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Author Topic: Kids exposed to porn  (Read 4263 times)
Collinsky
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« Topic Start: May 15, 2011, 01:40:07 am »

Discussions about porn in general aside (I'm not exactly a prude) I would really appreciate some feedback. My daughters are 6 and 8, and I found out tonight that on Friday, they were shown at least one graphic porn video online by a couple of the girls in our neighborhood. They were then cautioned to keep it a secret. (These girls are 9 and 11, but because they play with my girls so much, since we all share a yard, they may honestly not realize how much younger my daughters actually are? They're all children.)

My youngest did keep it a secret for the last couple days; I've felt like something was off with her all day today. Tonight at bedtime she couldn't sleep. She kept crying, and saying she was scared. She said she was scared of bears, and I comforted her. This went on for about an hour, and I laid with her to help her calm down so she could sleep. Then she said, "I hate lying to you. I don't like keeping secrets... I'm afraid you are going to punish me..." I said, "What would I punish you for?" And she said, "I did something inappropriate." I told her that I wouldn't punish her (which isn't even a word we use in this house, so I'm thinking she got the idea from somewhere) and she told me what happened. She said it made her uncomfortable, she didn't want to, but they pressured her into it. (They may not have, she might have felt pressure but that doesn't mean they actively did it.) She was so ashamed, and confused, and scared. It was awful to see her like that.

I told her that she could always tell me anything, and that she didn't have to keep secrets from me ever, and that if anything made her feel uncomfortable she could always come talk to me and I would help her. After we talked, she felt much better, and said she felt like the bad feelings were gone, and she said she never wanted to lie to me ever again. She was able to go to sleep then.

I am not sure what I should do now. I don't want to overreact, of course, but I also want to appropriately address what I should. Anything I'm seeing online is "How pornography harms children" which is practically useless to me. I don't need anti-porn info, I need "My kids saw something they were definitely not ready for, now what???" info.

Any ideas or thoughts for how to proceed from here? I'm feeling a little raw at the moment.









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« Reply #1: May 15, 2011, 04:24:01 am »



Most of the discussions I've seen focus upon helping older kids/teenagers, who have sought the stuff out for themselves out of curiosity, comprehend the difference between real-world sex and (mainstream) porn sex.  A lot of this material also focuses on not making the kid feel ashamed for their desires/curiosity, or for seeking out erotic stuff.  And it sounds like that's your general attitude, too.  But that sort of thing would apply more to the older girls; that's about the age when I (growing up pre-Internet) started peeking at the dirty scenes in my mom's romance novels -- and considering this was the 80s, aka the high point of rape-is-love romances, actual porn would probably have been less disturbing -- and then slamming the book shut yelling "EEEEW!!!"  (Then, of course, the next day, I'd open it up again and read a little more.)  I grew up surrounded by erotic stories -- my mom's romance novels overflowed the bookshelves, my dad's magazines were not-well-hidden under the bathroom sink, and I was never forbidden to look at anything; it wasn't on the scale of the Internet, but my sister and I did have unfettered access to it all, and we grew up fine.  Smiley  Then again, both of us went totally at our own pace, and had zero interest until the puberty hormone surge -- nobody ever *showed* it to us.

I'm saying all this to point out that the older girls aren't necessarily bullying sexual predators, or somesuch -- just that kids that age are both so curious and so freaked out by the prospect of sex that they tend to want to share the stuff they find with their friends, for commiseration and reassurance.  (There's a great scene in Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret where the girls examine first a Playboy, then a parent's medical text, for exactly that.) And depending on how sex-shaming their parents/environments are, or if they have a highly developed sense of privacy, that could influence the level of freaked-out aftermath the older girls are having, and hence their telling your kids to keep quiet.  Not that you sound like you're upset or outraged at the older girls or anything, just wanted to toss that out there in writing.  But again, that's all more relevant to older kids who are exploring things for and among themselves, not younger kids who aren't making those decisions.

