The first time I saw a Playboy magazine, I was about 14 years old and hanging out at a friend's house. My buddy had covertly collected a secret stash of magazines under his bed. He had gone to great lengths to acquire the contraband, and his bedroom stash became the stuff of legend among our adolescent crew of hormonally-driven friends.
I was (and am) a Christian, and I had been brought up with parents and church leaders who taught me about the sacredness of sex and the dangers of objectifying women. Still, my raging hormones and weak willpower got the best of me and I couldn't pull my eyes away from the airbrushed images. Those magazines became a "gateway drug" of sorts and ultimately led me down a dark road towards more graphic pornography.
I've been porn-free for a decade, but I'm still living with some scars in my mind and my marriage. Thankfully, God's grace and my wife's love (plus some important accountability measures) have helped me escape from the grip of porn.
My wife Ashley and I are now raising four young sons, and we want to do everything in our power to keep them from the allure of porn and sexual sin in a culture where sexually-explicit content is much more readily available than it was in my generation. Some random kid's smart phone on the school playground can give instant access to much more than what was hidden under the bed at my friend's house years ago.
As parents, we have a sacred responsibility to our children to teach them about sex and protect them from all the ways the misuse of sex can harm them. The first step is obviously teaching your sons to have a deep and abiding respect for women, but respect alone isn't enough to help them overcome the bombardment of visual temptations out there. If you're looking for some practical ways to get started, here are three simple ways parents of boys can equip them to live with sexual purity in a sexually-saturated culture.
3 keys to raising boys in a sex-crazed culture:
1. Don't just have "The Talk;" have many talks about sex and purity
Instead of having one big talk about the birds and the bees like many of our parents did when we were growing up, open up an ongoing, healthy dialogue about issues related to sex and porn. Ask questions and encourage your son to ask you questions too. Be as transparent as possible in your responses. Kids don't expect you to be perfect, but they need you to be real.
2. Try to understand your son's thought process
If you're a man raising boys, you already know all about the male thought process and mental wiring that makes visual temptation so powerful, but your son is living in a different world than ours, so keep the dialogue open to learn how he's thinking. If you're a mom and you'd like to understand more about how and why males react so instinctively to visual images of sex and sensuality, I'd encourage you to read the new book, "Through a Man's Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men." The research in the book is eye-opening, and their insights made me think they'd somehow installed hidden cameras in my brain!
3. Monitor every screen in your home
The average kid sees porn by age ten. Sometimes, kids are exposed to porn on accident, and other times, they're deliberately looking for it. Parents must be constantly vigilant by setting parental controls, downloading porn-blocking software, and using every tool at our disposal to protect our kids from unwanted images. Know where your kids are going online and let them know you're watching. Tell them what's off limits, but also follow up by inspecting. Kids aren't usually as interested in what you expect as they are in what you'll inspect.
As you get started...
You may be intimidated by the thought of even beginning these conversations with your kids. That's completely understandable. I think we all feel that way at first. This aspect of parenting is indeed one of the most difficult, but also among the most important. As parents, we must conquer or own fears and feelings of inadequacy to give our kids the help they desperately need.
Talk to your sons about what honorable manhood really means.
Don't feel like you have to do it alone, because there are many great resources to help you and your family. Don't be passive in this process. Be present. Your kids don't need you to have perfect answers to all their questions, but they need you to be present and transparent with them. If you're willing to do those things, and to use the tools and resources at your disposal, you will navigate these complex issues with great success.
This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.