How Dads Can Prepare to Discuss Pornography with Their Daughters
Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash
When you think of your daughter, you might think of the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme. “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice.” As a father, the last thing on your mind is that one day you’ll have to talk to your daughter about pornography.
Today’s article discusses a very sensitive subject, but as a father raising a precious little girl in a very different world, I feel it’s necessary to give this topic its due diligence. Let’s look at why it’s important to have these discussions and how exactly we should go about them.
Why Is it Important to Speak to Your Daughter About Pornography?
Children today are becoming exposed to the internet at much younger ages. With the many devices and constant exposure to screen time, it’s only a matter of time before your daughter is exposed to something unsavory on the internet.
Not only is nothing private or sacred anymore, but our culture has become increasingly hypersexualized. Social media, internet chat rooms, and social applications are only a few examples of where your daughter could be exposed to pornography.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps if you ban the internet in your home you can minimize the risk. However, that train of thought will do more harm than good. Remember that almost every child has a smartphone and an internet connection these days.
There’s a very powerful quote by Doug Flanders that reads, “No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.” It reminds me of the countless hours I spent baby-proofing cabinets and drawers when my daughter was a baby. While I wish I could run out into the world and remove all the bad things from her path, I know that I can’t. But I can do the next best thing, which is to prepare her to deal with those bad things.
Create a Foundation of Trust with Your Daughter
The first step in discussing pornography with your daughter is by creating a foundation of trust. Healthy teamwork in sports requires trust, just like in the case of a family. This process begins as early as the toddler days. Engage in conversations with your little one about topics that include their bodies, which areas are considered private and why, what consent is, and general health and well-being.
You aren’t going to be too graphic with your three-year-old, but this is when and how you’ll want to start the conversation. As your daughter grows up, the conversation will continue to grow based on what you’ve already taught her. As she grows older she won’t be as hesitant to ask questions because she feels comfortable discussing such topics with you.
Let Your Daughter Ask Questions!
Encourage your daughter to ask questions about pornography and related topics. Remember that this topic should be in the form of a conversation between you and your daughter with two-way dialogue back and forth. There should always be room for questions, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable they might make you feel. Approach it as part of a general discussion about women’s bodies, necessary boundaries, healthy relationships with herself and others, and what a healthy body image is. Ideally, you and your partner should both have these types of conversations with your daughter on an ongoing basis.
If there are any questions she asks that you don’t have the answers to, table the question for a later time and do research into the topic to help her learn safely and accurately. It’s important to find the relevant answer and provide her feedback, all the while making her feel her questions matter to you. This builds on the trust relationship that you need to build with her.
Keep Your Tone Approachable and Casual
Avoid having a stern or overly anxious tone when discussing pornography or any other sex-related topic. A stern tone might make her feel uncomfortable or as if she has asked something wrong. These sorts of interactions will scare her and will shut off any future opportunity for such a conversation between you.
Discuss the Importance of Consent
From an early age, it’s important to teach your daughter about boundaries and personal space. It’s important to establish that no always means no. Regardless of the situation, no should always mean no. This should apply not only to her own personal boundaries, but when she associates with others as well.
Mistakes to Avoid
Since pornography isn’t on the list of top topics we want to discuss with our daughters, we might often try and avoid the conversation altogether. Or at the very least, postpone it as long as we can. This is the opposite of what you want to do.
I’ve listed a few of the more common mistakes parents should avoid when talking to daughters about pornography:
- Not Talking About Pornography At All: Ask yourself the following question: Do you want your daughter receiving accurate, concise information from you or from strangers, other kids, or the internet? Engaging in the conversation will help you control the type of information she receives. Don’t avoid the topic!
- Not Preparing Before Discussing Pornography with Your Daughter: Discussing such a sensitive and controversial topic shouldn’t be done from one minute to the next. Firstly, you and your partner need to discuss what you define as acceptable and what you find offensive. You need to establish common ground. Both parents need to have the same answers and standpoints. Having different opinions on the subject will be confusing. Research your approach and practice the way you would answer certain questions so that you aren’t caught off guard.
- Not Listening to Your Daughter’s Thoughts About Pornography: As I’ve mentioned before, encourage questions. It’s important to specify that no topic is off-limits. Make a point of finding the answers to questions you might not have the answers to. It’s okay for you to not know everything!
- Not Monitoring Internet Use: Monitor your daughter’s internet usage. There are a lot of questionable topics and websites that are only a click away. Monitor social media accounts, chats and the use of applications. Ensure they are age-appropriate.
- Not Discussing What Healthy Relationships Are with Your Daughter: You need to constantly have conversations with your daughter about body image, body shaming, and the aspects of healthy relationships between people. Discuss what is acceptable and what isn’t. Help her establish her own self-worth.
When you discuss pornography with your daughter, approach the topic as you would any other topic. Allow for questions and answer as scientifically and accurately as possible. There’s no need to sugarcoat the topic. Always remember that your information could safeguard your daughter as she gets older.
Every time you feel like you want to avoid the topic, remind yourself that if you don’t discuss it with her, a stranger might. Approach the subject as part of a much broader topic. Start a conversation about body image, boundaries, and healthy relationships. Once you start the conversation it’ll become easier to build on it. Empower your daughter and “world-proof” her against the world!
For more information on communicating successfully with your child on a number of difficult topics, check out How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age. Available on Amazon.
Balint Horvath is the founder of Projectfather. He’s a first-time father and when his daughter doesn’t occupy him, he is a productivity coach. He started the site to share his lessons learned, research he has made along his journey. His Mission Is to help Dads in A-Z of Fatherhood.