Erotic Lit and Young Minds–How Hyper-Sexualized Fiction Harms Girls and Boys

by Oct 27, 2020Especially for Girls

I recently had the opportunity to interview Lacy Bentley. Lacy is a Life Coach helping women overcome compulsive love and relationship patterns and has been in recovery for ten years for “love addiction”. You can read more about Lacy in her bio below. 

In this interview we cover:

  • Finding erotic lit at a young age
  • How kids are accessing erotic lit
  • Normal curiosity in kids as they develop
  • Empowering kids by having tough conversations
  • The effect of erotic lit on the brain
  • How kids get trapped in erotic lit
  • The harmful messages in erotic lit
  • Coercion and manipulation
  • What parents can do

Note: The transcription of this interview has been edited for clarity.

Kristen: It’s great to be here with one of my favorite people in the movement–Lacy Bentley. I met her years ago when I was first getting started in helping kids reject pornography. I’m so grateful that she could join us today.

Lacy, I know some of your story and you’ve been very helpful to us. I know you are coaching women and helping them to overcome compulsive behaviors around pornography and sex.

For so long we thought pornography was a male problem. We now know it’s a human problem. Please tell us what you do and a quick summary of your journey. And why you’re doing what you do.

Lacy: First I want to say I think it’s so great that I’m one of your favorite people in the movement because you’re totally one of my favorite people in the movement! I love doing whatever I can to help you and Good Pictures Bad Pictures get your messages out because I think they are so timely, so critical and so well-written.

Finding erotic lit at a young age

Lacy: A little bit about me–I help women overcome compulsive love and relationship patterns:  emotional affairs, quitting pornography, I help a couple of women who have just compulsive masturbation issues or that coupled with pornography or fantasy. Because as women we really like to be in our heads. 

That’s why, actually, we’re here talking about this. Because erotic lit, lit porn, whatever you call it, is so enticing to us. And when you asked me “Hey! Can we talk about this?” I was very excited [to bring light to this subject] because it is lit porn that got me started. 

That’s what I used. And it was 1989. I was thirteen when I found my first. It was little–like the size of a TV Guide. I think it was a Penthouse for Women or something. And it was all stories. Lots and lots of erotic stories.

I would baby-sit for this couple for free so I could access her porn collection. His didn’t interest me, right? I know what those videos are. They’re the VHS with the blank labels, right? I know what that means. Right? But nope! I wanted to access what she was using, so I’d go look for her novels, her little magazines.

So I think this is really important we’re talking about this now.

Kristen: We got this question from a reader: “What do I do? My daughter’s interested in this erotic literature and it’s easy to get access to. So what do I do?” You know we talk about Good Pictures Bad Pictures and we talk about the visual nature. 

And what I have found, and you can verify this or not, but women may tend to get into pornography via erotic literature. But they often end up looking at the videos.

Lacy: Yes.

Kristen: Once they get desensitized and more and more sexualized in that way. So it starts out as an erotic tale or story.

Talk to us about the effect of those stories in the brain, like in the mind. How powerful are they?

Lacy: They are so intoxicating. 

Fanfiction

Lacy: Let’s get some definitions real quick.

Frequently right now we’ve got fanfiction. Twilight has a lot of fanfiction. And Fifty Shades of Grey actually came out of Twilight fanfiction. So Twilight led to the creation of Fifty Shades of Grey. Now there’s tons and tons of Fifty Shades of Grey fanfiction too. 

There’s a term you’re going to want to know–fanfiction.

There’s fanfiction for tons of stuff. There’s Minecraft fanfiction. There’s Fortnite fanfiction. If teens and kids and young adults are into it, there’s most likely fanfiction for it. It started out, at least as far as I know, with Anime fanfiction in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Kristen: What is fanfiction? Tell us what it is for those of our audience who may not know.

Lacy: It’s stories. Harry Potter fanfiction would be the romance between Hermoine and Ron. And it can get more and more explicit.

