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Teens, Sex and Porn

Aug18

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Wow, you really must have wanted children badly to do that seven times. Yuck. Now I know why people just have one kid.

So said my son the first time we had The Talk.

I had been nervous.  This was a big parental milestone in my mind. I waited until we were in the car all alone to bring up the subject of the birds and the bees, a place I highly recommend for starting awkward conversations. When it was over and I had answered all the difficult questions, I patted myself on the back, glad to be done with it.

What I hadn’t realized then was that was the easy part, discussing the cut and dry mechanics of sex. I hadn’t realized that it was just the beginning of an ongoing conversation. A conversation where I would have to push past my own embarrassment and get over my own hang ups. A conversation that would one day even bring me to the point where I could nonchalantly utter the phrase “oozing, warty penis” while I washed dishes. That day in the car, the difficult questions had not yet even begun.

I spend a lot more time doing something that I never imagined I would have to do. Not talking about the actual mechanics of sex, or birth control, but rather things that aren’t as cut and dry. Respect for themselves, respect for girls/women, impressing upon them that sex is not performance art, in spite of what the media would have you believe, and why they shouldn’t be viewing pornography.  Because I said so is sadly not an option.

My fear is that being inundated with porn is going to ruin real intimacy for my sons. (My only daughter is too young still for me to be worrying about her in this way. I shudder to think what will plague me by the time that she is a teenager.) No longer are mothers finding Playboy magazines hidden under their sons’ mattresses. Instead they are finding hardcore porn in the history of their family computers.

I remember the very first time I saw a porn movie. I was 19 and in Africa, of all places, at a small hotel that had only one channel on the tv, a porno channel. I was traveling with a friend and we both watched the movie in a fascinated, detached, clinical sort of way. At one point I turned to her and admitted that I had no idea what that closeup was showing us. She admitted that she had no idea either. We laughed and turned it off shortly after that. Neither of us were virgins, it was just that what we saw on the grainy tv screen had no relevance to our own sex lives. Now I wonder what if it were the other way around. What if your first exposure to sex was as voyeurs not participants? How does that change everything? What sort of expectations does it set up?

I mean I have never ordered a pizza and had the delivery man expect to be invited in for an orgy. Perhaps the possibility exists that I have just not ordered pizza from the right restaurant, though I doubt it. And this example is a benign one. Talk to me when you hear you teenagers laugh at the joke told by a late night talk show host regarding a certain internet porn site, one which involves something you don’t even want to think about.

When I was a teenager there were no expectations for sex other than being there. It was quite enough to show up and be willing. Getting pregnant was the worst thing that could happen, well, right after getting caught by your parents. Now children of all ages are inundated daily with soft porn images and casual references to things that were once considered seedy and only discussed in hushed whispers.

The family computers in my home are all locked down and they live in very visible places, but with handheld internet capable devices and kids who probably know more about computers than I do, having restricted internet access on the family computer is like a quaint throw back to a more innocent time. Like 1995. It really only prevents younger children from accidentally accessing websites.   My teenagers have iPhones.  The Internet is at their fingertips 24/7. I can not police that.

Therefore, the goal has become not imposing restrictions upon my teenage sons, but teaching them why they should restrict themselves. I’m not sure how that is going, frankly. I feel like we are watching an ongoing social experiment with this generation of young men, how will it turn out? My only hope is that by keeping the lines of communication open, and I mean wide open, that my sons will talk to me. And for my part, it means not freaking the hell out when they test the water and tell me the small things.

What does [girlfriend] want as a present?

She doesn’t want anything.

Oh, come one. She has to want something.

No, she said she doesn’t want anything.

Ok, tell me verbatim the conversation so that I can translate girlspeak for you. Because this? Sounds like a trap.

Well, she said she doesn’t want me to buy her anything. All she wants for a present is me.

I can not tell you everything that ran through my head in the .8 seconds before I opened my mouth, mostly because it is not fit for print. But I was acutely aware that it was important to keep the conversation flowing and the only way to do that was to remain calm and matter of fact about the whole thing, even though inside I was silently plotting ways to drive over to the girl’s house and break every bone in her body. I think a full body cast might deter them both, right? Though who knows, there is probably a fetish website for that also.

What do you think about that?

I was glad we weren’t driving in the car, because finishing that conversation in my kitchen that night required an extra large glass of wine.

About the author

Chris Jordan

http://notesfromthetrenches.com
Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.

Yes, they are all hers.

No she's not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.

Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That's why her youngest is almost 6.

Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.


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25 Responses to “Teens, Sex and Porn”

  1. Molly Aug 18 at 11:29 am Reply Reply

    AAAAAAHHHHHH! (horrified scream; not contented sigh!)

    I know eventually I’ll have to put on reasonable-but-hip mom pants and deal with this, but for now I just want to put my head in the sand and insist things will be different by the time my 10-month old son turns 15…or 14… or 13… or whatever freaky-young age you start having this conversation!

