TO WATCH OR
NOT TO WATCH
The mother was walking to her car
with her 11 year old son, talking about the R-rated movie they had just
seen. Another woman, a stranger about the same age, came up from behind.
"I canít believe you brought your child to that
movie," she exclaimed. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
The movie had the usual collection of foul language, a
rape scene and a little partial nudity. Nothing her son hadnít seen or
heard countless times before.
"How did you respond?" I asked when she told
me the story. "Did you tell her that you were perfectly capable of
raising your own child and to go get her own life?"
"I froze. I was shocked," she said. "I
felt like the worst parent in the world."
I know the feeling. Like this mother, whose son is one
of my sonís best friends, I am a Parental Hussy. I let my kids watch
R-rated movies. And the woman who instigated this confrontation is
obviously a member of the Parental Prudes.
Iíve been parenting a long time, and my thoroughly
inconclusive research proves that of all the parents I have come in
contact with, about 50% are Prudes and 50% are Hussies. And there is
little room for anything in between.
This is a topic that just begs for strong feelings, and
gets them. Everyone is on one side or the other, and they come from every
walk of life. Politics, ethnicity, economic class, profession,
religion---it means nothing. Youíre either a Prude or a Hussy when it
comes to allowing children to see and hear what adults see or hear.
Obviously, there are lines that are drawn. Iím
talking about R-rated movies, and nothing more explicit. And, of course,
age is a factor. I remember taking my five-year old to see "The
Rock," starring Sean Connery, thinking an action film about Alcatraz
might be fun.
And it was, except that every time someone on the
screen said the "F-word," (and I counted about 225 times) every
head in the theater turned towards me (or so it seemed), asking which
Child Welfare Agency they should call.
He was a little young for that one, but I get the same
looks today from people who are adamant that children should be protected
from R-rated movies until they turn 17. That is the age someone determined
was old enough to handle foul language, violence and nudity in a degree
that is slightly higher than the kids see on television, the news or PG-13
As a Parental Hussy for the last 19 years, Iím used
to the scornful looks from the Parental Prudes. I only wish they would
come to the same conclusion I have about whether it is right to allow
children to see an R-rated movie.
And my conclusion is that it really doesnít matter.
Both ways work. And both ways donít work. It depends on so much more.
Whether a child hears some swear words, or sees a naked
body on the screen, or tries to figure out the meaning of the sexually
explicit conversation, or whether the child spends his or her teen years
watching nothing except Saturday morning cartoons means very little. What
matters is the parents and how they handle the ramifications of either
There is no right or wrong way. That woman who
chastised the mother of my sonís friend as she walked out of the R-rated
movie should find another avenue for her venom. My sonís friend is a
great, great kid, with great values. He just doesnít think twice about
watching an R-rated movie.
So if youíre a Parental Prude, or aspire to be one,
good for you. Protect your children from seeing or hearing certain scenes
or words for as long as you can. Thereís certainly nothing wrong with
But leave us Parental Hussies alone. If we think our
kid can handle an R-rated film, thatís our decision, and ours alone.
Prudes and Hussies---canít we all just get along?