Kristen: Is most fanfiction considered sexual? Or erotic?

Lacy: Let’s say a lot of fanfiction is romantic, sexual, erotic, pornographic. A lot. Not all. There’s some [that’s not], especially Pottermore. Fans write it, that’s why it’s called fanfiction. Fans elaborate on the stories. And they do very often get romantic, sexualized, even pornographic.

And then some fanfiction turns into its own book and novels.

Kristen: Yes, like Fifty Shades of Gray. 

Lacy: Yes. 

Curiosity about sex is normal development

Lacy: You know, young women are just as much sexual beings as young men. And it’s natural. It’s normal. 

I had Sweet Valley High, years and years ago. And it was romance and there was kissing. It’s very natural for thirteen, fourteen year old girls to be thinking a little bit about these things. They’re starting to have some hormones and emotions wake up. Their brain chemistry, their sexual chemistry is starting to work. And they can feel that attraction. 

One thing I really like about what you do is the whole [idea] of not shaming for sexuality. Let’s just install the internal filters. I think you were the first one who said that in the movement. 

Let’s just do that! Because it’s actually normal that young girls want to read a book about grown-ups. They’re not deviant. There’s not something wrong with them. It’s pretty natural.

Kristen: Yes. I remember between the age of twelve and thirteen I had a massive change. I remember I went from being a total tomboy to being interested in putting on make-up. And I think my mom was like “What happened to my daughter?!” 

But there are some changes with puberty that happen and it’s normal and natural. Nothing to be ashamed of. But the problem is that when I was a kid, there wasn’t such easy access. There wasn’t really this online world and phenomenon of fanfiction. 

Related: Sexual Behavior in Children: What’s Normal? What’s Harmful?

Access to romance and erotica

Kristen: Where are kids getting access to fanfiction? How do they find it? What are some of the main places they can find it?

Lacy: It’s not hard! And kids know this. If you just type in “Twilight fanfiction” or whatever, you can go to news and follow the Google searches and there are hubs of fan fiction around the internet.

So you can get fanfiction. You can get romance, the simpler PG, maybe PG-13 romance that I was reading in Sweet Valley High. You can get that and full on erotica or erotic lit on Audible. There are podcasts. It’s a whole genre–like multiple genres in Kindle. And there are, at least in Kindle and Audible, there are secret collections where other people can’t see what you’re reading or what you’ve got in these secret collections. They’re password protected or fingerprint protected. 

Kristen: Wow. How would you know that your daughter, who was using a Kindle, has these secret, password-protected collections?

Lacy: [You wouldn’t.] Unless you know how to find them, which I’m not an expert at, and you know how to break through her safeguard she’s put up. Or, Kristen, have the type of relationship where you can ask her about it, talk to her about it. 

Related: Parent Alert! Schools Offer Erotic Lit to 5 Year Olds through Library Apps! 5 Ways to Protect Your Kids

Empowering kids by having tough conversations

Lacy: The very best thing we can do is talk to our kids about their blossoming sexuality. Normalize it for them. Be excited with them. Say “This is actually pretty cool. Right? Like now you want to wear make-up, cute little Kristen. And you want to do your hair!”

I had two of my teenagers, with autism, who would not shower. Then all of the sudden they’re showering every day. Why? Hormones. Cute girl. It’s good. We start to take better care of ourselves. We become more aware. It’s not bad! It’s exciting!

And if we have those conversations and say, “Hey, when I was your age…” or “It’s totally normal to be interested in this.” I have four boys and tell them that it’s totally normal to wonder ‘What’s porn?’ And [they] hear me talking about women quitting porn all the time and [the] anti-porn movement and exploitation, so it’s in their minds more. So I tell them it’s normal you’d want to go look at it. Then I ask, “So when’s the last time you guys went looking?”

