Ep 36: Sex and Pornography Talks

Dina Alexander, the president of Educate Empower Kids and the author of numerous parenting books, explains how to talk to teenagers about porn and sex, including how to start conversations, what to do if you find porn on your family computer, and what topics to cover with every teen.

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Full show notes

It might be every parent’s worst nightmare.

You finally get some down time, and you want to resume watching the highlights to last night’s game, or your favorite sitcom rerun. You pull up the web browser on the shared, family iPad, and you see it. Right there in the search history. Unmistakable.

“Naked ladies”

The time has come, and there’s no way around it. You must now have “The Talk” with your kid. Tell all your friends to wish you luck.

Talking to teens about sex is one of the most common reasons parents come to us looking for help. But why is this conversation so awkward? Sex is supposed to be a positive thing! You should be free to talk about it with your kid, but the fears are common and understandable.

“What if I put an idea in their head and they begin experimenting on their own?”

“What if they ask questions about my sex life I don’t want to answer?”

“What if talking about it makes them too curious, and gets them in trouble?”

These are valid and important questions, and you are not alone if you are asking them. So to help get some quality answers and learn some best practices when talking to teens about sex, I spoke with the amazing, Dina Alexander.

Dina is the founder and CEO of Educate and Empower Kids (EEK), and she has been teaching in various capacities for over 20 years. She created programs like How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and 30 Days of Sex Talks to help parents have positive, informed conversations about sex and pornography with their kids.

The Dangers of Silence

Dina founded EEK after reading an article about teenage porn consumption. The numbers in the article seemed too overwhelming to be true. But sure enough, when she did her own research to verify what she saw, she came to the following realization:

“There is going to be no one left for my daughter to date who won’t have been highly influenced by, or addicted to, porn.”

The scope of the sex industry is hard to fathom, but the dangers it produces for teenagers cannot be ignored. Porn does not teach a positive view of sex. Dina says that parents will have their own beliefs about defining positive sex. However you define positive sex, though, it’s unlikely that porn is accurately representing your beliefs.

Porn teaches a dominant and submissive understanding of sex. As Dina puts it, porn shows teens extreme and unrealistic displays of sexual gymnastics. The problem is that teens don’t understand that what they’re seeing is unrealistic! They are not watching an intimate relationship when they watch porn!

Talking to teens about sex is even scarier when you consider how sensitive a developing teenage brain is to visual imagery. During the teen years, the rapid growth of neural pathways latch on to visual media like TV shows, movies, and pornographic images. Heavy porn consumption normalizes the neural pathways that says “porn is how sex happens.” And the risk of your teen falling into heavy porn consumption without guidance is sadly high.

Dina says that Pornhub’s statistics on total time spent watching porn on their site last year added up to about 500 CENTURIES!!!

This is why talking to teens about sex is something Dina is so fired up to teach to parents. Let’s hear what she has to say:

More Than Just One Talk

First off, Dina says that the idea of “The Talk” just doesn’t work. It’s unfair to assume that you can have one conversation with your kids and they will suddenly understand all your values behind sex. Instead, Dina wants parents to realize that talking to teens about sex means regularly taking the time to normalize the topic of sex in your conversations.

Dina’s programs suggest 30 days of talking to teens about sex in short segments. Depending on your values around sex and the context between you and your teen, you can go through these chats in any order. The idea is to normalize conversation about sex with your teen. If your teen can’t come to you with their questions about sex, then where else would they go for answers other than the phone in their pocket?

Sure, they’ll have a class about it at school, and maybe your church will hold a “purity retreat,” but teens will always have more questions. Dina believes that the home should be the safest place for their questions. If parents aren’t talking to teens about sex, then it’s fair to assume that teens are getting their questions answered elsewhere.

It’s About A Relationship

Odds are, your teenager is going to be exposed to pornography. Talking to teens about sex before this exposure gives you a chance to establish what healthy sex looks like. Having these talks can be scary, but Dina assures that there are a lot of preliminary talks you can have to set up the tougher topics.

In most cases, the first conversation you have with your kid is not going to be about porn. It might not even be about sex! Depending on what your values as parents are, the first conversation you have might be, “How do you know who the right person is?” Or, “What does a healthy relationship look like?”

Dina is quick to point out that talking to teens about sex is not all about the organs. You’ll get to that, but there are a lot of rules and boundaries you can discuss beforehand. Teens will learn all about STDs and unwanted pregnancies in sex-ed at school. At home, you can frame sex as a positive, healthy subject to talk about.

Dina says that nothing gets a teenager’s attention more than their parents being brave and talking about their mistakes. By showing vulnerability as you talk, you can have a lasting positive impact on your relationship. Sharing your past mistakes while talking to teens about sex gets the teens to think about what mistakes they might be making.

Vulnerability opens the door for your teens to ask you more questions. These might be tough questions, but you want your teen to trust you with their tough questions!

Teens and Their Questions

When your teen feels like they can talk more openly about sex with you, they might ask you a “test” question to see what kind of response you will give. For example, you might be asked:

“Hey, what if someone sends me a nude picture?”

Depending on your answer to that question, they might then feel safe to ask their real question:

“Hey, how do I get someone to delete a nude picture of me?”

You won’t always know when a question is a “test” question. This is why Dina encourages parents to always respond kindly with a follow-up question, and listen twice as much as they speak.

If you pounce on the “test” question, your teen might not trust you enough to ask the real question. However, if you were asked the “test” question above you can respond:

“Is that something you’re worried about?”

This extends respect and a desire to love and understand your child. By holding eye contact and patiently listening, you are maintaining a safe space for talking to teens about sex. They are empowered to be brave and ask you the real questions.

Lots More to Discuss

Talking to teens about sex will never be easy. It’s possible that with the growth of the sex industry and evolution of technology, that these talks will only get harder. This is no reason for parents to shirk away, though. In fact, it’s all the more reason for parents to speak up about their own values surrounding sex.

You might not have all the answers to your teen’s questions, but there are a lot of ways to be prepared for talking to teens about sex. In this interview alone, Dina and I talk about:
  • Sex talks for parents with sexual trauma
  • Lots more on pornography (and why parents haven’t talked about it)
  • “Healthy Sexual Intimacy” & Dina’s thoughts on hookup sex
  • Loving your kids no matter what
  • Pulling back the curtain on the sex industry
  • Sexual Abuse and Bullying
  • Love, Independence, & Power - long term vs short term solutions
  • A callback to Chris Voss’s magic words for connecting with your teens
Sex is complex, and often uncomfortable to talk about. Thankfully, Dina has all the tools for helping parents master talking to teens about sex. Plus, she has amazing grace with this topic. Definitely give this episode a listen!

Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Host
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Educate and Empower Kids
Guest
Educate and Empower Kids
A non profit, EEK provides resources to parents and educators as they guide their children in the digital age--focusing on online safety, media lit and dig cit.
Ep 36: Sex and Pornography Talks
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