Porn finds kids. It found me at a sleepover when I was ten. My friend’s parents thought their porn images would be safe on top of the refrigerator in a manila envelope, but they were sorely wrong. Today porn finds young children at an alarming rate and often with dire consequences. Most parents naïvely think their children would never look at porn. We prepare our kids for many things, but do we prepare our children for the moment porn will find them?
Porn is simply counterfeit sex that preys on the natural, God-given response mechanisms in our brains. Because sexuality is a sacred and significant part of our design, sexual encounters at every stage of development are significant also. Sexual encounters naturally elicit chemical responses in our brains, and early experiences especially will imprint an indelible memory on the brain. Most adults don’t understand this imprinting process or why such memories stay with us.
When I speak at events, invariably people share with me memories of their early sexual awakenings. Because we are born sexual beings (though obviously not physically or emotionally ready for sex), our brains and bodies respond to sexual encounters. Long before puberty, and usually before any information about sex has been shared from parent to child, something happens. Awareness of sexuality might occur while reading something sexual in a book, seeing an image, discovering personal sexual pleasure through touch, or experiencing sexual abuse. There are typically some common aspects to each of our early experiences, no matter how seemingly minimal or extreme:
- The encounter was totally unexpected, therefore the brain tried to make sense of it as best it could.
- The encounter imprinted on the brain, and its memory became impossible to shake.
- A mixture of emotions ensued such as shame, fear, confusion, as well as natural interest and curiosity.
- Because sexual encounters typically elicit a pleasurable response in the brain, a desire to repeat that pleasurable feeling followed later.
Think back to some of the things you encountered as a child that began to stir natural sexual curiosity or perhaps catapulted you into a season of heightened sexual awareness. Picture yourself in that moment. What could you have used then or in the days or weeks following?
A safe place to share or a simple explanation?
Someone to listen to you, or believe you, or show care without shaming you?
Protection from or justice for an abuser?
Help with the range of emotions?
Spend some time praying over this as you consider your child’s own sexual awakening and your role as a compassionate parent or caregiver, an ally.
Today’s kids will encounter any number of things related to sexuality, and seeing hardcore pornography is just about inevitable. Yet how many children would have any idea how to handle the experience of seeing the violent, degrading, scary scenes depicted in porn? An image of naked people having consensual sex is no longer the norm. Today’s porn is very disturbing and damaging. Many experts agree that the average age of exposure to explicit material online is well before puberty and long before most parents have broached the subject of sexuality with a child. We have to prepare our kids without stealing their innocence and making them overly curious. And we have to be prepared to walk with them through all of the challenges of living in a sexualized culture. It’s an important job – and I want to help you.
Tune in next week as we begin to unpack what it looks like to become an ally for your child in a world where an adversary seeks to undermine God’s good design for his or her sexuality.
In the meantime, pray. I don’t mean just a quick “Jesus take the wheel” kind of prayer because let’s face it, against the darkness of a hyper-sexualized culture, we have nothing. Get alone with God and ask Him to provide for you and your loved ones. He longs to do this. Confess any past sins that are keeping you trapped in shame. He is faithful to forgive. Admit any personal struggles related to sexuality. God was there as you became more aware of your own sexuality. Perhaps you made mistakes, or perhaps others took advantage of your vulnerability and now you desperately desire freedom from the pain. God alone can bring something good out of our mistakes or wounds. Ask Him to reveal His heart for you and for those you love. Then begin to look with fresh eyes at the world your children are experiencing today: video games, television commercials, magazine covers, online images, chatter among their peers, or suggested content on websites. Ask God to show you what you need to see, and keep praying.
We are on a journey together with God that will involve faith, prayer, and perseverance. He will provide all that we need!
Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia
Photo credit: Marjorie Bertrand