What kind of therapist does my son need?
March 26, 2007 6:42 PM   Subscribe

What kind of therapist does my son need?

My 13-year-old son has been caught for the second time searching the web for porn - violent porn. Both times, his search terms included rape, gang rape, teacher rape, and now he's added "five year old girl sex" to the list. We have a nearly five-year-old daughter at home.

We've already talked to him about it once (the first time he was caught,) and he insists that he hasn't been sexually abused, and he has no explanation as to why he would look for terms like these. We did our best to make sure he didn't feel shamed or dirty (as much as a 13 year old kid can feel a-okay about his parents talking to him about his sex Googles,) but obviously this is a continuing and expanding theme with him.

Not surprisingly, it's pretty difficult to search for resources on teen sex, sexual adjustment adolescent, etc., etc., etc., so I'm hoping that AskMefi can point me toward a research to find an appropriate therapeutic environment for him.

I don't know if we should be looking for a specific kind of therapist, if we should be looking at developmental therapists, or what. We really feel that we need professional help at this point; I'm afraid any more home intervention on our part is just going to fix these fantasies as a part of his permanent sexual identity.

We're afraid and we're upset, and we have no idea where to start. Any and all help is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I'll probably get shouted down, but I say that your son doesn't need a therapist at all. Just because someone is looking at violent porn, doesn't neccessarily mean that he's going to cause any harm to anyone. It's just fantasy. The question is: does he violently try to rape girls? If the answer is no, then he doesn't need a therapist.

The Internet wasn't around when i was thirteen, but I'm sure if it was I would have been looking up all of those terms and more. Not neccessarily because I am a violent rapist and child molestor, but because i would be searching for the most extreme things on the Internet out of childish interest.
posted by dydecker at 6:52 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not to plant suspicions, but have you asked the daughter about abuse?

I'd ask your pediatrician this question. You don't have to go into detail (although it might be a good idea), just questions about a child psychologist, etc.
posted by DU at 6:54 PM on March 26, 2007

Holy wow, that is scary. And dydecker, you're right that you'll probably get shouted down. You may be correct; these sorts of things may just be curiosity -- but these are telltale signs of possible sexual abuse, and things that no thirteen year old would likely be exposed to naturally.

I wish I had practical advice for you, anonymous. There's no doubt that you're upset and afraid, and my heart goes out to you. You have to take action on this, but you know that.

You should certainly ask your daughter. If there has been abuse in your son's past, it's not unlikely that he would be terrified to share it with you. You definitely need professional intervention.

I am not a therapist at all -- but if I were in your shoes I would look for a therapist on my health insurance provider's list, call several, and ask for advice from the first one that got back to me. Even if they weren't the right person to help, they have certainly been trained to know what to do in this situation and would point me in the right direction.

Also, I want to say, as upsetting as this situation must seem to you, your children are very lucky to have concerned, active parents who are able to recognize a potentially bad situation and are motivated to take quick action. They are lucky to have you.

Good luck to you.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:02 PM on March 26, 2007

I'll probably get shouted down, but I say that your son doesn't need a therapist at all. Just because someone is looking at violent porn, doesn't neccessarily mean that he's going to cause any harm to anyone. It's just fantasy. The question is: does he violently try to rape girls? If the answer is no, then he doesn't need a therapist.

I might agree in other circumstances but the fact that there is a five year old girl in the house makes this behavior seem very risky to me. Not only that, the fact that he did it again after being caught would make me concerned that this was more than just a fantasy or idle teenage curiousity. I think anonymous is perfectly justified in getting therapy for this child. I second DU's suggestion as well.
posted by saraswati at 7:03 PM on March 26, 2007

I'd ask your pediatrician this question. You don't have to go into detail (although it might be a good idea), just questions about a child psychologist, etc.

Aren't pediatricians legally obligated to report suspected abuse? Wouldn't asking him/her this question make him/her suspect abuse?
posted by nax at 7:05 PM on March 26, 2007

I disagree with dydecker. If a 13-year-old is searching for websites involving the rape of girls his sister's age, then there is a serious problem. I don't think he should be alone with her until you have figured this problem out.

Secondly, the fact that he insists he hasn't been abused doesn't mean anything. Many, many children are abused and block it out of their memories. Moreover, if he does remember, he may be too afraid to tell anyone.

I would try to find a therapist who specializes in children his age with these sort of inappropriate sexual tendecies. But if you can't find that, I would just look for any good therapist. And soon.

