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Savage Love

by Dan Savage on August 24, 2011

I’m unemployed in Oregon and trying to come up with simple ways to make rent. My dear wife and I would like your opinion on the legality of selling my teenage son’s sweaty gym clothes online. It sounds rather skeezy, I realize, and I’m only half-joking here. If we had a nonsexual website with pictures that weren’t necessarily of my son, would that be buffer enough? Would this be seen as me whoring out the boy? He’s up for it—as long as he gets his cut—but could I go to jail for this? He is 14.

—Pimpin’ Out Real Teen’s Leftover, Acrid, Nasty Duds

Speaking parent-to-parent, PORTLAND, informing your 14-year-old son that there are perverts all over the internet who would be willing to pay him for his sweaty gym clothes wasn’t the best idea. Whatever you ultimately decide to do with his sweaty jocks, shorts, and T-shirts—and I vote for tossing them in the wash—dangling the money your son could make catering to the desires of online pervs in front of him might inspire him to go into business for himself, whatever you decide to do. So keep an eye on his internet usage, OK? As for the legal issues . . .

“Selling a physical property—sweat—might be an issue,” said Chris O’Connor, a public defender in Portland, Ore. “Also, he could be [charged with] fraud and misrepresentation for selling clothing he says is his 14-year-old son’s but isn’t.”

Even if no dissatisfied customers go running to the chamber of commerce, PORTLAND, there are other potential problems. For instance, as your son’s sweaty gym clothes make their way from his bedroom floor to the hands of underpants-huffing pervs all over the world, some items would travel—via U.S. mail or UPS or FedEx—through different jurisdictions. While there may not be a statute in Ore. that you could be prosecuted under for selling his undies, Mississippi or Illinois or Vatican City “may have specific laws, too,” says O’Connor, laws that you could be violating.

The biggest potential problem: Underpants huffers wanna know exactly whose underpants they’re huffing. That means you’ll have to include pictures and biographical info on your website, PORTLAND, and involving a minor—even a fake/buffer one—in what many police officers, district attorneys, judges, and some sex-advice columnists see as a kind of gateway sex work will quickly add arrest, prosecution, incarceration, crushing legal bills, and a lifetime on a sex-offender registry to your current troubles. Even if the authorities can’t point to a particular law that criminalizes your home business, they’ll find something to charge you with.

I’m sorry you’re hurting right now, PORTLAND, but I think you should come up with another way to make rent.

Six months ago, my 17-year-old son told me that he was seeing [insert male name]. No biggie. What troubles me: My son and his boyfriend are “furries” and open about it. The boyfriend is 18 and sweet, but he’s clearly the more dominant one. I’m worried that my son may not know how to say no to him. Adding to my concerns: I found a dog collar in the kitchen with an engraved tag with my son’s name on it. Dog collars seem like a heavy activity for a lad, Dan, and today I noticed a bruise on his throat that’s the size of a collar buckle. How do I ensure he is exploring safely without freaking him out?

—Why This Fetish?

Go ahead and freak him out, WTF.

Your son is being open with you about his sexuality—openly gay, openly furred, openly collared—and you shouldn’t hesitate to be open about your concerns. You won’t be able to talk him out of his kinks, WTF, if they’re his kinks (and not, say, a teenage affectation), so focus on the issues: power dynamics and sexual safety. Tell him it’s important that he be able to say no to his boyfriend, and let him know that you’re there for him if he has questions or concerns or needs a sounding board. Then ask him about the bruise on his neck. Dog collars are harmless—lots of kids and kinksters wear ’em—but if he and his boyfriend are playing choking games with that collar, and that’s where the bruise came from, that’s a very dangerous activity and it has to stop immediately.

In your shoes, WTF, I would bark at the boyfriend about that bruise, too. Furry, schmurry. It’s erotic asphyxiation that you should be worried about.

A friend of mine came out as asexual this week on his blog. A couple of questions:

1. Part of me wonders if this is a “real” orientation. Is this the result of some sort of trauma or psychological stuff that could potentially be dealt with through a therapist? I realize that sounds close to the whole “ex-gay therapy” thing, and of course I don’t want to go down that path, but I guess it’s just hard for me to understand how someone can’t form a sexual connection with another person and still be 100-percent okay psychologically.

2. How do I react the next time I see this friend? Should I bring it up? Not sure about the etiquette.

—Does LGBT Need An “A”?

1. Asexuality, according to asexuals and the people who love (but don’t fuck) ’em, is a real sexual orientation . . . or lack thereof. Usually. Because, you see, some asexuals do “experience attraction,” according to Asexuality Visibility Network (asexuality.org), “[but] feel no need to act out that attraction sexually.” So it’s an orientation. Or a disorientation. Or something. But whatever it is, it’s for real.

“I’ve been where your friend is,” says David Jay, the founder of Asexuality Visibility Network. “He wouldn’t have come out without spending a lot of time mulling it over, so respect that he’s done a lot more thinking about this than you have. If he identifies as asexual or anything in the big wide spectrum, you should respect that, period.”

First, I agree 100 percent with Jay.

Second, it’s entirely possible that your friend isn’t really asexual, just as it’s possible that I’m not really gay and Marcus Bachmann isn’t really straight. Your friend may have decided to identify as asexual because he can’t deal with his sexuality or wants to opt out because he finds the games required exhausting. Or he may actually be asexual. Whichever it is, you’re not the sexual identity police. So long as your friend isn’t externalizing an internal conflict and making other people miserable in the process—à la Marcus Bachmann—your friend doesn’t need to be confronted or rescued. (And for the record: No one is “100-percent okay psychologically,” and not everyone needs sex and/or a romantic relationship to feel content and enjoy life.)

2. “Hey, how’s it going.”

“Good, man, you?”

“Good. Did you see Rise of the Planet of the Apes?”

“Yeah—terrible.”

“And James Franco was never shirtless—what’s up with that?”

“You know, if you need tits with your science fiction, you should check out Misfits on Hulu. It’s like Lost before it went to shit. And it’s got tits—lots and lots of tits.”

“I’ll check it out—and, hey, I saw that blog post about you IDing as asexual. If that’s something you want to talk about, I’d love to learn more. But if it’s not something you want to talk about, we can talk about other shit.”

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