Why We Need to Fight for Our Kids’ Healthy Sexuality
By Amanda Grossman-Scott
“All of our children’s future intimate moments will be effected by and can be ruined by every moment of porn he or she is exposed to.”
Whether you realize it or not, we are all engaged in a war. Some of us are bystanders who don’t even know it’s happening. Some of us haven’t chosen a side yet. But the battle lines have been clearly drawn. The war is being waged over our kids’ minds. The two sides are: those who would expose our kids to everything that is out there versus those who feel kids should not be allowed to become entrenched in what has become our completely “pornified” culture until they are of a legal age and have reached full brain development and are prepared for it.
You’d think the war would be simple. Speaking in tactical terms, you’d just obliterate the enemy, right? But it’s not that easy. New outcroppings and underground groups pop up every day. In terms of pornography itself, anyone, anywhere at any time can film basically whatever is just short of illegal and post it online.
No, we can’t kill pornography. But we as parents have a strong influence over a resource the opposition- the pornography industry- desperately needs: a young, impressionable audience. Our kids’ undeveloped minds to corrupt. We can minimize the damages of this war by ensuring that our children don’t become one of the casualties. That’s why teaching healthy sexuality is so important. Because we can’t stop them from being exposed to the war, but we can prepare them to fight.
So how on earth did this ever happen? First of all, let’s get real; you parents know what’s out there. You know about the constant barrage of hypersexual content that our kids are exposed to everyday: the billboards, the commercials, the pop-ups, the apps, the clothes… Some of you may not know to what extent the violence in pornography has reached, many of you do not know that the internet has reached the staggering figure of 37% pornography saturation-which means that 37% of all internet content is pornographic-and that figure is from 2010! (Press Releases, 2010). Some of you may not care, some of you watch it, and that’s your prerogative. But here is the question-and this is the main question- the “pick which side you’re going to fight for in this war” question;
Doesn’t your child-when he or she is grown- deserve a genuine sexual experience? Doesn’t your child deserve to have a true, bona fide first time memory of his first kiss, her first touch? Not something that’s been utterly marred, scripted and dictated by what he’s seen in porn before he’s even had his first kiss?
Doesn’t your daughter deserve to decide what kind of sexual relationship she’s comfortable with instead of letting the images in her partner’s porn memory vault dictate that for her? An ever-increasing number of porn viewers are female (Weiss, 2012), and even if our daughters don’t watch it, chances are her partner will. Don’t all adolescent boys and girls deserve to grow and develop a healthy sexual attitude on his or her own terms?
In the society in which we currently exist, it’s damn near impossible. Because we have a generation of young people who think true intimacy isn’t necessary and doesn’t exist and that all sex encounters include anal sex and a “money shot”. And, because over 88% of porn contains acts of violence (Facts and Figures, n.d.), our kids are being trained to equate sex with violence. So many of us want to believe it’s “not my child” who is looking at porn or has been exposed to porn. But it is. It is a statistical probability that our children will see porn. Many will see it on mobile devices. (Jerrom, 2014)
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can educate ourselves, we can educate our kids. We can empower them with the knowledge they need to make good, healthy decisions for their sexual well-being.
Teaching Healthy Sexuality
The most important thing is teaching our children to develop a healthy sexual attitude or Healthy Sexuality. The first step in teaching anything it is understanding it.
- Healthy sexuality means that, first and foremost a person has a healthy, positive attitude toward his or her own body, no matter what. (This article is a good resource.) Teach your child to treat his or her body with respect. Are you respectful? As a mother, as soon as my kids are old enough to bathe alone, I tell them, “I will give you your privacy now”. Because I want them to understand that it is normal to want privacy and to respect others enough to give privacy. If I were always bursting in while they were changing or entering the bathroom during private time, my child might think he or she is not entitled to privacy and would think nothing of not respecting others’ private time or worse, think nothing of a stranger violating his or her private time. The point is that we must show respect for our bodies. At some point you must recognize that your child is a human being of value and worthy of respect in his own right. If you treat her this way, she will expect to be treated this way by those she meets and will tolerate nothing less. If we can accomplish this, we are miles ahead of the game. Because if each child can comprehend, really seize on the concept of a healthy self-worth… and hold onto that forever… the rest of healthy sexuality will come more naturally.
“When parents talk to and affirm the value of their children, young people are more likely to develop positive, healthy attitudes about themselves. This is also true when the subject is sex. Research shows that positive communication between parents and their children can help young people establish individual values and make healthy decisions.” (Advocates for Youth, 2008)
- Healthy Sexuality means having a positive attitude toward sex and one’s own sexual identification. This also means thinking about sex without feelings of shame, guilt or fear. If a person has the first part down, why then would anyone not have a positive attitude toward sex? Porn would be partially to blame. Porn and our pornified culture have told us that sex is not lovely but lustful. But the truth is that we’ve been making “sex” a dirty word for years!