And I would do a thorough mental/physical check on your daughter to make sure nothing has happened to her already. The damage done by these kinds of things is immeasurable and irrevokable.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 7:07 PM on March 26, 2007

dydecker is wrong, not because everyone needs a therapist, but because part of a full evaluation of what's going on here includes your son getting the opportunity to talk frankly about this with someone other than his parents. dydecker is right, it could be nothing more than curiosity and the thrill of the forbidden, but you and your son need to figure that out before assuming it (if only because of your daughter), and a therapist could help with that.

You'll probably be interested in finding a more insight oriented, child and adolescent specific clinic or therapist. You aren't setting out to help your son solve a problem here, you're setting out to figure out what's going on. In that respect someone like a cognitive behavioral therapist would probably not help as much as one who focused on feelings and motivations. Someone who specializes in work with children and adolescents will be more likely to understand the nuances of making someone your son's age feel comfortable.

As far as the second part of your question: your concern right now should be evaluation, and not treatment. The notion of "fixing" sexual predilictions is one fraught with controversy, but regardless, your son may well simply be conflating and exploring different aspects of a sexually charged sense of the forbidden. That's what an evaluation with a therapist will help to establish. What comes after that is really a separate issue.

I'm not sure where you're located, but I know of some reputable child and adolescent clinics around the country and would be happy to share their names if you email the address in my profile. I'm a therapist but not yours, and I don't work with children myself.

Good luck.
posted by OmieWise at 7:08 PM on March 26, 2007

I think what you are looking for is a psychiatrist that specializes in children and adolescents. It is not uncommon for children to see psychiatrists as many times GPs send them to a psychiatrist for ADHD treatment. If you were to ask your GP a good psychiatrist for your child (you can be vague on the reasons why), that would be your best bet.

That said, if early high school locker room experience was any indication on how adolescent boys think, this is not really that uncommon. It is probably only uncommon that now they can Google it and parents can catch them. Here's an anecdote:

Around 8th grade some classmates were passing around an erotic story and they were all adding to to it during lunch, at recess, etc. I think it started at a slumber party (which I wasn't invited to, which is why I probably still remember this). It had some pretty graphic ideas, but I will have to say that no one at the time knew what they were writing beyond the abstract concepts. There was a real cognitive dissonance between the idea and the reality of the topic.

I hope that puts your mind at ease until you can have a psychiatrist evaluate him. And now that he knows you are monitoring him, he probably will be more careful and less apt to let his mind wander online, I would hope.
posted by geoff. at 7:14 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

My friend also insisted that she wasn't sexually abused, even though her mother asked her explictly if Neighbor X (who was her abuser) ever did anything untoward. She denied it. I am certainly not saying that your son has been abused, but know that it is extraordinarily difficult for some people to admit their abuse, regardless of how "safe" the situation appears.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:14 PM on March 26, 2007

"things that no thirteen year old would likely be exposed to naturally"

I'm with geoff. 13 is middle school, right? You'd be amazed at the things they get into. The first things that spring to my mind are popular media (violent song lyrics, references in television) and possibly his friends (or even more so, his friend's older siblings). If you can confirm or deny any of these things when you DO find a therapist, then you may save a lot of time.
posted by anaelith at 7:18 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

The question is: does he violently try to rape girls? If the answer is no, then he doesn't need a therapist.

So only an actual commission of rape or attempted rape is a cause for concern? Ridiculous.
posted by argybarg at 7:25 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is hard to know whether there's really a problem here, but I agree that it's worth having someone talk to him about. I think you're looking for a psychiatrist, rather than just a "therapist," which is a rather broad term. I would not be vague to your GP - tell them what they need to know so they can make an informed recommendation/referral.
posted by Dasein at 7:26 PM on March 26, 2007

So only an actual commission of rape or attempted rape is a cause for concern? Ridiculous.

Not quite as ridiculous to take a child to seek professional help for masturbating to dirty pictures on the Internet.
posted by dydecker at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2007

This may or may not apply, depending on the relationship between you two and your son, but "I don't know" can be teenagerese for "I don't want to talk about it". And dydecker could be right, it could be a case of curiosity... sexual things seem a lot more salient to kids now than previous generations*. The inclusion of search terms rather related to his sister is a bit beyond harmless curiosity, I'd think.

*I once heard two 10- or 11-year-old girls on the city bus complain about "all the good ones (boys) either being gay or taken". Not exactly relevant, just an example of what I mean.

