On Sons and Porn

She walked into my office quietly, a contrast from her normal cheerful state. I had seen her for other reasons in the past, but today she wanted to talk about her son.

She gently sat down on the couch and gathered herself to tell the story. She had returned home from work to a quiet house. Her son’s backpack lay open with folders and paper spilling out onto the table. She yelled up to his room but got no reply. Probably doing his homework, she thought. She set her things down and moved on to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Twenty minutes later, with folded laundry, she made her way upstairs to the bedrooms. She finished narrating the story, “I walked in to him sitting in the corner of the room, his back to the door. As soon as he heard the door open, he slapped his laptop shut. But I saw. I saw what he was looking at. Those images will stay with me forever.”

Her tears followed the story. She had opened the door to a nightmare.

While this is a hypothetical story, it is also the story of many mothers.

There is nothing like looking into the eyes of a mother who has caught her son with pornography. Details change from story to story:
-A son forgets to erase his internet history and cover his tracks.
-A mother discovers her son no longer plays his XBOX with the door open anymore. Instead she finds the door locked and the sound eerily quiet each time he asks to play video games.
-A mother pulls up her email only to have her son’s email open up instead.
-A son begins to act possessive with his phone, hiding it away, taking it into the bathroom, and offering resistance when asked about its whereabouts.

The specifics vary, but in many ways the stories are all the same.

The feeling of shock is followed by betrayal, as if the boy she thought she knew no longer resides within her son’s body. In that moment, mom meets a stranger she has known for many years.

To find your son looking at pornography can be traumatic, an experience a mother may not have context for.

To this point I have spoken only of mothers, but I do not mean to neglect fathers in the process. I have seen some of these looks on the faces of men as well. More often, though, I see more betrayed, scared, hurt, and disoriented mothers.

There likely will come a time when a parent turns on a phone or computer to find sexually explicit material. When that time comes, or if it already has, it is imperative to have some context. It is the parent’s job to be responsible, or better put: “response-able”.

Are you prepared to respond well?

While this blog is not meant to be an exhaustive, step-by-step, tutorial on how to engage your son, here are some initial thoughts to give context and a foundation as you begin the process:

Know you: You will bring your own sexual history and experience into the conversation. Know your own story. How was sexuality handled in your own upbringing? How about in the family now? Unprocessed story and feelings will lead you to react rather than respond to your son and thus likely harm him. It’s okay to have lots of emotions right now. If you have a heightened sense of panic, shame, or anger, consider finding a friend or counselor to process your own heart before moving into his.

Know him: His behavior is a symptom of deeper struggles in his heart. He does not have a pornography problem; rather he has a pornography solution to the relational pain and unmet longings in his soul. Prioritize knowing him over controlling him. Your son is scared and lonely, just to start. Whether he shows it or not, shame owns him right now. As you consider boundaries, rules, and guidelines, make sure you work to connect and shepherd his fear, loneliness, and shame first and foremost.

Know God: Spirituality and sexuality often carry loads of baggage for us all. Whether in the unconscious or conscious, likely you carry your own feelings about God and sex. Consider what God might be inviting you into through your son’s process. You may feel you have lost control of your son; a sense of helplessness threatens to overtake you. Could you engage with God first about your own fear, anger, and sadness, and could you trust God with this process? As you view your son through a spiritual lens, keep this oft-quoted line forefront in your mind: “Every man who enters a brothel is looking for God”.

Share Button