Big Kids, Parenting

How to tackle the tricky porn chat with your kids

Melissa Imbesi by Melissa Imbesi
April 4th, 2019

When I was around 10 years old, a friend and I were snooping through her parents’ wardrobe when we stumbled across a red sports bag hidden behind her mum’s neatly folded jumpers. Like the curious little shit heads we were, we pulled that sucker out, unzipped it and discovered something that truly horrified us.

I’ll never forget it.

Inside that red bag were about 10 VHS tapes with pictures on the back cover of naked men and women doing stuff that almost made my head explode. Back then, I didn’t have a name for what I was looking at, but I was pretty certain that it was something my little eyeballs should not be seeing.

worst childhood discovery. ever.

Even though we didn’t put any of those tapes in the VCR (how 80’s am I sounding right now?) and even though we shoved them back in that bag after about two minutes of “ewwwww-ing”, I couldn’t get those images out of my head. I felt… weird. And not in a good way. It was the first time I’d ever seen an erect penis, and where that penis was going in those pictures totally rattled me and remained burned into my pre-pubescent brain.

For those of us who grew up in the 80’s, this probably isn’t an uncommon story. So many of us had our first introduction to sex and porn through poorly hidden sports bags of VHS tapes or discovering The Joy of Sex in our parents’ bedside drawers during a bored weekend rummage.

The thing is, back then, porn wasn’t something readily available to us kids. Mags were concealed behind black plastic covers at the newsagent and we all remember wandering off into the ‘Adult’ section of our local video store. If you wanted to see anything racy, you sort of had to dig for it.

there’s only so much we can control these days

Now that I’m a grown up (who has seen her fair share of porn over the years) with two young kids of my own, the accessibility of pornography in our modern world terrifies me – and what they might be exposed to feels totally out of my control. The fact is, I can be as diligent as I want at home. I can put parental locks and filters on their iPads and only allow them access to YouTube Kids, but what happens when I’m not around to monitor it? What happens when they’re in the school yard and one of their friends pulls out their phone and says, “Look at this…” What happens when they’re at a mate’s house? Or around an older group of kids? Or, or, or….

the accessibility of pornography in our modern world terrifies me – and what my kids might be exposed to feels totally out of my control.

The thing that freaks me out the most is that I actually don’t know HOW to approach any of this with them – or even if I should yet. I’ve always thought that when they’re old enough, I’ll sit down and have an open conversation with them about how porn isn’t real life; that the people on the screen are actors who are paid to perform on camera whether they’re enjoying it or not. Most of all, I want my son and daughter to know the difference between real sex and porn sex and that they should neither feel pressured, nor pressure their sexual partners, into doing any of the stuff they see on that screen.

But what happens when your kids, like mine, are so young that you haven’t even had the sex conversation with them yet, let alone thought about talking to them about pornography? When should we talk to them about it? Will talking to them about it pique their curiosity and make them seek it out for themselves, or will it arm them with the knowledge that for kids, this stuff that has potential to be deeply disturbing? 

On today’s ep of The 3pm Pick-Up, Monty and Yumi spoke to online safety and digital wellbeing co-ordinator, Martine Oglethorpe, about how to have that difficult conversation about pornography and adult content with our kids. You can listen to that interview below…

Martine’s tips were:

  • Don’t label the situation ‘bad’ or ‘scary’ so your kids remain open about approaching you if they come across anything unsuitable.
  • Use a character they relate to, such as Batman or Superman, to highlight the ‘fantasy’ component of porn and how it’s an exaggeration of real life – not a real representation.
  • Make the conversation as casual as possible, asking them gently if they’ve seen anything online that has bothered them, giving them an opportunity to bring it up in an informal way.

You may also want to plant yourself in front of your TV at 8.30 tonight, pop on SBS Viceland and watch their short doco on porn education in schools. Presenter Marty gets heaps of views on this from a variety of people including a porn educator, sex worker, a woman whose life was impacted after viewing porn as a child and a Christian mother who is against porn ed in school (for fear it might arouse her kids). He even goes back to speak to his own Sex Ed teacher from high school for a seriously awks convo that’ll make you laugh and cringe at the same time.

Hope this helps and may the force be with us all.

Sophie Monk talked to us about the time she was offered $5 mil to appear in a sex tape, her life in LA and her high profile break up with ex-fiance, Benji Madden. You can listen to that chat in pod form below and of course, don’t forget to swing by and subscribe to our podcast here

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