Sexting in 8th Grade

Friends Using Smart Phone While Leaning Against Wall

I have a dear friend who I have known since grade school. She is the mother of three children, the oldest being in 8th grade. Given my profession and her being an all-around fabulous mother, we tend to have conversations about sexuality, pornography, sexting and children.

I recently reposted my blog on Child Pornography Prevention on social media. This was inspired by a local priest being arrested for possession of child pornography. From this, my friend and I had a great conversation I thought I would share (with her permission).

My prevention work focuses more on parents than it does on children. I want parents to start talking to their kids about sex and pornography. Parents tend to not do this. There are many reasons, mostly the fact that it is awkward and embarrassing.

Talking to my oldest daughter about these things is ….hard. For both of us. She is 11. She uses the internet.”

My friend also employs all the tools she can to ensure her children are not unwittingly exposed to pornography online. She and her husband use parental controls but we all know sometimes this is not enough.

We have parental controls. They don’t always work as they should. She goes to kids houses where there are computers, these kids have smart phones etc., not locked down AT ALL….because they have ” good kids ” who wouldn’t bother to look at ” that stuff”

As my friend points out, as a parent, you do what you can in your own home to avoid unwanted exposure to this content, but you don’t know what the parents of your child’s friends are doing. Much of the exposure to pornography is via peers. Just because your house is cybersafe, doesn’t mean that someone else’s house is.

So my friend and her husband have taken the leap and had the uncomfortable conversations with their daughter about sex, cybersex, pornography, sexting and sexualization of others.

We decided we had to go there. The conversation continues because we have opened a door and she now knows we are capable of having these conversations. Is it fun? No. Do I look forward to them? Sure…like I do a root canal….but they are imperative. As are these conversations.”

So what happens when you talk to your child often about sexuality? It becomes more comfortable. They learn that they can safely bring their concerns to you because the topic isn’t taboo and you won’t react badly. They trust you with this information.

The end result of this trust was on display for my friend and her daughter just a few weeks into the school year. My friend’s daughter is in 8th grade.

She has already talked to me THIS school year about her 8th grade friend on the bus sexting.”

Her daughter came to her this year with this concern because they had already talked about these issues. It was a topic that, though still uncomfortable for both of them, was an approachable topic. Her daughter has the knowledge to arm herself in the digital age and to make better choices for herself as she interacts online with her peers.

Education about sexuality and cybersex is imperative in todays’ world. In my friend’s words;

I used to think I was a good enough parent to protect her. I decided to educate her on how to protect herself as well. The education is never ending”

My dear friend ended our conversation with this quote…which is dear to my heart.

“Denial is a powerful bitch.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. Many parents don’t think that their child would sext. They don’t think that their child would look at pornography. I implore you to not be in denial. Sexting on the bus in 8th grade is a reality. If your child is sexting or looking at online pornography, it is not a reflection of your parenting skills. It is a reflection of the age we live in.

Talk to you children, please.

Dr. Weeks is the Author of The New Age of Sex Education:  How to talk to your teen about cybersex and pornography in the digital age.   

Starting to Watch Pornography Increases Your Likelihood of Getting a Divorce

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A recent study presented this week at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association reported on the effect starting to watch pornography has on a marriage.

This study surveyed thousands of American adults at three time points over four years. They asked about pornography use at each stage of the survey. The researchers particularly wanted to focus on changing pornography use and marital status.

The study found that those individuals who started to watch pornography during the survey time period (who were not watching pornography the first time they were surveyed) had a higher likelihood of being divorced at a subsequent interview point. Younger Americans were more affected by the start of pornography use than older Americans. The authors suggested that this may be the result of two things. First, the fact that younger Americans view more pornography than older Americans and second, the fact that younger married Americans tend to have relationships that are not as stable, both emotionally and financially, as older Americans.

