Last month’s article was “Why to Talk to You Kids about Porn.” It explained the impact that modern-day, easily accessible pornography can have on the sexual perceptions of children and teens. It ultimately throws out a challenge to parents: Teach your kids about sex before they learn everything from online porn!
In 2016, pornography has become part of the Birds & Bees conversation. It doesn’t have to be part of the early talks with your little ones, like “how does a baby get in mommy’s tummy?”, but as soon as your children are accessing the internet on their own they have access (willing or not) to online porn. And they need to know what the heck they’re seeing.
These aren’t easy conversations. An informal Facebook poll found that out of the 25 females who responded (ages 18-60, various cultures), only 2 had parents who told them about all of their parts (including the clitoris), and more than half had no conversation at all with their parents about genitals or sex. The same number of men responded and only one was made privy to the whole female set-up. There is similar research all over the place, and the point is that most of us did not grow up having these conversations – especially conversations about females and their bodies and what sex is like for them – but have them we must if we want our children to grow up with healthy, non-misogynistic views of sexuality and all that it entails.
So talk about porn because it is part of the sexual landscape, and talk about it like it is part of your child’s sexual environment – because it is.
What can You Do About It?
When your kids are young (the older they get, the harder it will be), normalize the human body and its functions. No need to give nicknames to genitals, they’re just body parts, after all. As they grow older and approach puberty, talk to them about sex. Let them know that sex can be a beautiful, exciting experience between people, and it is not a taboo topic.
That conversation can fit well with any culture or religion, as you, the parent get to share when you think a sexual relationship is appropriate: Once you’ve decided to be me monogamous? Once you’re in love? Once you’re married? And this can be tough stuff for many of us who grew up without all of this porn, AND without having ever had these conversations with OUR parents. Once your kids are old enough to get on the net themselves, make sure the conversation includes porn and what it is that you believe to be objectionable and unhealthy, and why.
Teach them to respect women as their equal partners, both in life and in sex, and help them understand that sex should be more than a raw, selfish release, but a shared experience. Can sex sometimes be just that, and be ok? Sure, but let’s start them out with the tough stuff first – the emotions and connections. If they can grasp that they have a great start toward having a loving, intimate relationship. It’s also ok to let them know about guys who have suffered from porn and who have become addicted and can’t even perform sexually without viewing or thinking about porn.
Let your daughters know that THEY get to choose what they like and what they don’t like. Any man who expects anything more is disrespecting her. Let them know that about 99% of the depictions they see in porn were designed to get men off as fast as possible with absolutely no regard for the women in the scene or the woman viewing the scene. And while you’re at it, let them know about their clitoris and that it plays a part in their own sexual pleasure, just as the boy has a penis that he wields not only as a tool for procreation.
Most importantly, tell your daughters that they can say “No” whenever they want. No exceptions. Even if they already said yes. They have absolutely no obligation to do anything with anyone and it they are made to feel that way then they are with someone who is using them for sex. Period.
These may be tough conversations – especially if this is new territory for you and your teen – but if you can approach them with a matter-of-fact confidence then your child will be more open to listening.
And when you get in over your head, which we all will, turn to a book. There a dozens, even hundreds of titles available, but here a couple of great options that will address all of these issues head-on: Our Bodies, Ourselves (Boston Women’s Health Book Collective) written specifically for young women, but an invaluable read for young men, as well. Another great choice is Jane Fonda’s Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know about Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More.
For younger kids consider Where Did I Come From?, by Arthur Robins. This one explains the whole package – from intercourse to birth – with clear, concise language, and illustrations, that can be understood by children as young as 7, or so.
Tim Mullins has worked with adolescents and their families for nearly ten years as a high school teacher and administrator. He currently works as a behavioral therapist, providing therapy to adolescents with developmental disabilities and is currently completing his Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Regis University.