Mother: “Our 16-year-old son has been watching porn two or three times a week since he was 15. He is open about how often but not about what he watches. I don’t really need to know that either. “I’m worried about those porn images. I find it terrible as an emancipated woman myself. I also think he is very young for those kinds of images. He’s never had a girlfriend.

“I would like to ban it, but I understand that it is impossible. My husband disagrees either. We do talk about porn in general at home and that women in the movies can be very different than in reality, but the conversation doesn’t go any further than that.

“How does porn affect young people? Do they not expect too much, do they treat each other with respect, do they not set the bar too high, do they end up in the relationship later because porn is so easily available? What is ordinary? Aren’t women too often viewed as sex objects?”

Name is known to the editor. This section is anonymous, because difficulties in upbringing are sensitive. Would you like to present a dilemma? Mail your question to [email protected]

Hardly any influence

Patti Valkenburg: “The fact that this son tells his mother that he watches porn shows a good relationship between mother and son. Mother would indeed do well not to ask further, because teenagers need privacy in their sexual exploration.

“Online pornography is the way for young people today to come into contact with sex, compare it with the sex magazines of the past. Of the fifteen to seventeen-year-old boys, 66 percent sometimes deliberately search for porn online, compared to 22 percent of girls.

“Porn often paints an unrealistic picture of sex and gender roles: sex is mainly portrayed as physical, pleasure-promoting activity between volatile partners; women are mainly passive creatures who have to satisfy the man. But the influence of porn on young people’s opinions about sex is not that bad. Our many years of research shows that most young people are hardly influenced by porn in their ideas about sex and gender roles. That’s because they don’t think porn is realistic. A small group do, especially younger teens. Parents can point out, as this mother does, the distortions of sex and gender roles in entertainment media.

Fortunately, according to Rutgers WPF, for the vast majority of young people the main reason for having sex is still ‘because they are in love’ and ‘to be very close to the other person’.

Learn to think critically

Daphne van de Bongardt: “The skills that parents can instill in today’s youth to become ‘media literate’ also apply to porn. Media literacy means being able to critically reflect on what you are presented with online. Is what I see realistic? Who made this, how and why?

“With porn it is also important to let young people practice with questions such as: what do I actually think of this? Do I like what I see? Would I want to do that myself? Sexuality is something very personal; asking yourself those questions sharpens your individual sexual development. Knowing your own wishes and limits also helps in intimate relationships. As a parent, you can encourage your child to think about this at this meta-level, where he does not have to share the answers with you.

“Not only the role of women in porn should be put into perspective, but also that of men. These are usually super-muscled guys with big penises, always ready to go. Mothers and fathers can say that this is not always the reality.”