How to Talk with Children and Adults about Sexuality

Sexual Media Exposure: Part Two

A couple having a "the talk" with their young son.

In my previous post (Understanding the Effects of Sexual Content in the Media: Part One), I highlighted some research that revealed exposure to sexual media content being everywhere, and furthermore, suggested this exposure impacts our attitudes and behaviors of our own sexual desire. I doubt this is shocking information.

Discussing Sexuality

That said, it has been my experience in both professional and personal relationships that most people will not talk about sexuality with their children, their friends, or even their spouse. Something fundamental to the human experience – sexual desire, sexual attitudes, and sexual responses – are treated as optional or secondary within human development. Doesn’t that sound crazy?

The constant bombardment of sexual media content impacts these fundamental aspects of our humanity, but we don’t make it a point to talk about it. It would be similar to knowing that your expenses are greater than your income but not making any adjustments and not expecting any financial fallout in the future.

How Confusion about Sex Manifests In Shock and Confusion

When important data no longer informs our decision making we wake up collectively to shock and confusion about personal and public epidemics.

We are horrified about how widespread the #metoo victim stories go and the existence of sex trafficking rings in our own cities. We are overwhelmed by what we find our children or spouse viewing on their smartphones. We struggle to understand why our own sexual desires propel us away from our spouse and towards secretive encounters with a screen, or worse.

Pay Attention, Stay Educated, and Think Critically about Sex

I’m suggesting that in many cases it’s the old frog in the frying pan phenomenon; you don’t even know there’s trouble until it’s too late. That said, simply trying to hide or shelter yourself, your marriage, or your young adolescents from exposure to sexual media content is futile.

Instead, I’m encouraging you to pay attention, stay educated, and think critically. Be proactive and intentional. Have discussions with your kids, your partner, and your friends about what each of you are watching and what attitudes about sex are developing. Be open to listen so as to understand those you interact with, even if what you hear is vastly different from your experience.

Questions to Ask About Sexual Content

Try Asking Questions, Like:

Regarding Movie and Video Content

  • What do you think each person might have been thinking during their (romantic) interaction? What about right after? What about days and months after?
  • Do you think either of them felt nervous or afraid? If so, of what?
  • Do you think its possible that either of them felt pressured to do something they weren’t ready to do? If so, what were you seeing that left you thinking this? What do you think they could have done if they were?
  • If they don’t stay in a relationship or get married, do you think they might regret this encounter when sharing something similar with someone else later? Why?

Regarding Music

  • What do you think that artist is saying they believe about opposite sex individuals? About same sex individuals?
  • What do you hear this artist saying would make a good or satisfying sexual relationship for them?
  • Do you think they represent everybody else’s desires in this too?
  • Can you think of any other artists they might not represent? If so, why do you think they’re so different?

Resources For Discussions about Sex

A few helpful resources to help guide you in engaging this topic with you kids are:

And for couples to enhance their discussion with one another:

These are certainly going to be unfamiliar and even awkward interactions for some. Don’t be afraid to not have all the answers. It may be easier to just carry on without engaging these things but the research would suggest it is not best. Be strong and courageous. And if you need help, let us help.

Watershed Counseling provides counseling for individuals, families, and couples for many issues, including sex and development. Make an appointment with us today.