How To Talk To Kids About Porn
Everybody's Doin' It

What To Say When Your Kid Sees Porn For The First Time

Internet porn is about as useful for teaching kids about sex as Urban Dictionary is to write a term paper. And while you had to see your first boobs in that copy of Penthouse your buddy found in a gas station bathroom, today the wrong Google query will lead you to a cornucopia of … stuff. Your kids are going to catch more than a glimpse in the near future, and you need to know how to handle that.

Cindy Pierce is a sex educator and author of Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality In A Porn-Driven World. She coaches parents on how to talk to kids sensibly about pornography, because it’s important their knowledge is rooted in reality. Even the guy who used to run Playboy tells his kids: that stuff ain’t real.

What Does Porn Really Teach Kids About Sex?
Pierce has talked to tons of young people about sex and porn, and exactly one guy in college said he got a helpful tip on how to give a woman an orgasm. The rest said they haven’t learned anything of practical value. But if it’s not educational, is it harmless? Pierce is concerned that more than just people doin’ it, porn impresses upon young people that violence, racial stereotypes, unrealistic body types, and the “jackhammer” is acceptable.

How To Talk To Kids About Porn

Talk To Kids Early And Often
In the U.S., 9 is the average age a boy looks at porn for the first time, and that number keeps getting lower, says Pierce. Pediatricians recommend that when kids are 5 to 7, you begin talking to them about where babies come from. Because young kids have the attention span of a hummingbird, Pierce says these conversations never last long and “you don’t have to talk about your own sex or pleasure but explain the mechanics of it.”

What Exactly Do You Say?
This is the part where you find out you’re not cool, and you never will be. Instead of trying to be the relatable parent,  Pierce says “Plow in and be that embarrassing parent. Say some wonky thing and try again another time.” The good part is that the research says kids are interested in their parents’ values. Yes, they want to know what you think of sex and porn — but in a way that won’t scar them for life.

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  • What To Tell A Preschooler: In the most basic terms, sticking their hand down their diaper is something all normal, healthy people do — but in their bedroom, not in front of all the teachers at daycare.
  • What To Tell A Kindergartener: “I map it right out for them,” says Pierce. She explains that moms have the eggs and daddies have the sperm. The penis goes in the vagina, sperm comes out and meets the eggs in the mom’s uterus. And in some cases, they can also come together in a lab. (Although your kid is unlikely to see that in porn.)
  • What To Tell An Elementary Schooler: Expand on what they already know. Begin using the word “consent” in a variety of contexts to define the word — later it’ll make sense in regards to sex. At this age, kids also need to know porn exists and it’s natural to be curious about it. Be clear that it often contains material that disrespects women, and that’s why kids at that age aren’t allowed to see it. You can’t explain to an 8-year-old that a “healthy” relationship may include a box full of ball gags and riding crops.

How To Talk To Kids About Porn

  • What To Tell A Middle Schooler: At this point, kids have either never seen it, or can identify porn stars by their names and tattoos. Time to talk about genital-image issues. How do alteration surgeries (like DDD boobs), or unrealistic images (impromptu orgies) affect their expectations of what normal sex looks like? It’s also time to talk about how female pleasure differs from male pleasure (something you’re still learning about), and every 7th grader’s best friend: Masturbation!
  • What To Tell a High Schooler: Healthy sex is a tough thing to define, but Pierce’s definition is, “A consensual activity that takes place between 2 similarly-aged people who explore each other’s bodies for pleasure.” Not a bad jumping off point. They should also note that porn stars are paid to get naked, but for those not in the industry, sex can be awkward. If they can find someone they can laugh with to get through the awkward parts, it’s a bonus. And condoms. Lots of condoms.

It’s Not One Talk, It’s A Conversation
“People think since they brought it up, they’ve checked that box,” says Pierce. She says that the “sex talk” isn’t one single talk, but a conversation that has to be revisited often and builds upon what they already know. If your kid hasn’t seen porn, they may be hearing about it already on the school bus, so Pierce says to preemptively talk about it. “Don’t wait for them to see it first,” she says. And if they have seen it, you need to explain that pornography has a lot of unhealthy images. Don’t worry about shattering their innocence; that’s not a thing.

"Sexploiration: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality In A Porn Driven World" By Cindy Pierce