A mother daughter date, with an unexpected conversation

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.

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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.

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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.

Sydney Harbour Bridge walk by avlxyz/Flickr

What tricky conversations have you had with your kids lately?

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Comments

  1. You’d never walked across the Harbour Bridge? Or you’d just not walked it together? Either way, I guess this is a walk you won’t forget in a hurry!
    It’s so great that you can have these tough, but very important, conversations with your daughter. Sometimes the ‘right’ moment is brief. The trick is being open to it when it comes along, and knowing when it has passed. And being brave!

    • Well, technically we both walked it together when I pushed her in a pram as a two-year-old on National Sorry Day in 2000! But neither of us had actually walked across the foot bridge before.

      And thanks for your comments Lisa. I think I am lucky I can talk about tough things with her, but it isn’t easy. I try to sound relaxed about it but my outward demeanor is very different to how I might feel inside, where my brain is working overtime to find the best way to say what I want to say. It is all very tricky, isn’t it? As you would well know. :)

  2. I tip my hat to you, sounds like a very well handled conversation. I haven’t been given the opening to talk in any detail about porn with my kids yet so I appreciate you sharing, very handy for filing away ideas for the future!

    • Thanks Mimbles. I must admit I’ve been thinking for a while about what I wanted to say when the time came. Hope it helps.

  3. Okay, now I’m really terrified for my future 21st century teenage boys. For now, I can say that I know I won’t be scared into having the tough conversations with them. But who knows how our the dynamics of our relationship will pan out and who knows what kind of technology I’ll be up against.
    It’s all readily available out there now. I would hate to think how easier the access will be in 10 years or so.
    It’s scary. It’s really scary…

    • Wish I had a crystal ball too. But we’ll be going through it together – my littlest ones are the same age as yours :)

  4. Kylez...aka...Mrs.P says:

    My daughter is only 9 months old so we haven’t had to navigate any conversations like this yet but I know the day will come (much sooner than I would ever like I’m sure!) I hope when the time does come that she feels comfortable enough to talk to me about this kind of the though. I think you handled it beautifully.

    • Thanks Kylez, not sure how comfortable anyone is talking about these things – we just put our head down and plough through :)

  5. Thank you for sharing stories like these – as a mother to a 7 1/2 and 9 year old girls I am arming myself for future conversations and i don’t have many sources yet for grasping what is coming. We are in the stage of discussing puberty so imagine sex is next – i had not planned to discuss pornography ever so this is an eye opener . I know so much has changed since “my day” but this is up there with what frightens and disgusts me – starting with chat roulette and ending with hard core porn for early teens – wow!

    • Hi Deb, not all teens will be curious, but my observation is most are. And the exposure to quite adult concepts began at around 10. Forewarned is forearmed :)

  6. Well done for having the conversation – so many parents would just avoid the situation all together. As a high school teacher, I see how easily kids get caught up in stuff like this. I think one of the best ways to protect your kids is to have informed conversations like yours. That helps them to have another perspective on the situation!

    • Yes, you want them to be getting the right message from somewhere, to balance out all the other messages they get. Thanks Jo.

  7. That was quite a conversation! You did well. If it means she will be thinking twice and questioning what she’s seeing then that’s great. Good luck! x

  8. Isn’t sad that we are having to have these types of conversations with our kids? The internet is a great thing but geez it has definitely made our kids grow up a hell of a lot quicker! It’s a tough conversation to have but one that is totally necessary these days :(

    What a lovely relationship you must have with your daughter :)

  9. Not only is it fantastic that you were openinly talking about this and the potential repercussions but it shows that you have a very open relationship with your daughter. I really think talking about this with children helps them to analyse the information in a more wholistic manner. Well done!

  10. Those conversations can happen in the most unusual places. We seem to have a lot of similar ‘heavy’ conversations in the car when she’s in the back seat. As for porn, I’m not sure how much she’s seen but she definitely knows what it is and even the different types there is. The thing that shocked me was when my 9 yr old came home from school one day traumatised by what one of the other boys had shown him on his phone (he said he didn’t see it but the boy described it to him, I’m not sure this is true though). It sounded like very extreme S&M or even ‘snuff’ porn. For a while there he was having bad dreams about it. I can’t imagine what teenage boys are watching but it does make me concerned for my 13 yr old daughter and future relationships.

    • That’s the thing Becci. Even if you are convinced your kid will never seek it out, chances are it is going to be put under their nose at some point. Your poor boy.

  11. I am concerned for my little boys for the future knowing what is out there , so accessible to impressionable minds. Tough conversation .

    • There is a degree of resilience that goes along with it – they do live in different times, and they have adapted somewhat. But you don’t want them adapting too far.

  12. ”Use Omegle at your own peril, and do not use Omegle if you are under 13, or without a parent/guardian’s permission if you are under 18”. A friends teenage daughter clearly did not seek her mother’s permission when she started chatting to a stranger – a man who claimed to be 20 years old. My friend was very concerned when she discovered her daughter had continued chatting to this stranger on her personal Skype account for 4 weeks. The initial Omegle game started at a party, the other girls did not however give out their private contact details.

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