If you choose to have pornography anywhere in your home, you should guard it as carefully as you guard your guns, prescription drugs, and cleaning chemicals.
My nine-year-old son went to school not too long ago. Remember that age, nine, not nineteen. There was an assembly at school and afterwards, the children all ran out to recess. They played soccer and argued over every goal— because most nine-year-olds don’t know how to win or lose with grace yet, and the bell rang while they were still debating. As they walked into the building, one of my son’s friends ended the debate abruptly by bragging, “Did you see what I did to Mary (name changed to protect the innocent) during the assembly?” The boys around him shook their heads and he laughed, “I pulled her onto my lap, humped her and yelled BU-TT SEX!” He and another boy started laughing hysterically.
My son wasn’t entirely sure what the story meant. He had to come home and ask me. None of the children participating in the conversation knew how inappropriate the boy’s behavior was. This child clearly demonstrated that he knew what “humping” was, but he didn’t understand the importance of “consent.” He was likely unfamiliar with the concept of “sexual harassment” as well, though he became quite familiar with the term once the principal got involved.
Nine-year-old boys don’t come preprogrammed with ideas like this hardwired into their brains. The act this boy was imitating came from somewhere. If we want to protect our children from inappropriate sexual aggression, we also need to protect them from being prematurely immersed into feelings and activities they aren’t developmentally able to understand yet.
One of the primary ways young brains are immersed into mature sexual feelings and activities is through pornography. What used to be hidden under beds and in boxes in the garage can now be accessed anywhere with the click of a button. The effects pornography can have on a developing brain are too numerous to contain in one short article, so let me just mention a few:
First, it can lead to violent behavior. A study done in 2010 showed that exposure to both violent and soft-core pornography increased the use of sexual force in the users. The story above about the nine-year-old is a good example. He claimed to have seen a lot of pornography before forcefully pulling someone onto his lap during an assembly.
Second, viewing pornography can have serious implications for a person’s sexual behavior. The rush of brain chemicals released when someone watches pornography actually connects neurons together, effectively rewiring the brain. Once the brain is rewired, it is more difficult to be excited by real intimacy. This can affect a child’s sex life—possibly forever. Norman Doidge, the Author of, The Brain That Changes Itself, says, “Pornography, delivered by high-speed internet connections, satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change.” The website Fight the New Drug shares a first hand account of a 19-year-old man unable to perform during his first sexual encounter because his brain had been trained to get excited by pornography instead of real human connection. Is this really something parents want to risk with their children?
Third, it’s addictive. Some of you are probably going to argue that since sex addiction is not included in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders it’s not a real thing, but that’s not true. It wasn’t included in the manual because there wasn’t enough research to justify including it yet, not because it’s not addictive. Not everyone who sees pornography is going to get addicted, just as not everyone who drinks or experiments with drugs will get addicted. However, there’s enough documented research and I’ve personally known enough people who want to stop using pornography and can’t, to know the possibility of addiction exists. And with an infinite supply available online, those at risk have few barriers to forming an addiction.
I implore you to protect your children’s sexual lives. Let them create their own intimate connections free from the influence of other people’s fantasies. To do this, there are parental controls you can activate on most devices, and free internet filters you can install. Google and YouTube both have safesearch options that can be activated. Most importantly, talk to your children about pornography and the effects it can have on a growing brain. Encourage them to protect themselves. If you choose to have pornography around for yourself, guard it the same way you guard your prescription drugs, guns, and chemicals—as if your children’s lives were at risk, because their sexual lives are.
Do this so your children can experience the joy of learning about sex one step at a time. Let them taste the delicious sensation of holding hands with someone for the first time, and revel in the satisfaction of talking quietly about personal things with someone who wants to listen. What a shame it would be for them to rush into sexually charged experiences before they can experience the cathartic joy following the anticipation and fulfillment of a first kiss. Let them learn the painful lessons of rejection so they can fine tune, through experience, the best ways to interact with those they’re attracted to. Let them decide, once they know what love and sex are, and have experienced them—without the aid of pornography, whether pornography is something they want to use or not. Sex is such an important part of life. Don’t let their brains get programmed before they have the opportunity to make the choice for themselves.