Why You Need To Talk To Your Kids About Porn

Why You Need To Talk To Your Kids About Porn

June 29, 2021 Updated July 2, 2021

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Whether you are a  burgeoning teen or consenting adult, you probably know about porn. From movies and magazines to literature and, well, the internet, porn is everywhere these days — so much so that we often don’t give it much thought. It’s like white noise, or background noise. Well, background noise which is full of moans and groans. 

But talking about porn is essential, particularly with our children. Why? Because (at some point) our kids will be exposed to porn. A 2005 study found that more than 90 percent of boys and close to two-thirds of girls had viewed porn online before turning 18. Because our kids will hear about porn, from friends and their peers. Because some children will be the subjects of porn, unwittingly or not. Snaps, sexts, and explicit messages can become pornographic in nature — quite quickly, I might add —  and because our children deserve to know what they are seeing and experiencing. It’s important they understand the content, consent, context, and scope. 

“It is essential you have the ‘porn talk’ with your kids because their sexual health and safety should always come first, regardless of your view or comfort toward porn,” Dainis Graveris — a certified sex educator and relationship expert — tells Scary Mommy. “It’s very easy for kids these days to stumble upon or intentionally access sexually explicit videos and images on the internet, and when they are faced with confusing or potentially dangerous content, you want to assure them that you are someone whom they can trust.” You also want them to know what porn is, and what it isn’t.

“Most children and teens will encounter pornography, either on purpose or accidentally,” Elizabeth Jeglic — a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Sexual Violence Prevention — tells Scary Mommy. “While curiosity in sex and sexuality is (developmentally) very normal,” porn is not — i.e. the way in which sex is depicted in porn is not typical, sensible, or natural.

“What you see in pornography is not a realistic depiction of what exploring sex will likely look like for your child. For example, the average time it takes a man to orgasm after penetration is five minutes, whereas in porn, men typically last much longer,” Indigo Stray Conger,  a certified sex therapist and sex educator, tells Scary Mommy. “Reactions are exaggerated in pornography, including lewd and demeaning talk and loud moans… and the situations which lead to sexual encounters occurring are highly unlikely.” But these depictions are just the tip of the iceberg. 

The porn industry, as a whole, has a problem, with many clips being violent or graphic — particularly against women. In fact, a 2020 analysis of several thousand heterosexual Pornhub and Xvideo scenes found that 45 percent and 35 percent, respectively, contained aggression, almost exclusively directed at women. It is misogynistic. Porn generally objectifies women and/or places them in compromising situations. And porn rarely shows consent.

“‘Porn sex’ isn’t real,” Graveris explains. “The scenes the actors depicted come from exaggerated, entertainment-driven fantasies that don’t reflect real-world people and their real-life experiences, and the majority of adult entertainment companies create content that sells and makes them a whole lot of money. They don’t care if they are within most people’s safe practices and sexual realities.”

Of course, reading and/or watching porn is normal. Millions of Americans indulge in the entertainment medium each year. But that is with knowledge and awareness. We know that what we see on TV is exaggerated and false. It is also for entertainment purposes only. Like professional wrestling, but with fewer chairs and clothes and no referees. But children do not know this unless they are told this. Many young adults use porn as a road map for their own sex lives, and this isn’t just dangerous, it sets them up for failure. For unhealthy relationships and unrealistic expectations.

“‘Porn literacy; may sound salacious, and it certainly makes for sensationalist headlines. But like other media literacy courses (including those aimed at reducing teen use of tobacco, drugs and alcohol or offsetting damaging messages about body image), when they’re done right, the aim is to reduce risk, help identify and question the incessant messages that bombard teens, encourage them to hone their values and give them more agency over their experience,” Peggy Orenstein — the author of “Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent and Navigating the New Masculinity” and “Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape” — tells the New York Times.

Or, to put it another way, porn literacy makes individuals more mindful. It helps teens and young adults better understand sexual agency, likes, dislikes, consent, and — in some cases — desire. It also helps them make sense of the sexually explicit media which they will (inevitably) be exposed to. Because yes, like it or not, your children will be exposed to lewd, salacious, and sexy content — at least one day, or in some way.

That said, talking about sex (and porn) isn’t comfortable. It can be scary, nerve-wracking, and anxiety-inducing. The very thought of having such a conversation with your child may make you ill. But porn literacy isn’t just important, it is essential — for you and your children.