Porn is yet another one of those things I never gave much thought to. Don’t get me wrong, I have enough social science degrees to know the dangers of porn and sex work in general. My undergrad thesis was a study of dancers at a local strip club and their interactions with social service agencies. I talked to a lot of strippers. In my book Try a Little Tenderness, I tried to honestly convey as much of that world as I could. Those women were honest and forthright with me, and I tried to do right by them in my book. So yeah, I know all of the statistics and I know from professional interactions just how tragic it can be.

But it didn’t really come home until I had sons of my own. I’m horrified by what they will some day find on the computer. We have all the nanny protections on, but we all know a curious child can find a way around just about anything. The worst thing about it is that most of this stuff is not even “normal” sex anymore. As I’ve always maintained, porn is one of those things that we get desensitized to, requiring greater and greater stimulation to get the same buzz. The porn actresses with their dead eyes are just so horrific and the use of another human being’s body as a “thing” is not a mindset I ever want my sons exposed to. The use of porn is especially dangerous in a society where we socialize our boys to detach from and compartmentalize their emotions. That having feelings is somehow unmanly. This compartmentalization is the very thing that makes porn so attractive; sex without the messiness of dealing with an actual human being. It’s detrimental to women and absolutely devastating to our young men.

My husband and I have talked about this at length. He’s concerned as well. He jokes that I “ruined” porn for him a long time ago by telling him that most of those actresses were sexually abused as children. He was never a big consumer before and lost most of his interest after that. I certainly intend to tell my sons the same thing and explain the mentality/economic realities that leads so many women to “choose” sex work. We do our best to demonstrate that sex within the context of a loving healthy relationship is a good thing, and that using human beings as a masturbatory device is immoral and frankly gross.

I fear that this will not be enough. Just hanging out online I see so many young men who are clearly porn sick. Who’ve had their view of women and girls totally distorted by the pervasiveness of this industry. My husband points out that back in our day porn was much more difficult to acquire and that if it had been as readily available to him as it is to young men today, it would have had a devastating effect on him. He probably would’ve done nothing else but watch it. And that’s what I’m afraid of. I know so many men whose marriages and even careers have been destroyed by porn. It drives so much of the sexual sickness that has become commonplace. When I was growing up porn mainly consisted of sex. Even anal sex was shocking and I was a fully adult woman before I actually saw photos. Now we’ve reached the point that with one click of the mouse I can see women experiencing an unimaginable level of bodily harm. This connection between pain, humiliation and pleasure is a very dangerous one, especially in the developing young brain.

I’m not a prude or ignorant, I know my sons will be curious about sex and sexuality. (And BTW, could somebody PLEASE write a version of Our Bodies Ourselves for boys? Without all the, “this is the stuff you can’t talk to your parents about” rhetoric? I don’t want to reinforce that mindset. I could talk to my VERY old school mama about anything and I want my boys to feel the same way.) Sex and sexuality is a normal developmental stage, but how do I help them through this stage when so much of this garbage is so readily available? From the very beginning we have tried to raise them as loving, empathetic young men with a healthy respect for other human beings. Porn is the antithesis of this. A cancer that serves only to erode and undermine healthy adult relationships. We are using the only antidote we can think of for this insidious poison; a healthy adult relationship. My only question is, will it be enough?