Monday 9 December 2019

Dear Mary: My daughter saw the results of my fetish

Illustration: Tom Halliday.
Illustration: Tom Halliday.

Mary O'Conor

Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.

Question: I am a happily married man for 20 years and have three children, the youngest of whom is my 10-year-old daughter. I was recently browsing fetish videos on YouTube for ladies in stockings and high heels and forgot to delete my browsing history. My 10-year-old daughter subsequently went  on my iPad and saw what I had been looking at.

She told her mother. My wife had no problem with me browsing such videos as she knows I am into this, but she did have a huge issue with our daughter seeing it, as I did myself.

My daughter has asked me a few times since why I was looking at "dirty things" on the internet and I don't need to tell you how embarrassed I am. I don't know what to say to her. I am worried now that this will damage my relationship with my daughter. I know I was careless and stupid too. Any advice would be appreciated.

Mary replies: What an unfortunate thing to happen. I am sure many people reading this have made a mental note to delete their own browsing history as a result of your experience. The fact is that almost all parents have things that they would rather not share with their children, whether it be events in the past or as in your case more recently.

One of the things about fetishes is that other people find it very hard to understand why a particular object, item of clothing, or part of the body is a source of arousal to another person, because that particular thing does absolutely nothing for them.

But there is nothing wrong with fetishes provided that it doesn't cause a problem between the couple.

For instance, if a man with a leather fetish constantly wanted his partner to wear leather while they were making love this would quickly lead to problems as she would resent always having to do it rather than just occasionally.

The fact that you look at images of ladies in stockings and high heels causes no problem between yourself and your wife and this indicates a well-adjusted relationship. The problem arose because your daughter saw these images and questioned you about it.

To get to your browsing history she had to tap the Bookmark icon, then History, and then scroll down onto specific dates to see what you had looked at. Why did she do that? You didn't leave the iPad open at a particular page - she actually had to investigate in order to find it.

It is interesting that she refers to what she saw as being "dirty". Where did she get the idea that sexy equals dirty? Anything I saw on YouTube under the shoe and stocking fetish category was fairly tame - sexy perhaps, but certainly not dirty. How has her sex education been so far and have you as parents had an active part in it?

So what do you say to her when she next brings up the topic? I would firstly clear the air regarding her invasion of your privacy. It is never too young to explain boundaries and how people must respect each other's space no matter how close the relationship is. Then you certainly don't want to give too much information but you could say that you stumbled on this site and were intrigued by it.

Explain that as she grows older she will understand more about human sexuality, but for the moment all she needs to know is that you and her Mum love each other very much, that you would never do anything to hurt her Mum, and that your wife knew that you had looked at that particular site.

Then change the subject and take some deep breaths.

Good luck!

My brother is still living off my parents

Question: My brother is in his mid- to late-30s, long-term unemployed and still lives with my parents, who are both now retired. He gets up late, barely leaves his room, and stays up late playing video games. I believe he gives a nominal amount to my parents for rent, but doesn’t do general housekeeping, grocery shopping or prepare dinner. The situation is very stressful for my parents, and to me and my other siblings too. We feel our parents should be enjoying their retirement.

Selfishly, I’m also worried what will happen when my parents pass away — will us siblings, all of us successful in work and life — be left to take care of him or have to kick him out of our parents’ house? I feel we’ll be left to do what our parents were never able to do while they were alive. They tried finding him a house, but he didn’t like anything so they gave up after a while.

My siblings and I didn’t get involved for a long time as he’s an adult who should be able to take care of himself and our parents always championed independence and just trying your best.

But as I saw how stressful it was on my parents, I tried helping. I asked him to give me a copy of his CV so I could submit them on his behalf. He didn’t do this, so I asked my Dad (I don’t live in Ireland so couldn’t do it in person), but he didn’t give it to him either.

After realising he wouldn’t get a job in his chosen area because of the recession, I have sent him notices of jobs which require little to no experience, some permanent, some temporary, but he never follows up. Our cousin is making great money in Australia in similar areas, but my brother won’t move away.

I wrote to a job coach for long-term unemployed saying I’d pay them anything if they could work with him directly, but they said he has to be willing to contact them himself. I sent my brother the details, offered to pay, gave him a voucher for it for his birthday . . . and still nothing. The longer he leaves it, the worse and worse it gets. I don’t care what he works at as long as he gets a job.

I feel terribly for my parents but I don’t know what else to do.

Mary replies: There is nothing that you can do because it is your parents’ house that your brother lives in, and your parents are the only ones who can do anything about him. I wonder if they find it stressful having him in their home or if they are stressed because he doesn’t appear to be doing anything with his life.

Hopefully you will have your parents with you for many years to come but when they eventually pass on they will have left a will indicating what they want done with the family home. If they haven’t made a will, then you should tactfully suggest that they do so while they are quite well and able to make decisions.

I feel that you are worrying too far in advance — the most likely scenario is that one will predecease the other and then things will change. In that case having your brother living in the house may be a blessing as you are all getting on with your lives, and in your case living abroad. Eventually the house may have to be sold in order to pay for care for the remaining parent. Who knows what the future may bring, but it is really futile to worry too much about things.

I understand that you are annoyed at your brother for living off your parents for so long and not taking the opportunities you have given him to help him find a job.

No doubt he has his own reasons for living the way he does — low self-esteem, lack of friends, depression, unhappy in love — these are some of the things that come to mind. Is there some way you could speak with him when you are next home to try to ascertain what is going on in his head, especially if you feel that he is unhappy?

If he feels that he can confide in you, then perhaps he will allow you to help in some way that he feels he will benefit from, rather than just offering to help him find employment. I’m not in any way denigrating you for trying to make his life better, but perhaps there is another way around the problem rather than the way you have chosen.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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