One of them [looks down] and all of the sudden his dinner is super interesting to him. Right? Ok, we need to have a private conversation, do some de-shaming. The best protection is to be able to have conversations with our kids.

Kristen: Right. Because they’ll always have their choice. In the past you might have been able to shelter them. When I say protect kids from porn, I don’t mean put them in a bubble and basically prevent every exposure. What I’m talking about is protection so that they have an internal filter–which is the ultimate protection right? 

Sometimes people say “Well, you can’t protect kids from porn.” I say “Yes you can!” You can if you give them the right tools and the right knowledge they can protect themselves. Which ultimately they have to do. They have the choice. But they won’t have much of a choice if you don’t talk to them and warn them and give them a plan. They’ll have less of a choice because pornography is very alluring and it works on your human biology.

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

I had a daughter who was really into science fiction and there was a science fiction book that she brought home from the library at school. I just was in her room and I picked up the book and looked on the back and I saw the word erotic. That was my first clue that this was probably not something I actually wanted her to read. 

But I wasn’t going to say “You take this book right back to the library and never bring this smut home again!” No. That just doesn’t work. I just said, “I read this. It says the word erotic, so that kind of makes me think there are probably some descriptions of sex in this book.” 

And she said, “Well, I’m trying to skip those.” 

And I said, “Well, you think about it. But it might be a good idea to just [take] this book back.” 

“But I want to find out the ending.” But ultimately, she [took] it back and just decided it wasn’t worth it, she’d find something else that was better. And so I was really proud of her because by that time, she’s fifteen or sixteen, and she needs to learn to make these decisions for herself. And I was proud that she did.

The effect of erotic lit on the brain

Kristen: Tell me, when you’re reading a book and the story turns quickly, what does that do to the brain? How is that different from watching a video of pornography?

Lacy: It’s like this: I’m reading along and I’m like “Oh! Tingly! This is a good story. Oh! More tingly! Oh hello! Full-blown arousal.” 

For a young woman whose sexuality is truly waking up and is maturing, she’s going to get aroused at descriptions of sex. Just like a young man is going to get aroused at a pretty girl. He can’t control it. No matter how embarrassed he is. He’s just going to have to learn to stand differently or whatever. 

But for girls, it’s such a private situation. Nobody knows when we’re aroused. Unless we express it. Nobody can tell. There’s no signs or symptoms. But if a young woman is reading erotica, or let’s say we’re just watching some anime and two of the characters start to have a romantic moment, we’re not even getting into sexuality. There’s a romantic moment–think about the rom-coms that we watch. Well, I don’t anymore, haven’t for a long time. But it does something to us. The language does something to us. The visuals, they elicit a response. 

As we play a story out in our minds, we have this vision of these story characters in our minds, and let’s not pretend she’s not the heroine and this cute guy at school’s not the hero. Right? And whatever those young women are reading now is connecting in her brain and if it’s going into a lot of fantasy–and she’s visualizing this, pondering this, thinking about it–it’s raising those neuro-chemicals, it’s raising those bonding hormones, it’s raising dopamine and serotonin. 

But it’s just her and her thoughts. Which then creates a deeper internal fantasy relationship. Now she sees this guy at school or walking down the street or something and it’s uncomfortable because in her mind they’re now intimate, but she’s never even had a conversation with him.

And so girls get trapped in these cycles and now they’re not even talking to the young men that they have a crush on or that they might want to date because they don’t know how to rectify the dissonance in their brain. It doesn’t match up so they become avoidant and more isolated. Which then does something to brain chemistry

So we go back to the novel to just unwind, feel better, relax and here comes another romantic scene and woah! This one actually went full-blown sexual. I’m just going to skim it until it’s over and keep reading. And that’s how we start to get hooked.

Kristen: Yes. So it really creates pictures and videos in our own mind which are just as powerful, maybe even more, I don’t know. Because it’s our fantasy, it’s our little movie in our minds.

