The New Talk: Not Just Sex—Porn, Too

The classic sex talk needs an update for the age of Miley Cyrus and ubiquitous adult content

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For parents worried about the impact of Miley Cyrus’ recent MTV performance on impressionable teens, there’s at least one reason to relax: Your kids have probably seen worse. A universe of pornography is only a mouse-click away. Parents can counter with blocks, filters, tracking and punishments. But even with the most rigorous parental patrols, kids at the peak of their sexual curiosity are going to find their way to porn. The impact of this new universal access to porn will be debated for some time to come. So far the research on the potential impact of porn is relatively thin. But one thing is clear: It’s time to rethink “the talk.”

Parents have always found the sex talk challenging. But it didn’t used to be the case that by the time they had the talk, their child had already seen things on the Internet that the parents had never dreamed of at their kids’ age (possibly even as adults).

The first and most important step to revising the talk is to accept this reality—that, at whatever level, pornography is part of a child’s world. The key for parents is to make sure that this part is in accurate perspective. When biological urgency meets technological capability, the only workable response is to construct a frame of reference—a way to process things past generations their age have never seen. Parents must help kids understand that pornography is real, but it’s not reality.

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Sowing fear or guilt makes no more sense than when boys were told that masturbation was a sin—they did it anyway, but felt terrible about it. Parents must be factual, not emotional. It’s not what the parents think about pornography that matters, it’s how the child learns to process it and incorporate it into his or her understanding of sex.

A conversation will be much more helpful than a lecture. The sex talk has never been easy for parents, even when they could be vague about the realities of sex. Now the degree of difficulty in getting it right goes up.

Parents can start with a few (non-judgmental) questions. Have you ever seen porn on the Internet? How do you feel about it? Do you have any questions about what you saw? Keep in mind, they may have seen things that trouble them or confuse them. Just as likely, they may have seen it, shared it and simply laughed about it.

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Once parents have managed to get a sense of an adolescent’s feelings about the pornography they might have experienced—recognizing it’s not easy to get an adolescent to share feelings about anything—the door is open, at least a crack, for parents to inject their own values into the conversation. It’s possible to lay out the potential problems with pornography, without triggering the rebellion response. Porn can create unrealistic expectations. It can make real-life partners seem less attractive. It can become so important that it shuts out other parts of life. Not that these things will happen—but they can.

The ultimate goal of the talk is not prohibition; it’s perspective. Kids need to know that what they are seeing, in all its often disturbing variety, is not what sex really is. Pornography is a business. It makes money by taking a natural thing to an unnatural extreme. Porn is part of sexuality, but it doesn’t define it. The sex on porn sites is not the sex that is a wonderful part of life.

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32 comments
pdxoccupypdx
pdxoccupypdx

This story addresses a non issue. If you are troubled by Miley, or worried about 'the talk' or troubled about what is available on the internet then you the one that needs help, not your children.

MauriceAdelmon
MauriceAdelmon

I never had "The talk" with my folks and I'm super glad I avoided that embarassing moment, there's plenty of sex ed on the internet to answer all your questions. 

fapx3
fapx3

Honestly, it's probably the kids who should be giving "the talk" about Internet porn to their parents.  

anti-government
anti-government

It's too bad people are so uptight aout sex.

Sex  is good. Violence is bad.

Everyone should have access to sex. Sexual pictures, videos, stories and prostitutes should be readily available. (I'm happlily married, have no interest in anyone but my wife but lots of pople are needlessly lonely). If anything should be illegalized, it should be depictions of violence. Violent video games and movies are the real pornography!

rohit57
rohit57

I have an amusing story to tell about this.  When my son reached the age of 14, I bought for him a book about sex and gave it to him.  He looked at the book and said, "But Dad, I know all this stuff!"

Not sure whether to believe him, I gave him a written test and he passed with flying colors.

The upshot was that he returned the book to the bookstore and he and I split the money.

rebeccapistiner
rebeccapistiner

A talk? How about a lifelong open door policy. A conversation? How about an example about how we treat each other. As a teenager? This conversation begins at the start of the parent child relationship. Not in one day. 