It sounds like your youngest was just as freaked out about keeping something from you as she was about the porn itself, and it sounds like you reacted beautifully.  I liked your point that she felt pressured, whether or not the older girls actually did pressure her; she's the baby of that group, and probably eager to show that she can keep up, and doesn't like not understanding things that her friends seem to.  As for the porn discussion, maybe the best thing would be to say something like "it's normal to be curious, and when you're ready to start thinking about things like that, we'll have a talk.  For now, just know that the people in that movie were actors who are doing a job, and real sex isn't like that -- nobody has to worry about camera angles, for one thing!    But you shouldn't have to see things like that until you decide you're ready -- and no one can decide that but you.  It's not fair of your friends to push you into something you're not ready for.  You can come to me with any questions you have, about that or anything else."  And in the end, one encounter with a dirty video is unlikely to scar an otherwise well-adjusted kid for life.  Smiley   

For the older girls, what are their parents like?  If you feel there was some malice and/or intimidation on the older girls' part, it might be a good idea to bring them into it.  But sexual curiosity, especially for girls in our culture, is a really fraught thing, and often is really bound up with fear and shame, and I think every kid deserves some space to explore fictional erotic narratives for themselves, at their own pace, without parental interference.  But they absolutely should not be bringing your girls into it, and they need to know that.  Maybe speak with the girls yourself about leaving your kids out of it, and encourage them to talk to their parents about their questions?  It's not your job to play their Net Nanny, but they need to know that they can't push others, like your kids, into things they're not ready for. 
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« Reply #2: May 15, 2011, 04:47:33 am »


It really sounds like what bothered her was keeping a secret not seeing the porn.
Which I guess is a good thing.

I remember in elementary when kids start to write the word 'sex' down somewhere, feeling terribly giggly about it.
So the older girls seemed to be just curious and excited to have found something lewd on the web and wanted to share it.

Otherwise catja answered everything way better than I could.
Just wanted to add my impression. Smiley
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« Reply #3: May 15, 2011, 05:21:15 am »



For the older girls, what are their parents like?  If you feel there was some malice and/or intimidation on the older girls' part, it might be a good idea to bring them into it.  But sexual curiosity, especially for girls in our culture, is a really fraught thing, and often is really bound up with fear and shame, and I think every kid deserves some space to explore fictional erotic narratives for themselves, at their own pace, without parental interference.  But they absolutely should not be bringing your girls into it, and they need to know that.  Maybe speak with the girls yourself about leaving your kids out of it, and encourage them to talk to their parents about their questions?  It's not your job to play their Net Nanny, but they need to know that they can't push others, like your kids, into things they're not ready for. 

I would be wary about speaking with the older girls directly about it without their parents knowledge, consent, or involvement. There's a potential for an ugly incident there depending on their parent's views and attitudes about sex, pornography, parenting etc. If you can speak to the parents yourself and feel that the children need to be reined in, at least around your children, that may be a safer course of action for you. Some parents wouldn't take kindly to an unrelated adult speaking with their young children about pornography no matter the justification or innocence of the situation.
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« Reply #4: May 15, 2011, 07:01:21 am »


Colinsky it sounds like you have some good kids there... the one thing I would do is go over to the other girls parents and quietly have a chat with the dad in a light hearted way just to sus him out. Kids that young watching porn just sends off all kinds of alarm bells for me, if he thinks its ok, if I saw him squirming or if I even found him a bit socially off Id call social services to check him out. Even in a society where gender roles are pressed on to children younger and younger and everything is sexualized from coke to clothes its still not normal for little girls that young to be watching porn. They might be that sexualized because of abuse in the home.


Maybe I am over sensitive maybe hes just a dumbass who cant keep his porn out of the reach of his kids... but I wouldnt take the chance that hes a sexual preditor
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« Reply #5: May 15, 2011, 07:05:56 am »

Colinsky it sounds like you have some good kids there... the one thing I would do is go over to the other girls parents and quietly have a chat with the dad in a light hearted way just to sus him out. Kids that young watching porn just sends off all kinds of alarm bells for me, if he thinks its ok, if I saw him squirming or if I even found him a bit socially off Id call social services to check him out. Even in a society where gender roles are pressed on to children younger and younger and everything is sexualized from coke to clothes its still not normal for little girls that young to be watching porn. They might be that sexualized because of abuse in the home.


