Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Educator, Author

Building Sexual Self-Efficacy with Middle School Kids

Sexual self-efficacy grows in importance as your children get older. Middle school is an important time to begin to build skills that your child will use later in life to help them use agency in making choices about their own sexual behaviors.

This is the time when you must start  talking about pornography. For younger children, or those just entering middle school, a simple conversation might start with, “Sometimes when kids have questions about sex, they look on line. But they may end up seeing things that they weren’t planning to see.” You can ask if they’ve ever heard of that or seen something that they weren’t expecting. If they have seen pornography, allow them to talk about how they felt about it.

It’s especially important to talk about the implications of viewing pornography. For example, many of the sexual acts depicted in pornography are not consistent with mutually respectful and satisfying sexual relationships. There are acts, such as anal sex or one woman engaging with multiple men, that many couples are not interested in. Pornography also often depicts women as sexual objects for the pleasure of men, pure objectification without a focus on the woman’s pleasure. You need to talk with your child about the fact that in real life, people may not be interested in some of the acts that pornography portrays, and that in a healthy sexual relationship, a partner must always be able to say no and to make their own decisions about what they want to engage in.

Watching pornography can give children an unrealistic idea of what is involved in healthy sexual relationships. It can also give them an unrealistic idea of what bodies should look like, and for young men can cause sexual dysfunction where they are only aroused by media, but not by a real person with whom they are in a relationship. For middle schoolers, an introduction to this conversation will open doors for future, more specific conversations as your child gets older. However, if you believe that your early adolescent is heavily involved with pornography, you will need to get into details as soon as possible. The truth is, pornography can distort a child’s understanding of healthy sexual relationships, so it’s vital that adults not shy away from these conversations.

For some specific ideas for conversation starters for talking with your kids about porn, check out this article from Joanna Schroeder on Babble.

2 comments on “Building Sexual Self-Efficacy with Middle School Kids

  1. The_L
    April 19, 2016

    The analogy I’ve used is that using porn for sex ed is like using an action movie to learn about physics and road safety.

    And the sad truth is, when teachers and parents don’t teach our children about sex, they WILL end up learning from pornography.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      April 19, 2016

      I so agree. If parents want to know what their kids are thinking about sex, the parent has to be willing to be the primary source of information! That means answering questions and having what may feel like awkward conversations.

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