One study finding that goes against previous research involves religiosity. This study found that the more a couple attended church (as a measure of religious involvement) the less of an effect pornography viewing had. The authors speculate that with couples who are highly religious, the pressure to stay married outweighs the effect of pornography use on the level of satisfaction in the marriage.

The authors also looked at the effect of initial marital happiness and pornography use on the divorce rate. They found that couples who initially reported being very happy in their marriage were more seriously affected by one partner starting to watch pornography and their divorce rates were higher. In contrast, for couples who reported low marital satisfaction from the start, there was no effect of one partner starting to watch pornography on the divorce rate. The authors postulated that these happy marriages were more affected by the pornography use because the disclosure of pornography use can rock a previously happy marriage to the point of divorce.

It should be noted that the study is not definitively saying that pornography use causes divorce. When looking at research studies, one needs to look at all factors. Yes, this study is saying that when one partner in a marriage starts to look at pornography, the likelihood of divorce increases (from 6% to 11%). They are not saying that it is inevitable. The study also did not look at any number of other factors which could have influenced the divorce or, more importantly, the factors that influenced the partner to start watching pornography in the first place.

This study was presented at the ASA meeting this week. It is entitled “Til Porn Do Us Part? Longitudinal Effects of Pornography Use on Divorce.” Samuel Perry from the University of Oklahoma is the lead author.

For more information on Dr. Weeks, please go to our website at www.sexualaddictiontreatmentservices.com  Also, find Dr. Weeks’ new book The New Age of Sex Education:  How to talk to your teen about cybersex and pornography in the digital age on amazon or bookbaby.

No More Porn with Your Happy Meal

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Last week McDonald’s announced that it will add internet filters to its WiFi in restaurants throughout the country. My first thought was, “now what about Starbucks?” as this news came literally the day after a client disclosed that he had downloaded pornography at a Starbucks. What I didn’t know is that Starbucks also has committed to providing “Porn Free” WiFi in its stores. According to news sources, McDonald’s and Starbucks already filter pornography in their stores in the United Kingdom.

Why do these announcements make me happy? There are two answers to that. The first involves recovery from pornography addiction. For those individuals who identify as pornography addicts, initial behavioral interventions to help them stop watching pornography often include internet filters or locking down their home internet connections. What we do know in recovery is that where there is a will, there is a way. This means that if someone really wants to watch pornography, they will. No filter will stop them and not having access at home won’t stop them either. Frequently, this means that they will go to a place where they know they can get access to WiFi (which is literally everywhere now) and download pornography at these locations. As more and more companies choose to filter their WiFi and not allow pornography, this open access for relapse decreases. Currently, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Panera and Chik-Fil-A provide internet filtering in stores in the U.S. or will do so soon. This decrease in access to pornography may help someone in recovery find success.

The second reason I am in favor of blocking access to pornography in public locations involves choice. I consider myself a sex positive sex addiction therapist. For me, this means that I am not anti-porn. I simply think that it can be addictive for some people. What I also truly believe is that watching pornography is a choice. A person can choose to engage with pornography or to avoid it based on their own values and personal experience. This is a very personal decision that each person makes for themselves.

When someone is viewing pornography in a public place, i.e., at McDonald’s, on the bus, on an airplane, in the library, they are making a choice to view pornography. However, what they are also doing is taking away someone else’s choice as to whether or not they wish to view the material. Anytime a person is viewing pornography in a public place on a laptop, phone or tablet, there is a risk that another person might see it. For example, the person watching pornography on the phone on the bus potentially exposes everyone else on the bus to the pornography, regardless of whether they want to see it or not. There is also a risk of exposing a young child to pornography as well.

This brings up the concept of consent that we teach both in healthy sexuality and to sex offenders we treat. For a sexual interaction to be consensual, both parties need to agree to the behavior and it needs to be free of coercion, manipulation or compliance. If a person with their two children walk by someone at Starbucks who is watching pornography on their laptop, they are exposed to sexual imagery, without their consent.

