Our 7-Year-Old Watched Porn And It’s Our Fault – Scary Mommy

Our 7-Year-Old Watched Porn And It’s Our Fault

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One of my most vivid childhood memories is being in the car with my mom, driving home and listening to a country music station. Between songs, I turned to her and said, “Mom, if I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?” I was quoting lyrics from a song by Alabama, but she was too horrified to notice.

I was 13 years old, and she had come face to face with the realization that I was either deeply confused about the context of those words, or deeply confused about our mother-son relationship. And therein lies the issue: she had assumed that I, a boy going through puberty, understood the basics of communicating, or at least processing, sexual desire. Except that I didn’t. At all. I didn’t even realize that what I said was sexual in nature.

We ended up having a very direct, very uncomfortable conversation about the appropriate way to talk to my mother, and the appropriate way to talk to women in general. She was adamant that it was unacceptable to fixate on a woman’s body, and it was especially degrading to trade compliments for affection — which, as she helped me understand, was what the lyric I’d quoted was doing. This was my first real conversation about sex.

In school, I’d only learned about diseases and pregnancy — the bare biological facts behind sex. My fifth grade teacher did mention that the “love tunnel” on the playground was not an acceptable place for students to hide or talk to your crush, but I was too naïve to pick up on what she was implying. At home, my mother walked me through two illustrated books, one titled What’s Happening to Me? and the other called Where do Babies Come From?

By the time I turned 16 and was a freshman in high school, and many of my friends were already having sex regularly and I was dangerously close to joining the fray. That is, until our sex education teacher (who was also the wrestling coach) described an encounter one of his athletes had with gonorrhea. Nope. No, thank you.

Fast forward — I’m 32 and expecting my third baby. My forever date’s oldest child, AJ, is 7 and wildly curious about how her baby brother got into Mallerie’s tummy. How do you explain the intricacies of reproduction to a child? Well, we leaned on euphemism and explained that I had planted a magic seed in her mother’s belly, and that her baby brother would grow from that seed. Harmless, right?

A few weeks later, Mallerie was browsing AJ’s internet history on the iPad and discovered that AJ had apparently been watching pornography. Naturally, we were horrified. Most of the videos were absolutely terrible, abusive representations of sex. She was only 7. Why was she looking at things like this?

The shock was so great that it took several days and lots of tears before we felt prepared to confront AJ about the videos. When Mallerie finally did, she was even more torn up by AJ’s response: She wasn’t interested in sex, at least not engaging in it. She just wanted to understand how her new brother had been made.

Since we hadn’t given her a straight answer, she took it upon herself to search Google for information on where babies come from. That search lead to watching pornography in an effort to understand reproduction. Of course, what she’d seen had only confused her more and did nothing to clarify how babies are made.

We had failed where so many parents failed: obfuscating when our kids asked genuine questions. But why did we do that? We were already using anatomically accurate terms like vagina and penis. It’s not as though we were fundamentally opposed to being clear with our kids. Somewhere along the way, we just internalized that they were too young to understand the ins and outs, so to speak. It’s no surprise, really. Google “sex euphemisms for kids” and you get more than 341,000 results.

We talk about the birds and the bees, a woman’s flower, and planting seeds. We call it wrestling or lie and say that we’ve been taking a nap. Even the most common phrases completely remove sex from the equation. Doing it. A wry glance or wink. A simple, “How you doing?” What’s common to all of these euphemisms is that they directly avoid acknowledging that we’re having sex. So, we fell back on such language when our 7-year-old asked legitimate questions.

Okay, but talking about sex is still very hard, and young children really can’t comprehend the implications of sex, right? So how do we start the conversation? The most important thing is to understand the context of your child’s questions. Most 7-year-olds are not asking about puberty or contemplating sex with their classmates. When they ask questions, they are most likely trying to make sense of reproduction in a much more technical sense, or to get clarity on a phrase they heard at school.

With younger kids, the key to a solid conversation is clarity. That’s what they are after and, as we learned the hard way, they’re going to find the answers one way or another. Fortunately, Mallerie was incredible at approaching AJ about the videos, and she was able to identify AJ’s confusion as the motivation for her internet history quickly.

They talked for a long time, and Mallerie was careful not to make AJ feel deviant or wrong for trying to find answers on her own. She was patient with AJ’s questions and, this time, she made sure to answer them as honestly as possible. On the surface, the conversation was about explaining where AJ’s baby brother was coming from, but Mallerie was more determined to create a space for AJ to feel safe asking questions in the future — and not just about sex, but about anything she may be struggling to grasp.

Does AJ understand everything about sex now? Of course not. We didn’t focus on the first time or pressure from a date. We didn’t get into STDs. Those are details for a different conversation, one we’ll be better prepared for when she asks again, just as we’ll be better prepared when the other kids get curious about where they came from.

How will we address the next stage of sex? That’s where Mallerie and I complement each other. She was a mom by fifteen, and I was a virgin until I was twenty-four. Our experiences with sex are diverse, which means that we can be honest with our kids, but also provide them with more than one idea about how to navigate their own feelings. Between the two of us, we’ve got a story for just about every situation our littles will get themselves into.

The point is this: if you find your child watching porn or looking through an adult magazine, don’t panic. Take a moment to assess the situation and be willing to ask your child questions about why they were seeking out those images/videos. Chances are, they just have questions. And, even if they are at the stage where porn or nudity excites them, you’ll open a conversation about unrealistic representations of sex and the respecting partners. Either way, you’ll be glad the lines of communication are open.