Lacy: And we get to play [a part]. For me, it was the cute seductress. Right? That’s who I wanted to be because I had so little power in my life. And my mother was a seductress, so why wouldn’t I?

Kristen: Why wouldn’t you? Right. She gave you a script.

Lacy: Right. And it was a flattering script and I was cute and I kinda knew that, so why not play it out? And it’s dangerous.

Kristen: Yes. And the thing is these girls don’t understand where that road is leading. They think they’re getting on this really fun, exciting journey and they’ve discovered this new world and this new pleasure and then at some point they’re trapped.

How reading erotic lit can lead to addiction

Kristen: Talk a little bit more about how kids, girls especially, get trapped. How it becomes an addiction. Reading these novels or doing fanfiction. How does that happen?

Lacy: It’s kind of like with pornography. It feels good. It gives our brain something enjoyable. We have our amygdala that only has three things on its mind: kill it, run away from it or have sex with it.

Kristen: What were the three things? 1. Kill it. 2. Run away from it. 3. Have sex with it. That’s what you’re saying. The amygdala, part of the feeling brain.

Lacy: Yes, all it knows is let’s stay alive! And what we did yesterday, well we woke up un-maimed so let’s just do that again! 

And oh stress? I know how to take care of that. Remember how yesterday when we were stressed and then you were reading that new book and you were like “I feel so much better!” Let’s read that book again because there was some juicy stuff in there. 

I raised three voracious readers. It’s a conversation we’ve had so many times with them. And if they enjoy reading they want to do it a lot anyway. And that’s fine. As long as your stuff’s getting done, you’re passing your classes, I’d rather you do that than kill people in video games. 

But it’s entertaining, it’s relaxing, it might even be arousing–even if not sexually arousing. There’s adventure and there’s fantasy and there’s discovery and it’s just fun, right? It’s enjoyable. 

Also, when she’s reading a book, nobody is teasing her or calling her fat or calling her anything else derogatory and  harmful or rejecting her. Right? That’s not happening when she’s reading. And in fact, it’s so easy to plug in, especially as women, because we have these brains as women that naturally want to continuously improve our situations and our environments. And we don’t channel that out here in the real world, it channels internally into fantasy into creating something that’s not real. And we can get stuck in that place. 

Now that’s not to say every woman or young woman who’s reading erotic novels, or fanfiction, or even writing her own, or drawing anime characters, creating their stories–that’s not to say every young woman will become addicted. In fact, a lot won’t. 

Kristen: If I could just recap a little bit: Kids growing up have stresses. Sometimes they’re lonely, sometimes they’re bored, sometimes they’re stressed. Right? They have all these different things. Sometimes they’re angry with their family or their friends or situations. 

And then what they do is they go back to this pleasurable experience to deal with this negative emotion. And that’s when the addiction can begin because your brain wants to see pleasure and avoid pain. So a negative emotional state is considered pain and it’s going to try to find some other distraction, some other way to deal with it. 

So if you let your brain go to using, basically like using fanfiction or a book or something as a painkiller, especially the sexual, because that really lights things up in the brain. So if you’re using that as a painkiller, then you can get addicted to that just like people get addicted to painkillers. 

And there’s similar processes in the brain whether you’re taking in a substance through your mouth or your hypodermic needle or you’re taking it in through your eyes or your ears or your mind. It’s similar.

Harmful messages in erotic lit

Kristen: Like you said, not everyone gets addicted, but everyone is negatively impacted because the stories tend to be objectifying of the girls, they tend to say things about love and romance and relationships that aren’t true or ideal. So can you speak to that a little bit?

Lacy: Right. Not everyone gets addicted. BUT what messages are they getting about themselves and sexuality and their value and their right to saying no and having it respected? And if it’s not respected their right to get someone else involved who has more authority. To say, “You don’t get to force yourself on young women.” Right? 

