My Practical Tips on Porn Ed for Parents

Posted in   Blog, Dr. Lanae   on  October 2, 2019 by  Lanae minutes remaining

**quotes from this article were originally published in author Ian Kerner’s article on CNN  “Yes, you need to talk to your kids about porn

People ask me about this subject often. Here are some of my views and how I help parents handle the subject.

porn venn diagramHow do we approach the conversation with kids about porn? What should we be keeping in mind? 

My approach has been to begin to take the topic head-on and start with information. I advise not to google sex topics because they are going to see things they can’t unsee. Then I give examples of things I can’t unsee, like the alien coming out of the guy’s stomach in “Alien.” Kids have their own experiences, so they comprehend this. 

I also remind them that just as “Fast & Furious” movies are not Driver’s Ed, porn is also not Sex Ed. There is a lot that happens in movies and porn that doesn’t happen in real life. In older movies, like “The Wizard of Oz,” you can see the fishing line behind the Scarecrow as he’s up on the post. Now we have CGI technology. Things are done in movies and porn to maintain the fantasy aspect of it. It’s not supposed to be educational.

As tempting as it might be to stop at that and only to tell kids where not to go, you really can’t leave it there. They’re going to porn and Google because they have real questions about sexual behaviors. We can’t get upset that kids try to get answers using the same resources we do. Give them sites like Scarleteen.com and Amaze.org – they are great places for teens to get accurate information. 

At what age should you start?

I started the “things you can’t unsee” conversation when my kids were first starting puberty – around nine years old. When kids’ bodies are beginning to develop, they begin to have questions. That’s an appropriate age to get in front of the free-wheeling google stuff. Nobody wants that. 

How do we handle our own anxiety around the topic? 

That’s the tricky part. So many parents think their child is smart or advanced …until it comes to this subject. Then we say, “my kid is not ready.” When is it time to admit – we are not ready? If we have anxiety, it’s okay to find a board-certified sexologist or qualified sex coach for some help. There’s also my new book out titled “Read Me: A Parental Primer for ‘The Talk‘” that addresses some of this. That way, we can get healthy and accurate ideas about sex and sexuality to pass on to our kids. 

How do deal with teen resistance to having the conversation?

Teens might resist having this conversation, mainly because teen socialization and societal scripts call for an “ew” reaction when parents begin to talk about this topic. It doesn’t track with the informal polling of my college students though. They overwhelmingly reported that they wished their parents would have talked about sex openly and honestly with them. Of course, parents have to know what they’re talking about or be willing to get the right answers back to their kids. 

Many households are one-parent households. How does the conversation change when it’s a father talking to a daughter or a mother talking to a son? 

The conversation doesn’t have to change if it’s a one-parent household. Getting the perspective from either parent is always helpful. Just be careful not to feed your kid bad scripts like “boys only want one thing,” or “you’ll get pregnant from kissing.” You think you might be preventing them from engaging in sexual behaviors, but they figure out that you’re lying and then you’ve lost them. 

The porn conversation can be the same content for boys and girls (I’m using old binary terms, but this applies to all genders since queer kids watch porn as well). I think all kids should hear the messages everyone is getting so they can be more informed if and when they do watch porn. Messages like, “all women must have the hair removed from their vulva,” or “all women like it when a man ejaculates on their face,” or “women orgasm easily in any position” are all false. Just like most things that have to do with sex, there’s a nuance that’s missing. Good sex ed fills in that nuance.

Anything to keep in mind? Is the porn conversation different for a teen boy vs a teen girl in terms of the lens through which they might be watching/experiencing porn?

Starting the conversation with your teen can be as easy as saying something like, “I know this might seem like it’s coming out of nowhere, but I’m concerned about the messages you are getting about sex, sexual behaviors and what’s real or normal from the stuff that’s out there.” Another opener could be, “I may seem old now, but I was young once too, and I have probably seen a lot more than you think.” Or “I want you to know I am here for you whenever you want to talk because I remember when I was your age sex was confusing for me. Given the things I see on YouTube, TV, movies, and magazines, etc. today, I can imagine it’s confusing to you too.”

Porn and masturbation often get jumbled together — but they’re two separate conversations, right? In trying to manage our kids’ porn use, are we also giving them messages about how often they should be masturbating? Should we be thinking about what we want to say about masturbation as well?

Porn and masturbation do get jumbled together, but they are two separate conversations. The masturbation conversation is about pleasure, body mechanics and awareness, and sexual function. It’s important to know what feels good and to get comfortable with their body.  Masturbation is the one sexual behavior that isn’t going to get anyone pregnant nor put them at risk for STI’s. 

The porn conversation is about fantasy, usually someone else’s fantasy. And porn is only one part of a masturbation conversation – a means to an end if you will. It’s okay to acknowledge that teens probably have their own fantasies and don’t need to rely on someone else’s. Encourage them to use their imaginations, or read a book, or check out podcasts or audio broadcasts like https://www.dipseastories.com/ to change things up. Nancy Friday has books that take a more academic approach and overview a variety of fantasies for both men and women. Or they can try erotica, a classic like Judy Blume’s “Forever“. 

And speaking of changing things up, acknowledge that there are many ways to turn ourselves on and masturbation is an opportunity to figure it all out. Suggest that they can vary their grip or positions to achieve the same result. They can even invest in some good lube or a quality toy/vibrator to try something different. That way, they don’t always have to rely on one move.

I love to dig into this subject with adults and unpack what stops us from moving. If you want to chat with me about this, click here to begin the conversation.

My mom jokes I’ve got a pretty liberal approach to this topic. I think it’s rather radical instead.

xxoo,

Lanae

About the Author Lanae

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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