It is vile, racist, sexist, unrealistic and overdone. It is also titillating, fascinating, arousing, beautiful and tempting.
It is porn.
Whether we hate to love it or love to hate it, it is something that is a part of our culture and, in some way or another, we have to confront. It is also a very big topic – too big for this article, so what I’d like to address specifically in this column is the “I’m-worried-about-my-kids-seeing-porn” panic.
The first thing you need to know is that it is developmentally normative for young adolescents (both boys and girls) to be curious about sex and to actively seek out opportunities to see porn. That’s important to recognize because in our sex-fear-driven society we tend to worry about our young people and we’re terrified that if they get their hands on porn they are doomed to a life of internet sex addiction and future prostitution.
This is unlikely.
However it is equally unlikely that your teen is never going to see porn.
They may not be seeing it at your house since you installed the “web-nanny” and threw away all your own porn, but don’t let yourself believe that you’ve just insulated your teen from the “dangers” of porn.
If they aren’t getting some at your house, chances are they certainly are somewhere else.
And, again, I can’t stress this enough … this is normal.
As a sexologist, I would worry more about the teenager who has no sexual curiosity than the teenager who does.
So, given the fact that porn – whether you like it or not – is something your teen is going to see at some point along the way, how should you deal with it?
One of the first things you can, and must, do is to have a discussion with your teen about your values around pornography. How do you feel about it really? Talk to your teen about those feelings. By the way, it is OK for you to feel ambivalent about porn – in some ways we all are.
Talk to him/her about your family’s values about sexuality in general and porn specifically.
Is this something that is tolerated in this family? Why or why not? What are the limits? How much is too much? What content is tolerable and what is not?
Since you’ve now waded into some uncomfortable waters, let’s take it a little further, shall we?
The next thing to do is to have a frank discussion with your teen about sexual reality versus pornographic depictions of sex.
Have a frank and open dialogue about what they are seeing in porn and what they can/should expect in real sexual life.
The pornographic image is like sex on steroids – it is bigger, raunchier and longer than any kind of real sex they are likely to ever have in their future years.
Real women and men don’t look like that, for the most part they don’t behave like that, and who, I ask, has ever lasted as long as that?
Your teen needs to understand that this is not reality, and he’s more likely to have an enjoyable sex life in his future years if he spends more time dreaming about the girl next door than viewing the latest pop-up porn shot on his best friend’s computer.
Keep in mind that exposure to porn is just one of the many ways in which the young adolescent acquires attitudes, values, and knowledge about sexuality. This is something that you can work in your favor!
Ensure there are other opportunities for your teen to satisfy his/her curiosity about sex. Be accessible as a parent as someone they can go to for good information (so make sure you know a thing or two!). Have sexuality educational materials in your home. There are some really great sex books for adolescents – get one for your teen. There are some really great educational positive-sexuality websites that you can comfortably send your teen to, including: scarleteen.com and goaskalice .
Find out about the sexuality curriculum in your kid’s school. Anything missing that you think ought to be covered? Then cover it with your teen yourself or provide them with the right materials.
Finally, be a good role model. Model for your kids a healthy attitude towards sex. If your teen thinks that you are prudish and fearful of sex, they are unlikely to see you as a person who can help them negotiate a confusing sexual landscape. Be comfortable about yourself as a sexual being and ensure that your values about sex are accessible.
This isn’t about you knowing everything; it is about you being authentic – which, of course, is the antithesis to porn.
Patricia Bacon is executive director of Blood Ties Four Directions Centre.