It is each person’s choice as to whether or not they wish to watch pornography. Removing access to the material in public spaces reduces the non-consensual exposure to the material, helping to ensure that each person can make their own choice about the material and that they are not exposed to pornography without their consent.

Dr. Jennifer Weeks is the Director of Sexual Addiction Treatment Services and the Author of The New Age of Sex Education: How to Talk to Your Teen about Cybersex and Pornography in the Digital Age.

Child Pornography Prevention

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On Tuesday another one of my clients was sentenced in Federal Court on Possession of Child Pornography charges. That evening, the group talked about how to prevent people from possessing child pornography.

A Federal judge is mandated to look at four factors (according to US Code 3553) when imposing a sentence upon a defendant. Any sentence must reflect the seriousness of the crime; provide deterrence to criminal conduct; protect the public from further crime and provide rehabilitation.

The way I have heard judges, both federal and county, explain their thoughts on deterrence is that they need to impose a sentence that will send a message to other people in the community who are either engaging in the behavior or thinking about it. Their thinking is that if someone sees the sentence imposed upon another for a crime, they will either stop or won’t start engaging in an illegal behavior.

I and my clients both struggle with the concept of deterrence in these cases. My clients will tell you that they knew what they were doing was wrong and they wanted to stop. They also will tell you that they could not stop. Reading news stories in their local paper about individuals being arrested for possession of child pornography did not deter their behavior. They were aware of the illegality of their behavior but were caught up in the throes of addiction, they could not stop their behavior.

I also see this in my clients who are new to treatment after the police initiate an investigation into their illegal pornography use. In the near term time frame, clients can’t even imagine looking at pornography again. I call this “sobriety by police”. One would think that the appearance of the FBI in your home at 5 a.m. would be a great deterrent to addictive behavior. However, it is not a long term deterrent. When we are dealing with addiction, punitive deterrents do not last as long as the client would like or as long society would think.

If the use of legal deterrents is not very effective in stopping people from viewing child pornography, the question remains, what will work? I believe the lack of actual prevention work is problematic. There are prevention programs for teens regarding drugs, alcohol and even gambling. There are no real prevention programs for pornography for teens. There are some well meaning groups who are spear heading this movement and this week the cover story in Time Magazine is about pornography and young people. Still, no one is talking about child pornography. Even in talking about problematic pornography use child pornography is rarely addressed, yet there are a lot of people, both adults and teenagers, who are watching it online.

Many of the younger men who come to my practice started looking at pornography online when they were approximately 12 years old. This statistic is not uncommon. We know that the average age of first exposure to online pornography is around 11 years old. What is also very common for my younger clients is that they started watching child pornography at the age of 12 as well. Though it is biologically appropriate for a teenager to have sexual attraction to a teenager, to watch pornography involving 12 year olds is illegal. Also, the content of those videos is frequently the result of child sexual assault. Therefore, it is not truly the same as a 12 year old looking at another 12 year old in school and having sexual thoughts about them.

The news is bombarded with articles about teen sexting and some of those teens being charged with either production or possession of child pornography. This youth produced imagery is not normally what we see in child pornography possession cases. Exposure to stories about teen sexting helps spread awareness but not enough.

How do we prevent the possession of child pornography? By spreading educated awareness, meaning thoughtful, helpful awareness that is free of judgment and shame.

First, talk to your children about online pornography. When you are talking to your children about online pornography you MUST also talk to them about child pornography. An illegal image is only a Google search away. Talk to your children about what to do if they come across this imagery. Talk about the images your child might have seen.

Second, we need to acknowledge that pornography addiction in adolescents and adults is a real problem. The academic crowd might argue as to whether or not pornography addiction exists. Let them argue. What those of us in the trenches know is that pornography addiction is real. There is treatment available from specialists who are trained to specifically deal with this issue. If you know someone who is struggling with pornography addiction, talk to them. Let them know that they can get treatment. Treatment is always confidential so no one has to know if they don’t want them to know.

