November 4, 2015
I was not aware when I wrote to my sons about porn there would be people out there (mostly men, from what I can tell) who think that as a woman, that isn’t my job. They believe it’s a conversation for fathers and sons. While I absolutely agree that fathers and sons can and should be having these talks many times over the years, I also believe a mother’s perspective is important. If you are a mother who has shied away from this conversation because you believe it isn’t your place to talk to your boys about these things, let me tell you why I think it’s not just okay for you to talk about it, I think it’s imperative.
Mothers are the practical educators of the home. In our home conversations about sex, boundaries, and bodies happen early. When we start potty-training right around age 2, we talk about the correct names of their body parts and we start emphasizing privacy. You know who has most of those conversations? Moms do. I’m not saying dads can’t or won’t be part of it, but for many children their mother is going to be the person who starts the dialogue about the specialness of their body and God’s design for it. My husband is equally capable of addressing these issues, but is often less available than I am. When my kids have questions about something inappropriate they heard in school, they come to me. When a friend says or does something that makes them feel uncomfortable, they come to me. If they have a question about personal hygiene or a health concern, they come to me. If my kids see porn, I want them to COME TO ME. We let them know they should talk to us by initiating the conversation (in our house we use the book “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” as part of that process). If I’m the one talking to them about boundaries and sex the majority of the time, but expect my husband to be the ONLY one to talk to them about porn, that doesn’t sit well with me. Porn is not some man secret that I’m unaware of or too scary for me to address.
Boys need to understand the impact of porn on women. I am fully in support of my husband having conversations with our sons about porn. He is going address them from a different perspective and with a different level of understanding about how boys are wired. But here’s my issue– I think for FAR too long porn has been portrayed as some kind of victimless crime or a harmless guilty pleasure for men. I know my husband wouldn’t minimize it that way, but I think it takes a woman to emphasize the damage porn is doing TO WOMEN. We are suffering for this cultural acceptance of how sex and women are portrayed in porn. My boys need to hear from a woman what is sold to you in porn is not what women are like and it is not what they want. We are being bullied by porn into a caricature of womanhood that bares little resemblance to the reality. I highly recommend this piece about the research and advocacy of Gail Dines. She is quoted as saying:
“We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn,” she says, “and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women.”
I am happy for my husband to talk to my sons about porn and how it will impact them if they engage with it, but my message for them will be about how it impacts women. I will not sit silently by and watch this generation of boys be socialized and educated about women by porn. In defense of their sisters, their friends, their future wives, I will speak openly with them about the lies of porn when it comes to how it depicts women. I hope the mothers raising the future husbands of my daughters are doing the same.
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