OmieWise seems to have some good starting off points for you. If you really want to stay totally anonymous, create a ghost email account with gmail or hotmail to use.

I don't know if they're still common, but do try to stay away from "recovered memory" style therapists. Also try to steer clear of covertly sex-negative therapists.

One thing you might want to consider, in addition to therapy, is volunteering with him at some sort of sexual assault centre if that's at all possible. Maybe if he sees the effects of sexual violence, it won't have that naughty thrill to it anymore.
posted by CKmtl at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would caution against a psychiatrist unless you know that their practice is decidedly not medication based. Even most child psychiatrists these days make their bread and butter from diagnosis and prescription. What you want is to figure out what's going on here. That might include diagnosis and prescription, but it also might not.

A child and adolescent mental health clinic in your area which has a good reputation is going to know how to handle this, and will likely have psychiatrists on staff if one is needed for consultation.
posted by OmieWise at 7:34 PM on March 26, 2007

First of all, did you know that the ONE factor that has been proven to have positive outcomes for kids' who have been abused? Their parents' response. If their parents are believing, supportive and loving, the psychological trauma experienced by kids is way less. The fact that you are dealing with this ASAP is huge. You are doing the right thing and you are doing something that, creepily enough, MANY parents turn a blind eye to!

Listen, KIDS DO NOT ADMIT TO THEIR PARENTS WHEN THEY'VE BEEN ABUSED. They are ashamed and embarrassed and more often than not, want to protect you from the scary, creepy, crazy they are experiencing. Hence, both your daughter and son could have been abused and you just aren't getting straight answers. You need to contact the sexual assault agencies in your town and ask for therapists and programs who are experts on child sexual abuse. It isn't a "kind" of therapy per se, it's more who specializes in what. I am hoping you live in or near a relatively metropolitan place so you can find not only someone who specializes in child sexual abuse, but also child offenders, since it sounds like your son if veering towards that.

This is incredibly creepy, scary and overwhelming. Hang in there and good luck. Feel free to email me.
posted by sneakin at 7:55 PM on March 26, 2007

I found an excellent therapist through here. (I know the one I saw works with children; if you're in the Seattle area, anon, feel free to send me an e-mail.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:11 PM on March 26, 2007

When children have been sexually victimized and it comes to the attention of the courts, they are given court-ordered therapy sessions with counselers who do nothing but this all day long (wouldn't that be a great job.) Maybe call that place, and ask them to recommend a private-practice therapist. You can tell them that you have concerns, but don't yet have any reason to believe that there was abuse, and just want someone experienced with these issues. They will definitely have a name for you.

Most communities maintain a youth crisis hotline -- those guys could probably give you a referral as well.
posted by Methylviolet at 8:17 PM on March 26, 2007

...Secondly, the fact that he insists he hasn't been abused doesn't mean anything. Many, many children are abused and block it out of their memories. Moreover, if he does remember, he may be too afraid to tell anyone.

...Hence, both your daughter and son could have been abused and you just aren't getting straight answers. You need to contact the sexual assault agencies in your town and ask for therapists and programs who are experts on child sexual abuse. ...you can find not only someone who specializes in child sexual abuse, but also child offenders, since it sounds like your son if veering towards that.
I feel like everyone has best intentions, but these assertions that the child(ren) have been abused are bordering on hysterical. Yes, abused children often lie about it but that doesn't mean this child was abused. Googling is not the same thing as physically acting out, sexual play, self-harm, bedwetting, nightmares or any of the other numerous behavioral markers that tend to indicate sexual abuse.
Not quite as ridiculous to take a child to seek professional help for masturbating to dirty pictures on the Internet.
This, on the other hand, is dismissive. I think sane rational people can separate "masturbating to dirty pictures" from seeking out images of sexual violence like raping a teacher and sex with a five-year-old child.

I know many parents with boys on the cusp of puberty, and Googling sex terms is very common. So are the terms they use... which are exactly the immature, naive stuff you'd expect (we all still chuckle over one friend whose son couldn't get much traction searching for "boobies and weiners"). The boys are always searching for naked pictures of the pop stars they know, or general terms for body parts and crude language for sex acts.

In other words, searching for porn on the Internet isn't the cause for alarm; it's the ideas that Anonymous' child is seeking out.

It's possible that it's just curiosity, and hopefully (hopefully!) it will all turn out to be just a phase.

But if it were my kid, I'd be looking for a child psychologist (not psychiatrist) specializing in adolescents. I would screen the doctors with a parents-only consult, and tell him or her what we'd seen and what our fears were. If the doctor I ultimately wanted was not in my HMO and I could afford it, I would not allow myself to be hampered by the insurance limits.

And I would not ask my 5-year-old daughter about it, if I didn't see any other indicators that something was wrong. Is she sleepless? Sleeping more? Not hungry? Skittish? Alternately very loving, then afraid of her brother?

If there are no other signs, and you ask her this stuff, she might say yes just to please you, and then you're in a really big mess. Instead, once you have selected a therapist, take the 5-year-old first. Do not taint her with your own fears, which you know full well may end up to be nothing at all.

I agree you should taper off the home intervention -- not because you'll fix these fantasies forever, but because he'll immediately begin hiding the behaviors, and the last thing you want is to close off communication when there might be a crisis brewing.

The problem I have with dydecker's comment is beyond just "a kid who's looking for child porn and rape fantasies is FINE, nothing to worry about." (Which is frankly ridiculous. Any responsible parent can acknowledge that to be cautious now is the right choice. No conscientious adult with a small child at home would take the chance -- on that child's head -- of assuming that the older child is just idly curious.)

No, it's that a kid must be proved as a violent rapist before that kid is eligible to see a therapist.

Being 13 today is really, really hard. I don't imagine teen age was ever a big party (I'm sure even the Cro-Magnons had angst and acne and got grounded), but never before have 13-year-olds had a way to anonymously search the pervy files of millions of other pervs, either. And this is clearly not a case of silly over-reaction to a tantrum or one mood swing.

If a kid clearly has a problem and needs help, and can get it and feel better, why does he have to be a criminal or sociopath before he deserves access to that help?

I know I'd rather be the parent who ended up being much ado about nothing and laughed about it later, than the parent standing outside the prison wondering where it all went wrong and what I could have done differently.
posted by pineapple at 8:25 PM on March 26, 2007 [13 favorites]

Which is frankly ridiculous. Any responsible parent can acknowledge that to be cautious now is the right choice.

Yes, I agree. But let the reaction fit the crime. He's googled "five year old sex" (there is no evidence that he's looked at or salivated over child porn). He's a kid, he doesn't know the moral framework. So sit him down and explain the morals of the situation, how it hurts the kids, how you are helping kids be exploited by looking at this stuff.

I would be especially cautious about making this into a huge "issue" if he's googled a hundred other kinds of sex things and only the worst examples are listed here (rape and kiddie porn).
posted by dydecker at 10:12 PM on March 26, 2007

btw - I just googled "five year old girl sex". No child porn comes up in the results.
posted by dydecker at 10:18 PM on March 26, 2007

This might be counter intuitive for some, but hear me out. Yes get help from a therapist who is really good about understanding the complex and contradictory aspects of sexuality (at any age) and of sniffing out the possibilities of abuse potential (in any direction).

From my experience in a parallel field this person is most likely to be a feminist therapist which specializes in abuse. I would stay far far away from mainstream psychotherapy and way away from any psychiatrists. These folks are most likely to be non-medical based practitioners, and may well be registered as social workers.

I would check your local social worker association and look for a woman who had experience with abuse. Then, if you think that this would be unacceptable to your son, I would contact her and explain your situation and have her help you find suitable (male?) supports. If you can't find any, you go to the therapist.

Good luck. If all your son needs is a place to safe talk out his sexual ideas then you'd want it to be with someone safe, not the internet.
posted by kch at 10:21 PM on March 26, 2007

You know, my first thought here was that he might be trying to find information about something he think might have happened or could happen to the five-year-old for whatever reason: in other words that he's trying to find ways to protect her.

I admit it may not be the likeliest or easiest answer, but it might be worth thinking about assumptions made here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:13 PM on March 26, 2007

dydecker - You're just plain wrong about this. Violent porn can be something normal people look at. Porn that plays off adult actors looking high school age (cheerleader, etc) can be something normal people look at. Looking for sex involving a five year old is not something normal people can look at. Attraction or interest in sex involving pre-pubescent children is, by definition, pathological.
posted by Justinian at 11:59 PM on March 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Listen, THAT'S BULLSHIT: SOME DO. I did when I was 9. Then my mother went to the staff at the institution she put me in and asked them about it, whereupon they told her that not only had no older boys done that to me but that such a thing is physically impossible -- then said staff beat the shit out of me in the seclusion room that next weekend for "spreading lies to get us fired." That is, sometimes admitting such things to your parents only makes things worse: the next year in that place was living hell for me, and not only from my "peers." (A lot depends on who the parents are and how they handle such crises; has nobody heard of parents who "punished" their kids for "spreading lies about that good Man of God," e.g.?)

