As an adult filmmaker, I know kids are watching porn at a young age. Here's how I talk to mine about it.

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  • By the time Erika Lust had her first child in 2007, she had already shot her first erotic film.

  • While proud of her work, she worried that her kids were going to get bullied by others.

  • She talks openly about porn with her kids and to feel more comfortable with their mom's career.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Erika Lust, the feminist adult filmmaker behind Lust Cinema. It has been edited for length and clarity.

A lot of parents think they don't need to talk to their kids about porn, but as an adult filmmaker, I never had that option.

When I had my first child in 2007, I had already made a short erotic film and was about to shoot my first adult entertainment feature. It hadn't become a career for me yet — it was still more of a creative experiment.

But by the time my second daughter was born in 2010, I had decided to launch Lust Cinema, an adult film studio, and prove that porn could be made ethically and show a realistic version of female sexual pleasure. While I was proud of what I was creating and the recognition it was earning, I worried that other kids were going to bully mine about my work.

I knew I'd need to prepare them accordingly. We talked early and often about porn, which has helped them not only feel confident answering their friends' questions but also understand their own sexuality, constructions of gender, and the harmful messages conventional porn perpetuates. These conversations helped build their confidence in themselves and their ability to answer questions that might come up about my career.

Talking to children about porn isn't just important for parents in the adult entertainment industry, though.

For the first time in human history, we have access to a huge amount of pornographic content from a very young age — research shows that 15% of kids have seen porn online by the age of 10, and more than half are exposed to it by age 13.

We can't assume our kids have not seen porn. It's our job as parents to help our children understand what they're seeing and develop the media literacy they need to process the images around them.

These conversations aren't always easy. That's why I created the nonprofit The Porn Conversation to give families tools to help them talk with kids about porn literacy. Parents play a huge role in helping teens make decisions around sex — and if you can get on a level with your kids where you can have open conversations and they know they can trust you, you have gained a lot.

Here's how I've talked to my kids about porn.

I started by teaching them the correct names for their body parts

The first key to creating an open dialogue with your kids about porn is having conversations about sexuality. That starts with teaching children the correct words for their body parts.

I taught my children words like vulva, vagina, penis, and clitoris from a young age. Giving them the right vocabulary helps them express ideas and feelings. Later on, I also helped them understand that there are parts of our bodies that give us pleasure.

Knowing these words and what their body parts do helps kids protect their bodies and feel bodily autonomy.

I welcome their curiosity without making them feel ashamed

As kids get older, they may hear about things in the schoolyard that make parents nervous. They might suddenly come up to you and say, "Hey mom, what's a blowjob?"

It can catch you off guard, but reacting in a way that doesn't make them feel ashamed or judged is critical to building trust. Don't interrogate them by asking them where they heard that word or tell them they shouldn't talk about it.

Instead, I try to be neutral and explain the technicalities of it without focusing on the sexual notions. I also explain that these things belong to an adult world of play. Introducing that concept early can help them understand the purpose of porn later on.

Anytime we have sensitive conversations, I remind my kids that they can ask me anything and that I will never judge them for who they are or what they're curious about.

I explain that porn is for adults

Even if you don't like the idea that your child might be exposed to porn, it's something we all have to face because we've given technology to our kids.

Maybe you see an adults-only tab opened on their tablet's browser or find it in their browsing history. They might even tell you directly that they came across something and didn't know what to do.

If (or when) this happens, don't panic. Take a breath and set the tone for a casual conversation.

Explain who porn is for. I'd tell my child, "These films are made for people 18 and above, and they're not for you, but now that you've seen it, I'd like to talk to you about it."

I share my perspective on porn and keep the conversation two-sided

I also share my perspective on what they might have seen. Most free online porn perpetuates harmful stereotypes, often objectifying women and portraying sexual violence. I point out these issues and let them know that, just like in an action movie, this isn't how things are in real life. And seeing these images online can be harmful.

The next time they see porn, these ideas will start spinning. Maybe they even think, "That thing my mom said is true, and I don't like it."

The conversation has to be two-sided, though. I recommend asking your child about how what they saw made them feel.

Many kids might not want to talk about it, although some will. But the most important thing is for them to understand that if they want to talk about it, you're willing to have a conversation. They need to know that you are there for them.

I find teachable moments to build media literacy skills

What I worry most about as a parent and human being is not that a child has seen porn but that they might not know how to process these images. They need media literacy skills to understand that pornography is fiction, that it's created by professionals to look a certain way, and that much of it contains coded messages about sexism and racism.

I can't say all porn is bad — there are a bunch of creators who are fighting for a different kind of pornography when it comes to inclusivity, diversity, sexuality, gender roles, and erotic imagery. In many senses, it's better than it has ever been before.

So throughout my children's lives, I've looked for teachable moments to help them build literacy skills, which ultimately feed into larger conversations about porn as they've gotten older.

You can use a Disney film to spark conversations about gender roles by asking, "Why do you think the princess is shown that way?" Or if you see your kid following an influencer who is promoting products, you can ask them if they think they really love those items or if they're doing it for money.

Pointing out the things we see and questioning them helps children build the skills they'll need to understand porn.

Read the original article on Business Insider