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Who knew honest conversations about parenting and pornography could be so laid-back and fun? Join Melody and Marilyn for a series of chats and interviews on their journey to help fellow parents tackle this challenging topic with their kids.

Jun 19, 2019

When it comes to parenting, people are full of advice--both good and bad. But what do you say when someone gives you bad parenting advice regarding pornography? Today we’re going to give you some talking points to handle those sometimes awkward situations! 

We recently had a mind-boggling experience in an online parenting group. A mother was seeking advice regarding her 12-year-old who was using online pornography. In response, several other parents recommended that she give him porn magazines to help him fight the urge to look at online porn. Wait … what? (Related: Parenting, Porn and Not-So-Common Sense) 

We realize bad parenting advice is not a new phenomenon. (Melody’s pediatrician actually recommended rubbing bourbon on her son’s gums when he was teething!) And people have their own ideas about a variety of parenting issues--from pacifiers to sleeping arrangements to curfews. But when it comes to pornography, bad advice can be very, very harmful to our children.

If someone is giving you bad advice--for example, recommending that you show your child pornography--and telling you that it has great benefits, you might feel like we did in this situation: “This makes no sense!” But do you know how to articulate that? Here are some talking points to help you express yourself in those tricky situations:

  1. Porn is like a drug
  2. Porn exploits human beings
  3. Porn is an illusion 

I. PORN IS LIKE A DRUG

-When you are talking to other parents about pornography, you might want to focus on brain science.

-Did you know that pornography has the same effect on the brain as hard drugs like heroine and cocaine?

-Check out Pornography addiction: A Neuroscience perspective by Dr. Donald Hilton to learn more.

-Learn about How Porn Changes the Brain at Fight the New Drug, an organization dedicated to educating teens and young adults on the dangers of pornography.

-Porn is especially dangerous for kids because their brains are still developing, and they don’t have a fully functioning prefrontal cortex, the neural center for impulse control, problem solving, and executive functioning. Current research says this area of the brain is not fully developed until age 32! (The Dana Foundation, 2017)

-The book Brainstorm by Dr. Siegel talks about how children are gathering and absorbing information adolescents are sorting information.

-Our children’s brains are a like a garden that isn’t specialized yet, which makes them so much more vulnerable to weeds--like pornography!

Wondering how to talk about healthy intimacy with your kids? Check out the books, 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 3 to 7; 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 8 to 11; and 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 12+ from Educate and Empower Kids. 

II. PORN EXPLOITS HUMAN BEINGS

-We need to be willing to draw a line in the sand.

-When we take a stance against porn, we’re taking a moral stance against the exploitation of human beings

-It is fundamentally wrong to commodify and sell other people. This is what pornography is. And it's not fair to our kids if we don't help them make that connection.

-In the 1950’s Alfred Kinsey set out to educate the United States about sex, and Hugh Heffner volunteered to be his “leafleteer.” Judith Reisman’s work on Kinsey and Heffner should put some perspective on our popular culture attitudes regarding sexualization, objectification, and pornography.

-A few years ago, we heard Ed Smart testify on Capitol Hill about his daughter’s kidnapping. Elizabeth Smart made a direct connection between her abductor using pornography and grooming her for rape, and talked about how the encounters were worse and more violent after he had viewed pornography.

-We also came upon a study in which people were given quotes about women from convicted rapists and from men’s magazines. Then they asked the test subjects to label which came from which. Most could not distinguish the source.

-Dr. Mary Ann Layden’s work points out that the degrading effects of pornography lead us to a place that “we even stop seeing each other as human.” 

“There’s an interesting series of studies that actually highlights a bit of the phenomena of how this works. They were showing people just mildly sexualized pictures. They were men and women in swimsuits, men and women in their underwear, sort of relatively mild sexualized pictures and they showed them either upside right or upside down and looked at the processing in the brain, because it will display a phenomena of which part of your brain you’re using to process that picture that you see.

What we see with men, when people look at men, and look at them in their swimsuits or in their underwear, they’re using the part of their brain that processes humans and human faces but when we look at women in their swimsuits and their underwear we use the part of our brain that processes tools and objects and when you process a woman as a tool or an object you use. The rules that we use when we deal with tools or objects is if it’s not doing its job then throw it away, get another one.

So the feminists years ago said these men are treating women as sex objects and we thought that was a metaphor. It wasn’t a metaphor. It was an actual statement of reality, that they’re using the part of their brain which they use to process objects and things and there’s a consequence in the society when you start treating sex as a product and women as a thing.” (Mary Ann Layden in “Feminism’s self-defeating about-face on porn”) 

Want more tips? Check out the book How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography from Educate and Empower Kids. 

III. PORN IS AN ILLUSION

-Pornography teaches kids to have unrealistic ideas about sex.

-In our “Smooch Around Your Kids” episode we talked about Dr. John Foubert’s research, in which he calls pornography the “perfect recipe for rape”

-Pornography teaches our kids to believe lies like “pain is pleasure”

-Pornography focuses on physical appearance, risky behavior, and exaggerated aspects of sex

-Have you ever been to the circus and seen performers doing amazing things, like folding in half, or hanging by their hair--and doing it all with a smile? It’s not because they’re not in pain. It’s because they have trained themselves to smile in spite of the pain--to put on the makeup and the glittering clothes and the loud music and give a good show to distract you from the fact that they are in agony. It is an illusion. Pornography is based on the same concepts used in the circus.

-Unfortunately our kids are learning these lies too well. Recently a juvenile was arrested for strangling his girlfriend while making out in a parked car. As it turns out, they had started kissing, and then he strangled her because he had seen it done in porn and thought that’s what she would want. In reality, he almost killed her, and ended up terrified and called 9-1-1 for help.

-Melody has worked with betrayed wives for years. One woman who was sexually abused by her husband said that he used to act out things he had seen in pornography and then tell her, “but the girls in the porn liked it.” He could not process the fact that these girls were acting. It was fake. It is abuse. It does not feel good in real life.

-We need to teach our children the truth. We need to “pull back the curtain of the magic show” and teach them the reality behind the illusions:

-When we abuse people, it hurts!

-Real people don’t look like that (enhanced, airbrushed, etc.)

-Porn is not healthy sex, and healthy sex is not porn--these are two very different things

-Article: Teaching Kids to Interpret Media Illusions 

Challenge: Pick one talking point from this episode and share it on social media: 1) Porn is like a drug; 2) Porn exploits human beings; 2) Porn is an illusion. Educate another parent about why porn harms kids!