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Boys and Porn: What's Normal?

Is Viewing Porn Normal?

Fact: Boys consume lots of pornography: online porn, videos, cable TV, magazines, and virtual reality games.

Fact: Boys ages 12-17 are among the biggest consumers of pornography.

Fact: Adolescent boys of all ages are viewing much more soft-core and graphic hard-core pornography because of its easy access and presence on the Internet.

So what's a parent to do?

Questions you may have:
If you discover your son visiting online porn sites, watching X-rated videos, or reading hard-core pornographic magazines, should you be worried? Will this affect his healthy sexual development?

Answer:
If viewing pornography has become a driving force in your boy's life -- if he wants and needs to see it frequently -- the answer to the two previous questions is Yes: You should be worried and viewing porn may be seriously affecting his sexual maturation.

When I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, boys would locate and furtively thumb through Dad's or an older brother's hidden stash of Playboy magazines. This rite of passage was a part of our teenage sexual awakenings. However, today's porn is not your father's pornography. With a few clicks of a mouse, your son could be visiting websites where humiliation, torture, rape, sadomasochism, and bestiality are the mainstream fare. Nowadays, there is no need for a 12-year-old boy to risk being carded at the corner store trying to buy a raunchy magazine. Now, he can log on to a smut smorgasbord at any time in the privacy of his room.

What the Researchers Say

Mountains of sex research have established that males are more visually oriented and more naturally drawn to visual images. Biologists argue that being sexually stimulated by the sight of the female form and its posturing is directly tied to mating behavior and the propagation and survival of our species. In my opinion, there is no body of hard science (including President Lyndon Johnson's exhaustive President's Commission on Pornography Report) that has ever proven a direct correlation between pornography and crime or pornography and increased sexual assaults in the general population.

So, if it's so "normal" for our sons to become excited by sexually stimulating images and there's no hard evidence telling us that porn will turn our sons into sexual deviants, why should we worry?

Why You Should Worry

You need to be worried about your son's frequent, intense relationship with pornography primarily because of what it teaches him about sex and women. If you allow porn to be the principal sex educator of your son, you risk serious impairment of his healthy psychosexual development. Porn will teach him that girls and women want and enjoy being sexually used, dominated, and humiliated by men. It will encourage your son to try out the harmful fantasies that porn offers, including the fantasy that women secretly want to be taken forcibly or that they want to be raped. Porn will teach your son to objectify women, to treat them as toys who exist solely for his sexual gratification. Pornography is devoid of tenderness, caring, or loving in its images.

Are these the values and attitudes that you want your son to have about sex, women, and himself?

Teaching Sex Ed

I strongly recommend that you do not allow pornography to become your son's major sexual education influence. That's your job! Don't blame, shame, or condemn your son for being curious about and titillated by porn. Share your opinions, beliefs, and values about the harmful lessons that porn teaches him.

Fathers need to tell their sons how porn degrades women, like his sisters and mother, as well as the boys and men who view it. Let your son hear from his mother and father how sex is an outgrowth of a loving, committed, respectful relationship, not a forum for male self-gratification and the exploitation of women.

Discussions about sex and sexuality are among the toughest discussions you will have with your children. But isn't it better to have these discussions, even admitting to your son that you are somewhat uncomfortable talking to him about pornography, than to surrender his heart and mind to pornographers?

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