Due to the Internet, pornography is now readily available to anyone at any age in any location. In fact, the average age of first exposure to pornography is now around 11 years old. Without knowledge or understanding what is consensual, respectful intimacy in a relationship, pornography can become a major source of sex education for young people. Even scarier, both violent and nonviolent pornography make users more likely to support violence against women and to believe that women enjoy being raped. Worse yet, research studies show these beliefs are predictive of a person being sexually aggressive in real life.

Overall, exposure to pornography creates unrealistic expectations of sexual activity for both men and women.  As a parent, it’s important to have an open and honest discussion about pornography. Here are some ways to approach the subject:

  • Have a two-way conversation with them that does not involve judgment or blame, especially if they admit or you have seen them already watching pornography.
  • Acknowledge the subject is difficult to discuss, but necessary to talk about.
  • Explain that pornography, like movies and TV, is made up. It is not representative of actual sexual intercourse, even if it is promoted as “amateur” or “real life” pornography.
  • Reference other media, like movies, TV, and video games, as a jumping off point to talk about how your child views sexual violence and aggression. What are examples of healthy and unhealthy portrayals of sex?
  • No matter what, if and when they are old enough to have a serious talk about sexual intimacy with a dating partner, both partners should agree beforehand to any sexual activity. Both dating partners should feel comfortable expressing what they do and do not want in terms of sexual activity, and neither should manipulate, cajole, or force the other into doing something.

Talking openly about the differences between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive behaviors in terms of sexual intimacy with a dating partner will allow you to connect with your child and help them make informed decisions about dating, relationships, sex, and pornography.

For more information, visit Fight the New Drug, which deals more exclusively with pornography and its effects on young people.