Childrearing

Public Porn Is Even Worse When You Have Children

By  | 

I remember the first time I ever saw a television in a car. It was a long time ago — like the late 1990s — and I was headed to a Washington Redskins game out in Landover, Maryland. Traffic was awful and we were just creeping along behind a vehicle that had what appeared to be a television above the back seat. We realized at some point that it was a television. And, well, that the people in the SUV were watching graphic pornography. We laughed because we were employees in a car with our boss and there was little else to do.

Pornography has many downsides, of course, but mostly those downsides are felt by the individual using porn and his or her lovers and family. But public porn brings up a whole host of other issues.

I realized how powerful images are when my four-year-old returned from a single trip to the shopping mall (we go maybe four times a year) and put on make-up (using markers), a bikini top underneath her shirt, her hip new jeans and dug out her dress-up shoes. I was intrigued and she said she wanted to look like the woman on the poster. I knew exactly what she was talking about (although I don’t remember the company that was advertising). There was a huge poster in the food court where we were eating and she just kept staring at it. And the woman had a bikini top creeping out underneath a button down shirt, jeans and high heels. My daughter had not done half bad emulating it.

My method of avoiding television and advertisements to keep my kids from growing up to be six-year-olds who hope to sexy isn’t really paying off if it can be thwarted by one well-placed ad.

The last time I took a plane, a man across the aisle from me was just flat out watching pornography on his iPad. A gentleman seated near him told him to turn it off. He didn’t ask. He just told him to turn it off. The public porn watcher told him to mind his own business. The gentleman explained that he’d be able to do that as soon as he turned off his pornography. He started to stand up as if he was going to get physical. The porn user backed down.

The thing was that there were children seated not far from the porn user. It’s one thing to be a boorish man-child who is suffering from such low self esteem that he can’t even wait until he’s in private to watch his juvenile “adult” entertainment. But when the public environment includes children, that’s just going too far.

I would never have any problem telling someone watching porn or even graphic violence on a plane to knock it off if my children were around. But I don’t like that I’d even have to. And what about environments where I can’t exactly control things? What about our public library where, according to a neighborhood list-serv, some members of our community watch porn on the taxpayer-funded computers (a practice, I’m told, that the library has absolutely no intention of stopping).

The funny thing is that I’m not too worried about how my children would handle it as adolescents. By then, I hope they’ll know precisely how to process those images should they come across them. And they will come across them in this day and age. But when they’re toddlers or young children, those images can be even more confusing and harmful.

So word to the porn-addled: if your behavior makes Fred Willard like a genteel aristocrat — and it does — than maybe you should just keep the porn for the bathroom or somewhere else where kids aren’t likely to encounter it. And if you can’t, seek help.

(Photo: jwblinn/Shutterstock)