objection to hentai about schoolgirl tentacle rape. It’s about the schoolgirl rape part. It’s really not cool to have sex with children, at all. Further, it’s not OK to rape people, and I’ve never seen a tentacle rape thing where the girls were like,”you know what I wish? I wish that a giant tentacled monster would invade our spaceship made of soapy showers and we could freak nasty all night long.” For same-age young people to experiment sexually with each other? It’s usually fine provided there’s no imbalance of power, but it’s not OK for adults to watch. When you have actual schoolgirls in Asian schoolgirl uniforms as the viewers of the artform, and they are not interested in having sex with tentacles (we have, actually, kind of discussed this, because it’s a common enough theme in other anime as a temporary danger for the heroine that only involves her getting held upside-down by giant snails with pseudopods or whatever so that you can see her underwear) then it becomes a thing you would want them not to watch.

I actually don’t think people should be jailed for possession or creation of totally fictional depictions of pedophilia, like animated ones, or drawn ones. Photoshopped ones and digitally manipulated ones, I think you could make the case that insofar as abusing kids is way easier, this increases demand for the real thing, so you shouldn’t sell it, but should you have it? Should someone go to jail because he photoshopped photos on his own computer so it looks like child pornography? No, that’s stupid. Hurting children is bad, but thinking about it is just really really really creepy. Also, should people walk around naked on the beach? Yes, I don’t care. I think everyone should walk around naked, on their own property, or somewhere you expect it like a nude beach. I don’t like getting flashed on the subway, but otherwise I don’t give a shit. My children are more prudish than me because they were raised in Asia and I was raised by hippies, so the result is I’m fine with nude beaches and they’re not.


ZM 11.05.14 at 2:02 am


Now I am relieved I stopped reading Jezebel – that is quite a horrible thing for someone to do. I find it quite easy to not come across these things on the Internet , but it must be worrisome being a parent of curious kids these days. And one problem is one can never know what will just be a brief phase of interest for a curious teenager, or what could go on to be damaging life long – eg. Lots of teenagers might experiment with drugs, but for some this will turn to a path of addiction and perhaps overdosing.

I made this following point on Henry’s recent Internet post – but I will make it again here since no one responded there.

I think the idea that the Internet should be governed in the way we govern texts (eg. Books, films etc) is misguided. I think it should be governed more like we govern public places.

Films are governed a bit more than books – because they have to be watched by the censors and get an age ranking, or get banned. In practice this does not work very consistently because it is quite easy to see adult films at a young age .

Places are governed more extensively by zoning of the land and needing to get permits to change uses and requirements on uses etc – like residential use people have to look after their kerbs and gutters, ‘adult’ premises must be away from schools and childcare premises etc, premises licensed to serve alcohol have requirements about age, not letting people get too drunk etc.

So I think you could have a virtual land governance approach to Internet governance. People would make too much of a fuss if you decide to govern all Internet sites as if the content should be suitable for children – but Internet sites that are not suitable for children can be regulated in a way that would try to prevent children accessing them. this would not necessarily work 100% eg. it is fairly easy for teenagers to get entry into licensed premises, but it would be more preventative than things are now. Also, even adult sites could get regulated, so eg. Violence against women could be limited to being shown only in contexts where this violence was approached critically (family violence to women and children is a big issue in our state election here in Victoria at the moment.)

The main problems I see would be the costs of compliance, so that would have to be worked out, and that regulation could stop some downloading which would limit poor people’s access to knowledge, but that could be worked out too no doubt.