Which of course does NOT prove that the 13 year old boy in question was not himself molested or that he has not molested the 5 year old girl; it's just that, listen, YOU ARE JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS BASED ON YOUR OWN EMOTIONAL BIASES.
ANYWAY. As far as the 13 year old is concerned, if you're sure it's him and not one of his friends or another relative or whatever doing the googling, why not tell him "Look, we have you dead to rights, we're only asking for the reason." This does NOT mean asking "Were you abused?"; try something more OPEN-ENDED, like "We just want to know why you're interested in such things." When I was a kid hated people putting words in my mouth, and I never experienced even a small fraction of the things I'd get interested in -- like reading about the Manson case didn't mean I'd been murdered or that I had any plans to go slay any yuppies. You're more likely to get an answer if you don't make him deal with the answer you want to hear.

Another suggestion: teach him how to delete his browser's cache and history. In Firefox (v. 1.5.0) it's "Clear Private Data" under the "Tools" menu, or one can do CTRL+Shift+Del (i.e. press the CTRL, Shift and Delete keys at the same time). My own 'emotional bias' says this young person is having his privacy violated by his nosy parents, who probably won't restrain themselves from snooping (so you probably won't teach him how to protect himself from snoops, but still). Whose computer is it anyway? Is it in his own room? Not that that matters much in principle, I'm just curious as to how far your snoopiness extends. Do you search his drawers too?
posted by davy at 12:05 AM on March 27, 2007

And by the way, I'm not a lawyer, doctor, therapist, TV personality, teacher, clergyperson or any kind of "Expert", nor do I seriously expect any contemporary parent to heed a damn thing I say.
posted by davy at 12:09 AM on March 27, 2007

Congratulations, Anonymous, your son is now a teenager! You may have heard stories about the changes that come over formerly polite sane helpful kids, but you probably haven't grasped the half of it. You have several very tough years ahead of you.

Your son is probably finding the adjustment tough too. Pushing him into therapy with a "violent sexual pervert" tag is unlikely to be the best way to help him through adolescence, unless there is an awful lot you haven't told us.

Go find other parents of 13-year-old boys. Go find other 13-year old-boys. Heck, even try talking to the one you have got. Try to find out a bit about the world of sexual information and misinformation he lives in.

Your son really needs to talk to people he loves and admires about these things to set his moral compass. That is not "home intervention", that is providing a caring home.

You talk about "my son" and say "we" have a daughter. Does the poor kid have an additional problem with a step-parent who is finding it a stretch to keep up with parenthood of a teenager?
posted by Idcoytco at 3:47 AM on March 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

contrary to popular belief, there's an increasing amount of evidence that proves looking at porn on the internet reduces the likelyhood, a person will commit rape.

posted by complience at 4:48 AM on March 27, 2007

Contact OmieWise. I HOLLER THIS AT YOU AND THUMP IT INTO YOUR HEAD. OmieWise's view towards therapy is incredibly liberatory and compassionate. OmieWise is 100% correct. The words continuing and expanding theme in your post are the reason to do this.

Now sit down and think of the empirical, perceptual and normative inputs for your conclusion of continuing and expanding theme. Is it, REALLY? If so, then OmieWise is correct.

Speak to OmieWise about the lay of the land and how to find an appropriate therapist, and then do so. Tell the therapist your concerns.

Then, sit down with your child and tell them about the factual reasons that you want them to go to therapy -

that everyone pretty much looks at stuff or thinks about stuff that's beyond the pale, but since you're 13 I think it might be helpful to hook you up with an expert to help you process your thoughts and feelings about this stuff, about me, school, you, or anything else you might want to talk about. Tell him too that he can talk to you about anything.

Don't watch him like a hawk. Don't freak out. Keep rules and privileges as they are, and get a net-nanny. Don't tell anyone at school without knowing a LOT more; the government systems are quite alarmist and irrational about these matters (with occasional exceptions depending on where you are; consult with a local therapist about this.)

