Parenting author and psychologist Steve Biddulph's tips for raising boys in the era of internet porn suggest that all boys are rabid porn fiends who will proposition "bitches" for anal if they have access to "the grossest, most cruel and exploitative porn" that's just "a few clicks away for any child with a smartphone or iPad on broadband." (Apparently, girls — those precious flowers — don't look at porn.) There's definitely some degrading, disgusting stuff out there. But can someone tackle the "porn talk" issue without banking on the stereotypes that are part of the problem?
Child experts often blame girls for getting in trouble on the internet (see: "You'll die if you sext!" PSAs), so we were excited to check out Biddulph's dude-specific advice. But he seems to think that there's a mini Joe Francis inside of every little boy, waiting patiently to be released by the right X-rated Google search:
Porn naturally fascinates because it's sex and that is wired into all of us. But the subtext of domination, rape, humiliation, hurt or even killing that is now woven into much available pornography, let alone the absence of tenderness or respect in almost all of it, shapes the sexuality of boys in ways that endanger their chances of a happy sex life in the real world.
Sexuality is a most malleable thing - neuroplasticity means that ''what fires together wires together''. Simple role-modelling comes into it too; all across the globe, young girls have wept in counsellors' offices as they tell of gentle and caring boys suddenly turning nasty because they thought that was what you are supposed to do in sex. ''You know you want it, bitch!''
Biddulph tells parents not to "let mid-teen boys or younger surf the internet in their bedrooms. The chances of getting hooked on uglier and crueller porn, distorting and disturbing their faith in human warmth and lovingness, and becoming disabled around normal healthy girls, is increasingly high."
But driving home the difference between porn stars and "normal healthy girls" isn't the way to go (way to give a kid a Madonna/Whore complex), and neither is setting computer rules and leaving it at that. Curious kids are going to figure out how to access the really nasty stuff, whether at home, school, a friend's house — they're enterprising that way.
Instead, why not teach all kids about consent and communication from an early age? You can't control what a kid sees, but you can help shape how s/he absorbs and feels about what s/he sees. And that shouldn't be "only 'unhealthy' sluts do that," or "it's okay to call certain types of women those names," or "I'm sick in the head if this turns me on," but "IRL sex is something that should only take place if both people feel comfortable and understood."
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