“How to Talk to Your Teenager About Pornography” by Lisa Damour

The New York Times journalist Lisa Damour offers tips about how to begin talking to your teenager about pornography. This is an excerpt from a recent NYT article. The source of this excerpt is http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/how-to-talk-to-your-teenager-about-pornography/

[…] before you even bring up the topic, consider taking a look at what’s out there. Today’s readily accessible Internet pornography is more intense, explicit, violent, or downright strange than anything you’re probably imagining. We’re way past your brother’s tattered Playboy; no matter how worldly you are, don’t be surprised to find the current offerings difficult to watch, at best.parents

Assuming you’ve armed yourself with a sense of today’s pornography, or are taking my word for it, craft a game plan for the conversation. Give your teenager fair warning of what’s on your mind — something like, “We need to talk about Internet pornography; there are a few things I want to be sure you know,” should do. Your personal views and family values will dictate what you say next and how you say it, but here are a few points to consider.

Pornography depicts one shadowy and loveless corner of the vast landscape of human sexuality. Your teenager might profess a sophisticated understanding of the many varieties of sexual activity, but there’s still no harm in saying: “I know that a lot of kids are looking at porn online, but I’m hoping you won’t. Sex can be mutual, loving and fulfilling and it can be dark, offensive and destructive. What you see in pornography is almost always the wrong kind of sex, and I don’t want you getting the impression that that’s what sex is all about.”

[…]

Many people consider pornography to be fundamentally exploitive. If you go this route, try: “In pornography, someone’s always making money off someone else’s degradation. When you watch pornography, you are participating in exploitation. We don’t do that in our family.”

[…]

Don’t expect your teenager to ask a lot of questions or thank you for raising the topic. A quick exit from the car or an abrupt change of subject is likely to end the conversation. And don’t trust that your teenager will forever forsake porn. Statistically, boys are more likely than girls to seek pornography, but even if you take steps to block it (which you should consider), most teenagers will eventually be exposed to porn or dating someone who is. If that happens, you will want your teenager to hear something besides the soundtrack of the all-too-accessible and all-too-adult world of pornography: your voice, offering another point of view.

This is a significantly shortened excerpt. To read the full article, please visit the New York Times website http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/how-to-talk-to-your-teenager-about-pornography/

Lisa Damour is a psychologist in private practice in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a clinical instructor at Case Western Reserve University and the director of Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls.