How To Talk To Kids About Porn & Why It's So Important, According To Experts


It’s inevitable — your kid will watch porn. And while talking about porn with your kids might be the last thing you want to do, given the fact that accessing porn is easier than ever (no matter how many safety precautions we might put on their smartphones and tablets), having that talk sooner rather than later is probably for the best.

“Porn is a difficult subject because many parents feel uncomfortable with the topic of sexuality in general, let alone pornography,” Sarah Melancon, Ph.D., sociologist and certified sexologist, tells Scary Mommy. “It’s completely normal to feel awkward! The unfortunate reality is that almost all kids will be exposed to porn at some point in their adolescence, if not sooner.”

This means that it is even more critical that parents discuss porn with their kids since without an alternate lens, explains Melancon, kids will only have their own and other kids’ interpretations for understanding. “It’s the old saying, ‘If you don’t talk about it with your kids, someone else will,’ and they will often not have a great perspective,” she says.

Erotic filmmaker Erika Lust, founder of Erikalust, an ethical porn site, adds parents especially “have a responsibility to provide a space where our children understand that we can, and we will, talk about sex. But not just about the dangers of sex and reproduction, we also need to talk about pleasure, consent, safety, sexual expectations, and, of course, porn!”

It’s only natural that our children will be curious about their bodies and sex, and as Lust says, “Our children deserve to be heard in their natural curiosity about sex; they deserve to know that sex can also generate many positive feelings and to be aware of how pornography can shape their perceptions around it. We need to open up the conversation with them about what equal and consensual sex is, as well as give them the tools to differentiate between the range of possibilities of sexual content they may stumble upon online.”

While the discussion about porn might feel as uncomfortable as a visit to the dentist, Melancon and Lust outline their best tips below on how to talk to your kid about porn in a way that will make it more tolerable and helpful for both of you.

Why You Need to Have the Porn Talk With Your Kids

According to Lust, one of the main concerns regarding the consumption of porn by young people is the impact it can have on creating sexual expectations. This is why she recommends using The Porn Conversation as a guide to help you open up that discussion, as the site “aims to provide porn literacy to younger generations, to make them aware of how sexualized media can shape their perceptions and expectations in regard to their own sexuality and their relationships with others, and to understand that pornography is, as any form of entertainment, still fantasy and fiction.”

By having this discussion with them, says Lust, we encourage our kids and teens to have critical thinking — to question their relationship with pornography and how the messages they receive from it may shape the way they feel about themselves and others.

“Openly talking about pornography instead of treating it as a taboo subject helps them to not feel ashamed and guilty, and encourages them to be more open to you in the future,” she says. We should all have a common goal in this regard: to provide young people with comprehensive and age-appropriate sex education.

How to Broach the Subject

Bringing up the topic of porn might cause you to break out in hives or sweat, so that’s why Melancon recommends being able to talk openly about sex (at age-appropriate levels) and the human body beforehand.

“Talk about it often enough that your children understand it is a normal part of life and that questions are OK,” she suggests. “This may require looking at your own views and cultural programming on sexuality, because most of us didn’t have good sex education growing up.”

A good starting point, says Melancon, may be to simply ask if they’ve heard of something called pornography or porn.

“They may well have heard about it from friends or at school, and if so, give them space to share what they’ve heard,” she says. “Ask open-ended questions and listen without interruption.”

You might want to ask: “What have you heard about porn?” Or “How do you feel about that?”

Other questions she recommends asking include:

  • “Have you ever heard of the word’ pornography; or ‘porn’?
  • “Do you know what pornography is?”
  • “Have you ever seen something on the internet that made you feel confused or uncomfortable?”
  • “What do you think about what you’ve seen or heard about porn?”
  • “Have you ever talked to your friends about porn?”
  • “Do you know what to do if you come across something online that makes you feel uncomfortable?”
  • “Have you heard any rumors about porn?”
  • “Do you have any questions about porn or sex?”

How to Frame the Conversation With Your Kids

If you’re stuck with finding the right words, Lust recommends The Porn Conversation’s Conversation Guides if taking those first steps feels hard.

“I would also say try to keep the conversation as positive and open as possible so that in addition to informing about the risks and precautions to be taken when having sex, you get to talk about pleasure, fantasies and desires, diversity of bodies or genders and identities,” she suggests.

Melancon also says correcting any misinformation or misconceptions without shame is also essential. While she admits it can be challenging, she emphasizes that it’s crucial to explain that porn, much like mainstream movies, shows us unrealistic and exaggerated things that could never happen.

Where many parents get caught up is potentially introducing kids to porn earlier than they may find it on their own. To this point, Melancon explains that some children may be curious about porn, but others won’t be.

Whatever their reaction might be is normal, she says, but “you’ll want to maintain that porn content is really meant for adults the same way alcohol is only meant for adults. [Additionally,] emphasize that relationships are based on respect and mutual care — that couples talk about things they like, which includes the type of foods they want as well as the sex they want, and try to take care of each other.”

If you personally have religious or moral qualms about porn, Melancon says that’s OK. However, “shaming or moralizing about porn is, unfortunately, likely to have the opposite effect you’re seeking — it will make some kids seek it out even more and can create toxic shame that can follow them into adulthood. Share your views without making other perspectives wrong, which can show your child that there is more than one way to approach a topic and can make your view more appealing versus an authoritarian perspective.”

Finally, set boundaries. “It is reasonable to tell kids they can’t watch porn, but understand they can easily see it elsewhere. Phone and internet blockers are a good idea but can’t prevent viewing 100%.”

Remember: Porn is not a replacement for sexual education.

Although it may not seem like it, according to Lust, teens report that their parents have the most significant influence over their decisions about sex — more than friends, siblings, or the media.

“Still, porn has become our children’s primary sex educator. But again, we need to remember that it’s not porn’s responsibility to educate yourself,” she says. “It has never been! Porn is a performance, a representation of the creators’ fantasies, whose primary intention is to excite and entertain, not to be an explicit tutorial on sex. Parents can play an essential role in providing accurate and supportive information to their children about sexual health and pleasure.



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