Third, know that incidental contact with child pornography is not that uncommon. Most people think that gaining access to child pornography is difficult. It is not. Anyone who is using a filesharing program to download pornography has likely seen child pornography. Anyone who has been looking at pornography online for a long time has likely seen child pornography. This does not mean that they are looking for it but they have likely come across it. Even if you are not seeking it out but have inadvertently opened a thumbnail file that is a pornographic image or video of a child, you can be arrested for it. Anyone who wishes to avoid incidental contact with child pornography should stay away from file sharing programs. You can download thousands of images quickly but likely some of that is illegal. Stop using filesharing programs.

A final thing to know is that even if you are addicted to viewing pornography that includes child pornography, you can get help. Each state has different rules, but in most states, any therapist you go to is NOT legally required to report the use of child pornography. Recent law changes (2015) in Pennsylvania and California have made child pornography viewing part of a therapists mandate to report. If you live in a state where there is a mandate to report, you can still get help for pornography addiction, you just won’t be able to say you are also looking at illegal pornography. This is obviously not ideal for the context of therapy, but is still better than nothing.

People possess child pornography for a multitude of reasons. Some started to look at it 15 years ago when they were a young teen and never stopped. Perhaps their pornography addiction progressed to the level that they needed more taboo material to get a “hit”. Some are reenacting a childhood trauma by watching images of child sexual assault. Some people intentionally look for the content because they are attracted to minors. Some people encounter child pornography by accident. No matter what route a person takes to get there, any possession of child pornography is illegal and the person can be prosecuted and placed on a sex offender registry.

The more we talk about the problem of child pornography in a rational manner that is not based in fear, the more we can enact prevention efforts. Talking to a 12 year old about the risks of looking at illegal pornography may be uncomfortable for a parent, but please trust that the conversation about pornography will be much less uncomfortable than sitting in a court room waiting for a judge to sentence your child for an internet sex crime.

Jennifer Weeks Ph.D. LPC CAADC CSAT-S is the founder and owner of Sexual Addiction Treatment Services (SATS). SATS is an out-patient treatment program located in Pennsylvania that specializes in the treatment of sexual addiction and in treating sexually addicted offenders. Dr. Weeks specializes in treating cybersex offenders. She has been an invited presenter on the topic, taught continuing education for attorneys and serves as an expert witness on the topic.

Child Pornography Exposure on Chat Roulette

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As my therapy practice continues to be comprised of more and more child pornography offenders, I continue to seek ways to prevent others from becoming exposed to or involved with child pornography.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting a young man who introduced me to yet another way in which people can be exposed to child pornography. The normal routes for exposure are through peer to peer file sharing programs or TOR sites. The man I met yesterday was exposed to child pornography through the chat app, ChatRoulette.

For those of you who are not familiar with ChatRoulette, it is an app that allows you to interface with another user via your webcam or camera on your phone, tablet, etc. As the Roulette name implies, you have no idea who you are going to be paired up with as there are users of all ages from all over the world on the app. You can interact with the person you are connected to for as long or as short a period of time as you want. We have long known that ChatRoulette is a venue for people to expose themselves online or to interact sexually. Since its inception, there is a pretty good chance that when you go on the app, you will run into someone masturbating on the webcam or engaging in some other sexual act.

In more recent history, ChatRoulette is now being used for other sexual purposes. There are some users who are showing child pornography on their screens. How does this happen? When you connect with a random user, instead of seeing another person, they have their side of the interaction configured so that the entire screen is used to play child pornography videos. As you can’t choose a user, this is truly a random experience and one that most people are not prepared for.

