sex

I told my 10 year old son that if he watched porn, there were rules.

I knew the exact day my young son started watching porn.

His smart phone was linked to mine and while scrolling through his recent activities I saw a website called Red Tube pop up. He was only ten at the time and despite being one of those progressive mums who was the one of the first in our friendship circle to tell him the truth about Santa and sex (in that order), I’d failed to even mention pornography because, to be honest, I thought I had a few years up my sleeve before he even came across it.

Technology has accelerated the rate at which our children are being exposed to things which means we are having to shift our “important conversations” timeline in order to stay one step ahead of our tech-savvy, curious kids.

I had a rough idea of what I wanted to say to him about porn. The way I parent is to give my children all the information and then let them make decisions for themselves. I feel that if I restrict activities I make them more alluring. That’s why I don’t join my mum friends in banning technology throughout the school week and that’s why I don’t ever ban junk food. Instead I sit the kids down, explain my concerns, and then monitor their use or consumption, making suggestions along the way.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

Except I was freaking out about having to talk to him about porn. I'd had a little bit of experience in dealing with kids and porn courtesy of my little brother and my stepsons however it had never been my responsibility to talk to any of them about it. The sex talk was easy. No matter how awkward the conversation became I could always steer it towards sex being an expression of love or a way to make babies. Even masturbation was easier...It's good that you're exploring your body...

I could wrap most of these conversations up in something positive. How on earth could I possibly do that with porn?

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I realised I couldn't. I'd just have to try and explain it in a way that makes sense but more importantly, that doesn't leave him feel ashamed that he's been watching it.

We have a reasonably open relationship so one night while watching TV together I blurted out, "We should probably talk about Red Tube. You know that's not what sex is really like, right?"

He giggled and said that yes, he does realise that's not what sex is like but that he still watches it "heaps" and so do all of his friends, which I thought may be news to his friend's parents.

Watch the classic scene from There's Something About Mary, where after Ben Stiller has some *ahem* alone time, Cameron Diaz mistakes his semen for hair gel. Post continues after video.

"Do you have any questions about it," I asked.

"Not really, it's just that sometimes they make really stupid sounds," he said.

I nodded, explaining that they do that because porn is an exaggerated version of sex and not what it's like at all. "I just don't want you to have that expectation. Sex is about expressing love and affection, sometimes it's just about sharing pleasure, but it's not silly like that. It's up to you if you watch it, as long as you are careful about the kinds of videos you watch and as long as you know that sex isn't like that at all."

What I really wanted to say was, "Don't watch porn. It's disgusting. It degrades women. It's so fake. It's foul. You'll ruin your brain. Stop it. STOP IT." However I knew this wouldn't be ideal so I resisted the urge.

The problem parents face these days is that regardless of restrictions we set up on our children's devices, there are so many ways they can access porn that bypasses these restrictions and most of it is free, with no payments or verification of age required. Even YouTube is prematurely exposing our children to adult themes and concepts that we try and protect them from, all to no avail as it turns out. So we can either stamp our feet and ban some of their activities, or hold their hands through the process so they can learn as they go and hopefully, lose interest.

The movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno removes a lot of the glamour behind the genre, if it can be called that. The long-time friends try and make a porn as a way of making money and accidentally fall in love. Awww... Post continues after this video.

Sexual health educator Marnie Goldenberg told Babble that porn does need to explained earlier than we realise, pretty much as soon as our kids start using the internet unsupervised. Goldenberg runs sessions in which she facilitates conversations between parents and their children about topics such as porn. She says children need to be guided without shame or blame. She told the Vancouver Sun some of the things she suggests parents tell their kids about porn. “Tell your kids those actors are hired because they have very unusual bodies," she suggests.  "Not all men are that big, and not all women are that shape, and it’s all about camera angles and lighting and not really about sex at all. It’s acting.”

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It turns out that my son wasn't the first in his friendship circle to start watching porn. Another friend in his group told them all about Red Tube, once again reminding me that I was no longer the biggest influence in my son's life. He's my first born so with him I am frantically figuring things out as I go along. Now that he's getting older I'm struggling to keep up.

No matter what I do or say, or how I do or say it, I know that the bottom line is that I have to keep that line of communication open between us and that means not punishing him for some things I'd prefer him not to do, such as porn.

Before wrapping up the deliberately casual conversation about porn, I did have to set some rules.

"You can watch it if you like," I said, "but there are rules. No videos featuring rape, violence, kids or animals. Promise?"

He promised. Lines of communication, maintained.

After that I tucked him into bed, gave him a kiss on the head and went to bed, silently cursing my husband who begged me to have all of these awkward conversations with our children because he said, "I don't know what to say. Can you do it? I just can't handle it." Why can't he be one of those husbands who takes our son fishing and explains the way things are there, before handing him a first edition Playboy to add to his growing Spiderman collection?

A few weeks later as I drove my son and his friend to soccer I got a bit of a shock. They started talking about porn, right there in front of me. My son started the conversation, much to his friend's horror, before saying, "Don't worry. My mum's cool. We talk about this stuff all the time," and so they continued talking about videos they'd watched and much to my relief they were mostly laughing over some of the more ridiculous ones they'd both seen.

Watch Jason Biggs get caught masturbating to porn in the clip from American Pie: The Reunion below. Post continues after video.

I felt a little proud.

Still, I can't wait until the novelty wears off and he stops watching it. I'm hoping he loses interest sooner than his friends do because I've talked to him about it so openly. I think he is because he doesn't ask as many questions about it as he used to.

He's eleven now and I still think he's reaching all these milestones way too soon but I can't change the way the world is. All I can do is try and keep up.

I know a lot of parents wouldn't be comfortable talking to their kids like this but all your children need is one person in their lives who they can talk to like that. I think that's key to navigating our children through the most awkward of conversation like porn.

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