This is not a topic I wanted to write about. I would rather not swim in these rough and devisive waters. Yet I felt strongly that I should. Mothers and fathers, this is important. We need to know this and need to act. Now.
“You cannot wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.”Navajo Proverb
A news story broke a few days ago about the owner of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy. This is not a political piece and I don’t want to pile on this guy. He is a real person and I do not want to engage in the current culture of condemnation. However, I did listen to his own statements and his admissions disturbed me. He is accused of “improper sexual conduct”. He admits to sexual relations with women and as we hear him describe those interactions, they strike me as dehumanizing, immoral, and unconcerned with the long-term welfare of the women. There was certainly no thought of “love” or respect for these women.
Portnoy and the women are part of the porn-generation. By the standards of many in this generation, their interactions were not improper. The hook-up culture is often praised as “liberating for women”. Tinder and other dating websites are built on the promise of non-committed sexual relationships. Maybe the women involved in this scandal believed the claims that such relationships are liberating. Do they still?
The women state that they are traumatized by their association with Portnoy. They claim “improper sexual conduct”. I would agree. But, today, what exactly does “improper” mean? Since the sexual revolution “improper” has increasingly lost all meaning. In hearing Portnoy’s descriptions, I wish these women had never associated with such a man – but in a hook-up culture, such interactions are common and many would claim – “proper”.
What we know is this – it didn’t end well for these women. Portnoy doesn’t seem to be doing well either. Perhaps these consequences point to a higher truth. Perhaps there is a “proper” way to interact sexually- one which both parties would have done well to follow.
“Don’t ever take down a fence until you know the reason why it was put up.”G.K. Chesterton
If we look at sexual traditions in nearly every society in history, we may discover that the established standards around sexuality might not just be prudish or repressive – but “proper”. Perhaps rather than stifling women, they protected them. Maybe men can achieve more when they aren’t slaves to their impulses.
Dave Portnoy may simply be a product of our modern sexual culture. He grew up with the idea that porn, hookup culture, and deviant sexuality are acceptable. He is a self-described fan of porn. His tastes have developed according to what he has been fed. When given the opportunity, he seeks to live out these desires. I do, however, believe that there is always a moral choice – a prick of conscience. He knew better, despite his “culture”.
We mothers need to stop burying our heads in the sand about this. If we want women’s bodies and souls to be respected, if we want men to develop a healthy sexuality and form emotional connections, we must be aware of the harsh realities. A healthy view of sexuality and solid morality can easily be destroyed by modern lies.
Where it Starts
Our age of technology has led to unique challenges for us mothers. Perhaps the biggest is Pornography. Pornography breeds the “improper”. False, disturbing, and twisted depictions, thrust upon innocent children, confuse their first perceptions of the sexual relationship (average child exposed by age 11). Porn today is nothing like the Playboy images of yesteryear. While they may start their porn descent in Google images, the desensitizing nature of porn will likely land them in violent or deviant porn. This is dark stuff. A survey of pornographic content showed that 88% portray violence against women – no love, human decency, or mercy. Many young boys and girls see sex depicted in the most violent, debasing and vindictive ways imaginable – and the parents have no clue.
These are not images we want in our children’s minds. We don’t want our sons viewing women in this way. We don’t want our girls believing this is what sex is, or what it should be like. This warping and perverting of intimacy will cause them to question the reality of any genuine loving relationships. Is it any wonder marriage rates are at an all-time low? Young people increasingly don’t even seek out sexual relationships. With such easy access to porn, men are less driven to risk the possible rejection or responsibilities of a real relationship. Young women that see such depictions may well reject men as “toxic” or uncaring.
Porn affects the development of healthy sexuality. It may initiate sexual feelings and perceptions which are unwanted and impede the ability to have a stable and mutually-beneficial sexual relationship with a future spouse. Sexual development is a fragile thing. Initial experiences and images can set a child on a path from which it is difficult to return.
We need to be aware of these difficult truths. There are many men who struggle with their sexual function because they have been desensitized by porn. I know women who have developed eating disorders because they feel they can never be as desirable as porn stars. These are not uncommon experiences. It is not prudish to be anti-porn. We believe the joy and fulfillment of the sexual relationship are worth safeguarding. If we are pro-intimacy and pro-family and pro-sex, we have to be anti-porn. In marriage it is best to come in fresh, to depart together on the adventure and joy of sexual intimacy with as little baggage as possible.
