this post will barely hit the tip of the iceburg, but it's a start.
This summer we are sharing 5 Awkward Talks to have with your children...talks that may not come up naturally in conversation...talks that one of you may be uncomfortable with. The first had to do with creepers and pedophiles. The second with helping your child know when it's important to share certain information with you.
Today is the big awkward topic of p o r n. It's so pervasive in our culture. Advertising, and even our entertainment are heavily influenced by p o r n. In fact, we may even need to define p o r n to our kids. Drastic changes have happened so fast in the last 10 years, with access to technology, that what used to be considered soft porn "back in the day" may be "normal" to our kids now. Do they even consider it p o r n? This doubt was confirmed as I asked teens...is it naked people? Almost naked people? What is it exactly? We need to define p o r n as we're talking to our kids, so let's go to www.dictionary.com.
P o r n is defined as "writings, photographs, etc., intended to cause sexual excitement". Wow. Interesting. That's broad.
Some might think, "Now where would my child actually see p o r n o g r a p h y?" Anywhere. Anytime. In your house. On their phone. On that laptop. On their friend's phone. On a tv show.
Now with internet, phone apps, You Tube, TV, movies etc, there's no sneaking needed. It used to be harder to access- you had to go to a store, buy a magazine and hide it. Apparently, (so I've heard), for quick thrills guys would sneak peeks at the underwear section of the Penney's catalog. Wouldn't we love to have those days back??
Now anyone in the house can easily access porn if they want, unless due diligence is paid by us parents. Even then, odds are it will happen. Heck, now you can even see soft p o r n if you read some news websites (which is why I wonder if some even realize that's the p o r n of yesterday). It's so normal now. Our younger kids have never been in anything BUT an oversexualized society, so they don't know any differently.
In the last few years our media culture has plummeted at an amazing rate and we are sliding fast and furious into an oversexualized p o r n i f i e d culture, where almost everything is sexualized. This is a dangerous breeding ground for all things toxic, with long term affects on us as people. If we want to save our kids from addictive habits that can destroy themselves, their relationships and future families, we need to have this conversation. More than once.
Vicki Courtney, an author on raising teens, says in her blog in May 2012,
"A couple of weeks ago, I saw several articles in the news reporting the results of a parliamentary study in the UK that should serve as a wake-up call to parents in the U.S. When it comes to the number of children and teens viewing pornography, we’re not far behind our friends in the UK, so we’d be wise to consider their findings. Consider the following statistics:
- Four out of five 16-year-old boys and girls regularly access porn online.
- One in three ten-year-olds have seen explicit material.
- More than a quarter of young patients being treated at a leading private clinic are receiving help for a porn addiction.
From the UK article that Vicky referred to, Why are we surprised kids are addicted to porn? That's the world they know, here is a quote from Sonia Poulton:
"Pornography is exactly what it says on the tin. It is not about loving relationships that are built on a foundation of respect and commitment but about a ‘wham bam, thank you mam’ approach to sexual gratification. To imagine it is anything more or less is delusional.
I am not an anti-porn campaigner. I don’t object to consenting adults viewing it - that’s their prerogative. Equally, it is not for me to tell people whether they should appear in porn films. I work on the basis that so long as they are willing participants - as opposed to abused and bullied into the roles - then it’s their human right to do what they wish with their bodies.
But that's where I draw the line. Making porn public - as society has - is not the same because people lose the right to choose whether they want to see it or not. It has been beamed at our children, from TV's and billboards, without their say so. They are now conditioned to see public sex and sexuality as a given.
So it is that we are now reaping the results of permitting sex to be all-pervasive and all-consuming. Porn is part of everyday lives, rather than something adults do in the privacy of their own homes, and our children are fighting a tide that tells them something is wrong with them unless they too also indulge."
(I may not be with her 100% on all of that, but I do agree with her overall premise- society is wrong to make it not a choice, especially for our kids). Some adults are going to choose to engage in it regardless, but should it be forced upon everyone, especially children?)
Countless images surround all of us in daily life. We can hardly avoid it, but instead we are forced to figure out how to deal with it. This article from http://www.tweenparent.com/ describes things so well, I encourage you to check it out. "Bringing Up Kids in a Porn Culture". A quote from this article:
"People not immersed in pop culture tend to assume that what we see today is just more of the same stuff that previous generations grew up on. But what is different today is not only the hypersexualization of the image, but also the degree to which such images have overwhelmed and crowded out any alternative image of being female. Today's tidal wave of soft-core porn has normalized the porn-star look in everyday culture to such a degree that anything less looks dowdy, prim, and downright boring. Today a girl or young woman looking for an alternative to the hypersexualized look will quickly come to the grim realization that the only alternative to looking hot is to be invisible. And what girl wants to be invisible? Adolescence is about being noticed and the desire for visibility among one's peer group too often means conforming to the plasticized, formulaic and generic images that bombard us daily. We should see the porn culture as a bully that manipulates, coerces, and grooms girls into conformity by providing them with limited choices. This culture is slowly chipping away at girls' self esteem, stripping them of a sense of themselves as whole human beings, and providing them with an identity that glorifies sex and trivilizes every other human attribute."
Girls are affected by this porn culture by, without realizing it, by being sucked into slowly looking more and more like the sexualized "role models" and/or acting like them. Grade schoolers are concerned already about being "hot" and "sexy". Shoes and clothing keep looking more and more like stripper attire.
And who knew that prom party buses had stripper poles in them? That was a question I never knew to ask until it was too late. "Who will be there? Will there be alcohol? Will there be a stripper pole?" These are the things that I'm talking about that have suddenly become mainstream. Stripper poles used to be hidden- part of an adult world that was not considered as accepted or mainstream. Only certain types of people were there. Now thanks to many factors, almost every nice kid knows what a stripper pole is. And some dance on them now.
