I have a fourth grade boy and it’s only a matter of time before he will find online porn videos. My feeling is that kids exposed to porn video at an early age develop false expectations of what relationships between older people are in reality, and especially what women are like. I’ve been thinking that it might be a good idea to have my husband tuck some Playboy magazines in my son’s room, accompanied by a conversation that it’s OK for him to look at these. I think it’s healthier for a boy to see these images and let his imagination go wild rather than giving him explicit images that become the paradigm for him. We’re unsure if this is the right step to take. What do you think?
Pornography definitely poses a dilemma for those of us who are concerned both with acceptance of various forms of sexual expression and with the objectification of girls’ and women’s bodies. I have experienced this conflict within me for some time, long before the internet enabled access to a gargantuan amount of of unregulated images and videos. While I believe it to be unreasonable to tell individuals that what sexually excites them in their minds is “wrong,” when desire and arousal translate into harm of an individual or individuals, that clearly is wrong—as in the case of, for example, rape.
Relatively “tame” pornography videos where actors are being paid well and there is full consent of all involved fall into a gray area for me, however. While presumably no individuals are being harmed, I do tend to believe that some general harm is being done to many viewers and, thus, their partners. I have heard anecdotally that those who have grown up with internet porn as a part of their lives often have unrealistic expectations for what their sexual experience should be like and for what their (in particular, female) partners will find desirable and enjoy. Thus, for example, boys who have learned about sex through porn may expect that their female partners will want there to be a level of coercion in the encounter or will anticipate a manifestation of arousal that is unrealistic.
Playboy and other comparatively “tame” porn are also in a somewhat gray area for me because, as you mention, they set up unrealistic expectations regarding body image and body hair. They also, of course, objectify the female form. However, as much as I dislike the objectification of the female body in such magazines, it’s probably no more harmful than the Sports Illustrated so-called “swimsuit issue” and so many other magazines and ads. Many individuals are turned on by visuals, and I can’t see that it’s anyone’s place to tell them that is wrong.
However, as with all social issues that we care about, I believe in talking as much as possible. So if you do decide to provide your son with Playboy, I urge you to talk about the problems involved with the objectification of girls and women and about the unrealistic expectations you’re concerned about. (I’m not sure you have to do that as you hand it to him, however. That may be a bit of a buzz kill.)
On a final note, though, I do wonder if you’re actually accomplishing what you’re hoping to accomplish. How will this stop him from looking for porn on the internet?