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Jan 3 2012

Talking to Kids About Porn

By at 12:04 pm

first sports illustrated swimsuit editionA friend of mine recently went to observe a mother’s workshop with a “parenting guru.” She said that it was clear that the mothers were very invested in being good moms and wanted guidance on the challenges they face with their children. One mother brought up her confusion about how to handle her 11-year old son’s viewing internet pornography.

Confusion? How about horror? Disgust? How about pulling the plug on the damn machine and then sitting down and talking about it?

Well, apparently she did talk to the boy, although she doesn’t seem to have restricted the use of the computer. She described how she felt about pornography and pointed out that the women who participate are often exploited and are doing it out of desperation. The boy reasonably responded that the women still had the choice to do it and was unconvinced by his mother’s position.

ELEVEN-YEARS-OLD AND WATCHING PORNOGRAPHY! OY VEY!

When my son was about 14, he went to a friend’s house for a sleepover. About an hour after he got there, he called and told us to come pick him up, that he was going to say he felt sick and would tell us what happened when he got home. We did pick him up and he said that the kids were looking at things on the computer that he knew “wasn’t for him” (that was a phrase we often used, along with “well, we do things our way.”) We praised his good judgment and integrity and were proud that he was able to extricate himself from an uncomfortable, inappropriate situation.

The first time my other son got the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, he hid it. In neatening up his room, I inadvertently found the magazine. I have frequently been offended by the objectification, commodification, and exploitation of women’s bodies in today’s culture. I left the magazine where it was, and later discussed with my son why I objected to the way women were portrayed. Every year after that, when that issue came in the mail, I would put it on his bed (and later, his brother’s) with a big note: This magazine exploits women.

I am in no way comparing Sports Illustrated to pornography, although I do think the exploitation of women’s bodies is on a continuum. And I am not addressing the use of porn by adults. But, to the 11-year old who “respected” the woman’s choice to be a porn star, I would say, “You, too, have a choice. You can choose how you want to participate in a culture that views women and their bodies the way our culture does, demeaningly. Or you can choose not to. You can choose not to participate in creating a demand for these images, not to see women as sexual objects for male fantasies, not to create unrealistic expectations of how real women look and relate. You can choose to treat each person with dignity. Every choice you make in your life makes you the human being you are and will become. Regardless of the woman’s choice to engage in certain behavior, you have a choice, too.

“And, for now, I am making that choice for you. I am restricting what comes in and out of our computer and our home.”

Young moms have so much to do and so much to police. The internet can really be hazardous to one’s health. It can compromise one’s worldview in a way that was previously unheard of. After you baby-proof your home with the latest gates, electrical outlet protectors, hooks, etc., you have to adolescent-proof your home by somehow figuring out how to keep your older children safe from insidious, destructive influences. And then teach them about sex in a way that will lead to healthy relationships in which they respect themselves and their partners.

Good luck. I wish you strength.

ELEVEN YEARS OLD AND WATCHING INTERNET PORN! I still can’t get over it.


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