In a lot of these stories, there’s the mentor and young woman and that’s the danger actually of hentai, which is pornographic anime. And mind you, not all anime’s pornographic, but a lot of it is at least romanticized, if not sexualized.

And there’s this inappropriate age relationship between coach and young woman, teacher and young woman, best friend’s dad and young woman. 

And it’s incredibly confusing for a young girl who’s trying to figure out who she is. And she’s had a crush on this guy who is her same age in 8th grade and now, because of these stories she’s reading she’s starting to see characteristics of this guy in her stories. Or even women in her stories, let’s not pretend that’s not happening too. 

And now the crush goes from a peer and it starts to grow into a crush on a mentor or a teacher or a coach. And that’s just going to be super confusing for her. 

But if we can have conversations and say “These are the kinds of story lines you’re going to come up against and it’s never appropriate for an adult to express romantic or sexual interest in a teenager. NEVER appropriate. And if something like that happens will you please let me know? Even if you think he’s cute.” 

And validate that she might think her coach is cute, but it’s not okay for him to make romantic passes at her. That’s not what fanfiction says, though. Fanfiction says that’s sexy. That’s powerful. That’s desirable. That’s awesome.

In fanfiction, in erotica, in anime there’s almost a constant stream of manipulation, of coercion, of seduction, of disempowerment. Or on the inverse empowering a woman. Like she can gain control with her feminine wiles. And those messages are in there. 

Kristen: And it’s teaching kids to be manipulated and to be manipulative. Right?

Lacy: Yes. And that coercion and manipulation are part of romantic relationships or part of if someone loves you they’re going to push. They’re going to say, “Oh, but I thought you loved me.” Or “Do you want to be the last girl in our class to get to kiss me? Or to lose your virginity?” 

Kristen: And that’s actually being said in these books?

Lacy: Yes.

Kristen: Wow.

Lacy: Anything…don’t try to imagine too much, right? But it’s mind-blowing what can be in these books. The whole idea that it’s censoring if we [don’t allow] books past whatever rating–PG-13 or whatever–that it’s contrary to the first amendment, it’s against freedom of speech doesn’t consider that when [the first amendment] was created we didn’t have issues like this, certainly not at this level. You know, they’ve found old porn–like nude women etched into stone tablets. Porn’s been around since BC. Who knew? So it’s not new, but it’s so accessible to our kids now.

Kristen: It plays upon the brain in a completely different way. You know, looking at a naked figure on a [stone] tablet instead of looking at high-speed video with color of people full-on having sex or like you said of stories where people have sex and the description of it, are much more arousing and specific.

What can parents do?

Kristen: So what’s a parent to do? We have these problems. We understand that it’s very easy for kids to access this, even at the library, and we know that they may start out innocently and then the story turns and now it becomes very sexual and they weren’t actually bargaining for that, but they’re drawn in. 

We know that it can become addictive. And addiction is no joke. I mean we joke about addiction–oh I’m addicted to chocolate! No! That is not addiction. I mean addiction takes over your life. It hijacks your life. It limits you. It can really put a stress on relationships, if not ruin them. 

All these things can happen to bring young women into this. And you’re right, young women are just as sexual, just as curious about sex as young men. So given all this, how are we supposed to stay ahead of the game? It seems almost hopeless. What should a parent of daughters do? What advice do you have to give them?

Lacy: Breathe, mom! Take a deep breath! Most kids do not grow up to be sexually or otherwise completely deviant and anti-social. Ok? We all go through growing pains. It just so happens now, most of the growing pains are focused around sexuality and these kinds of things, right? We cannot afford to get overwhelmed and shut down, though. 

Kristen: Good advice. Stay calm.

Lacy: Yes. Please stay calm. 

Reach out. Get support. 

Have the conversations with our kids. I loved the conversation you described with your daughter about that book. I had almost the exact same conversation with my fifteen year old son, who brought home Twilight. The first book in the series of Twilight. 

He said, “I just asked the librarian ‘What’s good?’” 

