Fri | Jul 23, 2021

Michael Abrahams | Porn, and why we should talk to our children about sex

Published:Tuesday | July 20, 2021 | 12:05 AM
Michael Abrahams
Michael Abrahams
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We all exist because of sex. I mean, apart from those who are here because of assisted reproductive techniques such as in vitro fertilisation, which constitute a small minority, we are on the planet because our parents had sex. We may not like to...

We all exist because of sex. I mean, apart from those who are here because of assisted reproductive techniques such as in vitro fertilisation, which constitute a small minority, we are on the planet because our parents had sex. We may not like to think about our parents having sex, but voilà…here we are!

The problem is that although sex is crucial to our existence, most of us never talk to our children and educate them about it. And we should. Nearly all of our children will grow up and begin to have sex, and it is important for them to understand the responsibility that should accompany sexual activity and the possible consequences.

Many adults experience discomfort at the mere thought of talking to children about sex, but we ought not to. The fact that we do indicates that we were probably not educated the way we should have been. There is no rational reason to be reluctant to speak to children about a topic that falls within the realm of normal human behaviour.

The harsh reality is that if we do not speak to our children about sex, they will learn from unsavoury sources, such as their friends and schoolmates, who lack experience…or porn.

I grew up in the ‘70s, and at that time there was no Internet or cell phones. Videotapes, satellite dishes, and cable television became popular towards the end of the decade, so during my pre and early high-school years, there was no way I would have had access to video footage of sexual activity.

But today, we live in a different world. Nowadays, many children have access to the Internet, and once there, it is not hard to view porn. Even if you are a responsible parent and you monitor your children at home, you have no control over what they encounter when they exit their place of abode and are in locations such as school. All they need is access to a cell phone with data, or one hooked up to Wi-Fi, and they are able to see people having sex.

Watching porn will not only let children know that the penis goes into the vagina, but it will also allow them to see that it can go in other orifices as well, and that a multitude of different types of sex can occur with various body parts and devices. Yes, they will learn about sex acts for sure. The problem, however, is that there are aspects of sexual behaviour and activity that will not be addressed, and this may lead children watching pornography to develop a warped view of sex.

For example, if a child learns about sex from porn, the issue of consent may never occur to them. And consent is very important for children to be socialised to understand. In pornographic films they will see two people alone, often with little dialogue, then suddenly clothes are being taken off and before you know it, sex is taking place.

Consent, boundaries, and respect are very important principles to grasp and embrace in any relationship or interaction, and sex is no exception. Porn also does not address the possible consequences of sex, such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and the effects on the psyche.

Unrealistic expectations

Porn can also lead children to have unrealistic expectations about their bodies. Many of the female porn stars have had surgical enhancement, are well made-up, and usually have clean-shaven pubic areas. Boys watching these may be led to believe that this is how girls are supposed to look; and girls may think so too, leading to self-confidence issues.

You might be reading this and think to yourself that this does not apply to your child, as they do not watch this stuff, and you may be right. But you may also be wrong. A study from the USA found that at least 90 per cent of children between the ages of eight and 16 have watched pornography online at least once. The study also found that not only have most tweens and teens seen porn, but boys ages 12 to 17 are actually the largest consumers of online pornography. These statistics have led some observers to refer to pornography as being the drug of choice for youth.

Talking to our children about sex is essential. We must have honest and open conversations with them. We must be willing to listen to them and answer their questions truthfully. If we do not, the Internet is waiting.

Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, social commentator, and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or Twitter @mikeyabrahams.