Maybe I am over sensitive maybe hes just a dumbass who cant keep his porn out of the reach of his kids... but I wouldnt take the chance that hes a sexual preditor


Yes, this as well. Acting out sexually especially at a young age can be a red flag for abuse or inappropriate behavior in the home.  Also 'cause I didn't say it before it does sound like your children are very well loved and extremely well adjusted Collinsky Smiley
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« Reply #6: May 15, 2011, 08:04:36 am »

It sounds like your youngest was just as freaked out about keeping something from you as she was about the porn itself, and it sounds like you reacted beautifully.  I liked your point that she felt pressured, whether or not the older girls actually did pressure her; she's the baby of that group, and probably eager to show that she can keep up, and doesn't like not understanding things that her friends seem to.  As for the porn discussion, maybe the best thing would be to say something like "it's normal to be curious, and when you're ready to start thinking about things like that, we'll have a talk.  For now, just know that the people in that movie were actors who are doing a job, and real sex isn't like that -- nobody has to worry about camera angles, for one thing!    But you shouldn't have to see things like that until you decide you're ready -- and no one can decide that but you.  It's not fair of your friends to push you into something you're not ready for.  You can come to me with any questions you have, about that or anything else."  And in the end, one encounter with a dirty video is unlikely to scar an otherwise well-adjusted kid for life.  Smiley   
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For the whole post, really, but your suggestion on what Colleen should say to her younger daughter is perfect - and I'm speaking here in part from my own (fairly vivid) memories of my childhood sexuality and curiosity.

The online stuff about How Porn Harms Children is, IMO, worse than useless, Colleen - a very great deal of it is rooted in the Romantic/Victorian ideas of children's innocence, by which (among many other things) they meant "innocent of carnal awareness/desire".  This persists in modern perceptions of children; many (most?) folks are horrified by the suggestion that children even have a sexuality (I know one person who, simply for speaking of its existence in herself as a child, was vilified as a pedophile).  This culture of erasure/shaming doesn't protect children from harm; it does nothing to reduce actual sexual abuse of children, while at the same time often damaging the healthy development of their sexualities.  (Catja - springboarding from things I said, but she covered it far better than I did - talks about adult idealization of children in the thread "Wicked Pretty Things" fiasco; a fair bit of it has relevance here.)

Prepubescent sexuality is, in many respects, quite different from postpubescent/adult sexuality (though I'm often struck by how much of the shape of my adult sexuality was already present when I was quite a young child) but it certainly exists, and not because some predatory adult put it there (as I've occasionally heard suggested); awareness of the existence of sex does not, in itself, damage them - the so-called Primal Scene may have been traumatic for Freud's upper-class European patients, largely raised in nurseries well-separated from their parents' boudoirs, but millions of less-affluent children brought up in dwellings in which the whole family slept in the same room were none the worse for proximity to parental intimacy.  Unhealthy models of sexual interaction, like unhealthy relationship models of any kind, can negatively impact their conceptions of relationship interactions; actual sexual abuse is certainly damaging - but a porn video, unless it has material that's threatening in ways that are already in their frames of reference, isn't likely to cause much more than a loud, "EEEEW!!!" (to quote Catja's reaction to her mother's "rapemance" novels).

I'll get off the soapbox, since I suspect I'm preaching largely to the choir here.

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« Reply #7: May 15, 2011, 08:07:42 am »

Prepubescent sexuality is, in many respects, quite different from postpubescent/adult sexuality... but it certainly exists, and not because some predatory adult put it there (as I've occasionally heard suggested)....
Scratch the "occasionally".

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« Reply #8: May 15, 2011, 08:24:41 am »

Yes, this as well. Acting out sexually especially at a young age can be a red flag for abuse or inappropriate behavior in the home. 

