How Porn in the House Affects Kids

When dad (or mom) uses porn, what happens to the kids in the house?

Today’s guest poster is going to tell her story today. She’s a frequent reader and a blogger, but she wishes to remain anonymous to protect the family members mentioned in her story. But I know her story could be so many others, too:

How Porn in the House Affects Kids
Porn’s version of paying it forward

Their eyes stared back at me each morning.  I tried to avoid looking at them by covering my face with my teddy bear or by looking down at my feet, but there was something strangely hypnotizing about them.  Stacks and stacks of magazines full of half-naked women piled just outside of reach, but not out of sight.  Odd really, considering that racier posters were in plain sight on the wall.

The word on the street that porn is harmless and that pin-up girl pictures never hurt anyone grieves my heart in the deepest way.   Not just because of the damage that porn is doing to marriages, but because of its effects on children.  Porn in the home pays forward dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours, passing on a heritage of sin and brokenness to the next generation.

Porn’s legacy in my life began with me feeling grossly unattractive and inadequate as a girl and eventually as a young woman.  It was the sentiment I experience now looking at a Cosmopolitan magazine in the grocery store multiplied by a thousand.  I didn’t know then that the images were not real.  My father was so captivated by these women, but I didn’t look anything like them.  Would any man ever want me?

The pictures also accelerated my sexual awareness.  I could sense when adults around me were attracted to each other and knew exactly what a locked door meant well before I had the emotional maturity to sort out how I felt about it.  I was confused, but I didn’t feel safe talking to anyone about it.  Sex was blatantly displayed around the house and yet I still felt a sense of shame about it.

Worst of all, these images distorted my view of myself as a woman.  I never saw pictures of men treating women with respect.  The women were always posed in such a way as to be “available for the man’s taking”.  The result in my young and impressionable mind was that the purpose of a woman was to be used by a man.  You’d think that this would be horrifying to a young girl, but it wasn’t.  I was actually petrified that I would never be “used” in that way by anyone.  I didn’t look like the women in the pictures, so I must not be desirable.  In my desperation to prove my own worthiness and desirability, I basically threw my virginity at the first guy I dated (who I didn’t even like!) because at least then I was desirable enough for someone to sleep with.

Hiding porn doesn’t erase its damage

In today’s world, grown-ups can hide their porn behind computer passwords, which I think provides a false sense of security. There’s no porn in the house; there’s only porn on the computer. It’s all tucked away, so it won’t hurt the kids, right?  Not so much.

Kids have a way of finding their parents’ secrets. My dad had movies, too.  They were at the back of the closet on a special shelf with a blanket on top of them.  I found them while looking for my game console, and knew exactly what they were.  I never watched one, but I easily could have.

Porn impaired my father’s parenting judgment.  If we are exposed to something over and over again, it becomes normal for us, and it takes more and more to produce a sense of shock.  While I was thankfully never in the room when the back-of-the-closet movies made their way onto the TV, I did see more than my fair share of inappropriate media content.  I spent countless hours watching shows with violent and sexual themes.  I was also taken to an R-rated movie at the tender age of 8.  Images of naked prostitutes from that film remain crystal clear in my mind more than 25 years later.  Worst of all, they have a habit of popping into my head when I’m making love to my husband.  Perfect.

Porn in the home compromised my stepmother’s parenting judgment.  I think that my stepmother was affected by desensitization as well.  Nudity was no big deal to her.  She would force me to change out of my swimsuit in public places in spite of my protests because she thought my objections were ridiculous.  During a group campout, the girls had to sponge-bathe outside while the boys watched.   This was no big deal for her, but it made me want to puke.  Could she have been so misguided without porn’s influence?  Perhaps.  But I’m guessing it didn’t help matters any.

A better legacy

The issues that I’ve mentioned still affect me to varying degrees today.  They didn’t just disappear when I grew up and got married.  I have many of the symptoms of porn use even though I have never voluntarily looked at it!  By God’s grace I have a wonderful husband who is captivated by me and only me.   Together and by God’s strength, we are building healthy attitudes and behaviours, trying to pass on a heritage of faith and wholeness in God to our children.   Won’t you join us?

Sheila says, Thanks so much for writing this, Anonymous! I appreciate it.