Belle Waring 11.05.14 at 2:08 am

Further the tentacle thing is partly a unique Japanese idea but mainly a result of laws that prohibit the depiction in anime of ordinary human sexual penetration. Kind of like how old-time pron magazines in the US used to have a black dot there, where you were like, “guys, I kiiinda know what’s happening right there given the surroundings. This isn’t like ‘spot the difference.'” This is just like the sexist bullshit that allows the motion pictures rating people to allow infinity breasts, infinity gore, a decent amount of vag, and zero peen in a movie. If there’s an erect penis in a movie they literally fall on a fainting couch they have there in the MPAA offices. If there is actual sex, then it’s just a porn movie. You can’t make a movie that’s a totally normal movie about actual people and then they have PIV sex that you can see decently well for one minute. That’s really dumb. Likewise you can’t have an anime like that, and you have to run a thing at the beginning of your anime stating that all the characters are over 18, which seems sort of a conceptual issue. Filmmakers in the US have not gone the tentacle route (and, indeed, it wouldn’t get them off the hook and so would be pointless) but they have gone through lots of gyrations with shadowy areas and sheets and improbably drawn shades and so on.


Belle Waring 11.05.14 at 2:17 am

ZM–yeah, I think trying to regulate the internet would be so, so pointless. And kids are just better than adults at evading restrictions. The girls’ school has got a wireless network that doesn’t allow access to social media sites like Facebook. Guess where all the students can go if they talk to this one kid in 8th grade! This is why I feel like to some degree you have to talk to them about it in advance, or at least (since you may be lagging behind) concurrently. It would be more horrible to think, ‘am I the only one that thinks the internet looks like this?’ than to think ‘oh, this is that gross dude on the internet my mom warned me about. Yep, that is a gaping asshole.’ Know Your Meme is actually very good for this.


ZM 11.05.14 at 3:01 am

Well I suppose I don’t understand the technology very well so I’m not really sure how you could technically make it work , and you are right that people would probably find ways not to comply with the regulations.

But I think this is the same in real life – we have lots of regulations but people find various ways of not complying with them. Overall though I am probably on the side of saying that just because regulations are not 100% successful does not mean that we aren’t in many ways better off having regulations.

Of course some laws and regulations themselves are wrong, which is a problem. But it seems to me odd that people who are in favour of a regulatory approach in our physical world are not in favour of a similar approach on the Internet.

Now it would be consistent for Brett Bellmore to argue there should not be regulation of the Internet, since he is against regulation as often as he can without giving up property rights.

And it does seem that women are often the target of vile Internet behavior, so I think the people who own the sites where vileness happens should have to comply with regulations to make more inclusive Internet communities etc.


Belle Waring 11.05.14 at 3:15 am

Ugh, yeah, part of it is that my younger daughter is an obsessive gamer but has never played anything in online multi-player mode and I feel like I can’t deal with the horrible things her fellow gamers will say to her. It’s like a whole nother thing.


ZM 11.05.14 at 4:00 am

Yes, I think that sort of thing is exactly why the internet is unlike a text and shouldn’t be conceptualised as one.

The books you happen to read when you graduate from reading children’s material might say difficult or disturbing things about the female characters therein — but they are not saying them explicitly about you yourself .

Of course, reading texts where authors present difficult views of women (as in Gide) as a young girl without the knowledge and analytical skills to contextualise them and distance yourself from them presents its own difficulties, that people deal with differently — I think it is well characterised by Elizabeth Bishop in In The Waiting Room, where she is with her Aunt and hears a gasp while looking at pictures of women in National Geographic magazine:

-Aunt Consuelo’s voice–
not very loud or long.
I wasn’t at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
but wasn’t. What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I–we–were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
February, 1918.

I said to myself: three days
and you’ll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world.
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.

The waiting room was bright
and too hot. It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.

Then I was back in it.
The War was on. Outside,
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.


dsquared 11.05.14 at 9:06 am

Just to be clear: japanese tentacle rape is not perverted not because it has a cultural history but simply because in itself it is neither perverted nor creepy. (emphasis added – DD)

I think maybe ten years ago – certainly fifteen years ago – I might have got into a long argument about this. I regard it as a potentially hopeful sign of impending maturity that I’m not going to. Philippe, get a telephone, give yourself a ring and ask yourself what the fuck you think you’re on about.


dsquared 11.05.14 at 9:12 am

Meanwhile, in related news, one of my son’s friends has set up a charity whereby children in the UK write letters to children in war zones. It seems to have gone fine, except that one of the consequences is that she keeps getting letters telling her what a great person she is from a Liberian teacher who doesn’t seem to realise she’s a twelve year old.