I would call unintended exposure to child pornography a trauma. These are horrific images and you can’t erase them out from your memory. I have had to view these images for court cases and they linger, unwillingly, in your brain for days. This is my reaction when I know what type of images I am going to see. I can only imagine the reaction of a person who has no desire to see these images and unsuspectingly views them on a screen. An even bigger concern is that a young person who is using this app may be exposed to this imagery as well. Even if the images are traumatic for an adult to watch, we can make more sense of them than a child can. Unexpected exposure to child pornography could be even more damaging to a child.

As ChatRoulette engages in random connections, you cannot seek out those who are displaying child pornography. You also can’t avoid them as you don’t know what user is going to show up on your screen next. As with any of these types of apps, they can be fun or they can be dangerous. It is all in the hands of the user. Technically, the app is listed as Mature 17+. However, that doesn’t stop minors from using the app.

As a parent, be aware of what apps your child is using. I would advise that minors not be allowed to use this app due to the potentially graphic sexual exposure from some users. If you do allow your child to use this app, please be sure that you know what they could be seeing. Be prepared to talk to your child about possible exposure before it happens and after it happens.

For more stories like this please go to my blog at www.thenewageofsexeducation.com or www.sexualaddictiontreatmentservices.com

Parental Denial: Yes, Your Child Has Seen Pornography

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Absolute Denial: “No not my child! My son doesn’t look at porn online.” “My daughter would never send a naked picture of herself.”

Very recently a young teenage girl was lured into a meeting with a college man on the messaging app Kik and she was killed. This tragic event has spurned a barrage of news articles and blogs about the dangers of the app Kik and what parents need to know. While these blogs and news articles are helpful, they are a little late.

Moment of honesty. Sometimes I get really upset at parents. Truly, I don’t get angry at parents, I get upset at denial. Kik is not new. Other messaging apps like Kik are not new. Those of us who work in the field and deal with cybersex issues have been talking about Kik and other messaging apps for a really long time. If you read a newspaper or see any online news, you know that these types of apps are all over the news. I find it hard to believe that parents don’t know that these things exist. Unfortunately, many parents are stuck in DENIAL.

Denial is a concept with which anyone who works with addiction or knows an addict is familiar. Addiction author Terrance Gorski identifies 12 types of denial (http://www.tgorski.com/clin_mod/dmc/denial_checklist.htm). An addict in denial won’t admit they have a problem, to themselves or others. Denial is not just a problem of addiction. I see Parental Denial frequently in the work that we do with sex addiction and cybersex issues.

So what do I mean by parental denial. Parental denial is a place that many parents, even aware parents, live when they think about their child’s engagement in cybersex or use of online pornography. I have encountered countless smart, aware, on-top-of-things parents, who categorically deny that their child has seen online pornography, sent a sext, received a sext, or engaged in some type of sexual activity on an app. Because of this denial, parents don’t talk to their children about their digital media use.

When their child gets into the therapy room, we find out that, yes, in fact, they have seen pornography online. Sometimes they are looking at it A LOT. Most of the time we find out that they have been sent a sexual message, though they may not have sent one back. They message all the time on a number of apps, so many in fact, that it is hard for someone over about 16 to keep up. These parents think that because they have smart, responsible, and kind children, these children would not engage in anything related to cybersex. Facts are facts. These may be great, wonderful teens but they are still teens. Teens are subject to peer pressure and the desire to fit in. The teenage brain is not yet fully developed, leaving them at the mercy of impulsiveness and often poor decision making skills.

Wouldn’t it be better if we all worked from the assumption that all teens have been or will be exposed to sexual material in the digital world. That way, it should become a PRIORITY to talk to your children about sex, sexuality and cybersex. If you are open with your child and talk about these issues, you are engaging in the best kind of prevention there is. Openness. Honesty. Acknowledging sexuality as a part of humanness that does not need to be shamed and can be discussed openly.

It upsets me to think of how many parents have become aware of their child’s cybersex engagement through law enforcement or school officials, particularly when it is avoidable. . If parents engage in open discussion with their children, the number of children exposed to scandal, legal charges or even physical harm will surely decrease.