I thought, “Oh good heavens!” Right? But I had the same conversation with him. But again, I had to leave the ball in his court. I told him my preference is you never bring any of those books in our house again. And we’re going to have things to talk about, especially if you’re going to read the whole series. 

He finished the first one and he rented the second one. Because the conversation was open, I had another conversation with him. He got a chapter in and he took it back of his own volition. 

And since then he’s brought home other series and then not finished them. I’ll notice that and say to him, “I know that there were four books in that series and I saw you take them back to school yesterday. You only had them for a few days. What’s up?” I know what’s probably up, right? 

He’s said, “Yeah, there was too much sex.” 

And I said, “I’m really proud of you for choosing to keep your mind clean and to learn about sex and relationships in healthy ways. And I want to reiterate, any questions, any time!” Like literally, we have conversations about sex and masturbation and pornography and anime and hentai at dinner a few times a month. Right? And the conversation needs to be open, it needs to be carte blanche–you can ask me whatever.

Kristen: Whatever you want.

Lacy: Yes. If I don’t know I’m going to get an answer. If it freaks me out, I need you to give me a second to breathe, even call my friend and I’ll freak out with my friend and then I’ll not freak out with you. And they laugh. They think it’s funny. And they know you’re serious. Right? Because sometimes we realize what our kids have been exposed to and it can undo us. We can’t let it.

Kristen: That is really great advice. I think that as we talk to our kids and are open, at first it might seem really intimidating and hard and kind of nerve-wracking, but it can get much, much easier. And you just become kind of comfortable with it. But you have to start somewhere. And that’s why as far as pornography goes Good Pictures Bad Pictures really does help just get that started in a very comfortable way.

But yes you have to keep talking to your kids and keep that conversation open because they’re worth it. They’re WORTH it for us to feel a little discomfort. And they need it. They need our mentoring. They need to know that we’re their allies and that we’re not going to shame them and judge them but we’re going to be there for them.

And you know, for my kids, I have to step back and say they’re on a journey. And it’s a journey of learning and building. And I’ve certainly made mistakes in my life, you know, why am I not expecting my kids to make mistakes. Especially given the environment they are having to grow up in–which is both wonderful and treacherous. 

I think that as far as girls go, our daughters and granddaughters, like you said, celebrate with them as they get mature and as they start to feel these feelings.

The last point I wanted to make with you here is that when we let fantasy or novels or pornography write our scripts for sex, then when we get in a sexual relationship with someone we love and are committed to, then it limits us from making up our own sexual scripts with that partner, with that spouse. 

And so we’re kind of cheated because the cool thing about sex with another person can be that we make up our own little traditions or our own little ways of being together. And that’s intimacy. It’s not for the whole world to see. And I didn’t need to go learn it from somebody. We work it out–our own story. We built our own story. And I think that’s one thing that can be hard if you’ve already been flooded with stories, you have to then work to build your own story free from all those scripts that are impacting us.

Related: Healthy Sex vs. Porn Sex: 7 Crucial Comparisons to Teach Your Kid (Before XXX Hijacks Their Future)

Lacy, tell us where women can find more information about what you do and give us some advice on how we can help our daughters avoid these pitfalls.

Lacy: There is absolutely no reason not to have hope. I just used a double negative. But there are so many resources, so many opportunities. This conversation isn’t “Oh, I didn’t have it when she was 11 and now it’s too late.” It’s  NEVER too late to start having these conversations! 

I had one when my son was 21, much to his chagrin. I told him “There are a couple of things that usually we would’ve talked to you about a day or two before you got married or right after,” but he’s on a different path than we were and that’s ok. So I said, “There are some things you need to know.” 

Even when he was little I let him put a pillow in front of his face so he didn’t have to look me in the eye. That’s fine! As long as you’re listening, I don’t care if you won’t look at me. If you feel better, turn around and look the other direction, that is totally fine! I just want you to know some things.

