By Marci Nelson
When I was in the 8th grade, I borrowed a book from my school library. It was a romance novel and, having read a handful of novels by this author, I did not think twice about my choice. However one night while reading it before bed, I noticed that it was becoming increasingly more sexually explicit. My brain was experiencing an interesting paradox: feeling dirty, yet feeling curious. I couldn’t sleep – my brain my replaying those images over and over again, tormenting me with questions and unsettling thoughts.
Pornography is prolific. We see and read it on billboards, in the supermarkets, at our local libraries, at schools, and even on the playground.
This problem is not unique to men and boys. Studies have shown that ⅓ of women view pornography at least weekly. . According to Fight the New Drug, 1 in 10 visitors to graphic porn sites are under the age of ten. Additionally:
- 40 million Americans visit pornography websites at least monthly.
- 21% of all college students reported watching porn every day or almost every day.
Luckily for me, I have an extremely supportive, loving mother with whom I felt comfortable talking to and expressing my feelings. I explained to her my dilemma, my contradictory feelings of curiosity and filth and how that led to my inability to sleep. This experience changed my life for I was taught the truth about sex. My mother explained to me that sex is inherently good. It is pure, it is desirable, it is about love. Certain sexual behaviors, even in the context of marriage, are inappropriate. How fortunate I am to have a mother that was willing to teach me the truth so that I didn’t seek for knowledge elsewhere.
Unanswered questions about sex are what is plaguing this generation. Because pornography is so pervasive children are exposed to images, words, and terminology every day no matter where they go. Similar feelings prevail in their minds – they, too, feel curious and excited about the feelings surfacing.
An anecdote from Fight the New Drug shares the story of a young girl from Alaska who came across pornography while playing video games. She was home alone at the time and, even though it was extremely shocking, she was instantly sucked into a world of darkness and violence. She relates: “Up until that point in my life, there was no void in my life that I felt I needed to fill. Until I found that website. Then it was like I was constantly trying to satisfy something I couldn’t fill.”
The idea that only those who experience broken or unsatisfying relationships struggle with pornography is dangerous! Our children are learning about sex one way or another. Are you teaching them? The stigma around sex needs to disappear – and you can help!
Studies have shown that in places where sexuality is stymied, or at least not talked about as openly, the citizens are actually more likely to seek sexual stimulation, especially pornography. “Repression seems to be breeding curiosity — not suppressing it.” When we do not talk to our children openly about sex, we are not shielding them, we are endangering them.
Studies have shown that children and teenagers who are educated about sex are more likely to postpone their engagement in sexual activities. In recent years the opposite problems have plagued our planet:
- 16 million 15-19 year-olds and 2 million girls under the age of 15 give birth yearly.
- 3 million 15-19 year old girls participate in unsafe abortions every year globally.
- In low- and middle-income countries, the number one cause of death for 15-19 year old girls is complications from childbirth and pregnancy.
In recent years, the topic of sex education has been hotly debated. Who is responsible for teaching our children about sex and relationships? Many governments mandate sex education starting in kindergarten, including the Netherlands. Do we really want our schools teaching children that any sexual relationship is okay as long as it is safe and consensual? Even if you agree, would you not rather your children learn in the safety of your own home?
So how can you protect your children from the naivety regarding sexuality? How do we properly educate our children so as not to expose them to inappropriate ideas, but to inform them about what is appropriate?
First step: start young. Your children are sexual beings from birth. From the minute your children start to discover their bodies, teach them! Teach them the proper scientific names for their body parts. Teach them what is appropriate touch, who is allowed to touch them, and why someone can touch them.
Talk often. Teaching your children about sexuality is not a one-time event. It should happen over the entirety of their lifetime, culminating in a healthy attitude about his/her body and sexuality in general. It does not need be a black-tie, pop-popcorn, go-out-to-dinner circumstance. If parents treat it as a normal topic children will sense that and it will become a non-awkward conversation.
Additionally, it is important have an “open door” policy about communicating with your children. One day in 5th grade I heard a term at recess that I had never heard before. I had the luxury of being able to ask my mom the definition of the word, which prevented me from seeking answers out online or from other people. Having such a relationship with your children will allow you to strengthen your bond with them while clarifying their questions in a way that correlates with your beliefs and values.
The world around us teaches us that people are objects to be lusted after, that real love does not exist, and that sex has no consequences. This ideology is being spread ubiquitously. The truth is that sex is about so much more than self-gratification. It is about love, respect, procreation, gratitude, and binding the union of a man and a woman who are committed to each other in marriage. Your kids deserve to know that. Taking action at a young age and encouraging open communication will ensure they get a sexual education grounded in truth.