Why You Need to Talk to Your Tweens About Internet Porn

Last week, I wrote about how I got to teach my daughter a lesson about real life and the online world when she got into a bit of virtual trouble. This week, I’m writing about acting pre-emptively. Because, well, watch this:


The internet is for porn
The internet is for porn,
Why you think the net was born?
Porn porn porn

Despite the fact that Forbes Magazine recently reported that only 4% of internet traffic worldwide is to pornographic sites,  (a heartening statistic), the internet kind of is for porn. And the amount of porn is besides the point.  It’s the accessibility I’m worried about.

Just as my daughter stumbled into a seemingly innocent virtual world, and was blindsided when a virtual guy made a crude pass at her, so could my twelve year old son innocently (or not so innocently – that stage is coming soon enough) stumble upon internet porn.  (That same Forbes article mentioned that 10-15% of all internet searches are for porn – more if you calculate men’s searches only.)

Today’s Porn: It’s not Your Father’s Playboy

I’m not thrilled by it — but I’m OK with boys looking at dirty pictures. Generations of boys grew into perfectly fine men whilst hiding a few Playboys under their mattresses.  The problem is, internet porn makes those days look downright innocent.  Internet porn is not beautifully shot, suggestive photos of airbrushed girls.  It can be raw, violent, subversive, fetishistic — and available all day, every day, at the click of a button.

What I’ll call “extreme” porn – videos that are exploitative of women, or implicitly endorse violence towards women, denigrate or fetishize them – disgust me, but don’t worry me in the context of my son.  Maybe I’m naive, but I think that if he stumbled upon these kinds of videos, he would be freaked out and click away as quickly as possible.

What worries me is the more garden variety porn he’ll see — and in his pre-pubescent lack of experience, take for garden variety sex.

Fantasy v Reality

I have nothing against porn.  Though the industry is sleazy, and some women are de-facto forced into it, I do believe that many make a choice, and make a living.  Fine for them.  My problem is that young boys seeing a never-ending loop of porn videos, seeing women eager to jump any man who delivers a pizza, will expect the girls they know to do the same.

I’m worried my tween daughter will think that’s how she’s “supposed to” behave, too.

I’ve written about why I would never get a Brazilian Bikini Wax – and it’s partly because I refuse to let porn-style grooming dictate how my private parts should look. But mostly, it’s because  I don’t want my daughter thinking she needs to groom herself like a porn star to be attractive to men.  And I don’t want my son expecting the girls he dates to look (or act) like porn stars either.

So what’s a mother to do?

Talk to him.

Seems obvious, but just as lots of parents don’t have the sex talk, or the drugs and alcohol talk, they don’t have the internet safety talk.  Today, that means we need to talk to our kids not just about privacy, or their digital footprint, but about – you guessed it – internet porn.

Here’s what I told my son:

You know how in the movies, cops are like action figures, and they jump off of buildings, and have wild chases, and drive awesome cars?  And you know how in real life, that’s really not what it’s like to be a cop most of the time?

Well, you might find some stuff on the internet – sexy pictures or movies of women and men having sex.  And those pictures are kind of like that.  That’s not really what girls — or sex – is like most of the time. It’s the movies. Not reality.  The girls you meet probably won’t act or look like that.

Just thought you should know.

Did he look at me like I have two heads?  Yup.  Did he practically die of embarrassment when I used the word sex? Yup again. Did he stick his fingers in his ears and scream “la la la!” as loudly as possible?  Just about. (What he really did was say “I don’t really get why you’re telling me this.)

But he heard me. And pretty soon, my daughter will too, when I have the girl version of this talk with her.

I want both my kids to grow up to enjoy sex (Intellectually, anyway.  Emotionally, it just about killed me to write that), but I also want my son to have rational expectations of what that sex will be like, about what girls will look like and do, and about what’s acceptable for him to ask for and expect.

I want my daughter not to feel pressured to live up to some plastic-surgeon/cartoonist idea of what women’s bodies should look like.  I want her not to feel like she’s disappointing someone, or not doing “enough” if she’s not acting like a porn star.

Look, I didn’t want to have this talk with my kid. I don’t like admitting that despite my best efforts, my kids will, inevitably, come across something downright icky on the internet,  But do I want my kids to be prepared for what they might see and have the tools to deal with it .

Because I’m a parent, and as much as I’d like to, I just can’t stick my fingers in my ears and scream “la la la.”

 

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for posting about a serious subject. My youngest daughter is obsessed with porn…she was abused as a child and her psychiatrist says she tries to look at it to validate that it is normal. It is NOT normal!!! She has no computer usage for this reason, but every now and then she’ll take my phone to play the “games”, and then the next thing I know it is on a porn site. Porn is NOT normal. Thanks for taking the time to “talk” about this subject in a humorous manner. I think information sinks in better when there is some humor involved. It is remembered. “la la la”

    • says

      I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter. And I do know how hard it is to keep your kids away from…well, from everything we’d like. Sounds like you are doing exactly what you need to do to help her. Good luck to you.

  2. says

    This is a great post and I second you on all of it. I’ve given the same little speech to my sons, although shorter as the fingers in the ears la-la-la makes it tough to continue when you feel like you are talking to a wall. But you are right, they do hear it and we need to keep saying it anyway. Many think the answer is tighter control and monitoring of their Internet use, but they will always find a way around that. Better to keep talking.

  3. says

    My question is where is their father in all of this discussion about pornography and sex? If you are single, I understand, but if the parents are married, then both the father and mother should be proactive about these types of talks – that is of course, if the father isn’t off looking at porn himself.

    Therein lies part of the problem with pornography and our society. Fathers who should be educating their sons and daughters on pornography v healthy sexuality are themselves secretly enslaved by pornography that they have no moral basis on which to discuss the subject. They feel too ashamed to talk about moral sex because their own sexual behavior is immoral.

    I am NOT ok with pornography, but I realize that 90+% of boys and 60+% of girls WILL view pornographic content (mostly on the internet) by the time they are 18. I can’t shelter them, but I can begin speaking to them about pornography and what is right and what is wrong.

    • says

      Their father is totally on board with all of this. And we both feel like demonizing pornography isn’t the way to go either. We are both having casual conversations as we can, rather than sitting down to a big pow wow and making a big deal of it all.
      And as for you not being OK with pornography – that makes me have even more respect for you, that you are willing to acknowledge and address the issue, rather than just sticking your head in the sand.
      Whether you think as I do, that in moderation, some porn is OK, or like you, that all porn is immoral and wrong, the facts are – it’s out there, and we need to prepare our kids.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. says

    Brilliant post! My girl is only four but I’m already so aware of the images of girls that surround her and know that when she gets to an age where she could see pornographic images that this will just get worse. You know the thin, pneumatic, skinny, hairless women. Which is why I’m already pointing out my hairy legs and rounded hips and telling her that this is what ‘normal’ is. I’d be heartbroken if she grew up to think that these pornographic images are what she needs to aspire to just to please or keep a man and I reckon that the best way to prevent this is to keep being open and honest about what’s reality and what’s not.

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