Kristen: Be in a car, right? Be in a car where you’re side to side not [face to face].

Lacy: Yeah and he’s the one that would sit in the back seat actually. He’s like, “Are we having one of those talks?” 

“Yeah!” So he gets in the backseat.

“Can we wait until after I have my frozen yogurt?”

“Ok.”

Just make it comfortable. Let your kids be where they’re at with it. It’s uncomfortable and if you say, “I’m uncomfortable, too, but since I’m the mom I don’t get to cover my eyes.” Make the faces, roll your eyes, poke some fun at it. And ultimately have the conversation. 

Teach kids about coercion and manipulation

Lacy: [It’s important to talk about more than] just what building that sexual relationship with another person looks like and how important that is, but talk about coercion and what that is. Especially with girls. Talk about how they might someday be on a date with a guy that they really like and there’s a name for the tactic of trying to make her let him touch her in a way. 

Or her trying to make him, because it can happen both ways. It’s called coercion. This is manipulation. Understand–just Google it. Google those words. Understand what they mean and talk about it in the context of what your daughters might face. Because then they’ll know what they’re dealing with. And they’ll go “Wait a second. I said no twice and he’s pushing and trying to make me feel guilty. That’s manipulation. I don’t want to be in a relationship with a guy who manipulates me. It’s not cool.” That’s not love. Love does not manipulate or coerce.

Kristen: Yes. Absolutely. And I think many women have been in those relationships…I’ve had one of those and I got away. And the next relationship was with a guy who was very respectful. And so then I learned there are guys out there that are respectful and aren’t coercing and pushing the boundaries.

Lacy: An important point I want to make just really quick, Kristen, is some of the guys have also been reading and watching or whatever and they just don’t know either. We need to talk to our sons. Our kids know what manipulation and coercion is and they know that, while we’ll help them cover an attorney and stuff, we’re not going to protect them if they coerce or manipulate. 

Kristen: And they get into trouble, yes.

Lacy: We love you, we’re here for you, but you get to answer for that. PERIOD. You get to answer for that. So we need to teach our sons, too, because a lot of these guys–especially the young men–13, 14, 15, 16–they don’t really know what healthy communication about these things looks like. 

Kristen: Yes. We have to model it by talking to them and teaching them. So many young men and young women are getting their information about sex from porn. And if all that they’re seeing is choking and gagging and all these things, then they think because the porn actors, the porn performers, look like they’re enjoying that, or they’re not being hurt, then they get the message that this is what we do. I’m supposed to choke her. No!

Lacy: That’s attempted murder. Involuntary manslaughter.

Kristen: Right?! But it’s a common trope in pornography. And we could go on and on about all the lies and the manipulation in Fifty Shades of Grey. These are things that are important to talk about with kids. 

I like to talk about it in the form of inoculation. We’re inoculating them–we’re giving them a little bit of information that the bad stuff is out there so that they can basically develop an internal immunity so they have refusal skills. So they know “Oh yeah, we talked about that.” And they can see it. Otherwise it just kind of goes in and they’re not actually seeing what’s wrong with this. And so we need to have those discussions.

There IS hope!

To wrap up–girls are sexual, they’re curious, many of them will enjoy romance, but these days a lot of young adult fiction is very sexual. I met a woman who wrote YA fiction and there was romance in there, but her publisher really pushed her to make it more explicit. And she said, “No, I’m not going to do that.” And you know, authors want to get published. But at some point they have to stand up and say “Nope, not going to go there.” And there’s plenty of great literature, we just have to keep an eye on it and keep abreast of what our kids are reading, what they’re consuming–the media they’re consuming, all forms of media.

Alright, so where can people find out more about you, Lacy, and your work?

Lacy: You can find me at www.herrecoveryroadmap.com. You can get a download of  my book there. Also I’m on Facebook, Author Lacy Bentley.

