Will this poster emotionally scar my little brother?
September 16, 2012 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I have this NSFW poster in my room. I study sexuality and art. My mom, grandmother, and 6 year old sibling are visiting me, and will want to see my room. Should I take the poster down?

I don't want to take it down; I don't think it's anything to be embarrassed about, especially since I'm getting a degree its subject matter -- my room has stacks and stacks of books on sex, anyway. My mom has seen it at my house already and sort of laughed it off. My grandmother will be appeased by "I am studying this, is why." My little brother has no reason to give it any more attention than all the other cool stuff in my room. Still, I want to make sure I'm not just being stubborn in my zeal to normalize sexuality. What do you lot think?

Sub-question: if I do leave it up, what's a one-sentence way to explain this picture to a 6 year old before casually moving to other topics? "Adults having fun?"
posted by Pwoink to Human Relations (40 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: The best thing about not being a parent is the ability to say "ask your parent(s)" when you get a tough question!

If you're worried, ask your mom what she thinks. I highly doubt that artistic depictions of adults having seemingly consensual sex will scar him, but it might be more polite to get advance permission.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:48 AM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

There are times to stand up and advocate for what you believe in. There are also times to just hang out with your family and not say 'Avast! Behold, I dare ye to speak ill of me provocative belief!'
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:51 AM on September 16, 2012 [20 favorites]

Yep, because of the 6 year old, just take it down while they are visiting. This doesn't need to be a conversation or a focus.
posted by HuronBob at 11:55 AM on September 16, 2012 [13 favorites]

Mention it to your mom, tell her that you will be referring any questions from little brother to her, and ask what she wants to do. Then do it.
posted by Etrigan at 11:56 AM on September 16, 2012

Best answer: I don't think you can explain this to a 6-year-old in one sentence, so either take it down or prepare an age-appropriate talk on human sexuality, making sure to leave time for Q&A.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

If taking it down is a pain (all of my posters in school were sticky-tacked to the wall), you could always put something over it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:00 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

" an age-appropriate talk on human sexuality"

After, of course, getting permission from the parent. It's not your job, or your right, to determine what that "talk" sounds like or advocates, that's the job of the parent, especially at 6 years old.
posted by HuronBob at 12:00 PM on September 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

I think you should take it down or if you really don't want to do that, ask your mom what she prefers you do. A 6-year-old child's exposure to sexuality should really be the business of his/her parent and I don't think you get to make that decision for her.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 12:01 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

or, uhhh, what HuronBob said.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 12:01 PM on September 16, 2012

Also, your being embarrassed about it isn't really the issue. It's a question of what's appropriate for a little kid to look at (and what's going to spark a conversation your or the child's family may not want to have). Plenty of images are perfectly ok in many contexts but aren't appropriate for first-graders. Taking the picture down doesn't have to mean you're ashamed.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:04 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it's a pain to take down I think you could just give 'em the old "my room's a real mess, I'd be embarrassed to let you see it".

[If it's not a pain, take it down. I'm sure moms has already been suitably impressed by your edginess, and I think little Billy can wait.]
posted by ftm at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Take it down. Do something nice for a six-year-old. Just because he's six.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:10 PM on September 16, 2012 [9 favorites]

I vote you leave it. Your mom's already been to where you're living and has seen it, so she's presumably aware that it's there. Also, you mention that it's in your room at your house--presumably, if this is an actual house and not a weird dorm, your brother isn't going to be spending a ton of time in your room--there's a difference between showing someone your room and hanging out in there for an hour.

Also, seriously, come on. As NSFW stuff goes, this is pretty nonexplicit and cartoony. (Which, you know, is part of its charm.) When I was a kid, my grandparents had weird, sometimes sexual nude art hanging up, and I was at their house all the time. It didn't scar me, or any of my siblings or cousins or anyone else who's been there. Your brother's six. I doubt very much that he's going to care, or, frankly, even notice.
posted by MeghanC at 12:12 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ask Mom. I'm all for freedom of speech, but you never know what a 6-year-old will latch onto, and that poster has A LOT of stuff to latch onto.

I, myself, have many questions! Why does the Rooster Man have bat wings? Is the eye-poking erection consensual? How often does that floor get cleaned?
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:13 PM on September 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone -- I appreciate the advice and the quick responses!

(Though I don't appreciate snarky comments about my motivations -- way to bum me out for no reason, ftm.)
posted by Pwoink at 12:15 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't worry about it, but ask mom if you're extra-concerned. Consider that you can buy a mainstream edition of "Carmina Burana" with the Garden of Earthly Delights(nsfw if your work doesn't like classic pervy art) as the cover graphic, which is both more explicit and more disturbing than your poster.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2012

I think it's awesome and I would totally let my (future, he's a baby now) six year old see it. However, you're sort of forcing your mom's hand as a parent if he does ask about it, as the explaining is probably going to fall to her not you. She might have her own plan and schedule she'd prefer to explain all that on.

