I read recently that a top school is employing an Internet porn expert to teach ‘porn awareness’ classes to pupils amid fears that developing an addiction could be harmful to their studies, career prospects and their relationships. Setting aside the intriguing question of how you become an Internet porn expert this seems to be a very important, if belated, response to an issue that many would rather remain in denial about.
When I raised this issue with a group of parents some 6 or 7 years ago most of them either denied that their offspring would ever dream of engaging in such activities or they outlined such elaborate controls on their computer system that there was no way they could access it. Our wish to remain in a state of denial is a major part of the problem.
Like many issues with technology the focus tends to be on the ‘car crash’ stories. Porn addiction is indeed a serious issue but of more importance is the routine watching of porn by young boys and girls who are not addicted and those who aren’t looking at porn but end up seeing things of a sexual nature on their computers that frighten and confuse them. The fact that porn is now affecting the way teenagers and young men and women relate to each other is fairly well established. We need to get on board with this issue.
There are three main problems getting in the way of us dealing effectively with the topic.
- It is difficult to embrace the notion that our children have sexual desires and interests on anything other than a theoretical level.
- To deal with it effectively we parents have to be comfortable talking about the kind of sexual material that porn throws up.
- The ‘boys will be boys’ defence is a popular way of avoiding the issue.
- These are severe but completely understandable impediments to being able to help our children. In my opinion we just don’t have an option, we have to get involved.
Let’s be clear the ‘lock down’ solution isn’t a solution at all, it’s a cop out. We all know that even if our computer system has all the blocks known to mankind, Charlie’s computer round the corner probably doesn’t. Furthermore teenagers love nothing more than to try to open doors that say ‘prohibited’ on them.
I suggest that a way to start to address the problem is to acknowledge that porn is out there and even if they aren’t watching it the chances are they are party to conversations where it is discussed. You can then make it clear that you are happy to talk through anything they see that upsets or frightens them. It’s worth remembering that for many the major driver at the outset is curiosity rather than gratification. At some point we have to drive home the fact that porn has nothing whatsoever to do with relationships and is indeed destructive to their development. Don’t hold back from explaining exactly why this is the case. The domination and humiliation of young women are the major relational dynamics in porn videos. This has to be talked about. This sort of dialogue needs to be sensibly developed through time in order that our children can be protected from the worst aspects of porn. There is no quick fixes and don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise.