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Bolt the Super Dog & Porn

Written in 2019. Kids ages: 13, 10, 8


In my experience as a parent, you never know when a question about sex might pop up. I have to be on my toes constantly. Their random little minds work in mysterious ways.

Sometimes I find myself wondering if I should let the boys play more electronics just so I can avoid the awkward conversations. But alas, my aversion to electronic freedom wins out and I have opportunities aplenty to chat with my kiddos.

It does melt my little mom heart to watch my two boys, on the precipice of adolescence, confide in each other. Like all moms, I think they are being exposed to way too many adult themes by their peers and their own curiosity. I do find it fascinating to watch them try to make sense of things, then when they come to the end of their understanding, to pop their questions unexpectedly on me.


Another one of these unexpected conversations happened on an ordinary, September evening. We had recently taken a family bike ride past a local basketball court, and the boys wanted me to drop them off so that they could test it out. Dylan came home from school pumped; he had the best day at school because all he could think about was how fun playing basketball with his big brother was going to be.


I dropped them off, and after 45 minutes in 100 degrees Fahrenheit they texted me that they were done. I hopped in the car and headed over to pick them up. It was just me and them, the perfect setup for unexpected questions. Naturally, the first question they ask me,


“Mom, are we allowed to watch porn?”


Now, any other, unexperienced mom might have been caught off guard. Not me. I am so used to being randomly assailed with sexual questions that I just took a deep breath and pressed on.


For anyone that knows me, I am not a filtered person, more of a “say my thoughts out loud and work through them together” sort of communicator. This is exactly how I have come to approach these conversations with my children. I think they appreciate the honesty of it. They can clearly see that I am working through my own opinion on the matter. It helps them to feel involved in the creation of a suitable answer. This approach also makes them feel respected and adult-like, which is even better.


Without much hesitation, especially since we only had approximately seven minutes until we pulled into the garage and had their 8-year old sister waiting for us, I dove right in.


“Well, I think at your age, pornography is not something you should watch. You are a bit young for that.”


“Yes, yes,” They agreed, “But what about when we are older?”


“Well, yes, of course, that is appropriate. But the important thing to remember about porn is that it is a movie. It is someone’s fantasy. So, some of it is not actually real.”


“What do you mean it’s not real? I thought it was just people having sex?” They continued.


“Yes, true. But it’s staged. There is a producer and a director and actors.”


“Hmm, but isn’t it real?” They pressed.


“Well, think about a movie all about magic. If you were a person that had only been exposed to fictional movies, or books, and even your own family told you there was magic….” Floundering for words, floundering. At this point I’m not sure they are getting my analogy. I’m not sure it is going in the right direction. What can I say?


“Aww, Bolt! Remember the movie, Bolt?” Hang with me here while I explain the movie to those of you who have not seen it. Bolt is a cartoon dog who was born and raised on a movie set, raised to believe that he was a super-dog. In the movie, he is the star of a tv show with his best human-friend Penny. The movie crew filmed in such a way that Bolt thought he could laser through walls with a super stare, break through bars with super strength and super jump across highways. Then, when he escapes the movie set, he is disappointed by the real world. He can’t actually laser stare through walls, he doesn’t have a super bark that can blow bad guys away and he most certainly is not a super dog.


My children know this movie, so I didn’t have to explain it that detailed to them. “Well,” I continued, “if someone starts watching a lot of porn, they might get unrealistic expectations about how sex goes. They might be disappointed by real sex because all they have ever seen is the pretend fantasy sex. Like Bolt, they might be really disappointed.”


“Ah that makes sense.” They say.


Cue the fireworks! It always feels amazing to try a metaphor with my kiddos and then have them actually understand it.


Amazingly enough the car ride was still not over. We got stuck at a red light for the entire Bolt metaphor portion. That gave them time to start in again with the questions.


“So, we should probably not watch porn until after we have sex,” Ethan concludes.


“Yes,” agrees Dylan, “when we’re like 19 or 20”


“That’s a great age to have sex for the first time. You don’t necessarily have to wait until that age, but it’s a great age.” I encourage.


“Yes, of course it’s a personal decision. But now,” my 13-year-old thinks out loud, “is too young. Though some other kids have done it.”


My turn, “Well, that’s their choice and as long as they made the choice, and so did their partner, then that’s totally fine. But sex can be very complicated and emotional. When you are young there is a lot you might not understand or be ready for, so I think it’s best to wait a bit.”


Keep in mind none of this is what I was taught as a child, so speaking like this still feels a little weird to me. I am trying to help them learn to make big decisions for themselves, but I don’t want to go so far as to not give them an idea of what the best course of action could be. At the same time realizing that each human being is so different and will have such a unique path through life. Trying to convey my acceptance of their decisions but also give advice and words of wisdom is not always an easy thing to do.


Don’t worry readers, they didn’t stop there. “But what about porn” they are both wondering. My oldest chimes in, working from his earlier thought, “should we wait to watch porn until after have we have sex. That way we can learn from our natural instincts.”


“That’s a really good point,” I encourage, “Learning with your partner with your natural instincts is a great choice. It’s hard to explain exactly how porn can affect your ideas of sex because you guys haven’t had those feelings yet, haven’t held hands with anyone yet, or had crushes.” I help them feel empowered in their opinions as best as I can.


I continue, “So, one thing that can happen if you start watching porn at a young age or too often, besides developing unrealistic expectations, you can become addicted.”


“Oh, like a drug,” says Dylan.


Oh shit - I hate the whole pornography is a drug text. How can I fix this? “No, not necessarily. It’s like any other behavior that can be turned into a habit and taken too far. There are some people, for example, who can drink alcohol just fine without becoming addicted, but others might become addicted quite easily. Porn is the same. You just have to be mindful about what you watch, how often you watch it and so forth.”


“If you become curious to watch porn before you’re ready to have sex. Just let us know and when you’re ready dad and I can point you in the right direction. Some porn just isn’t as good at keeping expectations realistic.”


At this point I am starting to think about human trafficking, one of the reasons my husband and I are hesitant about the porn industry. It is hard to be sure the actors are performing without being under duress. I am not sure I want to go in the direction with my 10- and 13-year-old. But usually when it comes to these really hard topics I just go for it, because, well, I know they need to learn about it one day and they might as well hear it from me first.


Ethan, “So you guys can show us when we’re ready.”


Me, “Well, we won’t watch it with you.”


Ethan, “Why not?”


Me, “That might be a bit weird. By pointing you in the right direction we mean to websites that are ethical and have better perspectives. There are some websites that make sure that the people making the videos want to be there. There is something called human trafficking and sex slavery, where they force people to have sex in front of cameras. Those people are not making the choice to be there. We can talk more about that topic later.”


By this time, we had parked and turned off the engine. I don’t know if they had more questions about human trafficking; but we did not get to it at that point. I breathed a sigh of relief, another tough question answered. I open the door into our home, see my daughter working on an art project at the counter, and realize how fast time flies.


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