Watching Porn is Normal and Natural — Even for Kids

How fondly do we remember the days when the dirtiest thing we would find in a kid’s room was a copy of Penthouse? How innocent we all were. Goodbye, innocence — and hello there, technology. Today, a quick online search will reveal that the average age of first Internet porn exposure is 11, and that “sex” is in the top five search terms used by boys and girls from under the age of 7 up through 18. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to talk to your kids about Internet porn, well, tick tock.

In the old story about “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” all of the adults were so afraid of looking foolish because they couldn’t see the clothes (sold by a couple of conmen) that supposedly only the wise could see. The result? They said nothing. The story concludes with the Emperor running for all his dignity because a wise child blurted out that the Emperor was naked. In this morality tale, we’re the adults who couldn’t talk about the nudity, errr, porn, and our children are saying, “Well, would you look at that? They’re naked!”

The point is that our silence on the subject renders us as irrelevant know-nothings while our children design, build, and execute a personal tutorial on what sex is all about. This point leads us to a modern moral position: “Parents who care about kids talk about porn.” But what to say?

I hate to break it to you, but you’ll have a more difficult time with this conversation if sexuality isn’t already an accepted and regular part of family dialogue. Now you want to talk? Or maybe we just wait until big brother comes home with a pregnant girlfriend? At this point, if sexuality hasn’t been a very, very regular topic, then there is no way that bringing up Internet porn will be a comfortable icebreaker. But comfortable or not, here goes.

First: Normalize their interest. Any interest in pornography from the young is perfectly normal. They’re very curious about a subject that is very important, and no one’s talking. Apologize about that, and move on after you commit to doing better in the future.

Second: Normalize their excitement. If you like sex (and we all know you do so don’t deny it), then you know that no one dislikes viewing attractive people. There’s nothing odd about sexual beings liking the look of beautiful people who are sexually aroused doing sexual things. Tell your child their interest is “perfectly understandable.”

Third: Please don’t start shaming your child or preaching. Yes, I’m asking you to avoid the urge to universally condemn porn, which in reality can be one element of a fun and engaging sex life. But more on that in a future column.

Last: Please start (or, perhaps, continue?) a years-long conversation about what’s great about sex. How wonderful it is. How wonderful that first kiss felt and how wonderful kissing still feels. Tell them how close you feel to your partner when you have sex and how you’re still feeling the same feelings only more so as you get even closer over the years. If you’re brave and have a suitably tawdry past, then let them know that sex with people you didn’t know wasn’t even close to what you have learned about intimate sex.

These conversations about healthy relationships — with an undercurrent of the importance and benefits of intimacy, which is a crucial missing component of porn — will help them tire of porn sooner rather than later.

Article originally appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Got questions about sexuality you’d like Marriage and Family Therapist Steven Ing to address in a future column? Tweet @StevenIngMFT or email askING@stevening.com.

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