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Teenagers and Pornography

phoneTwo days ago I posted about teenage suicide in Ireland. One of the main causes of suicide among teenagers nowadays appears to be cyber bullying.

The same day there was a letter on the newspaper from a mother who had found pornography from the internet on her 17 year old son's mobile phone. He had been accessing quite a bit of adult material. She wanted to know how she should approach this matter with her son. This is  surely a very difficult dilemma for any parent and probably an ever increasing one.

While mobile phones have great educational and communication advantages this is surely a serious side-effect. Any suggestions on how this mother might proceed in this delicate matter while preserving family relationships and the rights of young people?



Back when I taught HS, one year the school gave out PDAs to students, and porn promptly flooded the school's network. The school basically said since they paid for the devices, they could do random checks of the PDAs. Anyone found with porn promptly lost the PDA and all internet priveleges for the rest of the year.

If the mom pays for the phone, she can institute the same thing...although if she is asking a newspaper for advice, I doubt she'd be likely to implement that.

One of the reasons I don't have kids....I don't have the patience for this kind of thing.
Yes. Thank God I do not now have to deal with such thorny questions.
she should leave his sexuality private.

at 17, he is hormonally, if not legally, an adult. moreover, porn doesn't do anything to change or damage a person's sexuality; it just allows them a private form of enjoyment that doesn't involve the complications of sex with other people.

what's so serious about it, anyway? porn's been around as long as representative art has; the fact that now it's available on phones doesn't change the basic humanity of the phenomenon. would she feel differently if she'd stumbled across a stack of magazines?
She probably would not.
Does viewing porn not change how we view relationships?
no, it doesn't. indeed, i suspect the rest of the text in a "playboy" (like the ads) would affect a person's worldview more than the sex pix per se.
How much internet porn have you seen, and what kind of porn would you like a 17 year old boy to see - especially a 17 year old boy who might be the boyfriend of your 15 year old daughter?

There is very little 'basic humanity' in endless repetitions of girls with artificially inflated breast and lips and no body hair making every orifice available to any number of comers, as if that were the norm.

I have taught 15 year old girls who are have been dumped by boys of about the same age for being 'frigid' because they 'wouldn't do anal'.

A stack of magazines might give you an idea about anatomy and the range of things you can do with it. The quantity and nature of the video porn most of my students can access shapes their responses and ideas in exactly the same way that the comparatively mild magazine porn shaped some of the ideas of most my peers in the seventies and eighties.
i started watching porn (largely homemade) as a scientist at johns hopkins hospital in 1984, as a member of the psychohormonal research unit. our primary finding was that porn is viewer-specific; i.e. what you find turns you on in some medium is what would have turned you on already. one's sexuality is basically unaltered by what one views. for instance, gay people can't be turned straight by viewing straight porn, or paraphiles will get off on media that represents their kink regardless of how it looks to anybody else (we had a patient with a fetish for drowning who couldn't watch "normal teevee" as it contained to much content that he found sexualized and distressing).

the "caricature" porn of oversized breasts and lips and whatnot attains its appeal because the brain is quicker to recognize exaggerations from the mean than the actual average. this is not unique to porn; it's a general feature-recognition aspect of cognition.

15-year-old girls who get dumped because of sex they didn't want to have, and 17-year-olds who dump them, are learning timeless lessons: to get the sex you want, you have to find a compatible partner. it's a hard lesson (most emotional ones seem to be) but everyone does need to learn that. if you don't want to do anal sex, you ought not to date people to whom that's important, and vice-versa.

boys calling girls "frigid" (or "slut", or what-have-you) are taking standard advantage of male privilege. perhaps you should approach the problem as one of empowering these girls' control over their own sexuality, or teaching boys that name-calling isn't for grownups.
I'd just like to point out that he would be able to access pornography in films, books and magazines even if he couldn't find it with his mobile phone.

