Today, I’m raising the curtain on something that’s a parent’s nightmare. What follows is content that will disturb you, and yet it’s something that every parent needs to know about in order to do their best to protect their children.
Netflix sent me an email last month promoting a documentary produced by Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy. Netflix had never sent me an email that wasn’t account-related, so I was curious. The documentary it touted, called Hot Girls Wanted, had been the talk of Sundance. It was an expose about how teenage girls are recruited into amateur pornography.
Please don’t get sidetracked. This is not a post about porn. This post is about something way more important than the pros/cons of pornography. This post is about what the film exposes about our culture and also about the vulnerability of our children. Parenting teens is no picnic, and that’s even more true today.
Most of us already know that pornography is the most viewed entertainment website category. What you may not know is that the top search term on porn websites is “teen.” Amateur porn, meaning the kind that looks like it’s home-made, is very big today and all the better if the girls are young. Or look young. A cute girl that looks young may have a chance to do porn. Not slick, high-production value porn, but “amateur” porn.
I know what you’re asking. Why would a girl want to do that? The film gives us several reasons. Let’s hear them:
Hot Girls Wanted followed a half dozen 18-year olds who answered a Craigslist ad for models and film work. The girls came from good families. They had caring parents. Still, and somehow, the lure of being a big porn star was enough to get them to leave their hometowns and college/career plans for the bright lights of… a crummy house in Miami. It was pretty much a dump. They shared living space with each other and their “agent,” who owned the house and got them porn work.
I’ll set aside that he was a sleazy guy running an unprofessional operation, not the slick porn entrepreneurs we might have heard about. We don’t need to discuss him. What stood out most in the film was the disconnect these young girls had with reality.
The girls had unprotected sex during their scenes. The idea of a sexually transmitted disease didn’t seem to come to mind. Because they usually practiced coitus interruptus on camera, there was no fear of pregnancy. They didn’t seem to understand they could still get pregnant that way.
If a scene called for ejaculation inside the vagina, the girls were paid extra; in one case it was $100 extra. They then spent $40 of that for Plan B, the pill that would prevent a pregnancy from taking hold.
Don’t get sidetracked: if you’re going to tell me that is a reason to not have Plan B I’ll respond that I think these girls would do it anyway. They’d pocket the extra cash and take their chances. That girl seemed proud of being able to pocket an extra $60. $60. That’s all. For all that risk.
Reality Disconnect #1: Being a porn star is something for teens to aspire to.
I was aghast that these young girls had no embarrassment at all–they believed doing porn was a chance to “be a star.” Stars in their eyes used to mean Hollywood. Now, it’s porn? But then, why should we be surprised? Kim Kardashian is looked up to by so many young teens, and her fame came from… a sex tape. Teens used to idolize rock stars and movie actresses, but today, it seems, success built on nothing but a sex tape seems to still be success, so why am I so surprised that some teens think doing porn is a path to stardom?
Girls that age are still girls, whether they want to believe it or not. A decision like that–to do porn–affects the rest of your life in one way or another. It can’t help but. Digital images are forever, or certainly as long as their life. Girls that young are not equipped to decide to do porn. There are too many ramifications that they can’t even imagine.
They don’t think that their father might find out or see them. Or his boss. Or their mother. A neighbor. A teacher. They don’t take in how those images will follow them the rest of their lives. Clueless.
So, who are your daughters watching on TV, following on social media, reading about? Are they role models worth having? Are the Kardashians role models you want your kids to have?
Reality Disconnect #2: Sex is meaningless.
“Sex means nothing any more,” is how one of the young girls in the film put it. No parent wants to hear this. Many parents would prefer teens abstain, but in today’s sexualized world, that’s unreasonable. But it’s worse than a sexualized world. It’s a world in which kids are desensitized to sex. I remember seeing Madonna prance around an MTV music video in her lingerie in the 1980s and thinking, “if kids see this stuff now, what will be left for them to get off on as adults?” And that was then. Today’s hip hop video vixens are so much more provocative even I have to avert my eyes. The whole thing has led to a revolution in how teens dress and what is considered appropriate attire. I saw this coming, this day when teen girls could wear tiny shorts and midriff tops to school and boys would expose their underwear underneath low hanging pants. What I didn’t consider was how far it would go.
Kids sext. I mean, really, sext? One in five 11th grade students in a Canada survey said they’d sent or received a sext. Some 40 percent of boys between grades 4 and 11 said they had looked for porn online. GRADE 4??? Grade 4.
A study of porn watchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Psychiatry found reduced grey matter in their brains. This is associated with needing greater stimulation to get the same effect (as in more extreme porn) and that was confirmed by other findings. It’s also associated with decreased impulse control. Think about what that means.
I come from the Free Love generation. I’m hardly a prude. And yet, this kind of numbness when it comes to sexual matters goes well beyond that. Kids have seen too much too young. So, of course, having sex on camera is no big deal–why would it be?
What are your underage sons and daughters doing? Are you monitoring their texts and internet usage? Do you have a way of tracking their browsing history? Or do you feel guilty “snooping?” If you do feel guilty, don’t. Your underage kids have access to things you may not want them to see. Make sure they don’t, at least not in your home.
Parents, what are you teaching your children about sex?
Apparently, some 40 percent of popular porn are extreme porn acts. One example is something called “forced oral sex,” in which the female is violently forced to have oral sex until she vomits (and this is going to be hard to read) and then forced to lick it up. All the while, the man is saying ugly and usually racist things to her. It is the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen and I only saw a snippet in the documentary. It is disgusting. Teenage girls are being paid to do this in “amateur porn.” Think about the fact that people get off on this kind of stuff. That’s what it takes.
The teenage actress justified it by saying that she “didn’t judge” how the viewer chose to get off and that it was all “really fake” because they are actresses. The bigger issues of promoting violence, not to mention the exploitation of these teen “actors,” failed to connect with her. It was just another job.
That scene sent chills down my spine.
Older, professional porn stars (don’t laugh) are horrified, as well. “These young girls will do anything,” they say.
Parents, what are you teaching your children about sex? If you are teaching abstinence, I admire your willingness to fight back, but it’s unrealistic. Kids need to be taught about responsible sexual behavior.
So there you have it. Slowly, but surely, our society has shifted in ways that some of us still can’t imagine. And as much as we wish to protect the children in our care, we can’t, entirely. So we must work double time to do what we can. To expose them to messages that will counter what else they seen. And we must snoop. We must. We have to know what kids are texting and what’s on their social media accounts and we have to know their web browsing history.
Yes, I know, this is far easier for parents who stay at home. But for those who don’t, well, there needs to be a way. There must. Because otherwise, there will always be those who prey on your kids’ vulnerabilities. So let’s talk. Let’s start a discussion about what can be done at home. Right here, right now. I’m not talking about just wringing our hands or laws. I’m talking about what parents can do.
Take a look at the graphic up top of this post. I’d like to know what you think about them. Are they realistic? Would you add anything to the list?
Parents, you have the floor in the Comments section below. Thank you.