Good luck.
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:17 AM on March 27, 2007

also - what's the time-scale here? Have you got more than two points on the continuing and expanding theme graph? How far apart are they? Searching for 5 minutes or 2 hours? Two search terms or thirty?
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:21 AM on March 27, 2007

I can only second pineapple's recommendations, all of them. They are exactly the path you should be looking at.
posted by Brainy at 5:22 AM on March 27, 2007

I only had time to scan the comments, so exuse me if i am repeating someone elses thoughts, but how about restricting/eliminating internet access. Does the child have a computer in his room? Is the computer in a high traffic area? And is it password protected and no-internet allowed when he cannot be supervised?
Could be a starting point while getting more information.
posted by RobertDigital at 6:03 AM on March 27, 2007

I have some alternative insight on this that I don't wish to share with the masses, so my e-mail is in my profile if you'd like.
posted by desjardins at 6:03 AM on March 27, 2007

I just want to put this out here (and man, anonymous commenting would sure be nice for these sorts of comments) but I was thirteen not that long ago, and let me tell you, I was searching for stuff much worse than that around that age. Yeah, it doesn't look great, especially in light of the younger sister the same age as a search term, but for me personally (and I know anecdote != data) looking up the taboo, exciting stuff was part of my sexual exploration. (For the record, I had the most normal, suburbian, quiet upbringing you could ask for, was never abused, never raped anyone, good family life, etc. In other words, there were no indicators for any sort of problems.)

At 13, your son is well into puberty. Boys not very much older than him regularly have sex (I know my boyfriend, for one, started having sex at 14, though he is far from the norm), including role-play of the very sort he is googling. And a lot of people get off to non-consensual fantasies, be them fantasies of control or loss of control. I don't think it has any correlation to whether they themselves are either victims of abuse or want to be abusers themselves.

Also, at 13, your son is probably about to go into high school. Please don't be patronizing and get him a net-nanny or what have you. And you should absolutely not eliminate or restrict internet access as RobertDigital suggested. He might not be an adult just yet, but he is old enough and likely mature enough to handle whatever the internet can throw at him. In fact, checking on his google searches at this point is a little ridiculous, and probably feels like quite the invasion of privacy to your son (and when you're a teenager privacy is a serious matter). Better for you would be to let him know you trust him, and to make sure an avenue for discussion exists, should he so desire it.

Just so you know, though, if your first reaction to rape porn is "find a shrink" then your son probably already feels pretty alienated from you on this. Yeah, yeah, the therapy might be the enlightened "help guide your son through his troubled times" variety, but in his eyes, you're still going to be telling him that these desires he has equate to mental illness. And since people can't help what they're turned on by, as far as I know, that's more liable to mess him up than anything.

I personally never had to deal with this, as my parents never brought up my porn-perusing taste, assuming they even knew (though in retrospct, I bet they weren't fooled by my clumsy attempts to clear the browser history). Still, I can tell you that unless you see all sorts of other red flags, therapy is the worst direction you can go. Let your son look at the porn he likes--he's still new to the whole testosterone thing and probably needs an avenue to let off all his new-found sexual frustration.

I would personally recommend that you just try to accept that rape porn is well within the scope of normal teenage fantasy, and try to trust your son handle himself, unless you have some real reason not to. Remember, fantasy isn't synonymous with desire. (For instance, Cosmo says that something like 80% of women have regular rape fantasies. Take that source for what it's worth, but I strongly doubt 80% of women actually want to get raped.)

I'll leave you with this: I looked at a lot of taboo-fetish porn, including violent rape porn, as a teenager, and while I am a girl, making my experience slightly different, in my opinion I've ended up very well adjusted (straight A college student with a healthy, long-term romantic relationship that hasn't suffered for my fantasy tastes). Try not to over-react, or let your gut revulsion to the porn subject matter guide your judgement on this matter.
posted by internet!Hannah at 6:39 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Go for a psychologist/counselor/therapist rather than a psychiatrist. You want someone that specializes in abused/disturbed children/adolescents.
posted by radioamy at 7:18 AM on March 27, 2007

Put the computer in the living room or wherever it is that you are most often.

Put parental controls on the computer, and be careful... some kids know how to hack them.

You might want to call his friends' parents and ask if their kids are left alone with the computer when your son is visiting.

