I’ve written a lot about how we should be talking to our kids about sex and sexuality. Here’s where you can find it all (I think. . . ) in one place. I hope this is a helpful resource as you speak with your own kids about this important issue.
Having The Sex Talks:
Kids become curious about these things at different rates. Some kids won’t have any interest in this conversation while others will make you blush long before you thought you were ready. Be attuned to where your kids are at. If they ask you a question that makes you concerned or uncomfortable, ask them to clarify. Answer what they are actually asking, not the adult version of what you think they may be asking.
Here’s my terrible analogy– sex education should not be like skydiving, but like passing your driver’s test. We are not aiming for a one time event that ends in us all just surviving. We are trying to give them the rules of the road, the information they need to make safe and wise decisions for the rest of their lives. That’s going to require HOURS of guided education, not just a one time investment.
What I learned during those conversations was that kids from trauma often have a very disjointed understanding of sex and sexuality. A child can have little to no knowledge about the actual biological process of reproduction, but can have shockingly detailed questions about particular sex acts. This is what happens when sexual abuse and/or porn (and I fully believe introducing a child to porn IS sexual abuse) are your introduction to the mechanics of sex.
I get so very concerned when a parent tells me they have not talked to their child about sex because they believe that will keep the child from having an awareness of sex. It’s just not possible. It only means that the child won’t come to you with questions, so they will get their information somewhere else. A neighbor, a friend from church, their cousin, your computer, their own exploration of their body– these are all potential sources of information if you decide not to talk to them about it. Is that what you want?
Kids are going to ask stuff. Answer them honestly at a level they can understand and then let it go. They may have fifteen follow-up questions or none. If you give them an honest answer that’s a little light on details you’ll give them the ability to let you know what they’re really interested in by leading with their next question. There have definitely been times I thought my child was asking a much deeper question than he actually was, but by letting him lead the way he got the answer he needed when he was ready for it.
Ultimately we want them to talk to us, but there may be a reason why that doesn’t feel safe to them or they are in an environment where we aren’t present, so it’s good for them to know there are other people that we trust who could listen to them and help them know how to talk to us.
Child A: What if I have a job, I have a place to live and I’m getting married on Tuesday, but I want to have the sex on Monday?
Me: NO. NOT EVEN THEN. Here’s the deal– when Daddy and I got married, we promised to love each other forever, we gave each other rings, then we ate lunch with all our relatives, then we went away together and had sex. That is how you do things. Nobody takes any pants off until after you get married and have lunch with your relatives.
The statistics are staggering. Too many kids are being wounded by sexual abuse, particularly from people they should be able to trust. We need to arm our kids. We need to stop being afraid of having this conversation and start giving our kids tools to know how to handle what we know statistically could happen.
They often ask me questions I’m not sure about (Is this song okay to listen to? Is this video game appropriate? What does that word mean?) and I have to do some digging. My kids know if I don’t know the answer, I will find out and I will give them the truth and we’ll talk about it. That’s my agreement with them.
Talking to Your Kids about Porn:
We don’t want our kids to feel shamed for the very natural feelings of curiosity or even desire. They just need to be put in the right context. If we get angry with our kids, they are not going to be likely to come to us. If we don’t bring up this topic with our kids, they may not feel safe bringing it up to us. I think it’s important to talk to them with the assumption that they WILL view porn, we just want them to know how to deal with it when it happens.
This is not a hopeless book. It doesn’t just say “Porn is bad. Stay away from porn. If you see porn, you’re doomed. The end.” It explained WHY people want to look at porn and what damage that does to your brain. Then it moves on to give them a plan of what they should do when they encounter porn. The plan was simple, easy to remember, and effective. It sets good groundwork for them during these early years when they don’t really understand what they’re seeing, but they know it’s not okay.
I wish these conversations weren’t necessary for our toddlers and preschoolers. I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t have to worry that our kids could accidentally or innocently be exposed to harmful images. I wish we didn’t have to be concerned that someone in their life might try to show them something they shouldn’t see. But I have found I worry less about those things when I’m actively preparing my kids for what to do if it should happen.
Porn wants you to believe that women don’t age. Women don’t have cellulite. Women have the bodies of little girls with the sexual appetites of grown women. Women want all manner of degrading and scary things done to them even if they say they don’t. Please don’t believe those things. They will set you up for a lifetime of unrealistic expectations and unhealthy attitudes towards women.
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.
Porn is not a punchline. It isn’t harmless. Those of us who are offended by porn are not prudes. How we feel about sex in our personal lives has NOTHING to do with how angry we feel about the marketing of sex, women and bodies that happens in our culture today. The frustration I feel about how porn hurts people means I am incapable of being casual about it, shrugging it off or just laughing about it.