Ask Amy: Teen son’s porn habit worries mom

April 10

DEAR AMY: My 18-year-old son and I were sharing a computer. I stumbled on his activity when he left it open. It was deeply disturbing to view the sites he had visited. Our 22-year-old daughter states, “It’s no big deal, Mom. All the boys do it now.”

This is not Playboy on steroids. It is shockingly graphic in real time.

How should we respond but simultaneously promote healthy sexuality and the notion of responsible erotica? How should parents respond to the tsunami of Internet pornography that our children discover, visit and revisit? It is readily discovered on any smartphone, laptop or desktop.

This could highjack young brains big time! I am liberal, but this is almost sickening that he might think this approaches normal sexual behavior. Help! -- Concerned Parent

DEAR PARENT: According to a survey of 4,000 men and 4,000 women by Cosmopolitan magazine (probably a credible source, given this subject), over 30 percent of men surveyed said they watched porn every day. Seventy-one percent of men age 18-34 watch porn at least once a month. The first viewing of pornography typically happens in preadolescence.

Quoting a Time.com article on this subject, “Results show that women are from Venus and men are from whatever planet watches porn all the time.”

Psychologists refer to one effect of hard-core porn on the consumer as “sexual script theory.” The pornographic storyline replaces real-world sexual experience. Studies have concluded that obsessively viewing porn actually rewires the neural pathways of the brain, much like opiate drugs do.

And, like opiates, porn can be addictive. It can supplant or destroy real-world relationships. It can also (ironically) deaden, rather than enhance, a person’s actual sexual relationships with real people.

Your job as parents is to do exactly what you are doing, which is to be aware and to question your son about his habits and behavior. His father (or another adult male) should talk to him about the difference between pornography and real-world sex (and love). Even though your daughter reports that this is “no big deal,” I wonder if she has had experiences with guys who consume pornography and if so how this might have affected her. Male consumption of pornography has a profound effect on how women are viewed, how sex is viewed and the expectations on them sexually.

As his mother, you should tell him exactly how you feel about this and that you expect him to make choices that are healthy.

DEAR AMY: We have a cousin who is on a fixed income, lives out of state and asks to stay with us every time he (and spouse) come to town, which is about once a month.

This usually starts out for just one night and inevitably is extended for one reason or another for another night or two.

They are good houseguests who vow to let us go on with our normal life, but it is still a burden. My husband and I have worked full time all our lives.

This couple chose to never work traditional jobs but are capable of working. They consider themselves “poor,” and seem to expect to crash at friends’ and family’s homes whenever they are away from their own like a couple of college students.

We don’t want to hurt feelings or cause a family rift, but how can we tactfully put an end to this unintended bed and breakfast situation? -- Put Out

DEAR PUT OUT: It is easy to extend a cordial “no.” You just say, “You two are great houseguests, but we’re going to have to say no to this visit.”

You don’t have to make excuses or provide reasons or explanations — in fact, the less of this, the better.

DEAR AMY: I was disappointed in your answer to “Confused Partner,” about excluding a sister-in-law from “sister weekends.” This sort of exclusion is very painful, and these sisters should try to be more inclusive. If they try it and it doesn’t work out, at least they could say they tried -- Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: The focus of my response was to encourage one sister to take responsibility for this and not blame the excluded in-law for the actions of this pack of sisters.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at www.washingtonpost.com/advice. Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2014 by the Chicago Tribune

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