Dear Prudence: I design porn websites for good money and am ashamed of it.

Help! My Family Has No Idea All Our Money Comes From Porn Sites.

Help! My Family Has No Idea All Our Money Comes From Porn Sites.

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 25 2014 6:00 AM

Porn Pays

My family has no idea all our money comes from adult websites.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I am a freelance Web developer who was almost bankrupted by the economic collapse. A few years ago a client referred me to a friend who needed some search engine optimization. The friend operates an adult website. Adult websites make a lot of money but have trouble finding honest, competent help. One job turned into another, and working with adult websites has become a thriving business for me. My problem is that nobody knows I do this. My wife thinks that I design websites for local companies. I don’t work with sites that do anything illegal or that produce “desperation porn.” My clients are high-end, soft-core sites. I’m getting to a point where I can’t hide this anymore. I’m going to get a prestigious industry award, which means that an Internet search of my name will reveal the nature of my business. I also have had to hide profits in a secret mutual fund, because I don’t think my wife would believe that I make that much from designing websites for florists. I’ve wanted to walk away for a while, but the money has gotten us a lifestyle that we struggled to have for years. My wife doesn’t have to work anymore, our house is paid off, we have a college fund for the kids. I feel like I’m stuck between disappointing my family by turning off the money pump or having them find out that I work in the adult entertainment industry. I need advice.

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—Not Quite Walter White

Dear Not Quite,
I did not watch Breaking Bad, so I don’t know if Walter White had your dilemma of receiving an award from the crystal meth manufacturers of America. Your immediate problem is easy to solve. You thank the heads of your industry for their generous recognition, then you inform them that for personal reasons you must decline the award and ask that your name be deleted from the event. Alternatively, you could say to your wife, “Hon, I’m being honored at a big industry award ceremony and I want you to come!” The evening would be revelatory for her, and you two would have plenty to talk about during the car ride home. This was the first I heard of “desperation porn,” the plot of which revolves around the (usually female, often clothed) star’s ultimately unsuccessful struggle to find a place to pee. I don’t understand your scruples about this harmless-sounding genre, and if others want to make beautiful urination movies, let them get showered with money. As for what you do for a living, I don’t see that it’s wrong or something to be ashamed of. You’re helping provide a service for which millions are grateful. The only true red flag in your letter is your hiding your profits from your wife. If you file a joint tax return and you aren’t declaring all your income, that sounds more compromising than your work. Maybe your wife is like Carmella Soprano—she knows but doesn’t want to know. Surely she realizes that the economy has not rebounded so dramatically that you’ve funded your kids’ college educations by showcasing the local florists’ special on clitoria. I think you should own up and tell your wife. Before she insists you quit, let her know that will mean she has to return to her job, and you’ll all be eating spaghetti for dinner for the foreseeable future. The kids only really need to know that dad makes his living as a Web designer (which is true, just as Tony Soprano really was in waste management). Regardless, your letter has just done a great service for struggling freelance Web developers everywhere—expect your competition to heat up.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband is a huge football fan, or more accurately a die-hard fan for his team. I was born in a different country and have a hard time relating to this obsession. I tried for many years by arranging our schedules and preparing appetizers for game day. I even spent hundreds of dollars to attend a game live at his team’s home stadium. The problem is, now we have a son who is old enough to understand the game, and lately the acts of the players outside the sport have tainted my rather nebulous feelings. Simply put, I don’t want my son growing up idolizing men who make millions of dollars by being violent thugs. My husband says he understands, and can’t argue against my points, but still he and his family must watch the games. Is it right for me to want to break a family tradition, or should I just quietly disappear for a few hours every Sunday afternoon?

