My 19-year-old son has a fascination with women's underwear, panties mainly. This has been going on for about 4 years, as far as I know. I accidentally found a stash of said underwear in his room. Some of them are mine. I think he wears them, sometimes, perhaps under his own underwear, judging from the colors that have worn off onto the inside of his jockey briefs.
I am concerned about this. It seems to go one step beyond "normal," especially the wearing part. I have not talked to him about it, as it would be so embarrassing for him, and I don't think it would serve any purpose. I would like to find out more about this behavior. Is this common? I am not at all comfortable with it, as I think it is something that will interfere with his ability to interact in an intimate relationship. In other words, I think most women prefer to be the one who wears the panties.
Any ideas about this, or where I can go to get help?
Dear Worried Mom,
You know what I think you should do? First, you should study up on this phenomenon a little bit yourself, just to get the basics. That's what I did. I just used Google. With virtually no trouble at all, I located a teen advice site where a 15-year-old wrote in with exactly this question, and got some compassionate and sane-sounding advice from volunteers. The site itself, Teen Advice Online, looks like it might be a very good place for you to start. I also quickly located what seemed to be a good short primer on this phenomenon by a credentialed sex therapist named Gyongyi Viktoria Saunderson. To supplement your knowledge, you could always consult a reference work such as Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia.
Then, I really think you should talk with him about it. You have said that you don't think it would serve any purpose, but I think it would serve two very definite purposes. You can take an opportunity, as his mother, to reassure him about something that he may find terribly troubling, and also to prevent your household and your relationship from being poisoned by a festering secret.
It's not often that you have an opportunity to accomplish two such worthwhile goals in one simple act. Arm yourself with a compassionate understanding of the issue, and then sit down with him privately and tell him the truth: that you found the underwear accidentally, and that you understand what it represents, and that you want him to know that there is nothing wrong with him for having an interest in women's underwear. It's just one more in the infinite variety of sexual turn-ons that humans are imprinted with, probably at an early age, and have little control over. One man likes shoes, one likes spanking, one likes underwear. Who can know what it all means? The worst thing you could do is be rigid, punitive and secretive about it. It's just human life. Embrace it. And embrace your son.
But emphasize this: It's not an excuse for bad behavior. Stealing is wrong.
So demand your underwear back.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.