But I also know plenty of girls who are relatively happy with their looks and how they fit in, without giving into the over sexualized look, so it is possible to live differently. I don't believe all girls feel dowdy if they don't look oversexualized. Some see it as refreshing to have a nice wholesome natural look. However, I don't know if any girls escape the effect completely. The obsession with looks, bodies, pressures to be "available" to guys, and to be hot and sexy permeates just about everyone, even if it's to a small degree.
Boys are affected even more by this problem, being the ones who view porn the most (though it is not just a boy problem. More and more popular entertainment is really just p o r n for women, in various forms.) Again from the TweenParent article:
"I regularly lecture to parents groups and they are appalled by the images that any 11 year old can feely access by typing Porn into Google. What often shocks them is the sheer level of brutality where sex is used to make hate, not love, to a woman's body. The feelings and emotions we normally associate with love...are missing, and in their place are those we normally associate with hate. It's images like these that are now commonplace all over the Internet and are shaping the way boys and men think about sex, relationships, and intimacy."
This is not the attitude we want our boys to have toward women, is it? I don't think any of us would want that, for girls OR boys. But it could be happening right under your nose. Is it?
It's important to ask. Ask direct questions. Point blank honest questions. Give your kids a chance to be honest without getting in trouble, just for the sake of getting to truth. If you discover p o r n has been an issue, talk about boundaries and consequences for future. If they are unmarred by p o r n so far, be thankful. Have a detailed conversation about why it isn't healthy for them, how to avoid it and what to do if/when p o r n comes up among friends. What is the escape route?
Vicki Courtney's suggestions are:
1. Put safety filters on your home computers and deactivate the web browser on your children’s handheld devices.
2. Help your children come up with an escape plan. (click on her link for details)
3. Educate your children about the long-term effects of viewing pornography.
4. Put it on your calendar to talk about this topic at least once every two months.
5. If you have a son, I highly recommend parents read the book, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers.
PLEASE HAVE A FILTERING SYSTEM ON YOUR COMPUTER AT HOME! If you don't know how to add one, it is worth every penny it would cost to get someone in your house to do it for you. Even then, talk to them about all the other places they might see p o r n. Friends houses may not have filters on computers. Don't google just anything, it can be dangerous. Friends iphones have apps and internet availability even if your kid's phone doesn't.
LESSON LEARNED- (It is sketchy to even blog about this.) As I researched for this blog, I googled one word- a should be innocent word- and immediately saw more disgusting pictures than I ever have seen. In one second. And my computers are loaded with filtering systems for this reason. Please know that if I, an informed, careful, filtered, educated adult did this (while blogging about it), than your kids need to definitely be very careful what they google. Have a talk just about that if nothing else! As much as we love Google, it's not always our friend.
Now that my kids have confessed to me (just today) what they actually googled years ago after I had a sex talk with them, I especially caution you in this regard! They googled questions that needed clarification in their minds that they didn't want to ask me, though they knew they could have. Good heavens, that is not the way we want information clarified. lol! yikes! Thank goodness the internet was new enough back then maybe it wasn't as awful as now. Google stuff now and you may be in for a surprise. Currently, stats say that 12-25% of what is on the internet is p o r n.
I had this Awkward Talk with my own girls today. I asked each of them how much p o r n affected their circle of friends and acquaintances. Interestingly, it was all different. Some ran into the subject alot and some rarely. Some felt like most, if not all guys, are into it because of how they talk, jokes they make and references they use. Some knew of female use of p o r n. Some didn't know anyone affected by p o r n. Some knew of a few girls and guys in their circle of friends sending and receiving naked text pictures. Some knew of guys looking at p o r n on phones in middle school years. We also got into the discussion of many teen girls reading 50 Shades of Grey. In regard to the circle of friends where it never comes up, we wondered is that because they really aren't into it (yay!), or are people into it but never admit or talk about it? (yikes).
We want to know which it is. What do you think?
I recommend to parents to have random phone checks with your kids' phones. At random times, take their phone, check it, look at pictures, apps, etc. Know their passwords. DO NOT assume your kid would "never do that". Check anyway. Sexting is becoming very common.
I came across this great quote of Danny Silk's of http://www.moralrevolution.com./ "Intimacy's counterfeit is addiction...it comes in the form of many things (alcohol, carbohydrates, porn, cigarettes, sugar, shopping, etc). It's an attempt to create intimacy through a relationship with an object. Addiction is welcome to people who can not get away from their pain, so they self medicate."
I had to explain to my girls that p o r n is addictive. No one plans to get addicted. Good people are addicted. Marriages fall apart because of p o r n. They know I'm hard core about filtering media intake because of the oversexualization of everything. (Someone might have admitted tonight that they are finally grateful, though my oversight "has always been annoying." YES! Who cares if we are annoying? Buy me a tshirt - Annoying Mom. I'll wear it.)
Teens are good observers. They see what isn't right. I've been told by babysitting teens that many young kids (I mean young) have their own computers, laptops, etc. and have been known to innocently google certain things, or try to watch certain music videos. One kid, either 6 or 9 years old, can't remember which, said "I'm not allowed to go on You Tube, so I just pull it up on Bing".
The parent thinks they are protecting the kid from videos they shouldn't see by disallowing YouTube, and meanwhile have no idea that the 6 year old has outsmarted them in wit and in technology.
We work hard to keep things pure over here. And for years I've prayed for my husband, my girls and my girls' future husbands to be kept from all of this stuff. We need people who can still be intimate and connected to a person, not people who can only be intimate and connected with a picture or a video.
Pornography destroys people. And relationships. And marriages.
Our kids are worth protecting.
Get educated. Ask the hard questions. For your kids' sake!