Q: My son is 19, but due to some physical and social disabilities (mostly unseen), his emotional maturity level is closer to 14, though he is quite intelligent. After a lifetime of therapists, specialized education, and other interventions, he is now a freshman in college far from home. His dad and I are paying for his tuition, room and board, and books. He was expected to use his summer job earnings for personal expenses. His lack of social skills makes him dependent on alcohol and cigarettes to form his social life, and that plus his immaturity (imagine sending your son to college at age 14) means he went through his money quickly. But he is still drinking and smoking and getting high. When he was home for his last break, I asked him how he affords to do this, and he wouldn’t tell me. You can imagine what went through my head. (Drug dealing?) I asked if it was safe and legal, and he said yes. After some snooping, I learned that he is using a webcam service for chats with men who offer “tips” for sexual viewing. I suppose this is technically safe and legal, but because I’m unfamiliar with the technology involved, I don’t know if he is putting himself at risk emotionally or if screenshots can be captured that can affect his future career, relationships, etc. I’m a longtime follower of your column, podcast and books, and I hope that someday my son and I will be as close as you and your mother were. So tell me, Dan: What would Judy Savage do? —Worried Over Repercussions Regarding Incriminating Employment Deal
A: Webcamming — aka camwhoring — is widely regarded as the safest form of sex work. Webcammers aren’t in the same room with their clients (unlike strippers, lap dancers, escorts, foot-fetish-party girls, pro doms, etc.), and cammers have the ability to instantly block creepy, rude or abusive viewers. But there are risks, WORRIED, chief among them how easily viewers can take screengrabs and record videos of a cammer’s sessions. So if your son is planning on a career as a teacher or a cop or a politician, it’s possible that pics and videos could come back to haunt him.
But with so many young people out there swapping dirty pics and videos (and so many old people doing it too), and with so many students camming their way through college (getting naked online is arguably less of a risk to someone’s future prospects than crushing student-loan debt), a time when everyone will have a few incriminating images circulating online is quickly coming. And at that point — which will likely coincide with your son’s entry into the workforce — a few stray dirty pics, videos, or GIFs won’t be the career-ending scandal that it is today.
Now here’s what Judy Savage, my late mom, would’ve said if she discovered that one of her four kids was camwhoring to pay college expenses: “You’re an adult, and I can’t tell you what to do. You are going to make your own choices and you’re going to make your own mistakes. But you do have to listen to my concerns. You owe me that.” Hesitating to hear Mom out would result in a single raised eyebrow — a move that had a paralyzing effect on me and my siblings — and then Mom asking if we would rather talk about her four C-section scars instead.
We always chose to hear her out.
So have a conversation with your son, WORRIED, but first familiarize yourself with the technology and the phenomenon that is camming. The New York Times wrote a great story on the risks and rewards of camming (“Intimacy on the Web, With a Crowd,” Sept. 21, 2013), and the first episode of HBO’s Real Sex reboot, Sex//Now, focuses on camming. Checking out both might help you have a more informed, less freaked conversation with your son about how he’s paying for his booze, cigarettes and pot.
Q: My fiancée and I have a lovely GGG relationship. Recently we discovered a shared fantasy of unconscious sex — basically, one of us would be unconscious while the other would do whatever they like. Both of us are interested in both roles. Our question is how we go about fulfilling this fantasy. Are there safe ways to put each other to sleep? —GGG To ZZZ
A: Try C-SPAN. If C-SPAN doesn’t work, try golf — playing it, watching it, reading about it. If golf doesn’t work, try Ambien.
Q: I’m a girl in my mid-20s living in a large city. After listening to some of your older podcasts, I decided to hop on Craigslist to see if there were any boys that might like to buy my used undies. I posted a few ads and got tons of responses. Money has been tight, so why not? I met up with a guy and exchanged a pair for $50. Score! I went home and replied to a few more and met another guy the next morning for another $50. Both guys seemed nice, and I felt exhilarated after I walked away. But once I got home, I was extremely paranoid about the risk of being followed. I was up most of the night and constantly looking out the windows to make sure no one was there. My boyfriend is OK with me doing this; he just wants me to be safe about it. I think I was pretty safe. I set up a separate e-mail account, and I met them in public in the daytime. My boyfriend offered to go with me to meet these guys and hang back where he wouldn’t be seen. I’m fine with this, but we work different schedules, so it’s not realistic. And I don’t think having someone with me would ease my concern about being followed home. I looked into the sites that allow you to sell the goods online and mail them, but those don’t really work for me. You have to pay to use all of those sites. You also have to pay to set up a P.O. box and have a way to accept payments. (PayPal also displays some of your personal info.) I don’t really have a lot of time to dedicate to selling my panties. I just want to do it every once in a while for some spare cash. So is there anything else I could do to feel a little safer? Will this paranoid feeling go away after a few interactions? Or is my brain trying to tell me that I’m not cut out for this kind of thing? And exactly how dangerous is this? —Pensive And New To Intense Exciting Salaciousness
A: There are thousands of women out there selling their used panties online, and you never read about one being stalked or murdered by a collector, PANTIES, but the news is full of stories of women being murdered by their boyfriends and husbands. I don’t mean to downplay the risks — or play fast and loose with the math (there are tens of millions of women with boyfriends and husbands) — and most women who sell their panties online aren’t meeting their customers face-to-face. But if you don’t want to go the website route, here’s how you can sell your panties in person more safely: Get the Uber app on your phone and order a car after you make a sale. Having a driver drop you a mile away will cost you $5 or $10, PANTIES, but the peace of mind will be worth the price.
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