The average age for a boy to be exposed to pornography is 8. I might not have believed that had a friend not introduced my husband to it at age 9—the same age my son is now.
My son plays with tiny army men and loves to wear camo and gets grossed out at kissing scenes in movies. How could anyone draw his eyes to pictures of women offering skin to look at, with their expressions and stance offering more? Yet they do.
My son will face pornography, if not the blatant kind like the pictures a kid showed my husband, then the introductory kind, like the photo of a woman in lingerie with the words “Try me for free” that popped up during the ball game we were watching on the computer last weekend.
If we love our boys, we need to understand what they are up against.
I have hypoglycemia, which is a blood-sugar problem, and because of it I am not supposed to eat sweets. (This does have a connecting point, so stick with me.) Most people can eat sugar, and though it may cause long-term symptoms or damage, it does not hurt at the moment. For me, eating sugar causes negative consequences—quickly and badly. Take chocolate-frosted donuts, for example—I love them, love love love them. The problem is, I am not supposed to eat ANY. If I do, I will end up feeling terrible later that day, and the next, and possibly even the third.
It is not worth it. I know that. Still, when the Krispy Kreme “Hot Donuts” sign is on, I am tempted to tell myself it would be worth the pleasure. I long for just one bite; one that I know would lead to more.
I have learned to stay out of Krispy Kreme, but what about the donuts at Walmart, or the grocery store, or sometimes even in my own house? What about birthday parties and church potlucks? Are you feeling sorry for me?
Now, imagine: donuts displayed next to every cash register in every store—nearly every magazine covered with pictures of gooey donuts dripping with chocolate; people in line in front and behind me eating them; friends bringing them to church and eating them during the service. Imagine that everywhere I go, people offer me donuts. For free. No one would know. No one would mind. Just one bite.
This is the way it is with pornography for men (not always the hard kind, but definitely the kind that draws the eye to skin and curves, drawing the thoughts to more—which is like a bite of a donut for me, still very tempting and sometimes harder to ignore because it feels more innocent). It is available all around them, free for the taking, promising secrecy and all the goodness of taste while ignoring the later destructive consequences.
Some days I can be strong around donuts. Other days it really is hard not to feel sorry for myself or even a little resentful when I am surrounded with donuts and other sweets, and I am supposed to completely ignore them and not let their appeal tempt me. It is hard.
Yes, I am responsible to keep from eating sweets. Yes, the choice is my own. However, it is so much easier when I am with people who refrain from offering me a slice of dessert or a donut. “Can’t you enjoy just one?” or “It’s a special occasion. A little bit won’t hurt, will it?” is not helpful.
So what can we do to help our boys?
- Be understanding. This is much, much harder than most of us can fathom.
- Ask them about the struggle in general (when they are old enough). You might be surprised—if you are not judging or condemning—what you might hear.
- Teach them the principle of not looking twice. The first time is not purposeful; looking a second time is always a choice.
- Put filters on your internet (including phones and tablets).
- Do not keep a computer in the room where your son sleeps. (In my personal opinion, a television should not be in there either—have you ever skimmed channels at two in the morning?)
- Avoid watching shows where the women wear immodest clothing when your son is watching with you (including those period dramas where their chests are bulging out of their dresses).
- Pray for your boys—for strength to face temptation—for they will face it.
- If they do admit their struggles, do not freak out or start harping about men and their weaknesses.
- Discuss with your husband how to help your son(s). Recognize the fact that your husband’s perspective might be more helpful than yours regarding boundaries.
- Remember that this aspect of them, being visually stimulated, is at its source a good gift from God, intended to help men and their marriages. It is the world, the flesh, and the devil that has distorted this into something bad.
We should raise our sons to see this characteristic as a good, God-given one, but one that is easily turned to evil and needs to be tempered. That is for another article, but for now, let us be understanding and loving toward them and their struggle. Remember the donuts, donuts, donuts—and how hard it would be to avoid them if they were everywhere. Any man who keeps his mind and heart pure in our culture is to be commended. Let us raise those kind of men.
Originally published here on January 20th, 2014. Adapted for Thrive.
Questions to consider: Do you have any changes/additions to the points made in this article for women serving internationally? Comments specifically from countries less modest (such as South America) or in countries where women are treated as objects (Middle East) would be especially welcome.