Sep 302014
 

I’ve been writing about the topic of talking about sex with kids, and it occurs to me, porn is kind of a subject unto itself.

In one post recommended to me on The Good Men Project, Andrew Smiler, the author, wrote “porn is about as realistic as an unscripted ‘reality’ TV show and as healthy as junk food.” And then he recommended a porn site I hate.

Porn, like the internet, and TV, and technology, isn’t a thing. It’s a lot of things. When smart people talk about porn, for some reason, they often say dumb things. I hope to avoid that particular pitfall in this post, in which I explore my thoughts about porn as it relates to kids. In this conversation, smart people have a smart conversation about kids and porn. I disagree with a lot of what they say, but it’s an interesting conversation.

Here are my thoughts:

First, foremost, kids are gonna look at porn. When I was a lad, I found my uncle’s hidden Playboy stash. My best friend showed me the porn he’d stolen from the rabbi for whom he babysat. And another friend, inexplicably, had several copies of Club and High Society stashed under the floorboards of his “clubhouse.” By the time I was 12 or 13, I was buying my own porn at seedy newsstands. Notwithstanding my current life, I don’t think I was a particularly oversexed pre-teen, or particularly advanced in these matters. In other words, I think boys and porn found one another then. (Even my closest gay male friend had a Playboy stash.)

Nowadays, porn lives on the internet. Kids don’t need to find their dads’, or their rabbis’, porn. They can just Google “big boobs,” as Adam Savage’s son did (and as his dad saw fit to tell me, and you, on a Moth stage). It seems to me vitally important to acknowledge that, if kids can find porn easily on the internet, they will. So on some level, the question of “whether porn is good or bad” is almost moot. The real question isn’t whether it’s good or bad – it’s how do we want to talk to our kids about porn.

Unlike, say, Andrew Smiler, who seems content to tell us the 14 things we must tell our sons about sex, I have no clue what you should do, what you should say. All I can do here is think a bit about what I want to say, what I want to do.

I want my son to know the following:

1) For better or worse, the vast majority of males (something shockingly close to 100%) enjoy some or other kind of porn. Girls like porn too, though not in quite the same numbers. While there’s nothing wrong with anyone, male or female, who doesn’t like porn, particularly among males, such people are less common than those who enjoy porn, who use it to masturbate, who use it to explore their own sexual desires, who use it to spice up their sex lives with their partners.

2) And… those (and many other) uses are all excellent. I can’t think of a better way for a person to explore her or his sexual tastes than through porn. The risks are minimal, the variety is infinite. The worst thing that can happen is you can see something that repulses you. There’s no porn-surfing kid in the world who doesn’t have a laser-quick ALT- or CTRL-F4 (or CMD-W, or Q) reflex. Andrew Smiler wanted to warn his kids about the danger of stuff they “could never un-see.” I think kids are smarter than this presumes: yes, of course, there’s lots out there that’s not for you. Some of it is intentionally, objectively disgusting. And your job is to find what you like. Do it diligently, and learn how to avoid the neighborhoods you don’t like being in. And/but, don’t stifle your curiosity out of judgment.

2) Porn depicts sex in much the same way that books and movies depict life: that’s to say, some porn does it quite well, some does it awfully, and some of the best of it is great precisely because of the distance between it and real life. And, at the same time, just as many books and movies reinforce all sorts of negative stereotypes – gender stereotypes, ethnic and racial stereotypes, religious stereotypes, class stereotypes – so too does much porn. And just as it’s important to read critically, it’s important to watch porn critically.

(Note: in a post to follow I will explore the sexualization of women and girls, and how I hope to talk about it with my son. But suffice it to say, I don’t think porn is particularly different than any other corner of our universe in its depictions of men and women, except that it’s a little more unapologetic, a little more crude, a little less subtle.)

3) Related, porn is a product, designed to sell. Those women with pneumatic breasts in porn? They’re there because porn producers have determined that they sell videos. NOT because women should have pneumatic breasts, or even because men want women to have pneumatic breasts. They’re there because they sell videos. Period. Never forget that what you’re watching is a product, designed to sell. Same with shaved pubic hair, rampant anal sex, money shots, facials, oral-fucking-money shot progressions, and every other ubiquitous or frequent porn meme: it’s there to sell, not because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. Your sex should look like porn sex exactly to the extent that you and your partners want it to, and not one bit more.

4) Further related, some porn is the equivalent of Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies: stuff we watch people do on screen because we know we’ll never do it in real life. Because it’s impossible, implausible, or horrifying. To do. But not to watch. Watching shoot-‘em-up movies doesn’t make you a murderer. Neither does watching [insert objectionable porn genre here] make you a person who does (or even who wants to do) those things. But it’s important to remember what you’re watching, and what its relationship to real life is.

5) Last, but not least: In my house, we care how workers are treated. We care about workers at Amazon, at Wal-Mart, at Starbucks. We care about workers at United and Delta and GM and Ford. We care about workers at Uber and Lyft. And we care about workers in porn. It matters how workers are treated by their employers, and when it’s possible to know more about how workers are treated, and to inform your purchasing decisions with this knowledge, this is a good thing to do. I generally prefer my porn from women-owned companies, though, of course, gender is no assurance of decent treatment. And if I hear or read even a whiff of discontent among actors/actresses, there’s enough great porn out there that I always can find an alternative without the stink of poor labor practices.

In conclusion:

There’s nothing I can say about porn-surfing that’ll make you more or less likely to do it. Do it or don’t, but please know that I certainly will never judge you, either for the fact that you do or don’t do it, or for your personal porn tastes.

As for making porn, stay tuned – I’ll have something to say on the question of selfies, sexting, and the like, in the coming days.

What do you think, dear readers? Anything I left out here? Stuff with which you disagree?

 

Note to parents on parental controls and limits on screen time: I don’t discuss them here because I think they’re irrelevant. No matter how pervasive and protective are your parental controls and limits on screen time, your kids will find porn. Parental controls, in particular, communicate shame quite effectively while limiting access to porn completely ineffectually.

Note to kids on privacy: if you don’t want your parents to know your porn tastes, at a minimum, surf in porn mode, and better yet, surf far away from your home.

  One Response to “Porn for kids”

  1. Porn is not meant for kids, only proper sex education that emphasize both knowledge and responsibility !

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