From One Parent to Another: Start the Porn Talks

mother and son with computer

By Rachel Jellinek

Who wants to consider the possibility that their tween is watching porn? No one I know.

I had the good fortune to collaborate with the Culture Reframed team to create videos for their fundraising and online training needs. In order to truly understand their work and the goals of the organization, I enrolled in both their Program for Parents of Tweens and Program for Parents of Teens.

Before I embarked on that research, I crafted a series of questions that I wanted to explore as I went through the educational experience. I didn’t do this to evaluate or critique the courses. I just wanted to be mindful of the complexity of helping families navigate raising their children in our porn-saturated culture.

How will the curricula handle parents’ potential denial that porn is even an issue that needs to be addressed?

What I truly appreciate about the curricula is that they teach without judgment and with lots of empathy.

Many parents may suspect that their teen is watching porn, but the thought of talking to their child about their viewing habits seems unfathomable. You may be thinking, “Talking about sex is awkward enough…we have to talk to our kids about porn too?!”

Culture Reframed’s answer is a resounding “Yes,” but in a supportive—not a judgmental—way. And they give you the tools to do it.

Culture Reframed takes the blame and shame off of young people and normalizes their curiosity about naked bodies and sex. They affirm the development of healthy relationships.

The content that the porn industry is promoting isn’t healthy for anyone, and it isn’t about sex. It’s about violence.

Culture Reframed cites over 40 years of scientific research that shows that the more boys and men get into pornography:

  • The more they are depressed
  • The more they are anxious
  • The more likely they are to become addicted to porn
  • The less likely they are to have empathy for rape victims
  • The more difficult it is to show intimacy and connection

How will the curricula address parents’ potential anxiety and feelings of inadequacy in talking to their children about porn?

Culture Reframed’s online education offers support from beginning to end.  They explain what the landscape is like, in terms of the extent of the porn industry’s reach and why it’s a problem. They supplement their written content with videos that cover a range of topics allowing you to dig deeper into areas of particular interest. They offer a social media contract and scripts that model how to have uncomfortable conversations with your children, so you don’t feel like you have to start from scratch!

How will the curricula debunk some myths and misperceptions out there that parents may have potentially bought into?

For those who might think that only boys are watching porn:

Culture Reframed clarifies that girls are watching too and discusses the impact of porn on their self-esteem.

For those who might think, “Watching porn is a rite of passage, so what’s the big deal?”:

Some people may feel this way, because that messaging was part of their own experience growing up and they “turned out fine.” The reality is that mainstream porn—just one click away—is hardcore porn, and it promotes violence against women. That’s a big deal.

What are the implications if parents don’t talk to their children about porn?

Some parents might like to think, “Isn’t the school going to handle all of this stuff in sex ed?” Nope. To my mind, it would make sense that the influence of porn would be addressed in both sex ed classes and a class on media literacy, too, because you don’t have to go to porn sites to see hypersexualized media. It would be great to have students educated about how the porn industry is manipulating them by taking advantage of their normal curiosity and trying to sell them images of “sex” that undermine healthy relations, gender equality, mutual respect, and their capacity for connection and intimacy.

For me, the similarities to the tobacco industry are striking. And, like the tobacco industry, the consumption of porn should be considered a threat to public health. In the absence of solid sex education, young people are turning to porn for their education, which is emotionally and physically dangerous and damaging.

Culture Reframed’s website offers great value, because it is not a static resource. There is new educational content at your fingertips that you can use over time to help you build your children’s resilience and resistance to hypersexualized media and porn.

I respect and applaud their decision to make all of their educational resources available for free. All families need access to this information in order to strengthen their resistance to the porn industry. The more people who know about Culture Reframed, the better. If the Culture Reframed team’s ears are regularly ringing, it might be because I talk about them a lot!

When I think about Culture Reframed and the support they provide through their educational resources, I believe that their work is key to helping young people build self-confidence and healthy relationships, two crucial ingredients toward developing the best version of themselves.

Rachel Jellinek is the president of Reflection Films. Reflection Films does video storytelling and content creation for mission-driven organizations.

Teens taking a selfie

Where are your kids getting their sex education? Their smartphones? In this digital age, it’s critical for young people to have trusted adults to help them build resilience and resistance to hypersexualized media and porn. Check out Culture Reframed’s free online Programs for Parents of Tweens and Program for Parents of Teens.


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