To learn more about talking to your child about cybersex, please go to The New Age of Sex Education.

30 Days of Sex Talks

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30 Days of Sex Talks: Empowering your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy is a series of books for parents created by the organization, Educate and Empower Kids (www.educateempowerkids.org). I found these books while researching my book, The New Age of Sex Education, How to Talk to Your Teen about Cybersex and Pornography. The first thing I did upon reading the books was to email a client and tell her she must buy the books. We had just had a session discussing her own discomfort talking to her son about sexuality.

There are three books in this series. The first book is for ages 3 to 7. The second book is for ages 8 to 11 and the third is for children 12 and over. The books are written in a very user friendly fashion. Each has thirty topics ranging from basics in anatomy to discussions about affection and intimacy. Each talk has a suggestion for how to start a conversation with your child as well as other questions to consider. They also offer some sample dialogues. These are not just sex education books. They focus on all aspects of sexuality and are simply the best books I have seen on this topic for parents.

Ages 3 to 17

Topics for small children do tend to focus on anatomy and body integrity. I love that they bring up forced affection. Forced affection occurs when a child is pressured into some type of physical affection that makes them uncomfortable or that in which they do not wish to engage. For example, “give your Aunt Alice a hug.” Other great topics include teaching about public versus private, respect, bad touch, how to say “No” and love and affection.

Particular to my work, the books also introduce pornography and the internet. Some people may feel that this age group, 3 – 7, is too young to be introduced to the concept of pornography. I believe that we cannot start to talk about these things early enough in an age appropriate manner. When discussing pornography, the authors do so without judgment. It is factual. They also introduce the idea that no one should make them look at pictures that make them uncomfortable (i.e. grooming) and that there are some types of pictures that are not ok to take. These are great topics that can have protective value should the child ever be exposed to an adult trying to sexually groom them.

Ages 8 to 11

The topics change and grow in complexity in the next age range. The topics also build upon those from the earlier age group. Anatomy is reintroduced here, as are the topics of public versus private and relationships. This age group book introduces sexual identity, body image, self esteem and continues to instill protective practices against child sexual abuse.

The topic of masturbation is raised in the book for this age group and is done so without shame or judgment. They do bring up the possibility of addiction but do not infer that if a child masturbates, he or she will become an addict. The same possibility is addressed for pornography, again without inference that if a child sees pornography they are bad or will become an addict.

This age group book also introduces sexting and social media. This is perfectly age appropriate. Research shows us that young children are being exposed to sexting and sexual interaction in apps and webcam based sites.

Ages 12 +

This is the meatiest of the three books, as the child entering his or her teens faces an increasingly complex social world and is, presumably, entering the realm of relationships. This book really does a fabulous job of being real about the sexual issues that a teen faces. Topics include: emotional intimacy, positive aspects of sex, relationship boundaries, consent, shame and guilt, healthy relationships, hook ups and STI’s among other things.

The discussion of pornography for this age group is great. Discussions with the teen about pornography include the potential damage to relationships, objectification and the potential for erectile dysfunction. There is not an assumption that any pornography use is addictive, but that extended use can affect brain chemistry and may lead to addiction. This is what the science tells us. The same concept is applied to masturbation. There are no assumptions made about masturbation, there is a discussion of what happens if it becomes a habit.

The discussion about sexting gets more in depth. The possible legal ramifications are discussed as well as possible social consequences. They are very clear that the social ramifications can include cyberbullying and shaming.

This series of books is smart, accurate and straight forward. There are a lot of things that are not in this book. There is no denial. There is no inferred shame or judgment. There is no influence of any religious belief on the topics.

It is the combination of both what is and what is not in this book series that makes it the best book on the topic I have ever read. Every parent should own them.

