+

Some tips for how to talk to your teen about watching porn. HINT: It's not to tell them to stop.

Porn has never been more available — or raunchier. What's it doing to kids' capacity for intimacy?

Who hasn't watched a little porn here and there?

You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn't watched some porn or who doesn't enjoy it on an occasional basis. Generationally, though, the dynamics of porn have changed. Depending on your age, your ideas of what porn is and how it's affected your actual sex life will vary. But for the newest generations of sexually active youth, things have gotten pretty extreme.

I know of whence I speak, for I have a teenage son.


So what's the big deal with teens watching porn if everyone does it? Well, they are very different from adults. And times have changed.

The problem is that teenage porn use is not just a kid getting ahold of dad's girly magazine anymore. It's unfettered access to as much porn as a kid wants, as frequently as they want it, and with the ability to escalate to more and more extreme types as their brain desensitizes to it. And unfortunately, kids' brains are still very much in their formative years even in their late teens, so it's having an effect on the actual wiring of their sexual norms.

A study published in 2014 from Cambridge University tracked the behaviors of compulsive porn users:

Source: " Your Brain on Porn" based on findings from Cambridge University.

And that's not to mention the effect it has on women's perceived expectations of themselves and their partners' expectations of them because of porn's depictions. When even women's orgasms are shown as a caricaturized performance in service of pleasing a man, something gets really skewed in terms of what women can hope to experience for their own fulfillment.

OK, but what can we even do about it?

You could try frequent, random, and unannounced appearances in your kids' room to make them too paranoid to take advantage of "alone time." Or you could creatively find ways to make sure the family pet is always in there in the hopes that they'd be too wigged out to watch porn while Whiskers McButtonNose is looking on.

Image (text added) by John of Wales/Flickr.

But that seems like a lot more work and way less reliable than just talking with teens about it. Here's how I did it:

I sent my son some links to a documentary about what it can do to a developing teen's brain to gorge on porn (he was about 15 at the time). I asked him to find me and talk to me after he was done watching the documentary — I wanted to let him have some control about when the conversation happened, so it could be more productive and not feel like an ambush.

When he did, we talked about the research. It wasn't the most comfortable conversation in the world, but it also wasn't the worst. I let him know I didn't think it was shameful for him to watch porn, that I know a lot of people do, and that I wasn't going to place any unrealistic expectations on him to never watch porn.

I asked him what points the movie made that really hit home for him. I noted that porn and masturbation do not necessarily go hand-in-hand (SORRY). I also suggested he may benefit from thinking about what parameters he wanted to set for himself, like:

  • Is there a frequency of watching it he doesn't want to exceed in order to feel good about himself? (He decided that a couple of times a week was enough for him, and it was definitely a step back from the frequency he had been engaging in).
  • Is there a threshold of porn extremity he doesn't want to surpass in order to feel like he's not violating his own deeply empathetic nature? (He decided he just had no interest in watching anything that seemed sadistic and made a promise to himself — not me — that he'd shut it down and find something else if something crossed that line.)

The point really was that I can't waltz into my son's private life and think I'm going to dictate what choices he'll make. I mean, I could have had a parental power struggle that escalated into me taking away his computer and Internet unless he does what I say, but I don't think that would have taught him what he really needs to navigate this stuff — self-regulation.

So what happened with my son?

I noticed after our talk that he was spending a lot less time in his room doing ... "room things" and a lot more time with other people. He seems happier and no longer carries the ever-present sense of dissatisfaction and frustration of wondering if his real life will ever match up to what he's being told his sex life should be. He got to make a thoughtful and deliberate choice for himself on his own terms.

GIF from "30 Rock."

When you let a teen know that their porn habits today could affect their ability to have a fulfilling sexual relationship — a real one — down the road, some kids will care.

Of course, some kids just won't either. But at least this way, they're getting a chance to make a choice instead of just being railroaded into a lifetime of warped sexual norms without a shot at doing it differently. Porn companies don't care about your kids' health and well-being, so don't let them be the only influence weighing in on this.

It all starts with adults acknowledging the reality of teens' daily lives. We can do this, folks.

And for some more good, research based talk about it all, check out this really enlightening TED Talk by Gail Dines on bringing kids up in a "pornified culture." (Be warned: It's a very frank discussion about sexuality, and the f-word is prevalent throughout.)

via PixaBay

Being an adult is tough.

This article originally appeared on 01.28.22


Nothing can ever fully prepare you for being an adult. Once you leave childhood behind, the responsibilities, let-downs and setbacks come at you fast. It’s tiring and expensive, and there's no easy-to-follow roadmap for happiness and success.

A Reddit user named u/Frequent-Pilot5243 asked the online forum, “What’s an adult problem nobody prepared you for?” and there were a lot of profound answers that get to the heart of the disappointing side of being an adult.

One theme that ran through many responses is the feeling of being set adrift. When you’re a kid, the world is laid out as a series of accomplishments. You learn to walk, you figure out how to use the bathroom, you start school, you finish school, maybe you go to college, and so on.

However, once we’re out of the school system and out from under our parents’ roofs, there is a vast, complicated world out there and it takes a long time to learn how it works. The tough thing is that if you don’t get a good head start, you can spend the rest of your life playing catch-up.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

Joy and delight comin' at ya.

Photo by Count Chris on Unsplash

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

It's Awesome Animals Week at Upworthy! That's what I'm declaring anyway, as nine out of 10 of this week's things that made us smile include creatures being painfully cute or utterly hilarious.

It's not surprising that our furry, feathery and leathery friends so often make these lists. Pets are constant and consistent sources of joy in our lives and wildlife can be wonderfully entertaining.

There are a few humans thrown in here for good measure, though. I considered totally leaning in and only including things that included animals this week, but there was one animal-free video I simply couldn't not include. I saved it for last. You'll see.

Keep ReadingShow less

Jessica Higgs had a sense that something wasn't right at a customer's house and her action saved his life.

This article originally appeared on 02.08.22


One the more mysterious aspects of being human is our sense of intuition. This "sixth sense" isn't something we can see or measure, but many people have experienced it in some form or fashion. Maybe it comes as a strong feeling that something isn't right, or that we or someone else should or shouldn't do something. It can be hard to read—not every feeling we get is truly our intuition—but there are plenty of examples of people trusting their instincts and being glad they did.

One such story has gone viral on TikTok. Jessica Higgs, a mom who works as an Instacart grocery delivery person, shared a story in an emotional video that illustrates the importance of listening to that inner voice when it prompts you to make sure someone is OK.

"I just want to start this off by saying if you see something, say something," Higgs said.

Keep ReadingShow less