I really don't know what the answer to this is. If she speaks to him about it he will be so angry that she's been interfering with his mobile phone that anything she has to say on the matter will get lost in a great wall of rage.

I would be inclined to ask a man he knows and trusts (probably not the same age as his father) to speak to him about how pornography is nothing like real sexual involvement and how viewing it too much may adversely affect his future relationships and his expectations.

I think most young men view pornography at some time or other, the trick is to prevent them from believing that normal sexual relationships are anything like the stuff they see on the Internet, although they probably sense that anyway.
Fair points all.

The rather second rate novel: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is, it seems, perceived as a sex manual by some young males, which is an awful comment on something or other, especially as there now seem to be dozens of third and fourth rate spin offs on the shelves.

There's porn and there's porn, of course.
My husband discovered our oldest son had been looking at pornography on the internet when he was about sixteen. We told him he wasn't allowed to, and from then on the computer was kept in a public place, as well.

Things are harder now that kids can access stuff like that on a mobile device. I think stating a rule clearly and then taking away the privilege of the device if they break the rule is a good idea.

Edited to add: part of the reason we were strict on this (thinking about the commenter upstream, who as asking what the fuss was) was because he had younger siblings who might have been confused or distressed by the images, if they'd stumbled across them.

Edited at 2012-11-29 16:57 (UTC)
As I see it, pornography is an attack on the dignity and sanctity of the human person. It is USING others for one's own pleasure.
But the question still remains, how should this mother proceed?
I have a very odd response to porn, and this is, "so... what...." I know a man whose marriage was "destroyed by porn". According to his wife, she couldn't live with a man that habitually cheated on her with porn. She left her husband and moved in with another man, who she is now married to. Her affair with the other man, it turns out, started before she discovered her husband using porn.

To me, porn is harmless, and the people who are engaged in making it are being paid. (unless of course, there are children involved, which is a whole different matter). If there is violence involved, or slavery, coercion, anything else, then address those issued. Porn, in and of itself, I think is harmless.

Teenagers are going to get porn. If an adult GIVES a teen porn, then there is a problem. If the teen sends porn to a non-consenting person as a joke or as bullying, there is a problem. But, at that age, teens are forming their sexuality. Porn is much better than unprotected sex. No one ever got HIV from a downloaded image.
Teenagers are going to get porn. If an adult GIVES a teen porn, then there is a problem. If the teen sends porn to a non-consenting person as a joke or as bullying, there is a problem. But, at that age, teens are forming their sexuality. Porn is much better than unprotected sex. No one ever got HIV from a downloaded image.

It isn't an either/or though; teens are viewing hardcore porn as they struggle to shape their own identity and sexuality. No one is going to be at a party, trying to get it on with a schoiolmate they fancy and think "I know, I'll give this up and go home and watch some porn instead" are they?

Very seldom in that porn does anyone use a condom so the ideas they get about sexual health don't help. Violence is comparitively 'normal' in mainstream internet porn and the ease and speed with which young men over 18 get desensitised to sexual violence through repeated watching is well documented in research; it is thought likely that younger males will react in similar ways (though obviously this cannot be researched in any meaningful way).

I've seen at close hand (I'm a teacher and have mainly worked with 'problem' teens) the extent to which girls' self-image and sense of worth is based on the reactions young men have to them and the way young men treat them - cf the comment above.

I guess what I am saying is that porn is a symptom of a larger problem, not the problem itself. Proper, age appropriate, sex education beginning in kindergarten would go a long way to address the problems that you list here.
Yes, thank you. From her letter to the press, I think she is mainly worried about its affect on relationships.
I think I'd talk to him about the kind of porn he was watching, and stress that curiosity about and interest in sex in perfectly natural, but some of the ways people are depicted in porn definitely aren't. Then I'd tell him to google for 'Gonzo' porn - which is generally consenting amateurs having a bit of a laugh - ordinary people, normal bodies and a lot less aggressive.