If you are struggling with porn in your house, here are some posts that can help:

The Top 10 Effects of Porn on your Marriage and Your Sex Life

4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn

What to do if you Catch Your Child Using Porn

Comments

  1. “Porn in the home compromised my stepmother’s parenting judgment. I think that my stepmother was affected by desensitization as well. Nudity was no big deal to her. She would force me to change out of my swimsuit in public places in spite of my protests because she thought my objections were ridiculous. During a group campout, the girls had to sponge-bathe outside while the boys watched. This was no big deal for her, but it made me want to puke. Could she have been so misguided without porn’s influence? Perhaps. But I’m guessing it didn’t help matters any.”

    This is a tough one; teaching that nudity in and of itself in the right context and motives isn’t wrong is needed; but practicing a biblical balance while understanding and guarding your children in the midst of a dangerous culture and environment cannot be overstated. It’s a very fine line to walk.

    • I should add that this is an issue that many missionaries have wrestled with on varying levels (including myself as a young missionary kid growing up in Swaziland—on more than one occasion in the 1970s, I remember seeing bare-breasted Swazi women vying for selection by King Sobhuza II as one of his wives during a public ceremony). Those incidents didn’t incite lust in me, though they undoubtedly fueled my existing natural curiosity about female anatomy. So I can appreciate how nudity/semi-nudity isn’t necessarily an issue until it is presented in a sexual context.

      But in the case of the author, it’s clear that her stepmother didn’t respect and guard her like she should have; especially considering both the context of the situation and the culture.

    • It absolutely is a fine line. You don’t want to teach shame, but we also don’t want to break down natural modesty, because modesty is not a bad thing. I think we always need to respect how kids are feeling regarding their own bodies, because we need to teach kids that they do have the right to say no, even at a young age.

    • Anonymous says:

      To be clear about the sponge-bathing thing, I was probably between 8-10 years old. Some of the boys on the campout would have been as old as 11 or 12. I don’t think I was the only one who was uncomfortable. The boys collectively refused to do it when the girls were done and went into their tent to change (affirming in my mind that they had rights and I didn’t). I also seem to recall that there were no more campouts after that. Perhaps the other parents had some comments about this event behind the scenes. I only wish they had done something on my behalf because this was not an isolated incident.

      • I’m sorry that ever happened to you and the other girls. :( Clearly, you were not respected like you should have been. Speaking for myself, it was difficult enough changing during PE among all guys in an all-boys’ public high school; I can’t imagine having to endure what you faced in that inexcusable setting.

        That an adult–somewhere(!)–didn’t speak up and take a stand against what happened to you and the other girls quite frankly makes my blood boil.

      • That IS awful. It’s funny; for most of us our worst nightmares are showing up in school naked or something. And so why do we think it’s okay to do this to a child?

  2. One rationalization by the people I call “Liberators” is to compartmentalize one’s issues so that others aren’t accidentally exposed to them. If you’re a swinger on the weekends, don’t talk about it in the office. Into BDSM? Only wear your fetish gear at the club. Got an adulterous enabler? Keep it on the down-low.

    It’s a two-faced approach to life that actually fools no one, It distorts the personality, making one awkward, hypocritical, and suspicious. And, as the anonymous commenter has testified, it’s hardly good training for one’s children. Even they can see it.

    There are no metaphysically insignificant sex acts. Thanks, Sheila, for publishing this person’s account.

  3. Not to mention the time sap porn (or any other addiction) requires to keep being fed. Often parents addicted to porn start to neglect their children, whether they initially wanted to or not.
    Heather recently posted…Pittsburgh-not-OhioMy Profile

  4. Once again we speak of the ravages of pornography, and so we are healed little by little. And oh how desperately we have needed this! I’m not sure if this format is appropriate for some further thoughts I have on pornography. It has been my desire to strike at the heart of the problem and this can only be done by bringing what we all conclude concerning who God is. I believe you can live a life completely free of all sexual badness, if you will, and still grapple with the root of what causes sexual badness. Would we dare talk about sin? Is it outdated and foolish? Are we depraved? Very heavy. I know. Thank you so much for addressing pornography. May the Lord continue to deliver us from all our frailties/weaknesses/depravity.

  5. As far as nudity goes, I tell my kids that the human body is not a secret, but it IS private and we are to respect that privacy even if someone else does not. Accidentally or unintentionally seeing a naked person should not insight personal shame on ourselves, but we should respect them enough to grant them privacy by averting our eyes. There are context issues, too, such as with art work or history pictures of slaves or holocaust victims, or medical studies, but my children aren’t at that age yet.

