Dirty Talk

How To Talk To Your Kids About Porn

Gone are the days of a Playboy or Penthouse hidden beneath the bed. Today, adult content is everywhere — and readily available with the simple click of an “I Am 18 Years Or Older” banner on a website. According to a report conducted by Influence Central, most kids get their first smartphone around the age of 10. A separate study found that the average smartphone user will view an average of 348 porn videos a year. Take the first stat, apply the second, and that equals a pretty high likelihood of your kid taking at least a few peeks at porn on their phone long before you anticipated having to broach the subject. But it’s an extremely important subject to cover, considering porn could lead to skewed ideas of sex as they get older. To offer you some advice, we spoke to several sex educators about some tried and true tactics for discussing the nature of XXX content with kids.

This is a Constant Conversation

As the proliferation of X-rated content is a symptom of modern times, it deserves a modern approach: An open, honest, and frequent discussion about sex and sexual content. And it should happen much, much earlier than many think. “There is no ‘the talk,’” says Dr. Marty Klein, a family and sex therapist and author of His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic With Honest Talk About Sex. “There is a series of talks. And if you haven’t talked to your child about sexuality by time they’re 10 years old, you’re a little behind schedule.” Klein’s point is this: you have to build up a base of knowledge as your child grows in order to help them understand the content they will one day see. “I don’t think any parent wants the first conversation they have with their kid about sexuality to be about pornography. If you want to talk to your kids about porn, make sure you talk to them about sex first.”

Own Your Uneasiness

If you’re the type of person who feels awkward about discussing X-rated content, then so be it. It’s not like kids are stoked to have these sex chats with you, either. Your uneasiness might actually help the situation. So, just be honest. “If parents are embarrassed to talk about it, that’s fine,” says Klein. “I actually think it’s great for a parent to sit down with their kid and say, ‘If you’re embarrassed to talk about this, then that makes two of us. But we’ve got to talk about this because it’s important.”

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

Before you confront your kid about what they may or may not have seen on screen, take a bit of advice offered by Gracie Landes, a New York-based marriage and family therapist: keep calm. “Reason it out before responding, perhaps with another adult,” says Landes, who adds that many parents’ first reaction is to be negative, which could lead to imporoper views on sexuality. “Don’t punish your kids for stumbling onto a site or seeking one out. Find out what your child saw, and how they felt about it,” she says. “Feelings are all okay. Some kids will be curious, some scared, some confused, some aroused. Feelings are just feelings, none of them wrong.  Be able to let kids discuss what they felt before jumping in.” If they’re repeat offenders or being overly sneaky about it? Then it’s time for punishments.

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Explain Porn vs. Reality

As adults, we know that porn is a fantastical depiction of sex. Conversations regarding contraception, consent, and communication are typically edited out on screen, but remain central to the encounters we experience in real life.“The single most important thing that parents need to tell their kids about porn is that real sex does not feel like porn looks,” says Klein. He offers up some talking points: “Porn is scripted in the same way that Star Wars and Harry Potter are scripted. They have hired professionals. They give them a script. They are shooting a scene. What they portraying is not real. What they are portraying is a fantasy.” Sex may look spontaneous on screen, but the real thing may take a little more planning.

Use Proper Terminology

Anyone who’s ever tuned into pornographic material knows that what’s said on screen can be just as outlandish as the actions that unfold there. And kids need to understand what terminology is okay and what isn’t — by hearing you use the correct terms in context. “Some words have negative connotations so it’s good to use actual terms like breast, penis, and vagina,” says Landes. “Being able to use the words shows your comfort and will help your child to become comfortable.” Establishing that kind of openness also makes it easier to ward off things like shame and secrets down the line. “We use the right words for body parts, just as we use the right words for whatever other activities we’re talking about,” says Klein. “We talk about it in the same way we talk about everything else, which is friendly, straightforward, and with a little bit of a sense of humor.”

Use It As An Opportunity

Porn doesn’t drive human sexuality; it’s a product of it. If parents want to talk to their kids about it, they’re going to have to touch on sex as well. And according to the experts, that’s not such a bad thing. “Pornography is a wonderful opportunity for dads to sit down and talk to their kids about sexuality,” says Klein. “It might not be the opportunity that we would prefer, however, that’s the opportunity that the modern world has presented us.”

Of course, the conversation is going to look a little different depending the age of your child. “Make the discussion appropriate to their level of development,” says Landes. “A middle school-aged child may simply want to know more about how sex works; an adolescent who is starting to figure out their own sexuality may be confused or intimidated by what they see. They may worry about how they measure up to what they see, or what is expected of them when they start dating. Follow their lead and keep it simple.” Porn, per Landers, often triggers long-overdue conversations pertaining to sex and relationships. So, at the end of the day, addressing this modern issue may lead to a more modern understanding and discussion of sex.

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