Talking about porn

Each one of us can remember when we had “The Talk” with our parents. You know the one.  There was probably talk of  “birds and bees”. There might have been a book about “the facts of life” tossed your way for good measure.

Those residual feelings of awkwardness coupled with a world that’s become more sexualised in just a generation might have you feeling anxious when it comes to discussing sex with your son or daughter.  Nevermind getting onto the topic of pornography.

x-rated stampRTE documentary

However, for those that didn’t see the RTE documentary We Need To Talk About Porn, it is a conversation we need to be having with our young people.

The reality is young people are coming into contact with porn – accidentally or otherwise – at increasingly earlier ages. It’s exceptionally easy to access free porn with just a few clicks and often pop-up ads feature images of sexual content, even on websites that aren’t of a sexual nature.

Limiting access

At this point, it may be tempting to imagine removing all the smart devices in your house in order to protect your child, but it’s simply not feasible, nor is it the answer. Technology is not the enemy and when it comes to porn, the genie is out of the bottle. Just look at the content of music videos and advertising in the world around us.

So, how do we talk about porn?

First off, don’t be alarmist. Instructing your son or daughter, to never look at porn isn’t helpful for two reasons:

  1. natural curiosity
  2. it’s nearly impossible to avoid it on the internet, or a friend will have it on their phone. Fostering feelings of shame for looking at it, will isolate them from talking to you about it.

Age appropriate conversation

If your child is pre-pubescent, accidentally being presented with these images can be a scary experience. It’s important for them to know they didn’t do anything wrong.

They should come and tell you when confronted with an image/video that makes them feel uncomfortable, so that you can protect them and other children by reporting the item.

When they’re older

When your son or daughter is a little older and developing sexually, there are a number of key points to convey.

Firstly, pornography is fantasy. It is not an accurate representation of real-life sex; from how the actors look to the things they do and they way they do it. Young people these days are coming in contact with porn, years before they have a relationship so this needs to be stressed.

Explain that porn was designed as an entertainment for adults who are aware that it isn’t real. While it’s understandable that they might be curious about porn, it’s not an educational tool.

If they have questions about sex, they should talk to you or another appropriate adult they feel comfortable with. Let them know being curious about their developing sexuality is not something to be ashamed of. The purpose of the conversation is not to make them feel ashamed or embarrassed, but to guard their wellbeing.

Degrading content

A lot of porn that’s widely available is hardcore and depicts degradation of women. Again, the best way to approach discussion of this is with a level-head. There is extreme porn available and it can be disturbing and can be potentially damaging.

Once again, emphasise that this is not standard, “normal” sex. There is no expectation that they have to enjoy this. Many people don’t find it attractive and again, this is somebody’s version of a fantasy – not depiction of reality. Just because they see something online doesn’t mean they have to try emulate that in real life.

Healthy relationships

They should know that a good, healthy sexual relationship involves an honest conversation with their partner about what they’re comfortable with and what they enjoy.

Realistically, they are going to be confronted about and with porn. It’s not something you can prevent. But, you can help make sure they are adequately equipped to deal with what they see and how to separate what’s realistic and what isn’t.

The more honest and open you can be, the more your son or daughter will  feel comfortable discussing the topic and issues with you. By providing context on the content and messages they might encounter and can help minimize potential negative effects.

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