One of the most important things we can do is remove the “shame stigma” from sex. How often do we act like there is something shameful in just talking about sex? Don’t be ashamed to say the word “sex”. Use it in everyday language with your kids so they get comfortable with it. “What sex is the dog?” “Has the doctor determined the sex of the baby yet?” “Does the movie have sexual content?” Use it at your discretion and age appropriately. Explain that it is to be used appropriately and in the right context; but that there is nothing shameful or dirty about the word “sex” itself.
“By understanding that sexuality is a natural part of human growth and development, and providing supportive environments that encourage children to feel good about themselves and to ask questions, parents, childcare providers and teachers can support healthy sexual development in children.” (Children’s Trust of South Carolina, 2014)
- Healthy Sexuality means being able to appropriately express love and intimacy as well as attaching meaning and emotion to sex. Once a person has reached an appropriate age to begin a sexual relationship, if he or she has a healthy sexual attitude, having sex should come with emotions attached. This is impossible if that person has been raised on a steady diet of porn. If we teach our kids that there is a natural progression to love and intimacy in adult relationships, we are on the right track. This starts with being expressive and affectionate in our family relationships and teaching our kids what is appropriate affection and with whom.“Parents’ most imperative message is not that…sexual development is a problem but rather that sexual intimacy should not occur until [they] are ready and only within a caring, mutually respectful relationship.” (Advocates for Youth, 2008) Obviously, this is not the kind of “relationship” portrayed in porn. We need to spend less time trying to keep our kids from finding out about sex and more time trying to make sure WE are the ones to give them the information they need and are naturally curious about. Then our kids will have a better understanding of the importance of developing their own healthy sexuality including: having a healthy sense of self-worth and respect for oneself, a positive attitude toward sex, feeling comfortable expressing affection, and hopefully, no need for pornography. Many of our generation of parents have been able to overcome the shame stigma associated with sex that has plagued the past. Now it’s time to teach our kids that sex is not only nothing to be ashamed of but something amazing and special and wonderful: which is why it should also be treated with respect.
Remember the “war on drugs”? The commercials warned us that our young bodies could be ruined forever by drug use. That wasn’t a lie and neither is this: your child’s young developing brain is ill-prepared and not equipped to handle the violence and horror that is modern day pornography. The eyes cannot un-see what has been seen. And sadly, all of our children’s future intimate moments will be effected by and can be ruined by every moment of porn he or she is exposed to. From his first hand holding session to her first kiss to his first night with a girl.
If you’re still deciding which side you’ll fight for, let me ask you this question again: Doesn’t your child-when he or she is grown- deserve a genuine sexual experience? Doesn’t your child deserve to have a true, bona fide first time memory of his first kiss, her first touch? Not something that’s been utterly marred, scripted and dictated by what he’s seen in porn before he’s even had his first kiss?
Talk with your kids. Often and much. When they are ready, tell them how amazing and extraordinary sex can be. Tell them how much better it is when both people are connected and don’t have someone else or some unrealistic pornographic expectation or image in mind. Fight for your kids to have the authentic intimate experience they deserve. An experience where they truly know how to express love and intimacy. If you can achieve this, then our children will have escaped this war unscathed.
Check out our books 30 Days of Sex Talks for awesome conversation starters about this and other sometimes-difficult subjects!
Healthy Sexual Development of Children, Children’s Trust of South Carolina. (2014, January 1). Retrieved July 5, 2014, from http://scchildren.org/building_strong_families/grow_strong_kids/healthy_sexual_development/
Viewing Sexuality as Normal and Healthy and Treating Young People as a Valuable Resource. (2008). Retrieved July 5, 2014, from http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/component/content/159?task=view
Press Releases. (2010, June 16). Retrieved August 19, 2014.http://www.optenet.com/en-us/new.asp?id=270
Jerrom, C. (2014, February 11). Safer Internet Day: Porn affecting 11-year-olds. Retrieved August 28, 2014. http://www.youngminds.org.uk/news/blog/1854_safer_internet_day_porn_affecting_11-year-olds
Facts and Figures. (n.d.). Retrieved August 28, 2014.http://stoppornculture.org/about/about-the-issue/facts-and-figures-2/
Weiss, D. (2012, February 21). Women Don’t Look at Pornography, Do They? Retrieved August 28, 2014.http://www.citizenlink.com/2012/02/21/women-dont-look-at-pornography-do-they/
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