TrajanSaldana
TrajanSaldana

incidentally, if anyone believes Cyrus's performance was anything CLOSE to pornography hasn't seen porn lately

TrajanSaldana
TrajanSaldana

if only this much emphasis was placed on talking with children about violence, bigotry, injustice....

MyAdvice
MyAdvice

Shirking the significance of depravity and immorality is not a good way to improve the general health of our culture and survivablity of our society.

GreenFields
GreenFields

A big part of adulthood is learning how to navigate manipulation. Porn is the most obvious example but there are so many more subtle ways people will try to use human weaknesses to make money.  It's important kids understand that this what  it's all about; using people's weakness in the face of sexual desire or desperation to be sexually desirable to others, is the cheapest, least  intellectually and creatively challenging way to make a buck.                                                                                             .                                                                                                 

fhavisham
fhavisham

I agree that parents should carefully consider the most effective way of framing a conversation about sex/pornography, but the author seems to suggest that the only way this can be done is for the parent to remain silent about his/her own beliefs on the topic.  On that point, I wholeheartedly disagree.  The attitude behind this article is exactly why it surprises me that people were so shocked at Miley Cyrus' VMA performance.  We are told to refrain from teaching our children moral absolutes for fear that they might feel guilty, but then can't believe when those same children grow up to become hypersexualized and content to revel in their hedonistic lifestyles.

silverose
silverose

Hahaha. In my country, sex talk is considered vile and obscene. People are pretty prudish when it comes to subjects like this. Guess that's the reason to all the unwanted and underage pregnancies. I'm Vietnamese. 

Billymw
Billymw

parents are about protecting their kids but with all the pervasive free porn out there am guessing extra efforts to educate them is a must as well as adopting to candour  conversations and lifestyles otherwise they will be sacked into all kinds of experimenting orgies and you will be having awkward lectures with them.

BuffOBedford
BuffOBedford

Horrible advice... let’s just give into the Paganism...  NOT!  The mistake is assembling this under free speech and making it acceptable to mainstream life.   Yep,  throwing out decency and logic.  That’s our progressive  buddy’s going Forward,  ^$# first.

WienersPeener
WienersPeener

-Have you ever seen porn son?

-Sure dad.

-Do you have any questions about what you saw?

-What were those three guys doing to that woman, and her mouth, and her @#$%, and her #$%? 

-Uhhh...good talk son.


bojimbo26
bojimbo26

I've always understood that masturbation made you go blind ?

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@anti-government

I know, right. An 18 year old boy with a 17 year old girl gets put on the sex offender list for his 'crime', but we don't bat a legal eye at people who give their 8 year olds guns.

http://llltexas.com <- my blog

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@MyAdvice Depravity and immorality are ENTIRELY in the eye of the beholder.  The survivability of our society is more assured by teaching tolerance, justice, fairness, understanding and acceptance than it is trying to force everyone into an idealistic, bronze-aged behavioral pattern to which no human being can cleave for long.

Culture changes.  Society changes.  Those who can adapt to the changes and abide by them will be happier and better adjusted, thus ensuring their long-term survival.  Those who can't, won't, and will eventually die off and be relegated to history instead of contributing to the future.  It's that simple.

anti-government
anti-government

@GreenFields 

Some people are lonely. The deserve to be able to connect with a sex worker wihout feeling censure or other morality trips from religious or other power trippers. Being happy without hurtinmg anyone i the mos important ting in life. Peronal happiness should not depend on government or religious permission.

SEX IS GOOD & ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU OTHERWISE IS WRONG!

anti-government
anti-government

@fhavisham 

It's too bad more people don't "revel in their hedonistic lifestyles".

HEDONISM IS GOOD. SELF-DENIAL IS BAD. SHOW YOUR LOVE FOR SOMEONE TODAY!

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@fhavisham Remaining silent isn't what the author suggests.  They suggest parental guidance in dealing with it and letting the child make up their own minds about it.