  2. Mary Lou Aug 18 at 2:04 pm Reply Reply

    OK so I’m 26 and just had my first baby. A boy! I’m sure it will be even worse in 15 years… So call me naive but I’m hoping (really hoping!) that what she meant was quality time right? She didn’t really mean she wanted him in the literal sense for a gift right!? Oh man I’m really praying for you and my future teenage son. And I think I’m going to need to stock up on wine : )  

  3. nicki Aug 18 at 4:50 pm Reply Reply

    My kids are NOWHERE near this point but from someone who got their sex education from her mother’s historical romance novels…. better to have the conversations than not.  I had a completely unrealistic view of relationships, marriage, and sex.

    It sounds to me that no matter how she meant it…. she’s got issues.  Insecure that he wants to date her, using sex to keep him or just because she thinks she should, or just playing games with him…. 

    I sincerely hope that it takes my kids another decade to discover the other gender!!

  4. suzie Aug 18 at 4:50 pm Reply Reply

    whimper. 
    I have girls.  
    In my perfect world, whether we have boys or girls, our messages to our kids are the same:  respect yourself, respect your partner.  Wholly and completely.  
    My older daughter is almost 14.  Yet, I’m feeling 100% convinced that I am *years* from her thinking about having sex.  She’s a very young almost-14.  
    No, really.  

  5. Heather's Garden Aug 18 at 5:25 pm Reply Reply

    I just had the respect the girl, respect yourself talk with my 20yo stepson. And I probably crossed a line when I privately told his 20 yo girlfriend, “I know you’re an intelligent woman and fully capable of doing research, and I also know you don’t have the most open relationship with your mom, but I want to make sure that you know if you have any questions or need advice on anything I am available. I know not all moms were like mine running around the house when I was 12 shouting ‘Condoms, Heather, no teenage pregnancies in this household.’ Not that I think you’re likely to take me up on the offer, which is fine, but I needed to make it.” To which she replied “Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind.”

  6. kaap Aug 18 at 8:01 pm Reply Reply

    You have no idea how thankful i am for this extremely well-written article in the middle of several others about 5 year olds. I mean, i scoff at my Self when my children were 5. I had NOTHING to worry about then compared to now. You brought up some very difficult questions that i have no answers to. Like one of the commenters above said, i too hope she meant time with your son, not your son himself. eeks!

  7. Cary Aug 18 at 8:27 pm Reply Reply

    Kept losing my place due to the children behind me, and had to keep restarting at “oozing, warty, penis” I think I that’s my lesson in this conversation.

    Also, I think girlfriend’s comment was meant to be more needy and vomit inducing than sexual.

  8. Tina Aug 18 at 8:46 pm Reply Reply

    Holy Cow.  I have 3 boys…(7 and younger but love everything you write and had to follow you over here and figure it’s good to start thinking about them being older soon and wow do I understand now about the little kid = little problems, big kids = big problems saying) ANYWAY, thanks for this, for your honesty and for the reality check. We’re already working on “No means No” (works well with wrestling brothers) and respecting boys AND girls, but wow. I am SO not ready for that. I’d love to hear more how that conversation ended up. 

  9. anonymous Aug 18 at 9:03 pm Reply Reply

    Oh my gosh, I don’t have kids yet (possibly start trying w/ the hubby in a couple of years) and I am TERRIFIED about what the world will be like in 10-15 years when I have to start dealing with that. Can’t they just stay little forever? Sigh.

    I remember making a contract with my parents when I turned 13 that I would wait until marriage to have sex. It lasted until I was 19. I don’t remember having a whole lot of sex talks with them but I was a very innocent teenager who really wasn’t temped until 19…

    I think your approach with your son is right on. I’m impressed that he can be that open and sharing with you.

  10. Lucinda Aug 18 at 9:38 pm Reply Reply

    I have one of each (7 & 8). Talking to my son freaks me out way more than talking to my daughter. Mostly because he communicates so differently. You will be a pro at this by the time your daughter is ready I think.

  11. Mary W Aug 18 at 10:59 pm Reply Reply

    I never thought I’d have a conversation with my teen about what to do if a girl sent him nude photos of herself from her phone.   Twenty years ago, our parents didn’t have to worry about this.  

  12. magpie Aug 19 at 12:51 am Reply Reply

    I teach middle school science, and in 8th grade the topic is HIV prevention. My first year I didn’t think I would make it. They asked all sorts of questions that let me know they REALLY needed to know how to prevent STD’s. Now I am more at ease with discussing the topic of sex, but I hope that will be true when my girls are older. The one message I tell my students is to TALK TO THEIR PARENTS ABOUT IT!! I always hope that they do. Oh and btw, it’s spring time of the 6th grade wher your kid will start to go crazy and start turing into a teen. Its horrible.

  13. Jen Aug 19 at 2:11 am Reply Reply

    Chris, I read your posts all the time, so when I saw this I had to check it out. I have a 14 yr old & 11 yr old boy. Funny, I was just looking around on facebook for kids that I know my 14 yr old is friends with & WOW! Our kids are exposed to sooooo much we were not even aware of at their age!! I can only hope that my husband & myself have instilled wisdom & morals in our children that will keep them safe through out their teen years. My daughters are 4 & 7 and I cringe to think about what their world will be like. :(

  14. Bonnie Aug 19 at 3:23 am Reply Reply

    GAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! I’m 30 weeks pregnant with my first, a girl, and now I’m terrified!!