For more blogs on similar topics see our site The New Age of Sex Education

Is My Husband Gay, Straight or Bi? Book Review

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Where has this book been all my clinical life? Is My Husband Gay, Straight or Bi?: A Guide for women concerned about their men is a book written by Joe Kort with Alexander Morgan published in 2014. To say that this is a much needed book in the sex addiction field is an understatement. One of the hardest things to do is to try to explain to a client that just because her husband is acting out sexually with other men, he is not necessarily gay.

There are several clients I have worked with that stand out in my mind. I recall working with one man who identified as a sex addict. He came into treatment because his wife found out that he was acting out sexually outside of the marriage and he was acting out with other men. Her immediate assumption was that her husband was gay. There was little that I could say to convince her in an early joint session that her husband might be acting out with men for other reasons and that further therapy for him would be needed in order to truly find out what was going on. Unfortunately, all she had was the word of her husband’s therapist and it was a fact that, in her trauma and betrayal, she could not wrap her head around. This is one of many cases where this book might have been extremely helpful.

In this book, through case studies, Joe explains the various reasons that a man might act out sexually with another man. A man might act out sexually with another man, even though he is not aroused by men, as a trauma repetition. In fact, childhood abuse is the number one reason why a straight man will act out sexually with another man. Some men are sexual with men because they are, in fact, gay or bi-sexual and have been socialized to deny this or have denied this fact to themselves. Additionally, men may engage sexually with other men due to being attracted to various sexual kinks. In these situations, the sexual behavior may not be driven by attraction to men versus women, but to the kink itself.

In addition to discussing the various reasons why married men may have sex with other men, Joe describes many ways in which the situation may resolve itself. The key here is that if a husband is gay or bi-sexual, it does not always lead to divorce. Socially, marriage is seen as something between two heterosexual people, though thoughts and views are expanding and our culture is happily becoming much more open to same sex marriage. Joe brings to this book the reality that there may be options for mixed orientation couples to remain together and do so happily. He acknowledges that this is not easy, but it does work for some couples.

For me, this book is a must read for any woman who has found out that her husband or male partner is being sexual with another man. It provides some context for why and some helpful advice on how to handle the process. The one concern for readers I have is this: Joe comes from a sex therapy as well as a sex addiction background. He is a very sex positive therapist. This is a wonderful thing in my mind. However, his thoughts on potentially integrating kink or pornography into a marriage as part of the long term recovery process may be something that is contrary to how many partners reading the book may feel.

Is my husband gay, straight or bi? Is a must read for anyone in clinical practice who deals with sexual issues as well as any woman who finds out that her husband/partner is having sex with men.

For more information on our services for the treatment of out of controls sexual behavior, please see our website at www.sexualaddictiontreatmentservices.com

Book Review: Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids

When it comes to resources for parents to help their children address online pornography, there are very few options. Really, for many years there were none. The organization Porn Proof Kids (www.pornproofkids.org) sought to remedy this by publishing the illustrated book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn Proofing Today’s Young Kids. The target age of the book is not completely clear, but based on the introduction, I would say that it is targeted at an 8-10 year old child. A child much older than this may be too sophisticated for the picture book, though it is a good starting ground for discussion.

There are some really great things about this little book. It is the story of a young boy talking throughout his day with his mother and father about “bad pictures.” The book does a brilliant job of describing in understandable language the concept of addiction, the thinking brain and the feeling brain. Introducing these concepts to children at an early age can be very helpful in teaching them to use their thinking brain to overrule things like impulsivity. The book also does a great job in teaching what it calls the CAN DO plan, a behavioral plan to manage exposure to pornography, which includes telling a trusted adult.

As with anything in print, there are both good things about a book and some things of which I am not a fan. My issue arises because I am acutely aware of the impact of shame on addiction, particularly sex addiction. The authors of the book do devote a small paragraph to this in the introduction, stating that a parent needs to stay calm because “shame and secrecy only increase the power of porn.” Because of my awareness of the impact of shame, I have become incredibly careful in the language I use when working in the sex addiction field. Words, even if unintended, can be shaming. It is my insistence on non-shaming language that causes me to have an issue with Good Pictures, Bad Pictures. It is right there in the title. “Bad” pictures. I understand that the authors had to write in a way that young children would understand. However, if I am a young child and see a pornographic picture and it has been labeled “bad”, what happens to me emotionally if I am excited by that picture? Am I then bad too?

