frightened by porn

Difficult Topics: Porn

Emi Canahuati sexuality education

Yesterday, I had the privilege to be on a panel at Vanderbilt University for their Sex Ed and Healthy Relationships Week. They are doing some fun stuff around healthy sexuality: a birthday party for The Pill and a burlesque show. They are discussing more serious topics, like interracial dating. I’m doing a talk on self-pleasuring  on Friday :-). The panel last night was: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Pornography in the Internet Age. The place was packed!

Porn becomes the default resource when parents don’t provide overt guidance, values, and information about sexuality. Emi Canahuati

What to say to your children about porn

During my brief talk, I discussed how one might talk to children about porn and how to prepare them for when they will see it. Notice the “when” in that sentence. I don’t think it’s a question of “if”, it’s a question of “when.” I shared with the audience the following conversations I had with my 8 year-old daughter:

“There is a chance that at some point either on purpose or by accident you might see images of people having sex. Those movies and videos are not appropriate for children, so you should turn it off. Or, if your friend won’t turn it off, you should leave the room and find an adult. If this happens, I want you to tell me. I will not be mad and you will not “get in trouble”. The images might scare you or confuse you. I want to make sure I can help you understand your feelings and what you saw”.

I told the Vanderbilt audience, mostly college students, that it is not appropriate for children to see these images at a young age. They can can cause confusion and, for some kids, the experience can be traumatic and scary.

Porn isn’t real sex

The sex in porn is a distant-first-cousin-once-removed to what most people’s sex lives look like. Children just do not have the capacity to process it appropriately – heck some adults can’t either! “Emi
One of the students asked me why would seeing images of people having sex possibly be damaging. He asked if there was something inherently bad or dangerous about sex that would cause this. Sex is not inherently bad or dangerous, but, as I told my audience, those images are not meant for children who cannot process, or understand, them appropriately.

If kids are exposed to pornographic images they end up with an incorrect idea of what sex looks like. Sex in porn could not be further from the truth! The sex in porn is a distant-first-cousin-once-removed to what most people’s sex lives look like. Children just do not have the capacity to process it appropriately- heck some adults can’t either! Sexual behavior is complicated and nuanced and young children don’t have the ability to understand this yet. Even adolescents have a hard time – especially if they have not gotten any guidance other on what goes into healthy sexual relationships.

I also explained that children who inadvertently see (or know) their parents having sex, don’t have the same kinds of negative reactions (e.g. when families all live/sleep in one room) because these videos are not real life. It is behavior completely out of context for them, whereas parental sex (hopefully) has the context of care and trust.

“Net nannies” can only do so much

Porn is being used as a substitute for education about sexuality and relationships. Porn becomes the default resource when parents don’t provide overt guidance, values, and information about sexuality. Parents need to satiate and normalize, in a way that is age and developmentally appropriate,  the curiosity their kids feel about bodies. Don’t let that happen in your family. It’s a mistake to assume that that a “net nanny” and every kind of control on your TV or computer is good enough. Don’t use tech filters as an excuse to not talk to your children.