By Rachel Hynes.
Sunday was a gorgeous almost-spring day in Sydney, and my daughter and I decided to walk across the Harbour Bridge, just because we’d never done it before. We would catch the train to the north side, and walk back to The Rocks. We would take in fresh air, vitamin D, and the best of Sydney’s natural and man-made beauty. It would be special mother/daughter time which I felt had been missing lately. So how did this day feature a discussion about pornography?
It started on the train on the way over the bridge, when she mentioned Omegle, which is like Chat Roulette and seems to be a bit of a party past-time. She confirmed that yes, they come across lots of naked people sitting in front of their computer camera.
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I told her that I was amazed by the images she and teenagers today have seen by the age of 14.
We bought crusty bread rolls and eggplant dip and sat in the sun at the foot of the bridge to continue our conversation before we walked.
I learned that she first saw hardcore porn in early year 8 (aged 12/13). I didn’t ask where, but I assume it was on a phone at school or at a friend’s place, though of course I can’t rule out the home computer.
I got the impression that many teenage boys watch it fairly regularly – nothing new there, except perhaps the accessibility to an ever-growing, broad range of material.
We talked about RedTube and PornHub – sites known and used by teenagers. I learned that they were largely free of cost, and covered a wide range of tastes and material.
She expressed disgust about some of the ‘extreme’ scenarios she’d heard about – specifically she mentioned incest porn.
I told her that ‘in my day’, boys might have a couple of videos or magazines they’d share around that wouldn’t get replaced for months. They could only watch the video when no one was home, or sneak a magazine when they had 10 minutes privacy. In other words, it was not that easy to consume pornography. Today, the variety and sheer quantity far exceeds what we grew up with, and thanks to smartphones, is always at the tip of their fingers.
I told her about the real dangers of addiction and desensitization, and that I wondered what this would mean for her generation; whether there would be very young men who can no longer get pleasure from real life sex because of the level of exposure to pornography. I told her that I worried about what boys would expect, based on what they’d seen. I am worried about their lack of understanding of what actually gives women pleasure, because most of what you see in pornography is not pleasurable to women. I can’t speak to these teenage boys, because I don’t have one myself, but I can speak with my daughter so she is prepared for the potential repercussions and will recognise them when they reach her.
This is not an easy conversation to have, but so important. I received a Catholic sex education where I was told that any activity that “wasted the male seed” was considered a sin. If I can have these tough conversations, anyone can. The trick is finding the right moment, an opening to a conversation, even if you are out to enjoy a beautiful morning around Sydney Harbour.
As joggers, bicycle tours and young parents pushing prams came and went, oblivious to the nature of our conversation, she eventually asked, “Can we not talk about this anymore?” We had wandered into tricky territory, and it was an important part of our day, but now it was time to experience some loveliness. So we headed up the stairs to the Harbour Bridge, for a stroll over deep green water and under clear blue skies, leaving RedTube behind us.
What tricky conversations have you had with your kids lately?