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—Not a Fan

Dear Not,
Ah, “The Game”—that phrase is spoken by my husband in near religious terms. When there is a game, and for half the year there always seems to be a game, it is taken as a commandment that the den is a sacred place from which he watches—and he doesn’t want to be disturbed with irrelevances like the house being on fire. My husband obsessively follows our home team, whose name can’t be printed in this publication. As far as my experience goes, it seems to me that every time I enter the den during the game, I end up watching some player’s leg collapse like an accordion, and the man carried writhing off the field. Despite this, I welcomed it when my husband imparted to my daughter a love of football. She became sports editor of her high school paper, and she can talk endlessly about the game, which will be a great asset for her in life. I understand why anyone would be rethinking an attachment to football right now. There’s the horror of the damage done to the players, the odious commissioner Roger Goodell, and the spate of arrests for domestic abuse. But I still understand the passion that fans have for this thrilling sport—and it is also unfair and untrue to portray all players as violent men off the field. But you and your husband, like me and mine, should go your separate ways during a game. What a great chance for him to bond with your son and give you some time to yourself. That doesn’t mean your husband should indoctrinate your son into blind fealty, and this is a role you can help play. Your boy can come to understand that while there is much to admire about football, there is much that is wrong and needs to change.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
Three months ago, my wife’s and my dreams came true when we adopted our 5-year-old son. He’s a great kid: smart, positive, thoughtful, and we love him unconditionally. We knew to expect certain challenges with adopting an older child, and we’ve tried to prepare for just about every possibility, but this particular scenario really has us stumped: My wife and I are not religious, and have made the decision to not try to force any religious (or non-religious belief) on our child, but try to stay open and honest so that he can draw his own conclusions. Our son was, at some point, brought up in a religious environment, and prays in the morning, and before he goes to bed. His praying is absolutely no problem to us, if it brings him fulfillment, that’s great. The problem is that he has recently asked us to join him in some of his prayers, and that’s just something we don’t do. What do we do? We want honesty to be a cornerstone of our family, and we want him to be able to embrace people’s differences in beliefs, but he’s only been with us three months and we don’t want him to feel ostracized, or hurt. We want him to know that we support him, but we also want to be open about our own lack of faith, but he’s 5 after all.

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—Humanist Parents

Dear Humanist,
I bet that before you knew him, your son prayed that he would find a father and mother like you; now here you are, proving that prayers can be answered. You, your wife, and your son are so lucky to have found each other. As you acknowledge, adopting an older child means you have a young person who has had a painful and disrupted start to life. It’s going to take him a while for him to know with certainty that he really has found his forever family. You are wise to understand that prayer has probably been a source of comfort and solace for him. It is a delicate thing for you to explain to a 5-year-old that you don’t believe in something that is so important to him. I think for the time being, despite your lack of faith, you should honor his request and join him. You can tell him that it turns out he knows more about praying than you do, so you and Mom are going to fold your hands, bow your heads, and listen as he leads the prayers. Saying “Amen,” when he’s done is a matter of respect. The conversation about your beliefs (or lack thereof)—and all your other conversations!—will unfold over time. And as you point out, you don’t have to get that metaphysical with a 5-year-old.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
In 2005 I got herpes. In my first relationship following this distressing event, I couldn’t muster the courage to tell my boyfriend until a month into our relationship (after we had sex) and he was exceedingly angry. Although we went on to have a three-year relationship where herpes ceased to matter (he never got it), I still feel some guilt about not telling him. In my next serious relationship I was totally upfront, and it didn’t impact the relationship at all, and he, too, didn’t get it. But despite this, I still have trouble telling a potential partner. I know that quite a few people have herpes, but whenever I contemplate telling someone I fear the stigma and the possible rejection. The obvious solution seems to be not to have sex until I’m comfortable enough with a partner to share this piece of information. The only problem is that inevitably sex comes up long before I’ve reached the level of intimacy where I can get this out. I never have sex without condoms, I take Valtrex preventatively when there is a possibility of sex and I am vigilant about paying attention to possible signs of an outbreak. Given this, I’ve decided that I will tell partners when the herpes interferes with our sex life—i.e. whenever I am concerned that I might have an outbreak and I have to curtail physical activities. I’ve discussed this with close friends and most think it’s fair. What do you think?

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—To Tell or Not to Tell

Dear Tell,
As you’ve experienced, in the grand scheme of things, herpes is not that big a deal. For some people, it’s such a not-big-deal that they don’t even know they have it, thus it gets passed on and an estimated 50 million Americans harbor this virus. However, it’s one thing for you to believe that you’re in charge of your herpes and it’s basically irrelevant. It’s another for you to decide this on behalf of a future partner. This isn’t information you dole out on what you decide is a need-to-know basis. A potential partner needs to know. There’s always a significant chance the next one might say, “Me too.” You have an internal voice that tells you when you know someone well enough to be willing to risk telling. Sure, sex might come up before then, but beat it back down until you can get the words out.

—Prudie

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