But...  If that is in fact the case (acknowledging that we don't know whether it is or not and there's not necessarily any reason to assume that it is), I'd be worried that bringing the incident to the parents' attention would cause harm to the girls--and I question whether, in that situation, it would really accomplish anything in any case.

I think it's a really  difficult question as regards talking to the older girls' parents.  I know I as a parent would not want another adult having this talk with my kid--but at the same time, if my daughter were one of the older girls, she would not need to fear an abusive reaction if I found out.  If there is any concern in that direction, I'd tread very lightly.

I also question whether viewing one pornographic video at age 9-11 is really "acting out sexually", though.  I don't know how it is where Collinsky is, but around here we start sex ed in about 4th grade--which is to say, around that age.  I think it's only natural for kids to be curious about it once they start learning about it.  Part of that curiosity might include wondering what sex looks like, or what porn is like.  I don't know that there's really anything wrong with that as long as the kids understand that it's not necessarily something they need to be *doing* themselves yet.  These girls seem to have either not known or not remembered that it was inappropriate to share the video with a younger child, but I don't think we have enough information to be passing judgement on their presumed sexual activity or lack thereof in a general sense.
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« Reply #9: May 15, 2011, 08:36:30 am »

But...  If that is in fact the case (acknowledging that we don't know whether it is or not and there's not necessarily any reason to assume that it is), I'd be worried that bringing the incident to the parents' attention would cause harm to the girls--and I question whether, in that situation, it would really accomplish anything in any case.

I think it's a really  difficult question as regards talking to the older girls' parents.  I know I as a parent would not want another adult having this talk with my kid--but at the same time, if my daughter were one of the older girls, she would not need to fear an abusive reaction if I found out.  If there is any concern in that direction, I'd tread very lightly.

I also question whether viewing one pornographic video at age 9-11 is really "acting out sexually", though.  I don't know how it is where Collinsky is, but around here we start sex ed in about 4th grade--which is to say, around that age.  I think it's only natural for kids to be curious about it once they start learning about it.  Part of that curiosity might include wondering what sex looks like, or what porn is like.  I don't know that there's really anything wrong with that as long as the kids understand that it's not necessarily something they need to be *doing* themselves yet.  These girls seem to have either not known or not remembered that it was inappropriate to share the video with a younger child, but I don't think we have enough information to be passing judgement on their presumed sexual activity or lack thereof in a general sense.

All this is true which is why Nuadu pointed out it would be wise to feel out the parents and get a read on the situation before taking any action, I was attempting to reiterate this rather than start a pointless witch hunt. Further if there is abuse or inappropriate behavior occurring it may not be in the home or instigated by a parent. I would also agree that on the surface exposing a younger child to pornographic videos is not necessarily the kind of acting out that may warrant further investigation but it could be. Therefore it warrants mentioning.
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« Reply #10: May 15, 2011, 08:48:10 am »

Yes, this as well. Acting out sexually especially at a young age can be a red flag for abuse or inappropriate behavior in the home.  Also 'cause I didn't say it before it does sound like your children are very well loved and extremely well adjusted Collinsky Smiley

For girls, who usually start entering puberty around ages 9-12 (earlier than boys, on average), being wildly curious about sex and looking around for representations of it is *not* "acting out sexually" in some kind of negative way.  It's perfectly normal behavior.  The hormones are juuuust starting to kick into gear at that point, and stuff that seemed totally disgusting a couple years ago is now totally disgusting yet kind of fascinating too.  What kids find depends on what they can get access to:  I had bodice-ripping romance novels and Playboys, kids today have the Internet.  It's helpful to know what's actually common for that age group before deciding that something is aberrant.  Like Sunflower pointed out, it is a harmful delusion that children are some kind of sexual blank slates unless some bad adult put ~such thoughts~ there; it's fabulous for propping up cultural notions of childhood "innocence," but not so good at dealing with kids' own realities and helping them be less confused.  It pathologizes perfectly common stuff -- and because, again, girls develop at a younger age than boys do, the automatic assumption that there's something TERRIBLY WRONG with a 9-11 year-old with sexual curiosity reinforces, for girls, that thinking about sex is bad and shameful.

