Talking to Kids About Porn

Talking to Kids About Porn

(mostly for kiddos aged 7-13, or so)

If you’re not comfortable with your kid looking at pornographic images, that makes a lot of sense. Sexually explicit imagery is generally past the developmental level of younger kids, who are experiencing body curiosity and trying to catch up with their peers, not necessarily looking for sexual gratification. Additionally, the sex is porn is widely unrealistic, and gives MANY younger folks a skewed view of healthy sexual interactions. It’s unrealistic to hope that all young folks will learn about sex from talking to older, thoughtful peers, but it’s certainly important that their only picture of sex isn’t from pornography.

Plus, as some people pointed out the other day, it’s difficult enough for media-critical adults to ensure that their erotic imagery is only from consensual, ethical sources. Children, looking for pictures of naked people to assuage curiosity, cannot also make sure that they’re not taking advantage of people whose images have been shared online non-consensually, or spread without financial compensation. The easiest porn to find is often the least ethical.

So how do you communicate to your children that curiosity is fine, the human body is a beautiful thing, there should be no shame in nudity, and ALSO that looking online for pornography is not age-appropriate, and that pornography online isn’t a good source for a shameless and ethical experience?

Well first: do you know if your kid has looked at porn yet? If yes, jump right into the below. It might need to be a full sit-down conversation. If not, drop these facts into conversations. Front-end giving them this information, so it doesn’t have to be reactionary.

Ready? Go:

1. First, normalize the situation. Explain that it’s normal for people to want to look at photos of naked people, because we all have curiosity about our own bodies, and that kids especially have curiosity about what they will look like when they grow up. This can be mitigated in households where parents are comfortable walking around nude, but that’s not always appropriate or possible (the kids might protest, or one of the parents might be a step-parent or non-married partner, and feels uncomfortable being naked around not-their children).

2. Explain that you have some facts to share:

Tell your kids that porn stars aren’t a good representation of all people. That human bodies have an amazing diversity, but that the people who are filmed having sex online usually look pretty much the same – thin, white, extremely feminine or masculine. A lot of people don’t see themselves reflected in pornography, and that’s one way that it can be harmful.

If they’re watching videos (not just looking at pictures/nudes), explain that porn sex isn’t real sex, either. When two adults have sex with each other they do a lot of communicating about what they each want out of the experience, but when two porn stars have sex on film, they’re usually just doing the motions that look good to a camera. Watching those videos doesn’t teach you what real sex looks like.

Explain that real sex comes with emotions. Even if adults sometimes have sex when they aren’t in a committed relationship, sex should always involves lots of communicating, checking in, and talking about consent. There’s not space for that in pornography.

(All of this isn’t necessarily true if you’re watching diverse, ethical porn, but that’s not the free, easily findable stuff that kids are able to see)

3. Tell your kids that porn can be unhealthy to watch when you’re young, and even when you’re older! We learn about things by watching, and if watching porn is how they learn about sex, they won’t get a good or healthy view of sex. The best way to learn about it is to ask questions of adults they trust, reading educational books, learning about it in school, and experiencing it for themselves when they’re old enough, in a consensual and communicative partnership.

Explain that porn can be problematic. I listed a few of the reasons why up above, but make sure you mention that a lot of porn (not all of it) is disrespectful to women. Watching it normalizes being rude or unkind to women, and makes it look like using women just for sex is okay.

(Y’all. I am pro porn, but using simple terms like this is what’s going to get across your message to a 7-13 year old.)

4. Ask them what they’ve seen, and if they have any questions. They may have stumbled across one image or video by accident, and then went on a google binge trying to make sense of what they saw. Explain that you won’t be mad, but you want to know what they’ve looked at so far, to make sure you can correct any misconceptions they have.

5. Set boundaries. Tell them that this isn’t acceptable behavior for someone their age, and it’s the wrong way to learn about sex. Maybe set some parental controls on your computer. You may trust them to make good decisions, but kiddos don’t have much impulse control. Tell them that you know that they looked because they were curious, but that looking at explicit images online is an adult activity, only for once you are old enough to make healthy decisions and understand more about sex from healthy, appropriate channels.

As an aside: If you want to communicate the idea that looking at the naked human body is a fine thing to do, both to appreciate that body and to assuage curiosity, then you might need to put your money where your mouth is and show that it’s a fine thing to do. Don’t let your kids watch porn, of course, but maybe find a coffee table book that has artful and diverse nudes (I’m honestly pro this idea, so if you need help finding a good example of this, let me know). If you go this route (or you have greek art, or any other art that shows beautiful naked people, or whatever), don’t get annoyed if it… goes missing sometimes? Your kids are going to learn to masturbate at some point. I’m not saying that you should buy porn for your kids, but understand that sexual arousal happens, and you need to respect their privacy as long as they’re being healthy. I can go into this more in the future, if anyone wants.

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