Porn Before Puberty

On a recent ABC News Nightline, anchor Juju Chang reported on the growing and frightening phenom of pre-teens learning their sex-ed from internet porn. A forthcoming film entitled “Sexy Baby: A Documentary about Sexiness & the Cyber Age” provided a launching point for the piece.

In a nutshell: A generation of kids are learning about sex, not from their parents, but from internet porn.

Here’s a quote from the Sexy Baby website:

“Most youngsters know someone who has emailed or texted a naked photo of themselves. Many kids have accidentally or intentionally had their first introduction to sex be via hardcore online porn. Facebook has created an arena where kids compete to be ‘liked’ and constantly worry about what image to portray—much of what was once private is now made public…We found that the adult entertainment world…is trickling into the mainstream world…”

Trickling? Hmmm…I’d say flooding is a better word.

Winifred, the teenage girl who was interviewed by Chang (and is one of the pre-teen subjects of the documentary), admits that she posts sexy pictures on Facebook which cannot be viewed by her parents. Instead, every boy at her school sees them. She realizes that the image she creates of herself forms an expectation for her behavior, producing a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy (i.e. sexy pictures=sexy Winifred).

So why does she do it?

(Photo removed)

“We’re getting messages from everywhere saying if you dress this way you are going to be either treated well or feel powerful. Sex is power.”

This sexual currency used for social popularity and acceptance has become a normal part of adolescence throughut our culture. (See my post on sexting for more info.) Parents seem genuinely confused about how to limit their kid’s consumption of porn or even if they should.

In the ABC piece, Winifred’s mother recalls the girls she knew in college who were raised in overly restrictive homes and then went “wild” once they had their freedom. She doesn’t want that for her daughter so she gives her the freedom to wear provocative clothing and post sexy images of herself online.

Clearly parents are confused.

But wait! There’s one glimmer of hope from Winifred!

“If parents are able to talk to their children about what real love and real sex is later on in life, most of the kids I know would trust their parents over two porn stars that they’ve never met.”

I hope she’s right!

But… I’m not sure that’s always the case. Especially if parents continue to condone overtly sexual behavior and clothing in their pre-teen children. Or if they wait too long to seriously discuss sexuality and pornography.

Dr. Jill Manning, in her audio presentation, Let’s Talk About the Elephant in the Room, tells the story of a 9-year-old boy who started watching pornography online, getting into homosexual porn as well. When his parents finally sat him down for the “sex talk,” he dismissed their version of sex. He realized they didn’t know anything about it.

They did know something about it, but their description of sex and his porn-infected view were worlds apart.

How can parents protect their kids from internet porn? What can they teach them and at what age? Let me know what you think! What are your experiences in teaching your children a healthy view of sex before they get exposed or curious about pornography?

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