It is also worth pointing out that 9-12 is the age group that promulgates the urban legend of "different colors of jelly bracelets/pop can tops/some other random object mean SEX ACTS OMG."  That story is pretty much only told by kids in that age group:  younger kids aren't that interested, and older (more hormonal) kids have a better sense of why people would want to have sex with each other, without having to resort to jelly bracelets to explain it.  Plus, the story is fabulous for freaking out adults, who predictably wail about "omg sexualization!!1!"    
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« Reply #11: May 15, 2011, 08:57:10 am »


Aw, thank you.  Smiley  And yes, 100% -- our culture is deeply, problematically, and CREEPILY invested in "childhood innocence," and it really, really screws with our cultural ability to deal with both normal stuff AND with abuse victims, because we can't acknowledge kids' own feelings and curiosities that don't fit within our comfortable fantasies.

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« Reply #12: May 15, 2011, 09:05:34 am »


I think it's a really  difficult question as regards talking to the older girls' parents.  I know I as a parent would not want another adult having this talk with my kid--but at the same time, if my daughter were one of the older girls, she would not need to fear an abusive reaction if I found out.  If there is any concern in that direction, I'd tread very lightly.


*nods*  Yes, this, exactly.  If you have reason to suspect abuse -- or, on the other extreme, you're satisfied that it was just unmalicious curiosity -- I'd be reluctant to bring the parents into this. 

My suggestion to Colleen, which I didn't articulate clearly, was for her to talk to the girls strictly as the parent of her own kids, laying down rules for how the girls are to play with her kids.  I'd go with reminding them that her kids are younger and need to proceed at their own pace, that it's unfair to drag them into things they're not ready for, and then recommend that the older girls talk to their own parents about things like that.  That's it. 
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« Reply #13: May 15, 2011, 09:58:13 am »


First of all, well done. It sounds like you dealt with your daughter's upset wonderfully. I don't know if I would have dealt with that situation so well. It seems that if your daughter is upset by the imagery she saw then she'll talk to you about it in her own time. Were you thinking of bringing it up with your older daughter? Or just leaving it to her to raise it with you?

As for the other girls, I would probably have a quiet word with them. I think I would explain to them that while they are free to look at whatever they want, your daughters are younger and not ready for that kind of exploration and ask them not to show things like that to your girls just now. Do you think you would feel comfortable bringing it up with them?
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« Reply #14: May 15, 2011, 11:54:25 am »

Discussions about porn in general aside (I'm not exactly a prude) I would really appreciate some feedback. My daughters are 6 and 8, and I found out tonight that on Friday, they were shown at least one graphic porn video online by a couple of the girls in our neighborhood. They were then cautioned to keep it a secret. (These girls are 9 and 11, but because they play with my girls so much, since we all share a yard, they may honestly not realize how much younger my daughters actually are? They're all children.)

I think you handled the situation with your daughter beautifully. Good job!

On the issue of the neighbor girls and their parents, I'm not sure what you should do. I can only speculate on what I would do in your situation, or what I would want another parent to do if it were my kid.

I know that if it were my kid showing porn to younger kids, or even looking at it himself, I would definitely want to know so that we could talk about it. I would be pretty pissed if I wasn't told, and found out later that it had happened, and another parent talked to my kid about it instead of coming to me directly.

On the other hand, if it were my kid being shown the video, I don't think I would bypass the parents and talk to the girls directly because I would feel like I was 1) trying to parent someone else's kid, and 2) hiding something from their parents that they really needed to know about.

So, in a perfect world, I would tell the parents and let them deal with their own kids. Just as I would want to be told, so that I could deal with mine. However, I understand that we don't live in a perfect world, and there could be many negative consequences of telling the girls' parents.

I guess it all depends on how well you know the parents and what kind of relationship you have with them. How do you think they would react to this information?
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