I think it would be nice to give her a heads up in a general way - "hey, mom, there's a few things in my room because I'm studying sexuality, nothing explicit or upsetting but I wondered if you want me to try and put everything away or just be ready to explain to brother that they're about grown ups loving each other and having fun?"
posted by crabintheocean at 12:25 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask your mom. As the mom of a six year old, I would appreciate being asked.

(Personally I would also appreciate the poster being taken down -- we're not prudes here, there are plenty of books about sex in the house, my kids will get honest explanations when they're ready, which they definitely are not at six years old; and my daughter is inquisitive and observant, and would make a beeline to that poster. But maybe your brother is a different kind of kid.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:31 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I really only have one anecdote that compares, and while it's not an exact match, it might help.

I had friends in college who did some sort of mentoring program similar to Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Two of the girls lived in a dorm room together and had somewhat of a wall dedicated to male asses. Probably about 20 pictures total.

Whenever their little sisters could come over, they had a set of pictures and handwritten signs they could throw up over the asses. They'd come right back down the minute they left. Seemed like a good system.

If I were in your position, I'd pull it down. I have a rather explicit decoupage that I like to leave on my TV cabinet, and I definitely have to pull it down for certain people, parents included. While your posted is much much more tasteful, I think either having a covering or an easy way to pull it down when they visit may not be the worst idea.
posted by SNWidget at 12:34 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cover it up or something, six year olds really don't need to see that.

"teacher, guess what I saw on my vacation"

Children are way way more observant than you think, and have no social filters at all. Consider that, and decide on your own terms.
posted by roboton666 at 12:56 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh no! Cartoon boobs! Must not let six year old see! Focus instead on cartoon robots with lasers beating each other up!


Tell mom, send her the jpg, make it her call. Also might want to find a recommended book/resource on how to talk to kids about sex, perhaps via the awesome birds+bees+kids site.

Good luck!
posted by softlord at 1:07 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

A six year old does not have the proper context for that poster. Please cover it or remove it or at the very least check with the mom. That's only basic politeness.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:09 PM on September 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

That poster is awesome, and I could definitely imagine a kid who is fond of Waldo or I Spy books poring over it in minute detail. Your books, even if they're graphic novels, aren't going to appeal to him on the same level of "hey, that's something for ME to look at" as such a vivid, cartoonish poster. Personally I'd take it down to avoid future public discussions of naked people licking one another's butts (etc.), which could get him in trouble at school/daycare without him understanding why.
posted by teremala at 1:34 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

The fact that you thought to ask here means you sense it might not be appropriate. Go with that instinct. It's not a big deal to take it down for a bit, and totally eliminates any problems. Your mom might even notice that you've taken it down and silently give you all sorts of bonus points for foreseeing the issue and you can spend those points later on something less simple to finesse.
posted by apparently at 1:37 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sub-question: if I do leave it up, what's a one-sentence way to explain this picture to a 6 year old before casually moving to other topics? "Adults having fun?"

"It's a bunch of people dancing naked."
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:43 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think it'll scar him for life, or harm the timeline of his sexual development or whatever. It's unlikely he'd really understand mu8ch of what's going on anyways, so if nobody wanted to explain, a simple, "Those are grown-ups doing grown up stuff", should be perfectly adequate as explanation with a quick change of subject.

However, if it were me I'd probably just cover it with something fun until the visit is over. Of course, in my case I'd be way more worried about my grandmother's reaction. If she saw something like that she might actually have some sort of coronary event.
posted by katyggls at 2:09 PM on September 16, 2012

Yes I know "much" doesn't have an 8 in it. *wishes for an edit button*
posted by katyggls at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2012

The fact that you got bummed out by reading the tame responses here (which I interpreted as humorous and on point, rather than snarky) suggests to me that you should take it down to avoid conflict with your family that might further bum you out.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:48 PM on September 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

I agree that the kid might think it's some kind of Waldo-esque drawing, and examine it in detail when he otherwise might not. So I wouldn't assume he'll just glance at it, see a bunch of icky naked people, and move on.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:54 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh no! Cartoon boobs! Must not let six year old see! Focus instead on cartoon robots with lasers beating each other up!


See, this is not helpful. My kids had a Transformers-free childhood (mostly because the show was seriously stupid, racially insensitive and besides the faux fighting montages were badly choreographed).

I've also been very open to them about sexual education (memorable grocery store outings full of gleeful exclamations like "That man has a PENIS! And so do I!" make me smile even now). And I like that poster, and think it is fun!

It is also, as somone above mentioned, pretty cartoony and Where's Waldoish, which will draw the 6 year-old's eye.

That's probably not so great, honestly. And if you then refer to the poster as, "adults having fun," the conversation will not stop there, believe me.

Best case scenario:

6YO: Yeah, they look like they're having fun. But what are they doing?
Pwoink: Enjoying their bodies.
6YO: Is that why they're naked?
Pwoink: Yes.
[six year-old proceeds to take clothes off, runs gleefully through your apartment, naked and shrieking.]
Grandma, turning to Mom: Hmmph. Reminds me of you at that age. I had a dickens of a time trying to keep you from showing the neighbor boys your underwear when you were a girl...
Mom, tiredly: Gosh, thanks, Pwoink! Okay, I got him dressed once. Your turn.