  15. Nelson's Mama Aug 19 at 9:35 am Reply Reply

    Love this post and your honesty…I have two daughters (18 & 13). I’m continually amazed at how naive and rigid other parents are in this day and time with their children and how they manage to shut down conversations with their kids…you can’t shield them from everything, but you can hopefully prepare them for some of it.

  16. Annie Mouse Aug 19 at 9:36 am Reply Reply

    You know, I have to disagree with Nicki – I don’t parse that as “I wanna make with the funky chicken for my birthday,” but that’s ‘cos frankly, I said things like that as a teen girl. I was sexually active in high school, as were many of us, I suspect, but frankly, my high school honey was an incredible guy – and I just really enjoyed spending time with him. I feel the same way about my partner now – he IS a gift in my life. *shrug* 

    I can only imagine how difficult this is as a parent. Many of my friends and co-workers prefer to hide their heads in the sand and pretend that “my kid is a good kid, so s/he won’t do that.” Well, weren’t YOU a good kid? And you had sex  in high school. I was an honour student who volunteered at the assisted living facility; I was a Girl Scout; I was active in my church — and I had pre-marital sex. 

    The question is no longer “will they?,” and too many parents pretend that it is. The question is “will they be equipped to handle it?” 

    Having said all of that? We have had a massive pornification of our culture – which is interesting, given the myriad ways we seem to be ashamed of our sexual nature. I think lack of fear or shame in discussing these things, and realistic expectations are key in fostering healthy attitudes about sexuality in kids. I saw a webtoon recently that encapulated it perfectly for me: 

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_VGsreexPmwc/TA4Bbn1tz-I/AAAAAAAAA8Q/jTue8H6lMS8/s400/QzG4V.jpg

  17. Gigi Aug 19 at 9:51 am Reply Reply

    Oh God, I have triplets, 2 boys 1 girl. It means they are all going to reach this stage AT tHE SAME TIME. Maybe I can find a bridge to jump off of…

  18. Holly Aug 19 at 10:32 am Reply Reply

    Thank you, thank you, a million thank yous for discussing these topics with your sons. When I was in high school 5 yrs. ago it was completely normal for my male classmates to view porn. And of course in college, it was expected. I am beyond thankful that now I’m married to a man who enjoys intamicy with his wife and not a computer screen. My generation has taken all the emotion and feelings out of an act and reduced it to simply a physical excercise. Maybe I’m too much of a romantic….but I think it’s something more than that.

  19. Jules Aug 19 at 10:59 am Reply Reply

    My son is not yet 2 and already knows how to flutter his eyelashes at girls… And he only smiles for girls of any age. I hope my “your becoming an adult” speech to my children has a better outcome than the one I had with my mother. I was 25 before I realized it was hormones and not flowered patterned panties that caused me to have my period at age 12.

  20. suzie Aug 19 at 12:29 pm Reply Reply

    Commenting again to chime in with magpie’s comment about the spring of 6th grade.  So much changed in my younger (12yo) daughter’s class.  My head spun – maybe is still spinning.

  21. Courtenay Aug 19 at 12:31 pm Reply Reply

    chris, please don’t ever stop writing because i need to read everything you have to say!

  22. peepnroosmom Aug 19 at 3:30 pm Reply Reply

    I hear you about keeping the communication lines wide open. I have a 15 year old son, too. The stuff he comes home from school telling me curls my hair. And that’s just the stuff he is willing to share with me. Mom’s (and dad’s) need to get over the embarrassment of talking frankly about sex with their teenagers. They are already over it. Thanks for sharing this post with everybody!

  23. Alice Aug 19 at 7:54 pm Reply Reply

    Reading the above comments — women, remember that little girls are now growing breasts at 7 years old. I learned “the facts” at age 10 (in 1959) and 10-year-olds today are MUCH more wise to the way of the world that we were. If you’re not talking to your kids before they’re 10, you’ve already lost your chance to teach them the way you want them to learn.

  24. hennifer Aug 20 at 7:55 pm Reply Reply

    Great article but it makes me want to run and hide in the back woods away from all technology. I hope my son and my relationship withstands this hurdle.

  25. Julia@mamasaysso Aug 29 at 1:29 pm Reply Reply

    As the mother of a 16 year old boy, I am very familiar with the situation you honestly describe. Snaps to you for surpressing a full scale freak out and letting him talk openly to you. As long as your child is sharing information, it is easier to give him guidence and to know what your child is coping with. It opens up great (non preachy) conversations about values and decisions. As for the porn patrol – I have become the cyber spy. It was difficultfor him to stop going to these sites once he found them (Cyber porn in the modern day equivelent of the Playboy Magazines) until he knew we were checking the cache of his computer and phone. The parental controls are also helpful.

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