Not to be paranoid, but please find a way to question your daughter (get the advice of a therapist before doing so, if need be.) I had a cousin who was about 3 years older than me, and when he hit about 13, every time he got me alone he tried to get me to kiss him or lay down on top of him, and he'd touch me and try to put his hands down my clothes. It went on for 4 years before I finally told my mom. (Truthfully, we didn't visit them *that* often... maybe twice a year.)
posted by IndigoRain at 8:08 AM on March 27, 2007

I'm in my thirties and I'm a practitioner of BDSM. I can tell you that many people of my persuasion do, at a fairly early age, gravitate towards some pretty extreme sexual fantasies. At your son's age, I was having fantasies of being tied up, tortured, and molested. That's not the terminology I would have used at the time, but that's probably how an objective person would have phrased it. I also fantasized about doing sadistic things to women. (Which created no end of internal conflict for me). Many, many people like me could tell you something similar about their childhoods

If your son were eighteen or older, I would say that he'd benefit from talking to BDSM people who've also experienced abuse; they could explain the differences between the two as they exist out in the real world. But obviously you can't do that with a child his age.

In any case, it is entirely possible that you're simply seeing evidence of his sadomasochistic sexual inclinations. Maybe when he's 19, he'll find a nice girl to tie up and spank and that'll be the end of it. If that's the case, then he's not any more inclined to engage in non-consensual sex than your average thirteen year old. However, based on the limited evidence available here, I can't say with any degree of certainty whether that's what you're seeing. It might be a good idea to look for other signs of an interest in BDSM, but, really, I doubt they would be very conclusive.

Does he keep rope or clothespins around? (Both pretty common signs, I think). Does he seem to have any particular interest in movies or TV shows about vampires? (I never have, but a lot of my kinky friends do). Any interest in body piercing or tattos?

Does he have a take-charge sort of personality or is he more apt to try to please people? A lot of kinky people I know see these traits in their children and are pretty sure that the first indicates a tendency towards being dominant and the second towards being submissive. (Personally, I'm not convinced it's quite that simple.)

As I said, I wouldn't consider any of these signs conclusive. For example, a lot of kids who like vampire movies have no real interest in BDSM.

Probably the easiest thing for you to do, though, would be to take your son to a shrink who classifies him/herself as a "kink aware professional" (KAP). This would be someone in the mental health profession who is either kinky him/herself or is familiar with and accepting of those who are. It's even possible you'll find someone who's dealt with the same issue you're facing. At the very least, they should be able to distinguish between someone who has non-traditional sexual inclinations and someone who has a real problem. Here's a list of KAPs by state: http://www.ncsfreedom.org/kap/psycho.htm.

Good luck.
posted by Clay201 at 8:21 AM on March 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

By all means pursue the other suggestions here about finding a psychologist who has experience with this type of issue. But I was sitting here thinking about all the other reasons your son might be doing this kind of Google search. For example:

1) He heard on the news that someone raped a 5-year-old girl and thought WTF? Who does that type of thing?

2) If he's fairly naive and inexperienced, he doesn't exactly understand the meaning of "rape," "date rape," "gang-bang" etc. I have a VERY sheltered 11-year-old nephew who I'm sure is clueless about all of those terms.

3) Or, he understands the meaning but can't believe there are actual websites about that stuff. I know that, as adults, when we first got Internet access at home the first thing my husband and I looked up were porn sights. Granted, we're hicks, but still the idea that this stuff was out there available at the click of a mouse was amazing.

4) He's heard about teachers raping students and is looking for information about that, or wants to read about Mary Kay Letourneau (I think that's her name-the female teacher who went to jail for having sex with her male student).

5) He's been on the computer with his friends and they're egging each other on to see who can think of the edgiest thing to look up.

6) A kid at school is talking about any of this (for reasons completely unknown) and your son is embarrassed that he doesn't understand all the terms, or the implications and is seeking information and clarification.

One of my adult female co-workers spent a long time one day looking at all the ways a people kill themselves and calling me periodically to tell me about it. A friend of ours had killed himself and it sparked a morbid curiosity. Someone looking at her searches might well have thought she was contemplating suicide but that was the furthest thing from the truth.