“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”Mark Twain
If your child has unsupervised access to the internet, he or she will see porn. Porn is harmful to them – the studies are in and the evidence is clear. Religious and non-religious alike have awakened to the evils of porn. Armed with this knowledge, we have to move forward with a plan. We must be open and honest with our children, The time of being shy about the birds and bees has passed. If we don’t tell our kids first, an evil and conspiring stranger on the internet will, and we won’t like that version. We must prepare them for when they will stumble onto porn and do all we can to prevent it. Curiosity and biological urges will likely draw children towards these images if they are given free access. There is no shame in our drive to procreate. However, we can’t allow their God-given desires to be warped by those who have no concern for the child’s long-term good.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to be a mother that our child can come to without fear to talk honestly about what they have seen. It’s not if they see porn, it’s when and they need to know it is safe to talk to mom or dad about what they have seen and that we won’t “freak out”.
Part of the difficulty of discussing porn is that while it is important to be honest about its effects, we don’t want to condemn those that have been caught in its snare. Often in innocence and curiosity, we can become entangled. Porn is a wicked twisting of something wonderful and sacred – something we are built to desire. Those that view porn are not “bad”, but porn is. We should avoid that which harms us. We are too precious to allow such things to impede our progress. We should not be hopeless or overreact; those ensnarled by porn can overcome. The shame, guilt, and secrecy which follow porn thrive in darkness. If we discover that our child has been viewing porn, we should rejoice that we now know – that it is now in the light where we can deal with it.
(Good Resources on overcoming porn below)
Plato supposedly said, “Give me a new set of mothers and I will give you a new world.” If we don’t want to live in the world we see portrayed in this recent news story, we have to stop it. We have charge over the future, over children.
A Mother’s Duty
So how do we prevent our kids from getting entangled in porn? Any unguarded electronic or TV is a loaded-gun. We must be willing to set firm boundaries. We have to be okay with our kids being “weird”. My husband and I don’t give our kids cell-phones. My 12- year old has a flip phone without internet for when he is at soccer practice. He will have that until he is 16. All his friends have smartphones – yet he survives. My kids know they are not getting smartphones. They know we aren’t budging so there really isn’t much conflict over it. Instead we are preventing the thousands of fights I hear my fellow moms complain about after their kids get cell phones. I have never met a mother that did not regret, in some form, giving her child a smartphone. (There are now phone options that may be a good compromise, such as Gabb phones)
In the rare cases when my children do complain about being “weird”, those complaints fall on “deaf ears” – I know too much to give in. We were chosen by God to be our child’s protector. We are allowed to raise our kids how we feel is best – we can remain strong despite peer pressure. The facts are in – social media, porn, and cell phones are harming our children. Explain it to your kids – they will see the truth play out in front of them.
Some say, “I trust my kids with a cell phone.” That is a mistake. If you know human nature, you know people hide things from those they do not want to disappoint, they minimize and rationalize. Those producing this content know what they are doing – and they know how to entrap even the most “moral” among us. If you do give your children phones, collect them and all electronics at night, and have parental controls.
I have written extensively about the damage an overprotective mother can do. I have considered whether perhaps not allowing my children to have phones is venturing into “Devouring Mother” realms. After long introspection and research about this topic, I have concluded it is not. Send your kids on adventures and encourage them to do difficult things – don’t hand them a phone full of porn, materialism, and hopelessness.
I wish we didn’t live in a world where such things are readily available. Peaking into the life of Dave Portnoy is just a reminder that our culture is broken and of the pain and suffering this brokenness produces. We must reject such a culture and refuse to raise our children inside of it. We must help them toward a future of what is “proper”, what brings joy, connection, and love.
A good book to read with your kids
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids
A great site with lots of articles and resources
Jordan Peterson discusses New Dating Websites, Sex, and Hook-up Culture
Jordan Peterson. Effects of Porn
Young People having less sex
Stats on Porn among Children in Britain
Religious couples have better sex lives
Harsh facts on Porn and its effects
Porn effect on Children
Having Less Babies
Hook up culture and women
Hollywood Stars talk about the harm of Porn
The Epidemic of Anxiety and Smartphones
Gabb – A great compromise phone.