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Talking to My Kid about Porn

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When I was a teenager, it was not easy to get your hands on porn -- X-rated movies were in theaters, and teenagers were not allowed in.

mother talking to son

Diana Landen: It's different now, as I told my mother. How can I keep my kids from seeing things that they shouldn't?

My mother told me not to worry -- I could raise my children to be good people. Then they wouldn't want to look at porn. I didn't have the heart to tell her about the "Debbie Does Dallas" video my kid sister found in my kid brother's room.

My sister watched the video and was sorry she had. It is not the kind of movie that makes a teenage girl feel good about her sexuality. It's not the kind of movie that's good for teenage boys either. But how can I convince a curious, frustrated teenager not to look at movies of people having sex?

I know you're supposed to talk about your values before your children are old enough to get into trouble. So I drive my kids crazy lecturing them about the latest news story. Sexting is stupid, never do that. We don't even have cell phones, Mom.

Of course, this means I have to be ready to hear about news stories from them, too. "The British are banning extreme porn," my son tells me. He's been listening to the BBC on his iPod.

"What do they consider extreme porn?" I ask.

"Sex with dead people, sex with animals, and mutilating your genitals."

"Ewww," I can't help it. "That certainly is extreme porn." My delaying tactics are kicking in. What am I supposed to say now? "I didn't even know they made movies about cutting --" Pause. "I think it's a good idea to ban that kind of porn."

My son seems to agree. It occurs to me that it may be a little unsettling to hear that people do these things.

"Not very many people like those things," I say. "I've never seen any extreme porn." (Did I just admit I may have seen other porn?)

The other thing that happens when you put your values out there -- sooner or later your kids question them. That's their job.

"Why do you think Internet porn is bad?"

"Well, some people get addicted to it. They can't stop watching it, not even at work."

My son agrees that this is a stupid thing to do. I don't think I've made a strong enough case, though.

"Porn gives guys the wrong ideas about sex. It's very unrealistic."

"What do you mean, unrealistic?"

Why did I even open my mouth? I am not ready to discuss vaginal versus clitoral orgasms today. (Probably not tomorrow either. He's literate, we have a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves.)

"Well, the women's bodies are all fake. It makes guys expect their girlfriends to look perfect, and it makes women feel bad about their bodies. And the men are bigger than normal, it might make guys feel bad about themselves."

He's not looking convinced. From a parent's point of view, this is a good argument against porn. But to a teenager? Don't look at the big breasts, they're not real?

"Plus the movies are for men, so they show sex the way men want it, not the way women want it. Guys might get the wrong idea about what women like."

Now I have his attention.

"Like what? What wrong ideas?"

I fumble and stumble around the subject. Guys want to go faster than girls. Porn makes it look like women want to go fast. A good lover goes slower than he wants to. I am not very clear. I could be talking about driving a car.

It gets worse the next day. I am afraid I haven't convinced my son, so I decide I need to come across as reasonable, in favor of temperance and the Middle Path. I tell my son that porn is like alcohol. A little bit of wine with dinner isn't bad for you, but some people get addicted. Some kinds of alcohol are bad for you, like vodka, but beer isn't so bad.

My son is looking at me like I'm crazy. I think I just said that porn is okay. He was debating me yesterday, but I'm not sure this is what he wants to hear either.

Sometimes I wish I were better at being a hypocrite. I no longer believe that all porn is oppressive of women. There is awful, violent stuff out there, and I want to protect my kids from seeing it. Mostly, though, porn looks a little one-sided to me, a whole video of enthusiastic fellatio and nothing else? Young, perfect-looking women who want to jump into bed at the drop of a hat? No love, no feelings, just bodies. Most porn is made for men, and it shows. It's not the way I want my son to learn about love, women, and sex.

I also know that hidden away in my husband's sock drawer is a DVD of somewhat more female-friendly porn. So I can't just say, porn is evil, no one should ever look at it. "Wait" is a more difficult message to get across.

Later, I tell my husband about the conversations I've had with our son. He laughs. He is glad it wasn't him. He also thanks me.

"But I don't know what I'm doing. I say crazy things. I don't know how to explain what I think. I don't know if I can convince him."

"The important thing is that you're talking about it."

In the end, that's what we have to do. Keep talking.

next: Addicted to Twilight? You're Not Alone!
15 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous November 19, 2009, 5:13 AM

Funniest article ever! Also very realistic. I think you did a good job explaining to him about porn, even though it might have been awkward. I think I would also tell him to stick to dvds or magazines, since downloading that stuff on your computer can infect it with a bug. I say this because growing up, my brother did this and it crashed our computer, and everyone’s files went with it.

Rox1SMF November 19, 2009, 11:05 AM

Brava! All we can do is be honest, no matter how awkward and “crazy” we sound, especially on subjects like sex where what we REALLY think and what we feel we’re supposed to SAY are often at odds.

m November 19, 2009, 11:57 PM

Kids don’t come with instructions…you do the best you can. Thank you for sharing, this is a very awkward yet relevant topic nowadays.

