A blog post with the provocative title The Pornography on Your I-Pod offers open-minded but ultimately poor advice on the topic of adolescent exposure to pornography.
The blog is presented as a monologue of a mother/father with a son or daughter. The author does well not to condemn, berate, preach, or demand. The tone of the dialogue is spot on.
It is the content of the advice that is problematic.
1. Pornography is not “just another thing in our world”. It is not bacon. It is not ice cream. Pornography is exploitation that takes advantage of the human desire for connection. It redirects something healthy and turns it into something destructive. Alcohol, marijuana, meth, opiates, tobacco do the same thing. They take advantage of the human need for release from pain and the experience of pleasure and turn it into something destructive. Pornography does the same thing.
2. The author is trying to project an open, broad-minded orientation to pornography. He/she does not want to be perceived as a “moralist” or as a conservative kill-joy. Please know I am a card-carrying liberal. I vote Democratic. I am for a nationalized health-care system. I believe in the redistribution of wealth. I believe women should be paid equally for equal work. And I believe that pornography is destructive. The question of pornography is a health-question before it is a moral question. Pornography will kill you. It will kill your soul before it kills your body. But do not be fooled. Pornography will kill you.
3. When he/she says, that sometimes “your going to realize you are looking at porn because you are horny”, he/she tends to endorse looking at porn when you are horny. There are two problems with this.
First, “being horny” is a poor justification for any choice. A healthy, mature person feels what one feels and then makes good choices. I have felt horny since I was in 7th grade. Learning how to deal with feeling horny has taught me how to deal with other sometimes inconvenient feelings while retaining the personal authority to make a good choice.
Second, a young person has difficulty naming feelings. When is “feeling horny” an avoidance strategy? The author has good things to say about shame and self-soothing. But introducing space to justify a self-destructive behavior invites a young person to avoid having to learn to wrestle with hard feelings. The learning to self-sooth is not easy. Why introduce a justification to avoid the work.
4. Young people need structure and clarity as the emerge as young adults. Direct and unambiguous guidance gives them confidence to practice choice-making. Here is death. Here is life. Choose life. A teenager chooses life. This is good practice. The opportunity to wrestle with ambiguity and nuance in a pluralistic moral universe can come once they have learned how to make good choices in the first place.
When it is time to have your conversation with your child about pornography. Be open. Be respectful. Be kind. And be very, very kill.
Pornography will kill you.
Image by: Mylla Ghdv