In case anyone missed it, a letter from a father to his teenage son went pretty viral recently, and is worth a read. The backstory: while trying to fix his son’s virus-ridden computer, a father noticed his son’s browsing history on Chrome contained a lot of porn. Not wanting to embarrass him, and mindful that it’s completely normal for a boy of his age to be surfing porn on the internet, while being potentially destructive to his computer, he left him a written note, which you can read here. Here’s part of it:

“Listen, I won’t tell your mom and I’m not gonna make a big deal out of this. In fact I’m not gonna make any size deal out of it. If you don’t wanna talk about it that’s fine and I completely understand. I’ve been on this earth three times as long as you and there’s nothing you have done or will do that I haven’t done before. If you want to completely ignore this ever happened then I can and will do that too. Please don’t act awkward around me because of this. You have nothing to be embarrassed about.”

Kudos to this guy. Seems it worked well, too: his son wasn’t awkward or embarrassed and they talked about it afterward, even to the extent that women are not objects as they’re generally portrayed in porn. A happy ending, then. Well, sort of. After posting his story anonymously on Reddit, he received over 6,000 comments, and while many of them were positive, there were also plenty of dissenting voices. In a world in which ten is the average age a boy first seeks out pornography, it’s worth looking at in more depth.

On the one hand, you can find research suggesting that adolescent porn viewing is not particularly impactful in any negative way. A researcher from the Université de Montréal School of Social Work concluded: “Pornography hasn’t changed their perception of women or their relationship which they all want as harmonious and fulfilling as possible,” basically refuting the idea that porn can have a detrimental effect on young viewers. It’s also worth noting this research was funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Family Violence and Violence Against Women.

On the other hand, adolescent sexual health experts are slightly more divided in how far to censure (and censor) young people’s porn viewing habits, from dire warnings to far more laissez faire approaches. Definitely read the opinions at the Salon link above and the Slate link below, but our favourite observation was made by Heather Corinna, founder of the teen sex-ed site Scarleteen, who points out the overall lack of conversation about porn either in society at large, or between generations. In keeping with our approach here at SOLOS, she advocates a more open dialogue on the topic, absent some of the hysteria and misinformation. Something danah boyd has also been emphasizing.