Are Kids Scarred By Seeing Their Father Naked?

I sure hope not.

Since I am a father and my sons are my sons, one of the things we have in common is our penises. There are three of us and we have three of them, one apiece. My wife, on the other hand, has a vagina. This means that penises are one of the few things my boys and I share that my wife does not. It’s like a boy’s club. I guess it is a boy’s club. Anyway, I’m curious about whether or not seeing my penis might prove harmful to my children. My question, I suppose, boils down to this: Does dad have to wear pants?

Let me explain. I am not what you might call a clothes-lover. Don’t get me wrong. I geek out about Public School’s latest minimalist line and spend too much on dub monks. I like nice clothes. I just don’t like wearing them. Many times–really, always–I am in some stage of dishabille. I also shower occasionally. The consequence of all this is that my boys — Tony, 5, and Tubes, 4 — see my penis (also, my balls, or as Tony calls it, my “penis bag”). My penis is an okay one, I guess, of standard size and with a winning personality. I feel about as much ego-connection to my penis as I do to my ring finger, which is to say, it’s there and useful and I used to care more about it than I do now. These days, it’s just some flesh that occasionally is engorged with blood and also that frequently dictates my life choices. NBD.

Being the proud bearers of penises themselves, my sons are aware of mine too. If he sees it, Tony will exclaim, “It’s Daddy’s penis.” To which I say, “Yeah. It is. Now stop pointing.” But Tony in particular has become obsessed with penises and vaginas for both for their anatomical and naughty value. Recently, speaking to my wife, he explained, “You know how daddy knows how your vagina looks like? Penis goes into vagina and then something sproings out: a kid. Aaaaaaaah!”

I’m a little worried Tony, who is entering first grade, is going to roll up at his classroom, talking about penises and vaginas so much the teacher will be like, “I know you what you did last summer!” and call CPS on us. The question is whether being naked in front of my kid is fucking him up in some way and, if so, how.

In his study, catchily entitled “Early childhood exposure to parental nudity and scenes of parental sexuality (“primal scenes”): an 18-year longitudinal study of outcome,” Dr. Paul Okani notes, with dismay, the literature on the subject of parental penises has been both paltry and partisan. On the one hand, there have been many studies which cast seeing your parents nude, or worse, balling (this is what is meant as a primal scene) is a “subtle form of sexual abuse.” On the other hand, the relatively scant empirical studies that have actually looked at whether exposure to butts, boobs, dicks, and vaginas harms children are, in Okani’s words, “anti-alarmist.” So, in 1998, Okani did his own study. Using data from UCLA’s Family Lifestyles Project, which tracked a cohort of children over 18 years, he examined the long term outcomes of children who reported seeing their parents’ private parts. What did he find? And how will that affect how much laundry I’m going to have to do?

Basically, at least for boys, dicks are for kids. Teenagers who saw their parents nude as kids had less sex and, but liked it better. In Okani’s words, “Exposure to parental nudity predicted lower likelihood of sexual activity in adolescence, but more positive sexual experiences among that group of participants who were sexually active.” Interestingly, among boys, “exposure to parental nudity also predicted reduced instances of petty theft and shoplifting…[and] was associated at the level of trend with reduced use of drugs such as marijuana, LSD, Ecstasy, and psychedelic mushrooms.” Interestingly, women who were exposed to parental nudity as children were slightly more likely to use these drugs (but less likely to use PCP!).  “At the level of trend, exposure to primal scenes was associated with higher levels of self-acceptance and improved relations with adults other than parents.”

What this doesn’t mean is that I’m going to start Kama Sutra-ing in the presence of my tots. It might be good for them, but man, does a four-year-old harsh a vibe, amiright? And though I will continue to rock out with my cock out, I’ll also make sure Tony knows this is something to do only at our home and, when he has kids of his own, at his home too.