QUESTION: I’m a 19-year-old girl and still live with my parents while I go to community college. The other day, I was in our basement looking for something I had as a little girl. We have three rooms in the basement and I went into one that I usually never go into because I thought it could be in a box in there. Instead, I found a box of porn. Mostly magazines and old VCR tapes. They either belong to my dad or my older brother who hasn’t lived here in about 8 years. Should I tell my mom? Should I throw it out? It was a lot of porn. Nobody needs that much porn.
ANSWER: Sadly, there are a lot of people who need that much porn to keep their addictions going. It sounds more like a curated collection than anything else. Those of us who are over 35 can probably relate in some way. I had a handful of videos and several dozen magazines I kept stashed in a box that once held my Nintendo cartridges.
Considering there are VHS tapes in there and we haven’t used that technology with any regularity for 15 years, I would guess that the box of porn belongs to your father. I have a feeling if you looked at the dates of the magazines, they may be from before you were even born.
It stands to reason that there aren’t more boxes because everybody was getting on the Internet for the first time 15-20 years ago. The questions remain, did your dad make the move to online pornography, does he have a problem, and either way do you tell anyone?
Don’t throw it away. If it’s not illegal pornography, it poses no real danger and it’s not your property. It’s also a giveaway somebody is tampering, just in case he still does use it.
I guess I’d need to know your mother to know if this is something that you can address with her. If she dismisses negative things or looks at your father as a hero, it will probably fall on deaf ears, just as an addict diagnosis would. If she’s an over-reactor, it could lead to crazy drama that may not be warranted, especially if it turns out to not be his box of porn.
If your mother is a level-headed person who you have a good, open relationship with, you could ask her something nudging her toward it, like, “I heard on TV that half of American households have either had pornography as problem in the past or currently have it. Have we ever had anything like that?” If she says, “No, why do you ask?” tell her that you found some pornography in the basement. Feel free to direct her to it. If she says yes, let it go, it’s not your business.
If you can’t talk to your mother, I don’t think I’d approach your father. As the father of a 20-year-old, even if I was living a lie and wanted to confess for years, that confession isn’t coming out to my daughter. I’m very honest with her these days, but before I faced my addiction it would have been lie, lie, lie.
I think your best bet might be to talk to your brother. If it’s his porn, he’ll probably fess up. He doesn’t live there anymore and it may have just been a collection he was given by some friend’s older brother. If it’s not his porn, he should have some feedback in deciding what you do next. Make it a sibling problem, not just your problem. If you determine that you can’t talk to your mom, maybe he can talk to your dad.
I think this is a situation where you’re just enough removed that you can’t really say or do too much. There may be people who disagree with me and if they do, I hope they’ll add their two cents in the comments.
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DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.