Two related new stories caught my eye yesterday. This first came courtesy of The Independent and was titled “Our sexual obsession damages boys as well as girls.” It spoke of the results of a study completed by The American Psychological Association which found “that the portrayal of girls and young women as sex objects harms girls’ mental and physical health.” In his brief commentary at the Reformation21 blog, Carl Trueman sarcastically called this a “stunning and profound insight.” Christians already know this. This report summarized the dangers of these findings like this:
The saturation of sexualised images of females is leading to body hatred, eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression, high rates of teen pregnancy and unhealthy sexual development in our girl children. It also leads to impaired cognitive performance. In short, if we tell girls that looking “hot” is the only way to be validated, rather than encouraging them to be active players in the world, they underperform at everything else.
But the consequences of sexualising girls are far more devastating than this. Rape is at crisis levels, and one in three women will be a victim of stalking, sexual harassment or sexual violence in their lifetime.
The men who are committing these crimes are not a small number of psychotic individuals, but a wide range of seemingly normal guys who have grown up to see and understand women as existing for their pleasure. Because the report is written and interpreted by the anti-biblical American Psychological Association, some of the conclusions are unbiblical and all of the conclusions avoid any sense of sin and offense against God. But I do agree with many of the conclusions. This one rang especially true:
The sexualisation of girls is not just shattering the lives of girls and women, it is preventing boys and young men from relating to girls and women as complex human beings with so much to offer them. It is preventing boys from forming healthy friendships and working relationships with girls and women. Instead, it is nurturing potentially violent abusers, rapists and johns. Ultimately, it means boys are not free to be themselves, to know their own humanity.
Pornography does prevent boys from forming normal and healthy relationships with girls. Implicit in pornography is the understanding that women exist to be exploited and exist primarily for the pleasure of men. They do not need to be embraced as friends or wooed or admired. Rather, they are to be conquered, used and left behind. Boys that immerse themselves in pornography are not able to fulfill their God-given roles as leaders and protectors. They are, instead, exploiters.
A second study came across my RSS reader yesterday. This one was completed by University of Alberta researcher Sonya Thompson. In early 2003 she provided a questionnaire to 429 rural and urban Grade 8 students aged 13 to 14. “She asked about their exposure to and use of sexually explicit material on TV, DVDs, movies and the Internet, as well as about their interaction with their parents about such material.” She found that 35% of boys and 8% of girls had already watched pornography more times than they could count. Even more alarmingly, the parents of these children were completely oblivious to their kids’ addictions. Her conclusions were similar to that of the American Psychological Association:
She also said sexually curious teens who are watching porn are getting the wrong messages about healthy sexuality and don’t distinguish between actors getting paid to perform and real-world sexuality.
“Parents need to be talking to their kids about porn in a non-judgmental way and to keep the conversation happening,” said Thompson, who is also a sexual health educator.
The fact is that children are increasingly learning about sexuality through pornography, and in particular, through Internet pornography. I find it absolutely terrifying that children are learning all about abnormal, deviant sex before their minds have even begun to grasp normal and pure sex. They are filling their minds with exploitation, rape, homosexuality, bestiality, degradation and brutality long before they would even consider that sex is meant to be loving, tender, reciprocal, and passionate. Not too long ago I was disturbed to read a book where the author, a single woman, reflected on this pornified culture and mentioned that whenever she dates a man now, he wants to have anal sex with her. He wants to sodomize her and often do far worse than that. He wants to do what, by any measure, is degrading and humiliating. Her conclusion is that traditional, normal sex is passe. She realized that men she dated just wanted to use her to act out what they saw when they watched pornography. They didn’t care for her as a woman or even as a person, but saw her only as a means to achieving their porn-induced fantasies. Young boys and girls are growing up now with this mindset. And all the while their parents are unaware and oblivious, not knowing that the children are imbibing endless amounts of perversion.
This is the culture we live in. Our children will be exposed to this, if not through school it will be through the church. It may be through a seemingly-innocent Google search. But sooner or later our children will see pornography movies and images. It is going to happen. And we, as parents, need to be prepared. Here are just a few suggestions:
Prepare to take preventive measures on behalf of your children. The best thing you can do is to ensure that the computer is in a public, high-traffic area. Password the computer so the children can only use it only when other people are around. I have found most porn-prevention software to be utterly useless (either it blocks everything or it blocks nothing) but you may be able to find some that is useful. Do not allow your children to have a computer in their rooms and do not allow them to have their own televisions.
Monitor the use of instant messenger software and web browsers. Let your children know that you will be monitoring what they see, do and say on the computer and that they will not be able to view pornography without you knowing. Be sure you know how to look through a computer’s history to see what your children have been looking at.
Be especially careful with sites like Google Video and YouTube. In many ways these sites, which can seem innocent (and most often are) feed the porn industry. It is a small step from videos of girls kissing and other exploitive videos to pornography. Many of the videos on these sites exist only as a bridge to other sites that are far less innocent.
Talk to your children about pornography and do so before they encounter it for the first time. In my generation, most boys were probably thirteen or fourteen before we were introduced to pornography, and even then it was typically difficult to obtain. Today it is as close as a Google search and most children will be introduced to it far earlier. Teach your children about real sex, and about pure sex, and about God’s plan and desire for sex. Talk to them about pornography, not leaving it as “pornography is filthy and disgusting” but discussing why they might be interested in it, what it will do to them, and how they should react when (not “if”) they are exposed to it. This is not a traditional “birds and bees” discussion that you can have once, but an ongoing conversation you need to have time and again. Continually talk to your children, know your children, and challenge them.
Model purity and love and respect in your own marriage. Let your children see healthy relationships in action so your words about the devastation pornography and the objectification of women brings will be set against what is good and true and natural.
Pray for your children. This is a strange and awful and topsy-turvy culture we live in. We are reaping the “rewards” of generations of feminism run amok and are seeing with clarity that we cannot continue to exploit women and allow boys to exploit girls, without suffering serious consequences. Our children are at risk and only God has the power to save them.