Ask the Experts: The Porn Conversation



Warning: The content to be discussed is for mature audiences only and necessarily includes references to sexual acts, sexual assault, and gender-based violence. Please ensure all audience members are 18 years old or older and that parents are away from their children when they are viewing the workshop.

“The Porn Conversation,” presented by Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, addressed the disturbing prevalence of young people’s exposure to pornography online. An interdisciplinary panel of distinguished experts reviewed the current research on pornography’s effects on adolescent development, and explored how to navigate ‘the porn conversation’. In addition to providing evidence-based practical suggestions for parents, educators, and health providers, the group answered parents’ questions in real time.
To bring parents up to speed on what mainstream pornography looks like today, Dr. Gail Dines, who served both as an expert and as a moderator for this panel, shared a brief but shocking presentation about what mainstream, free pornography looks like in 2020. [03:15] Later in the webinar, Dr. Dines, President and CEO of Culture Reframed, brought to light how the pornography industry targets children and teens through seemingly harmless apps. [46:11]

[14:14] Dr. Marc Potenza of the Yale School of Medicine then shared an overview of what science tells us about internet pornography use. Dr. Potenza discussed the risks and consequences affiliated with pornography use by youths and adolescences, and in particular the development of Problematic Pornography Use (PPU). He highlighted how the proportion of children as young as 7 viewing pornography is increasing and how the age of first pornography exposure is associated with several individual physical, emotional, behavioral, and relational concerns. Though all children and teens are at risk, those with exposure under the age of 12 face the highest odds of developing PPU and its serious consequences.

[30:47] After this discussion of why parents need to be concerned about their children’s and teens’ exposure to pornography, Jo Robertson, a sex therapist and Research Lead at The Light Project in New Zealand, led parents through ‘the porn conversation.’ She spoke about the most comfortable time and place to begin the discussion, advised how parents should approach the conversation, offered key talking points; and, she presented the “5 Cs in Conversation” and how to use them when talking with kids and teens about pornography.

[53:22] While all pornography is concerning and problematic for young people, some pornography can be particularly harmful. Dr. Carolyn West, a professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington, spoke about how one particularly detrimental variety of pornography includes racist imagery and promotes racistl tropes meant to degrade all persons of color, including black men, while perpetuating the sexism and mysogyny prevalent in all pornography. Dr. West also discussed the high degree of racism, in particular reliant on racist myths of violence, that exists in pornography, and she explained why and how parents should raise this important topic with their teens.

[1:06:53] To round out this unsettling yet vital journey, Dr. Dines moderated a lively exchange between the panelists and attendees, during which parents’ pressing questions about pornography, sexual health, and difficult conversations were explored and answered.

Moderator:
Gail Dines, PhD
President and CEO, Culture Reframed,
Professor Emerita of Sociology and Women’s Studies,
Wheelock College, Boston

Distinguished Experts:

Marc Potenza, MD, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry,
Child Study Center and of Neuroscience, Director,
Center of Excellence in Gambling Research,
Director, Yale Program for Research on Impulsivity and Impulse Control Disorders,
Director, Women and Addictive Disorders, Women’s Health Research at Yale,
Yale School of Medicine

Jo Robertson, PGDip Couns, MSc
Sex Therapist,
Research & Training Lead, The Light Project

Carolyn West, PhD
Author, Filmmaker, Domestic Violence Expert, Cultural Sensitivity Trainer,
Professor of Psychology, University of Washington

“The Porn Conversation” was hosted by Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, editor-in-chief of JAMA Pediatrics and Director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, on behalf of Children and Screens.

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