I know you've asked him and he's said he doesn't know, but you might think about bringing it up again when you and he are both calm and you can talk about it rationally. Something along the lines of "When I saw you'd done these Google searches it made me worry that you'd been raped. I even wondered if you had ever thought about raping anyone. Do you understand what that word means and why it's a terrible thing for one person to do to another?" That could start a conversation that would calm your fears. Only you know your son and whether this would work or not, but it's one approach you might try.
posted by BluGnu at 8:57 AM on March 27, 2007

You asked about what kind of therapy is necessary. None, unless you've got more going on than what you posted. Basically, what internet!Hannah said.
posted by lorrer at 12:44 PM on March 27, 2007

i agree that it might be harmless, but you have the wellbeing of your daughter to consider, and i don't think you can afford to just give your son the benefit of the doubt. i would recommend contacting a child psychologist (not psychiatrist, if the psychologist thinks drugs are going to be necessary/useful, they'll refer you to one) and then meeting with him or her first, before approaching either child. sure, shrinks can give bad advice, but if you find someone trustworthy, they should be able to guide you towards the best, least damaging course of action.
posted by wreckingball at 3:20 PM on March 27, 2007

"Which is frankly ridiculous. Any responsible parent can acknowledge that to be cautious now is the right choice."

"Yes, I agree. But let the reaction fit the crime."

The reaction is only an overreaction if you believe that talking to a therapist is somehow a harsh, stigmatizing punishment.

I don't agree with the ideas shared here that Internet access for teens is somehow binary: no privacy, no rights, net-nanny, violation of trust, oppression, patronizing..... vs. free rein, look at anything you like, kids have healthy urges that unsupervised Internet browsing can fulfill, looking at porn online is good for you! no matter how old you are!

There is a happy medium... for every parent and kid in a wired home to find for themselves. It's only a violation of privacy to view the kid's browser history if the kid has been promised that parents will never view his browser history.

It feels here like some people are reacting to Anonymous' snooping as though they personally were snooped on, and it just doesn't work like that when there are kids around. Kids have the exact expectation of privacy they are given by their parents. My own kid knows full well that I will always knock on her closed door and wait for permission before entering. She knows that her computer (and the Internet and the electricity that run them) are a privilege, not a right, and that her dad and I might access it any time she's away. We've discussed what's appropriate for her to be viewing and surfing, and we'll revisit those rules when she gets older.

In other words, some control is absolutely reasonable, and demonstrates parental responsibility and structure. "He's a growing boy" + "porn is fun!" does not a teenage Internet policy make.

Also, the "Googling child porn is no big deal" advocates don't seem to be acknowledging that child pornography is actually illegal. What if the 13-year-old is downloading material that puts the parents at risk of a criminal charge? What if their ISP is somehow alerted? There's more at stake than just the perceived civil rights of one child.

[Idcoytco: wrt "You talk about "my son" and say "we" have a daughter. Does the poor kid have an additional problem with a step-parent who is finding it a stretch to keep up with parenthood of a teenager?"...

On behalf of all stepparents everywhere: }:-P
Bio parents can be totally disinterested losers, and stepparents can be caring and fully involved. Inferring that an inferior stepparent is in the picture by analyzing the OP's pronouns is lame.]
posted by pineapple at 5:53 PM on March 27, 2007

There seems a serious lack of posters here claiming to deal with 13-year-old boys on a daily basis. So I went and consulted someone in the UK who runs adventure courses for this age group. His reaction?

"You _caught_ a websavvy 13-year-old doing this? He is acting up for attention. If he had intended to keep this secret, he easily could have.

He is looking for boundaries -- he didn't reach them on the first try, so he pushed a bit further. He has recently become aware of how huge the adult world is, and he wants some guidance on things. He doesn't need a therapist, he needs a firm "No".

The websearches themselves are pretty average for this age group -- along with explosives, suicide and other things parents would rather they didn't take an interest in."

This guy deals with kids whose parents can afford to pay for the course, and kids who get free places because they are "problem kids". He is very definite about the difficulties 13-year-olds face, trying to find their place in a world they suddenly realize is much bigger than their cozy children's view. There are only 3 short years between 13 and 16 and all the freedoms of that age, these kids really want someone to lay down rules, not give them talk therapy while they flounder.

And specifically the five-year-old bit? "Well, it got a rise out of the parents didn't it? Possibly also the boy was looking for something to tease his kid sister with -- which implies a certain amount of innocence of expectation of what he might find."
posted by Idcoytco at 11:26 AM on March 31, 2007

I was 12-13 when I started looking at stuff like this on the Internet, back when it was available but definitely not really known about (I'm male and 25 now). I don't think he intended to get caught. I don't really have much advice but my email is in my profile if you've got specific questions for somebody who may have gone through some similar experiences to your son.
posted by onalark at 7:39 PM on April 1, 2007

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