Our culture has been slow to realize the harmful effects of pornography, because we are relying on an outdated understating of what is today’s pornography. In yesteryears, people had to go into adult stores and interact with other people in their efforts to acquire pornography. Their eyes lowered, as their guilt and shame rose, when approaching the clerk at the register. With the privacy of computers and endless buffet of pornography, the associated feelings of guilt and shame have been leveled by the false-sense of anonymity. So much so, that the highest volume of pornography is being viewed between 9am and 5pm, during the workday. Yet spouses and parents are still clinging to an outdated view of pornography. For example, when I say, “pornography," what images come to mind? Probably a cover of Playboy, or Hustler, where a woman is half-dressed or naked, lying in wait. Or, perhaps a soft-core movie you have seen while exploring your own sexuality. Our conventional wisdom is not adequately informing us of the reality of what constitutes pornography today. To explain, there is an algorithm that has determined that the deeper you go into the world of online pornography, the deeper your need is for “hardcore” sexual fantasies. The algorithm vetted that the pornographic content of the person who is falling down the pornographic sinkhole, moves from images of two-partner sex, to multiple partner sex, to S&M, to bestiality and ends with child-featured pornography. This happens over time. It sounds extreme. However, most parents and partners are not themselves falling down the sinkhole of pornographic hell, so they really do not know the degree of disturbing content available.
Children are now viewing online pornography at the average age of 11, and report seeing images that they did not intend to, or want to see. The internet functions like YouTube for them, clicking on image after image, video after video, that eventually parades them down a path their naïve minds would never had consented to, but by that time, it is too late. They cannot un-see in retrospect. When parents think, “Oh, my child would never do that,” when it comes to online pornography, what they should realistically think is, “my child would never intentionally do that,” because it is not intentional. It just is. Which is why the average child views pornography by 6th grade. And by 12th grade, 93% of boys have viewed it. And, my guess is the remaining 7% are the small remaining children who do not have their own computer, tablet or phone by age 18.
Adults suffer from the same opportunities as children with access to pornography and lack of accompanying emotions of guilt and shame. When guilt and shame function in purposeful ways, they are intended to alert us to behaviors that are not good for our soul. Guilt and shame have gotten bad names because of the exploitation of them by faulting adults or religions, which abuse them to control or manipulate. The guilt and shame I am referencing is our bodies and minds connection, the bodies regulating system that says, “hey, this is not a good idea, we should really reconsider what we are doing here.” When viewing images of pornography that result in guilt and shame, it is the human compass alerting the captain to take a different route next time. Or, to stay at home.
There are two takeaways from this information. The first is prevention. If you are giving a child their own phone, tablet or computer with Internet access, you must believe they are mature enough to navigate the technology safely. But, with any major milestone, such as giving access to the Internet without constant supervision (which is the reality of phones, tablets, or computers that are not permanently stationed in a high traffic area of the home), there needs to be education. Just as you taught your child how to safely climb playground equipment, now is the time to teach them how to tunnel through technology safely. Part of the conversations has to be about what is possibly available to them with access to the Internet, in age-appropriate ways. Even YouTube has pornographic videos on it, so if you are allowing your child to navigate YouTube without constant supervision, you are handing your child a loaded barrel, while crossing your fingers that your child’s finger does not make its way to the trigger. Parents have to teach their child about what is available on the Internet, again in age-appropriate ways, to make them aware of what can happen if they start to mindlessly search or open window after window. I suggest reading the book,
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids as a book place to start. The other part is making sure you know what they are looking at, or downloading. Giving your small child Internet access and headphones without closely supervising what they are doing is unsafe. Keeping technology in high traffic areas of the home encourages safe browsing of websites.
The second part of takeaway from this article is what to look for in case your child is having a pornographic addiction. The number one sign in adults, is withdrawing from sexual activity from their partners. Adults too fall down the pornographic sinkhole. Withdrawing sexually is a big sign that one partner has rewired his or her arousal template with pornography. Another sign is an inability to become aroused or climax in intimate partner sex. When people rewire their arousal templates, their imaginative sex life disrupts their intimate partner sex. But with our older children, we are rightfully blind to their sexual patterns and behaviors. We probably will not know if they sexually withdraw from their partners. What we can pay attention to are the signs below:
* Shows changes in behavior, mood, or sleep.
* Shows decrease empathy for others
* Has seemingly poor time management or misses deadlines
* Isolates him- or herself from family or friends
* Shows declining academic or work performance
* Seeks pornography when feeling stressed, anxious, or angry
* Loses track of time while viewing pornography
* Becomes angry or irritable when asked to stop
*Continues the behavior despite attempts to stop or despite being punished for it
If you are uncomfortable asking your child or loved one about their pornographic habits, seek support. Find a Certified Sex and Love Addiction Therapist (CSAT), in your area: https://www.iitap.com/therapists-search. If you are concerned about your loved one or child, getting help right away if the first step. The longer the addiction goes untreated, the more social-emotional consequences there will be and the harder-wired the addictive behaviors will become.
The first step is to start talking about it with your children and with your loved ones.