Let's face it, if a parent screams about it, brings out a Bible and starts preaching about immorality and depravity, the child will be curious about what the hell is causing them to short circuit like that.  On the other hand, if the parent treats it as just another thing, approaching the subject in a rational and nonjudgmental way, the child's curiosity will be much less.  If one desensationalizes porn - removes the "thrill" of it, the mystery of sex and just making it hum drum - they make those who were taught it's not anything to really get excited about less inclined to view it.

seraphimblade
seraphimblade

@BuffOBedford: What about "paganism"? Hate to tell ya, but most Christians watch porn too.

And free speech is free speech, period. The whole point of free speech is that people get to say things you find disgusting or repulsive or "indecent", and you cannot force them not to. If free speech only protected speech that was uncontroversial, there would be no reason to have it at all.

anti-government
anti-government

@BuffOBedford 

FREE SPEECH AND FREE PUBLICATION ARE PROTECTED IN AMERICA EVEN IF PRUDISH OR BRAINWASHED PEOPLE DON'T LIKE IT. THE PRUDISH DESIRE TO REGULATE SPEECH AND PUBLICATION VIOLATES MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH

FREEDOM IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR SENSE OF MORALITY.

SINCE NO ONE CAN PROVE HE/SHE KNOWS THE WILL OF GOD, IT'S WRONG TO ASSUME THAT GOD HATES SEX OR PORNOGRAPHY.

GOD LOVES SEX. WORSHIP WITH A PERSON YOU LOVE TODAY!

md22mdrx
md22mdrx

@BuffOBedford 

Paganism has killed far less people in this world than christianity ....


I'd choose Paganism if I still believed in fairy tales.

DBritt
DBritt

@BuffOBedford Pragmatism is the word you were looking for I think.  Putting our heads in the sand is not so helpful unless we want to teach our children how to put their heads in the sand.

CoolBeanzIA
CoolBeanzIA

@BuffOBedford I am not sure where Paganism has anything to do with this topic, maybe you should look the definition up. Free speech is free speech. Not free speech as long as I agree with it. You can't have your freedoms and deny others theirs based on your paradigms.


ChristineMooers
ChristineMooers

That's what happens when you lose all the family farms.  People forget the origin of the word "sowing."

OldDoc
OldDoc

@md22mdrx @BuffOBedford Of course there were fewer people to kill when Paganism was ascendant. In the long run, including especially the different sects of Moslems, religious fervor, has helped keep the runaway population increase in check more than political differences.

PatrickRusso
PatrickRusso

@md22mdrx @BuffOBedford On what do you bias your opinion? Recent U of Bologna studies have shown that Pagans have killed 30% more people than Christians since 40AD. The original data were skewed because some of the Christians eventually admitted that they were Pagans. In fact, until 300 AD many common people did not know that Christianity existed.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@PatrickRusso @md22mdrx @BuffOBedford Which shows you know nothing about paganism TODAY.

In fact, based on the complete lack of knowledge of the subject and your inappropriate appellation of "pagan" to those who existed before Christianity did proves your ignorance both of what "paganism" was back then and of what Paganism is today.

Besides, for a religion with a God-set-in-stone COMMANDMENT of "Thou shalt not kill", the fact that ANY Christian has killed ANYONE ELSE at ANY TIME since 400 CE (let alone the estimated one billion people it has killed since that time) is reprehensible.

What, don't you count the decimation of the indigenous population of the Americas (and other regions) by Christian "missionaries" who spread diseases to which the natives had no immunity in their zealotry to spread the word and gain more coverts who would then give gold and jewels to the religious leadership for the sole purpose of secular power? (Or failing that, allow the "church" to grab the depopulated lands?)

Oh, and finally, Christianity is the only religion to have the distinction of having had its entire foundation for existing to be scientifically proven to be false.  Evolution and genetics prove there never was a need for a redeemer (or a savior) because there never was original sin of any kind.  It's all make believe and it's BS, folks.

At least Pagans today believe in doing no harm and taking responsibility for their actions.  Christians don't even do THAT.

So I would re-evaluate your view from that moral high horse you're sitting on.  It turns out that horse is just a pretentious, non-domesticated donkey, as is the rider.