J Thomas 11.05.14 at 12:51 pm

Philippe, get a telephone, give yourself a ring and ask yourself what the fuck you think you’re on about.

His point could possibly be defended. I have seen four of these. I tried to select them randomly but there were likely unknown biases in the selection. I found some common themes in three of the four.

There was a solemn scene where an authority figure explained something complicated to the girls. They appeared to volunteer for something. (It would be easier if I understood written or spoken japanese.) Later there was a scene in which they resolutely and angrily marched into a weird landscape, possibly representing some sort of battlefield. There they met the tentacles, got suspended into the air and thoroughly raped. Each of them came about the time the tentacles did. There was a human or demon male connected somehow to the tentacles, in two cases he had dozens of them sprouting from him. He looked evil. After the rape, one or more of the girls was possessed by a goddess or something. She acted protective of the others, and she soundly defeated the demon-man.

The fourth was different. Students in a school were having various disputes, it looked like girls arguing about boys, boys arguing about girls, teachers trying to get students to pay attention, etc. One girl didn’t participate much except for some extra-ugly arguments, she looked unpopular. Excluded. Then cracks opened in the floor and many tentacles came out, grabbing the girls and women teachers. The boys and male teachers were completely ineffectual trying to stop it. Some of them were injured and maybe killed. The unpopular girl managed to protect an injured teacher, and retrieve a few of the girls while beating up on some tentacles. She had a protracted argument with some sort of demon and then the demon and the tentacles left. Afterward she did not seem more popular than before, not at all, but it was hard to tell what was happening.

There’s a lot more going on than just tentacle rape. In three of the cases it looked like self-sacrifice for a noble purpose. The fourth looked like some sort of nerd-girl wish-fulfillment.

I don’t see it as integral to japanese culture. It looks like something designed to evade censorship, like Belle said. Like, the censors have some specific set of rules so somebody figures out a way to evade them. I understand it worked that way in the USA for BDSM for awhile. They could do BDSM with the participants fully clothed with no sex, and the censors didn’t have it on their lists. That might have served to make the stuff more popular, at least it got more exposure than it would have otherwise.

“Wh-what are you going to do to me?”
“Why, anything I want, Mwa-ha-ha-ha…..!

Yes! No awkward small talk, no rude rejections, of course very awkward if it turns out she doesn’t like it….

“So we’ll start with the whips, and then the needles under the fingernails, and then the branding!”

Wait, what?

People are really good at sublimating, and when you try to pass laws against sublimating it’s an uphill battle. If the censorship had gone far enough, we would eventually have had porn showing fully-clothed women eating bananas. We’d get men with banana fetishes. More men with banana fetishes….


Skip Intro 11.05.14 at 6:04 pm

I still got to age 18 without knowing that some people have a chocolate milk fetish where it’s all about lactating black women.<

Welp, I made it to 42. Thanks, Belle.


Belle Waring 11.06.14 at 2:44 am

Skip Intro: sorry, sort of, but also LOLOLOLOLOL.


Pat 11.06.14 at 3:56 am

Lynne @44, yes, that sounds incredibly familiar. MacDonald roped me in with an earlier book that became one of my all-time favorites, but this one was… the word “trying” seems too gentle. I believe I described the experience (to the friend who alerted me to this book’s existence) as washing one’s soul in astringent.

For what it’s worth, I do recommend finishing the book. I certainly wouldn’t say I’m happy that I did, but… I suppose I’d say I think it’s important that finished it.


johne 11.06.14 at 4:09 pm

Dr. Science, @12: “…what kind of info to give and to lie about when setting up accounts. How to keep from DLing viruses (this is v. important!). How to scan a list of google results and figure out which sites are likely to be bogus or infected.”

Pray tell us more! I’ve dealt with computers since the days of eight-inch floppies, but a couple of grandkids (in Singapore!) have preciptitated me into a part of the digital ecosystem I’ve previously ignored.

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