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Finding Your Son’s Computer Porn Stash

A dad's letter to his smut-surfing son goes viral, raising the question of how to deal with a pubescent pornophile.

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Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, agrees: “I don’t think that adolescents ought to be viewing Internet pornography, particularly at this young age, and I think it is inappropriate, to say the least, for parents to be encouraging it, which is how I think this father’s actions could easily be interpreted.” In his book, “You and Your Adolescent,” Steinberg writes that “hard-core pornography links sex to aggression,” “distorts male-female relationships,” “ignores intimacy” and “presents an unrealistic picture of sexual behavior.” He also argues, “At a stage when young people have many doubts about their own bodies and sexual competency, it isn’t helpful to watch women with enormous breasts and men with huge penises mimicking sexual ecstasy.”

Lang adds, “Internet porn is generally way too much information about sex for a 13-year-old boy. He really doesn’t have the emotional or intellectual ability to make sense of what he’s viewing.” She believes the days of sexual discovery via Playboy were healthier because still erotic images “engage their imagination.” While she recommends banning young teens from porn-surfing, she’s not opposed to the idea of distracting them with a couple of old-fashioned girlie mags.

She says it can be reasonable for older teens to visit X-rated sites — but where exactly to draw the line? How do you know if your kid is ready to view porn? ”The parent has to take the time to know about their teen’s sexuality. You’re going to have to ask your kid why they are watching it. You’re going to ask them what they think they’ve learned from it,” says Clark. “I wish there was a universal [rule], but there really isn’t.”

Not all adolescent sexual health experts agree on the porn proscription. Heather Corinna, founder of the teen sex-ed site  Scarleteen, believes that “pornography tends to provide a really problematic sexual education,” but isn’t ready to recommend prohibiting all 13-year-olds from watching porn. “I mean, first of all, our sexual imaginations [aren't only stimulated by] porn,” she writes in an email. “Would these same adults have said no Madonna records or Hanson posters?”

She also argues that “there’s a lot of denial about how much porn media is out there, how normalized it is, and how it’s not something easy to avoid even without actually looking for it.” Even kids who accidentally stumbled on it “are usually going to look, and may look a lot,” she says. “People can say it’s inappropriate all they want, I guess, but it won’t stop it from happening, and talk about a thought-stopping cliche. I mean, way to close the door to any conversation about it.”

All that said, she takes issue with the lack of conversation around porn and generational coming-of-age differences, as well as the dad’s recommendation of specific sites. It was ostensibly because he wanted to avoid computer viruses, “but the young dude is still going to get that they are Dad’s porn preferences,” she says. That “may be more than he wanted to know about Dad” and “can send a message to a young person that X kind of sex or porn is the right kind, and Y kind isn’t, if you follow me.” She believes adults should be careful to avoid giving young people sexual prescriptions.

This Reddit post went viral precisely because it is so hard to get these things right — especially now. The dad took a “rational and reality based response,” says Clark, and that’s refreshing for parents who are themselves immersed in the world of online porn, or even grew up with it, she says. “People are starved for reasonable, middle-of-the road parenting advice,” she argues. “So people are responding well to the fact that the dad didn’t display some faux outrage and be a hypocrite about finding porn on the computer.”

 
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