The book likens pornography to rat poison, calling it dangerous. Research studies show us that incidental exposure to pornography is not necessarily dangerous to children. Those children who have problems with online pornography are frequent users. From a sex positive therapeutic stance, pornography is not “bad”. Pornography simply is the depiction of nudity or sexual acts between adults that a child is not prepared to see or process appropriately. Pornography is inappropriate for children. I personally dislike the use of scare tactics that involve shaming language that may make a child feel bad about themselves for having a physiological response to sexual imagery.

Another issue I have with the book is how it talks about the dopamine system in the brain. The book states that pornography “tricks” the brain into turning on powerful feelings. This statement is entirely untrue, the use of the word “trick” here is misleading. Dopamine is released by pleasurable activities (they use ice cream), drugs, or sex. This is not trickery but a biological process. The book also calls the reward center the “attraction center” which is not accurate. Attraction is a multifaceted concept that involves more than brain centers and neurochemistry. I do wish that they were more accurate in their description of these processes.

I feel like I just spent three paragraphs talking about what I don’t like about the book. I will own that these issues come from my background in neuropsychology and an obsessive desire to never shame anyone about sex and sexuality. That being said, the book is really the best resource of its kind that I have seen. It provides a short, readable story for a parent and child to go through together. It provides a clear behavioral plan for a child to follow if they are accidentally exposed to pornography.

The book is best for younger children who perhaps have not been exposed to online pornography yet. The average age of first exposure to online pornography is about ten years old, though this data is old and the age is likely younger. Therefore, the earlier you start talking to your child about sex, pornography and sexuality the better.

For more blogs like this one, please check out our site The New Age of Sex Education

Family Online Safety Contracts

Father And Son Using Laptop At Home

Father And Son Using Laptop At Home

As my book, The New Age of Sex Education, how to talk to your teen about cybersex and pornography, is nearing completion, I am researching resources for parents. One of these resources is the Family Online Safety Institute. This is a very helpful and informative site.

What I love most about the site are the online safety contracts I found there. These contracts not only provide boundaries and guidelines for the child, but also the parent. Here are a few tidbits from the parent contract:

      1. Parents will get to know the services and websites their child uses.

By doing this, the parent agrees to get informed and stay informed. This is critical to responsible digital parenting.

      1. I will not over react if my child tells me about something “bad” he or she finds or does on the Internet.

I LOVE THIS! If a parent can follow through on this part of the contract, they won’t shame their child. It is hard to not be reactive if your child comes to you saying he or she saw pornography or were solicited on a website they should not have been on. However, if you can be calm and talk about the issue, you will go a long way to create safety and not create an aura of shame around sexuality.

      1. I will frequently check to see where my kids have visited and talk to them about my concerns.

These are just a few of the 12 items on the parent contract. These rules facilitate calm and healthy communication between parents and their children.

The site also has Safety Cards specifically for: cell phone, smartphone, gaming systems, tablets and computers. These are designed for a parent to give to their child and discuss when they get a new device. A parent can write their own rules on the card based on their own beliefs and family values. There is also a parent’s promise section on these cards.

Parents promise not to overreact if their child views something inappropriate. The parent also agrees to learn new things and be part of their child’s digital world. Another parent promise is that they, themselves, promise to responsibly use technology. Parents need to model appropriate behaviors such as not texting while driving.

There are many sites that will provide you with resources and many are very good. I wanted to highlight this site because it does such a great job in showing us that parents need to be accountable too. Having rule sand boundaries for both parents and children creates a safe environment that fosters open and honest communication.