“Well, you know your father is going to watch his “movies” now, so you’ll have to say goodnight to him at this point,” my mom said to me regularly during my childhood.
Porn was a non-topic when I was growing up.
This was how our family “talked” about pornography. There was no debate and I was told not to talk to my dad or anyone else about his “movies,”. Especially after we went to the movie rental store and he brought home several adult films, mixed in with what we were renting for our family movie nights.
I was told not to talk about the magazines that came in the mail either, and that they were for my Dad’s eyes alone – I wasn’t allowed to look at them. Eventually, I found them and did look at them. And of course, kept everything to myself.
But I felt shame inside when I looked at those pictures.
And I had nowhere to go, no one to talk to about that “icky” feeling that stirred up inside simultaneously wanting to look and look away. And I definitely wasn’t allowed to discuss the sounds of people having sex that I could hear through the floor on more than one night a week.
Fast forward thirty years, and I am sitting on the bedside near my children, both under 10, as they were getting ready for me to tuck them in after our family prayer.
“And Lord, please watch over all the people of the world who are suffering because of pornography. Please let all the Daddies or Mommies who watch it be able to stop. And please let the people who are caught in the porn industry be able to leave so no one ever hurts them again or touches their bodies without their permission. And please, Lord, let the children who are suffering because of pornography be set free. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.”
I had recently told both of my kids to ask any kid who wanted to show them something on their cell phone to be open and honest about what they wanted to show. This brought up the topic of the reason why, and I told them it was because I didn’t want them to see pornography.
My simple definition was this: Porn is when people don’t have clothes on and people are touching other people’s bodies in their bathing suit areas.
So we began to pray for people to be set free from it so they can enjoy sex as God intended for it to happen: during a marriage between a man and a woman.
I felt scared after praying that prayer, as my heart raced and I waited for the questions to begin. And of course, talking about sex meant talking about babies, so I said that yes, sometimes girls do get pregnant, but that babies are really expensive.
My nine-year-old asked me a simple question in response: “Do some people sell their babies?”
My heart broke as I had to say, “Yes, My Dear One. Sometimes women sell their children into what’s called sex trafficking, which is where they become part of the porn industry or prostitutes.”
So then my child asked me a curious question, “Do kids in Indonesia get put into pornography or sex trafficking?”
The question struck me as odd, but I answered quickly, “Yes, unfortunately, they do, Honey.”
“Does that mean the girl we sponsor from Compassion International is going to be sold into sexual slavery?”
“No, Dear,” I say with confidence. “Her family is part of a strong church community and her Dad is a pastor. Our sponsorship is actually helping her to get food daily and be taken care of so that won’t happen. But it may happen to other kids in her country, as well as around the world, especially a nearby country called Thailand, but also in the United States.”
That was not the first time we had spoken about pornography over the years, but that was the most in-depth line of questioning either child asked me so far.
The beauty that has come from these fruitful conversations has been this:
My children are not ashamed of their bodies.
My children know what pornography is.
My children know porn is not something that glorifies God.
My children know how to say no to pornography.
My children know the design God has for sex.
Likewise, my kids have a safe place to go to ask me any questions they have about any topic, even topics about their personal sexuality or the bodies of others.
I spent my entire childhood silent and ashamed about my sexuality and my father’s regular pornography usage. I was embarrassed when I knew my father was visiting strip clubs and I was angry when he would check out other women while looking through me to do so.
I kept silent about my own sexual abuse from a family member until I was 40 years old.
I see the difference in my children’s actions and emotional landscape with the open-door policy I have about every topic. It makes me smile knowing my children are prepared, protected, and under no pretenses about the effects of pornography.
I am far from a perfect parent, but I vowed that I would not let shame have the final say when it comes to conversations with my kids and how it’s meant to be experienced by God’s beautiful design.
My beloved friends – if you are parents too, I really hope that if you grew up in a household like mine, the legacy you leave looks very different than the one that was handed to you.
Talk about pornography with your kids, today.
Change starts with you!
And as always, if you have any questions about how to start these conversations with your kids or any other topic, feel free to ask them during Office Hours.