Shelly December 4, 2009, 8:18 AM

I agree with all of your reasons for not allowing porn.However it bothers me that your husband has soft porn and is not in agreement with you and that he’s not talking to the boy about it.You did a good job Mom now it’s Dads turn.Trash the porn and be a good example for your son; this world already has enough perverts.

ZoĆ« December 7, 2009, 9:22 PM

I think you’ve got it all wrong. If you don’t allow your teenage boy to watch porn, he will do it behind your back.. It is actually unhealthy for teenage boys not to masturbate. Just because he watches internet porn does not mean he will get addicted, it also does not mean he will watch that extreme stuff… Most teenagers don’t. Rather than having the uncomfortable conversation of “why not to look at porn” try having the more comfortable conversation of “don’t let me catch you.” Of course, you have informed him of the dangers of internet porn, but even the most sheltered kids see it at some point. Trust your kid enough to know he’s not stupid.

Logical December 11, 2009, 3:15 PM

Interest in naked bodies is normal for teenagers, boys and girls. Otherwise, sexting wouldn’t be as big as it is. Now to talk to your kids about “porn,” it would help for you to identify it and define it before talking against it. Making him feel bad about wanting to see a naked woman probably does more harm to him than making him feel bad because the guys in the porn are “bigger.” FIRST STRESS TO YOUR TEENAGER: It is normal and natural to want to see others naked. If nothing else out of pure curiosity. SECOND AFFIRM: Sex is a healthy, normal part of life to be enjoyed with someone you love. That true relationships are about mutual respect, not dominating one or the other. THIRD DEFINE: Naked people are not porn; otherwise, taking a shower every day would be considered porn. Pornography is gratification from sex for no other reason than sex itself. UNDERSTAND: Your teenager IS going to see naked people. Let them know your definition is of “respectful” sex that you value, and sex that lacks respect (but I guarantee they will still be interested in). I would also make it clear that out of respect for you, they certainly do not openly view nudity, for the sake of nudity, in front of you. That if they feel like doing it, they do it privately, like you would expect of masturbation. But to each their own.

I would highly recommend reading your child’s interest level and only responding to questions or situations that come up. It’s hard to come back at that subject the next day. Remember, if you feel uncomfortable discussing it, they will feel uncomfortable talking about it. As long as you are open and discuss how you feel about it (or perhaps have your husband describe how he feels about it) with your teenager, the kid is GOING to appreciate it. Remember how you felt at that age…or more similarly, you may want to ask your husband how HE felt at that age.

Teenaged guy December 20, 2009, 1:02 PM

You seem to have quite a distorted view of porn in general. I watched a lot of porn when i was younger and still do tend to watch quite a bit now. This being said I’m in a loving relationship with a girl who undoubtedly gets the most attention out of the two of us in bed.

A pervert is always going to be a pervert, porn or no porn. Porn just makes it a bit easier. I actually have several female friends who enjoy watching porn when they feel the urge so it’s most certainly not a guy specific thing. You need to spend more time showing things to your son to expand his knowledge and wisdom rather than taking things away. Showing him ‘good porn’ and then ‘bad porn’ and discussing why one is morally better than the other is a far better alternative than banning porn all together.

kass December 21, 2009, 12:39 PM

I am a 15 year old girl. With my own computer came the internet, and with the internet came porn. Yes, I do watch it, and yes, I do watch extreme things. However, I am in no way a bad person. I have good grades, a job, and a normal, healthy life. I think people need to educate their sons and daughters and allow them to make their own choices. Porn is not corrupting,but lack of conversation is.

sam January 7, 2010, 5:12 PM

what an awkward conversation to have with a kid!! just block your computers from veiwing these kind of sites!!

Billius February 25, 2010, 8:04 AM

The most intelligent, reasonable response here is from a 15 year old young lady. It looks like some of you “grown ups” need to step it up a little in the logic department, which seems to be what this site claims to have plenty of.

Jack May 26, 2010, 8:31 PM

Just like the birds and the bees, I agree wit introducing teens to porn. Tell the whole truth no holds barred. The pros and cons must be told no withholding info. Because in the end the teen will hafta cross dat bridge not tha parent. Let em Grow

Anonymous May 30, 2010, 7:09 PM

“sam January 7, 2010, 5:12 PM

what an awkward conversation to have with a kid!! just block your computers from veiwing these kind of sites!!”

Yes. avoiding the problem will most definitely make it go away. Great advice sam. Hope you never get an illness than requires medicine.

kass July 21, 2010, 1:21 PM

kass here again, I have something to add. i think many adults share the common misconception that teens are somehow incapable of processing information, that it’s their duty to put all things into a proper context for us. In my honest opinion it is part of growing up to put things into your own context, to make sense of things in your own way. No one every grew up by having every detail explained to them like a four year old.

Anonymous August 8, 2010, 9:11 PM

porn are healthy to teenage child

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 6:02 PM

Great info! Good reading. I have a point to submit about t-shirts.

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