There are many reasons why you need to discuss pornography with your kids.
And before you say "my kids are too young for this" consider that a third of 14- to 16-year-olds reported seeing their first sexual images online when they were 10 years old or younger.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to attend a Maree Crabbe workshop titled 'Eroticising Inequality: Pornography, young people and sexuality'. Maree has worked with Dr David Corlett on the community education project Reality & Risk: Pornography, young people and sexuality and they are Co-Producers and Co-Directors of the excellent documentary film Love and Sex in the Age of Pornography.
Ever since attending that session I have been a strong advocate for including education about the negative impact of pornography in our school health curriculum.
Fiona McCormack. Chief Executive Officer. Domestic Violence Victoria, also recently talked about the link between pornography and gender based violence at a domestic violence forum I attended. Unfortunately power, gender inequality and aggression are all strong themes in contemporary pornography.
"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."
Gail Dines, Anti Pornography Activist
So, considering all of this, what do parents need to know?
- Porn is everywhere and is available 24/7
- Porn can set unrealistic body images for boys and girls
- Young people are not just watching porn, they are using it as their 'sex ed
- Contemporary porn content is rougher and harder and more aggressive than in previous decades. That means young people are learning that rough, sexist, aggressive, and often brutal sex, is not only normal but expected.
- Porn can shape sexual tastes and expectations. This is a concern as pornography now commonly includes gagging, anal sex, group sex, three way simultaneous penetration, and ejaculating in a women's eyes, mouth and eyes.
"In pornography today, girls must be willing, subservient, and do whatever the male wants her to do. Boys are expected to take the lead, be forceful and push the limits" Susie O'Brien
So what can you do?
For younger children it starts with teaching them to be responsible users of technology and critical media consumers.
- Monitor or restrict access to internet enabled devices.
- Keep the family computer in a central place.
- Establish a routine where all internet enabled devices are placed on charge in a communal area by a set time each night
- Talk about 'images' and 'stereotypes' created by the media and how uses these images are used to make you feel a certain way in order to make you buy certain products.
- Check your internet browser history. If you notice that your kids are searching for body parts (boobs, penis, etc) or using the word 'sex', it's time to have a conversation with them about adult content on the internet. Establish clear rules and expectations around not accessing such content.
As they get older:
- Watch the fantastic documentary 'Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography' with them. It will give you a great starting point to discuss issues around consent, unrealistic expectations, body image and aggression towards females. The comments from young people about their experience of pornography and it's impact on their sexual development are quite confronting.
- Continue to monitor their access to internet enabled devices and limit their exposure; continue to keep computers out of bedrooms and limit access to wi-fi. Young people do not need to be connected to the internet 24/7.
- Equip them with practical skills about what to say or do when friends find/discuss pornography.
- Ask your child's school how they are addressing the issue in their curriculum.
- Visit www.itstimewetalked.com.au - it's the perfect resource for parents and kids and provided much of the information presented in this post.
Tell me, do you think we need to worry about the impact of pornography on our kids? Do you think there is a link between pornography and gender violence?
Linking up with Essentially Jess.