Worst case scenario:

Pwoink's telephone rings a couple weeks later.
Mom: The elementary school called. I have to go have a talk with the guidance counselor.
Pwoink: Why, what happened?
Mom: 6YO was trying to show the girls in his class his penis.
Pwoink: Well, that's perfectly normal exploration at that age--
Mom: And one of the girls' mothers wants him expelled.
Pwoink: What???!
Mom: Sexual harassment, she says.
Pwoink: But they're SIX!
Mom: Yes, that's why they were surprised when 6YO started giving an impromptu sex ed lecture, complete with anatomically correct illustrations.
Pwoink: ...Illustrations?
Mom: Yeah. By the way, the guidance counselor has your Sexual Mores in the 21st Century book locked up in her office now.
Pwoink: Oh...I wondered where that went!

There's prudery, and then there's age appropriateness. Would you smoke pot in front of your 6YO sibling just because you think marijuana should be legalized? Probably not.

I am very sex-positive, but your poster is perhaps not age-appropriate for your 6 YO sibling.
posted by misha at 3:37 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Age appropriate sex education for a 6 year old rarely takes the form of and older sibling pointing to reasonably graphic illustrations of specific sex acts and calling it 'adults having fun'. Beyond any appropriateness of 'talk to the parent before you start educating their kids about sex' there is also the whole protective behaviours concept and none of those things help me (as a parent) help my child to protect themselves. I understand the desire to not compromise, to not hide, but age appropriateness in sex education is not served by you displaying this poster, or the proposed 'adults having fun' schtick or even you being the information source.

Not yet, not right now.

(also, there's a big difference between nudes/anatomical illustrations and depictions of sex acts)
posted by geek anachronism at 3:55 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cover it with a sheet of newspaper. If others want to see, lift the paper when the 6yo's not looking, or better, distract the kid while the others get their eyeful. 6 is too young for any real comprehension or even engagement of the subject, so I'd recommend you just don't risk opening the can of worms. If the kid asks about what's covered up, just say "it's something for grown-ups, sorry," and then move his attention elsewhere -- kids get this all the time.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:59 PM on September 16, 2012

I would take it down. To me this is kind of a no-brainer. It's a politeness thing. I don't think sexuality is shameful, but explicit material does make some people feel uncomfortable. Your friends get to consent to hanging out with you and to opt in to seeing all your awesome sex art, but your family kinda doesn't; you're related by blood. Sure, they love you, but do they share your current love for visual depictions of sex?

Similarly, I don't think it's shameful to vote for Democrats, but I would take an Obama button off my bag when going to visit my Red State relatives. Of course you CAN keep the poster up, just like I wouldn't HAVE to take the button off. But I would remove it out of recognition that some of them may not want to look at it. I'd want to do all I could to help them enjoy our visit by showing consideration for their feelings and preferences, even when those differed from mine. So if you have a hint that this might make anyone uncomfortable, and I think the comments above suggest that it might, the considerate thing to do would be to put it out of sight.

Also, there's a lot there that could take explaining to a kid ("why is the woman saying 'harder!'?").
posted by salvia at 4:02 PM on September 16, 2012

Another vote for asking your mom. Most six year old will think: naked people, ew gross! However, it is up to your mom on how/when your brother is subject to naked people/sex/etc.
posted by deborah at 4:03 PM on September 16, 2012

Don't take it down. It's totally mild, and if you don't behave as if it's special the kid will see it but forget about it quite quickly. If in doubt, check with the mother. Any extra worry is american puritanism at work.
posted by knz at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, it just looks like a jumble of naked bodies to me, nothing particularly prurient. Don't make it a big deal and it won't be. Well, unless your Mom makes it a big deal, so I suppose you should talk to her about it first so that she doesn't.

Besides, if he's at all inquisitive, he already "knows" about sex. (it's in the encyclopedia, FFS)
posted by wierdo at 4:20 PM on September 16, 2012

Whoa, I am really surprised at all of the "leave it up" responses! I consider myself to be pretty sex-positive, pro-porn, pro-sex education, etc., but I really, really don't think this is something that a 6 year-old should be seeing. It's not just a couple of boobies; for the love of god, there's tentacle porn in there! Maybe he won't give it more than a glance, but if he's anything like I was at that age, he'll want to examine every inch of that thing once he notices any one of the naked bosoms on that thing.

What do you stand to gain from leaving it up? It saves you three minutes of work.
posted by kitty teeth at 4:27 PM on September 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

"Mommy why is that lady licking that man's winkie?"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:34 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

It think it depends on how long he's going to be in your room. Even fully knowing about birds and bees and other suchthings, some little kids might be a bit scared by seeing nipple clips or a butt plug. (thumbnail detail on the OP's link)
posted by kimberussell at 4:34 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wellp, I reminded my mom that I have that poster, she said, "Oh yeah, I remember seeing it, I think," they came over, and nobody gave it a second glance because they were too busy hugging me and looking at my books and projects.

Thank you for the advice, everyone!
posted by Pwoink at 4:56 PM on September 16, 2012 [11 favorites]

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