    Even carefully guarded porn affects children because porn affects the adults. I hear porn-using dads speak very disrespectfully and even sexually about their budding daughters. I hear them encourage their sons to “get a piece of tail.”

    Even if deep down they don’t feel that way about women, the time usage and willful sin takes away from the family and their walk with.God which in turn hurts the family.

  6. It hurt to read this, to know what she went through and to recognize that so many children must endure the same things today in their own homes. It’s so hard to pull away from such harmful teaching, but I believe that healing and true marital intimacy can be found for these victims.

    Thanks for your testimony, Anon! I pray this post touches someone who needs to put their porn habit behind them and move into God’s truth about sexuality.
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…What’s the Foundation for Your Views on Sex?My Profile

  7. We have issues with my FIL and modesty (or lack thereof). He was a real swinger in the 60’s and 70’s (and I’m sure porn was and still is an issue) and thinks we’re total prudes because we don’t want to hot-tub naked with him and his friends, and we don’t appreciate walking in on him in the bathroom (he refuses to close the door). Ick. Obviously, we’re uptight fundamentalists who think their bodies are dirty and shameful – that’s what he thinks.

    No! We teach our kids that some things are PRIVATE. We’re not ashamed of bathing, using the toilet, changing our clothes, or sexual behavior between a husband and wife, but we those things are private! That’s not the same as being ashamed or prudish, and we need to help our kids understand that. My heart goes out to anonymous. The sponge-bathing episode should have been private, not public.
    julie recently posted…On The Road Again… A Tate UpdateMy Profile

  8. In my home growing-up porn was also present. But I’ve never really thought about what consequences it has had directly on me. I can however agree that it was terrible to encounter it at such a young age. For me though it is harder to pinpoint problems directly to the porn, because it was just one of many things so very wrong in my parents’ marriage. Was the porn the cause or a symptom, I may never know. I’ve spent years dealing with the consequences of my father’s infidelity, illegal business ventures and alcohol abuse, so it is harder to figure out what effects exactly seeing some images and knowing that many more were there. had on me.
    One thing I was aware of is how very jealous I would be of a sexy image. I remember hating a piece of very subtle art my aunt got, because I felt it was too sexy and it just bothered me. The other thing is that I would hate it if I woke up and heard my parents having sex. Maybe it was because of the porn that I felt that it was just wrong and disgusting what they were doing. I’ve read in this blog and similar ones that though kids don’t like knowing that they’re parents have sex it does give them a certain sense of security. Not so for me, it was very traumatizing, every single time. I used to pray to God to make them stop doing it.
    Just the other day I mentioned to my husband that my dad had porn and I knew about it, and even saw some images. He was really shocked. Its funny how in all my years of marriage I’ve often talked of my Dad’s failures as a father, his absence and his infidelity but I never really mentioned the porn.
    What was strange though too, was that despite the porn being there somewhat hidden (the racier stuff was in drawers, but I still came across it. Mostly it was just the rows of VHS tapes with the word Playboy written on the side that shows) my parents NEVER talked to me about sex. NOT.EVEN.ONCE. I kind of figured it out by myself, once I got curious I got some books at the library that explained the basics.
    Anyway, interesting blog post today. It has certainly given me something to think about.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Subscribing to future comments by e-mail…. :-)

  10. Another anonymous says:

    Wow that is my story almost exactly. The difference is that it was my grandfather not my dad. I had a talk with my dad last year and asked him if he remembered the naked women plastered all over my grandfather’s house. He didn’t remember it. My mom did. So did my grandmother. It affected me deeply. I remember when I was 14 I told some friends I wanted to pose for playboy when I grew up. I also lost my virginity early and looked for love in all the wrong places. I thought sex meant love. My self esteem was in the dumps too. I felt ugly all the time. I was on a diet all the time.

    Praise the Lord, He found me in 1993 and saved me. I have a wonderful marriage, my kids are homeschooled and protected because I wasn’t. But I got to yet receive deliverance from all those images that are imprinted in my brain. :(

    Porn made me very aware of people’s body language. I can tell who is having sex (single people) just by the way they hold their bodies or interact with one another. I also have to be extra cautious of my body language. I have had to dress down, wear no make up so I don’t draw attention to myself. It bothers me tremendously when I see people half naked, or showing too much skin. Or like in church, dressed way too sexy. Specially teenagers in short skirts and stilettos. What are they thinking? I know! I have been there, but I don’t understand why the parents don’t say anything and allow it.

    I am glad someone is speaking up.

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