Sexual Recovery Blog

What Teens are Saying about Porn

Posted by Danielle Fitch on

The topic of porn and how it affects us is not something new; unfortunately it has become an increasing concern today, and we are still continuing to see all of its harmful effects. While we know that porn does not just affect adults, one growing area of concern has been the impact of porn on teens. This is a tricky area to get into since most teens would say they don’t have a “porn issue”, or recognize that it is even affecting them. While there are countless sources out there focused on this very topic, most of the information is geared towards helping parents talk to their teen about porn and all the harmful ways it can affect their brain or future relationships.  While this is all incredibly important information to have, we often forget to go to the source and ask the teens themselves what they see and experience with porn and give them a voice to tell their own story.

 

Working as a therapist to teens and also doing high-school ministry I am surrounded by teenagers dealing with every type of struggle and pressure you can imagine. I am constantly amazed by what they are faced with every day and how much they feel unheard when it comes to issues like this, one of my high-school students said to me

“Everyone from my parents to my youth pastor are constantly telling me what I’m doing wrong and what to do instead, but no one is asking me what I go through or how I feel”

I realized that maybe instead of writing another blog about the effects of porn on teens or how to talk to them about it I decided to do the thing that they claim no one else will do with them—Listen.

 

As I sat down with several teens, both guys and girls and let them fill me in on this topic I was blown away. The more stories I heard, the more I realized that there was no difference between what these teens were struggling with regarding porn and the adult clients we see other than age and marital status. There are similarities in many ways: the appeal, the lies they tell themselves, the shame and guilt, the impact on their relationships and often their faith, the ‘normalcy and acceptability’ among peers.  It was all there. So what was the big divider? To put it simply, the teens I spoke to told me that it was about what was “expected” of you when you were this age, or in the words of one of the 18 year old guys I talked with 

“A big issue is that it has become a social norm, at least among the guys I’ve met; it actually seems less normal to not watch porn than to watch it now.” 

Along with this social acceptability has come the acceptance in dating relationships. Some of the girls I spoke with in high-school admit they know their boyfriends watch porn but have to simply accept that “this is just something guys their age do, so it’s not abnormal.” They claim because it’s “normal” they don’t believe it will affect their relationship- but when I inquired about how they feel about it, they all admit that it has them allowing the physical boundaries to be pushed. A girl I spoke with who is a senior in high-school and has been in a dating relationship for the past couple years told me how she knows her boyfriend watches porn and it deeply affects her self-worth.  She has told him about her hurts over him watching porn but he refuses to believe it is a problem—what he isn’t seeing is that the problem goes beyond the impact of his own brain but it is causing a confident, beautiful young girl to suddenly ask herself

“Am I not enough for him?”

Another area with this that goes un-talked about is the rise in girls struggling with their own porn addiction- a 16 year old girl shared with me her struggle with porn from the time she was junior high and was exposed to it by friends, “I was confused by how much it turned me on, I was drawn into that feeling and found myself constantly seeking it out.”  Another junior girl shared with me that she watched porn simply because she didn’t want to be seen as different for not watching, and that she was curious about what guys were drawn to, so she know how to appeal to them.

In the midst of all the stories of struggle one beam of hope I saw was that there are a lot of teens out there that have begun to acknowledge and see that this is an issue and they don’t want to struggle with it or let it get to a point of addiction or doing more damage than it has already done. There are groups of high-school guys and girls starting small “accountability” groups and supporting each other.  Accountability offers such hope that there is a generation of teens out there that don’t want this to be their “normal” anymore. The most common theme I heard among all the teens I talked to was that they want to feel safe enough to talk about their struggle without feeling shamed.  If the teenagers had the place or opportunity to simply be heard and encouraged, to hear about healthy sexuality in places like the church (instead of just being told what they were doing was wrong) then these groups of teens wanting to change would grow.

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