And also on Facebook you can look for the Protected Hearts community. If you’re a woman who has been  heavily impacted by pornography, romantic fantasy or erotic lit, or have a 16, 17, 18, 19 year old daughter who has been, Protected Hearts is a community on Facebook for you. That’s why I created it. I want to invite you there. Do make sure to answer the questions, because I don’t let people in who don’t answer the questions. 

Also there are tons of resources out there. There really truly is no reason for us to feel like we can’t combat this. We just need to realize pornography is in it for the long haul. These disgusting narratives are here for the long term, which means our conversations need to be long-term. And that’s ok. We can figure this out. 

Our kids are okay with us blundering along with them. It actually makes them more comfortable when I say, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say that word out loud.” But then we do it anyway.

Kristen: Right. Get the whiteboard!

I think there’s a lot of misinformation about that out there and so it’s important. Masturbation + pornography of any kind is just like pouring lighter fluid on the fire. And when it comes to your brain and the dopamine that’s produced it does make it more addicting for sure.

Lacy: Yes, it does. But we can combat it!

Kristen: Kids deserve to know that, too. They deserve to know that information. Many of them don’t know.

Lacy: Yes and if they know and they know they can come to you and say, “I messed up.”

Kristen: Yes and I’m having a problem.

Lacy: They know you’re just going to help them out and say “Ok, what do we need to do. Do you want to check in with me or dad on a daily basis?” 

“Oh my gosh! Dad!”

Okay. Great. That’s fine! Right, that’s fine. As long as the conversation is happening.

Kristen: Because if we freak out and we’re like, “Oh! I thought I had good kids. I thought I was a good mother. And now my kids are doing this!” You know, it can’t be all about you. I mean I’ve had those reactions, I know. I’ve felt that way, too. Wondering what they are going to think about me as a mother when my kid is messing up like this, or forgot her homework or something. It’s ridiculous. But if we can get over that…that’s often a knee-jerk way to react. 

I always say that when you find out that your kid is seeking out erotic material, pornographic material, give yourself 24-48 hours to deal with your own emotions first before you confront your child. It’s not going to make a difference if you wait a couple days. And you need to have a game plan for this.

Lacy: And get your own support first. Get support from someone who’s not going to feed the “Oh my gosh! What a tramp! Why would she do that?!” Ok, stop! Stop! She’s a 14 year old little girl. She might have even just run into it, not gone looking for it. If her best friend’s reading it, why would she not then read it?

Kristen: Right. Well, our kids are wonderful, we love them! And they’re going to make mistakes just like we made mistakes. They’re on a journey and we just have to show them the love, the respect, and also just help them and let them know that we’re here to help them. That we don’t expect perfection because we need a perfect child. Right? We want to have children that end up being healthy and have healthy thoughts about sex. I mean we all want our kids to grow up and have great sex lives with the right person at the right time.

Lacy: Wait don’t say that! [Covers her ears]

Kristen: I can’t remember who first told me that. And at first I was [shocked], but it’s true! We do want our kids to have great sex lives, but if pornography is one of the sex partners, not going to happen, right?

Lacy: Right.

Kristen: Well, Lacy, thanks so much for all your work that you’re doing. And you’re one of my favorite people because you can always smile, despite what life throws at you and I’m grateful for that. Those people inspire me to keep going when times get tough. So thank you very much, Lacy, for chatting with me today.

Lacy: My pleasure. Thank you Kristen.

Lacy earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science, magna cumme laude in 2017.  With over 20 years’ experience attending, running and mentoring in 12-step programs, she is well versed in the dynamics and language of recovery. She is also a twice-certified Life Coach, celebrating 10 years in recovery for “love addiction” this upcoming June. You may email her questions at [email protected].

Lacy runs multiple groups for women in recovery, both in a large, free group, or smaller private groups. She coaches women one-on-one through their own recovery journey’s and can do so in conjunction with existing therapies.

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.

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