You know how when most people say “I have this kind of embarrassing question, but I’m asking for a friend?” they’re transparently asking for themselves? Well, I have a question for a friend (or rather that my friend asked me that I didn’t have a good answer for, and rapidly found interesting enough to bring to a wider audience), and it’s sort of tangentially not worksafe, but since it involves having a 13-year-old son (which last I checked, I do not), I get to say with assurance that it really is for a friend. So here goes:
Is there any “how to talk to your teenager about pornography” parenting-advice material — books, web pages, what have you — that doesn’t completely suck?
I spent some time combing through the most popular google search results for “talking to kids about porn”, and oh my god the stupid it burns. Just wall-to-wall awful. Here’s a quote from the number one search result:
You need to be worried about your son’s frequent, intense relationship with pornography primarily because of what it teaches him about sex and women. If you allow porn to be the principal sex educator of your son, you risk serious impairment of his healthy psychosexual development. Porn will teach him that girls and women want and enjoy being sexually used, dominated, and humiliated by men. It will encourage your son to try out the harmful fantasies that porn offers, including the fantasy that women secretly want to be taken forcibly or that they want to be raped. Porn will teach your son to objectify women, to treat them as toys who exist solely for his sexual gratification. Pornography is devoid of tenderness, caring, or loving in its images.How do you compress that much Wrong into a single paragraph? Oh, I know: make sweeping generalizations, avoid historical context at all cost, omit any and all qualifying adjectives, and leap instantly to the reducto ad absurdem case! Feel free, you’ve got a Masters of Education, you’re qualified to do it!
…I mean, god knows, internet pornography has certainly turned me into exactly the sort of psychopathic monster described there.
So in my hypothetical perfect universe, there would be a “talking with your horny adolescent about porn” pamphlet that would contain the following:
- No implicit anti-sex bias.
- Acknowledge that porn has existed for a good long time.
- Acknowledge that men and women have looked at (and created) porn for a very long time.
- Acknowledge that masturbation is okay. (Seriously, you would be amazed at the amount of material on this subject that either never mentions it or only coyly alludes to it. It’s like they’re talking about porn as experienced and used by some alien species only distantly if at all related to humanity.)
- An explanation that porn is (mostly) Not Real.
- Emphasize that it’s a paid performance job.
- Contextualize porn inside the larger world of fantasy entertainment (real police don’t act like they do on cop shows, so therefore..?)
- Delve into the un-glamorous mechanics of producing porn: enemas, viagra, vats of lube, editing, lighting, overdubbing, photoshop, etc.
- Healthy skepticism about the porn industry itself
- Emphasize that it’s just a job, and it’s often a crappy job.
- Explain the realities of how porn workers are often paid and treated.
- Explore the incentives the profit motive creates.
- Acknowledge that some pretty despicable behavior has and does gone on in the making of a lot of porn.
- Reality-based commentary
- Actual interviews with current and former performers, not just ex-officio pronouncements by some random PhD, and ideally a mix of positive and negative commentary.
- Acknowledge the limits of generalization: “porn” encompasses a lot of territory, and different people will experience it differently both as producers and consumers
- Actual historical background
- Greek vases, the Song of Solomon, Sappho, Walt Whitman, 1920s muscle magazines: nothing takes the wind out of a teenager’s sails like realizing that he didn’t invent sex himself…
- Some acknowledgement that there have always been wildly differing opinions on porn’s morality and effects, and that it’s an ongoing debate.
Does such a thing exist? Could such a thing exist? For that matter, is there some aspect of it that I’m missing?
(Politely, please. People who forget to cite sources or prefix opinions with “I think” will be swiftly and mercilessly disqualified by the judges.)