With the availability of the internet and also the video mobile device (PSP, ...) our children will face pornography at an earlier age than we have. So I want to face this problem and explain things before they encounter this themselves.

What I really like when I explain new stuff to someone is making use of analogy. So here is my question : how can I explain the difference between love-making & porn-movie using an analogy that a kid can understand perfectly?

PS / FYI : My kids are 5, 11 & 13 year old. Two girls and a boy. I'm talking about the 2 older.

  • 4
    Don't underestimate what they can understand. At 11 years old I reckon you could tell a child what porn is, in a very literal sense. What may or may not be age-appropriate are deconstructions of the phenomenon: how it reinforces the patriarchy and commodifies women etc. blah blah (not a position I share). It's July now, any chance you can document how you explained it? Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 9:02
  • @BerndJendrissek : I'm sorry but I still haven't found any good analogy.
    – Rabskatran
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 10:08

8 Answers 8


My immediate thought is that a sex movie is like any other movie:
It's fake and make-believe, created only to provide entertainment to the viewer.

Take Notting Hill as an example. Just like in any other movie, the actors are paid to follow a script. They must perform actions and pretend to have emotions and reactions. Just because it looks real in the movie does not mean that it is real: for instance, you can be quite sure that there is no real love involved, it's just make-believe.

Being an actor is quite simply a profession. It doesn't matter what the movie is about; it's just fiction.

Some people like epic fantasy movies and other people like war movies or cartoons. Some people like sex movies, and pornography is made for them You don't have to like porn, but you don't have to hate those folks either.

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    I would agree with you if it "looks" the same. But it isn't. I don't talk about love scene in a movie but real porn that they will encounter even if they don't want to or don't seek for it. I'm talking about gang bang and so on. If that's they first source of information about the act of love, I think it's a huge problem.
    – Rabskatran
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 8:38
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    @Rabskatran: Yikes. If you fear that their first video experience is extreme hardcore, then my answer doesn't apply. But if that's the case, perhaps an entirely different approach is required. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 9:04
  • Thank for your answer. Anyway, my question is "what is a good analogy?" :-) I really want to find 2 thinks close but also as different as porn versus love.
    – Rabskatran
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 12:05
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    Notting Hill may be a bit too classy/romancey to be an effective analogy IMO. Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 0:18
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    @JBR your answer is much better than mine! Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 7:08

With the current state of the internet, children are increasingly exposed to all levels of pornography whether they mean to or not. A simple mis-spelling of common websites such as "Fecabook.com" (easy to mis-type, not what you expected. Not a porn site anymore though) can result in children seeing graphic pictures and videos.

Pornography is often the first time young people have seen uncensored adult nudity (other than their parents) and it is this reason that it is important to explain that pornography is not reality. My 18-year-old nephew's friends once remarked that his girlfriend needs "surgery - to fix her body to be more normal, like the ones you see in porn". This was pretty shocking.

There are varying attitudes to pornography depending on your culture, religion or personal beliefs. I don't wish to say whether pornography is a good or bad thing as this is a highly emotive subject and studies are often subjective.

..but it is important to explain to your children what it is, why it exists and any concerns you have about it.

I'm going to assert that the pornography industry is inherently exploitative in that the performers are paid for their involvement in filming, but the film maker continues to make money off each sale.

An analogy for the modern age would be that someone has used their mobile phone to film a prank on someone they know. This prank could vary from the subject being embarrassed due to being caught doing something dumb, thru having their clothes yanked off exposing their nudity, thru nudity with people laughing at them, thru to getting hurt in the process and not at all enjoying it (extreme). The person who took the film uploads the movie to a video sharing site and the whole world can view it. They then get a zillion 'Likes' or +1's thus earning them some internet stardom/notoriety.

This analogy is something that the teenagers can grasp. If you ask them if they'd like to be the person doing the filming, they'd probably see nothing too bad about it. If you ask them if they'd be happy to be the person who's clothes were yanked off and laughed at, not so much. They will already fully understand the voyeuristic/entertainment aspect, but you can cover that too. They probably won't need to ask why it exists by this point, but you can then talk through your concerns on the subject in terms of the analogy or by bringing it back to the topic of pornography.


First, you need to do the whole birds and the bees talk. You can't run before you can walk, and if a child hasn't received a suitable grounding in this then the rest will be a real problem to distinguish.

On the asumption that the purely biological process is understood by the child (not something I have done yet with mine, but that's a whole other question), then you need to move onto porn from there (assuming your child is of a suitable age that they have access to and understanding of how to use the internet and so on).

To answer your question from this point, I would say that you need to distinguish the act of lovemaking between 2 adults as a private activity between a couple, and the public activity of being filmed whilst engaging in it. Make it clear that any films that they might see on the internet fall into the latter category, point out that in addition to the people being filmed there are more people sat in the same room actually doing the filming, often more than one person, so while it may look like you are watching two people engaging in a private act, you are not really, so it's not real life.

For a child friendly analagy, it's like going to the toilet: there are some things you don't share with other people, and certainly not strangers. Anyone who does share pictures or film of them going to the toilet is not really being very nice, right? Same with people having sex, you keep it between you and the other person, anyone who doesn't is just being weird too, it's equally not nice and equally shouldn't be shared.

Hopefully you can convince your child that the people why might see doing this are not necessarily nice people, and try to turn them off their thinking it's titillating by making them think it's weird instead.

Obviously an adult could pick holes in this, but hopefully a child won't.

  • Purely accidental, was still writing it as yours went up first, didn't see it first :)
    – stuffe
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 16:39
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    Your analogy makes pornography out as 'weird' - but worldwide sales figures would disagree. Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 23:45
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    @JBRWilkinson I don't think popularity comes into it, plenty of things seem endlessly popular that I consider unsavoury and inappropriate for children. The point I am trying to make is that I would rather my child, upon finding some porn on the internet, thought it was weird and odd, than exciting and something to "grow into". Obviously as they become teens and then adults their views will change, but I don't have a problem positioning it in such as way as to make then not want to watch it if they see it for as long as I possibly can.
    – stuffe
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 14:28
  • @JBRWilkinson, war is quite popular too...
    – Benjol
    Commented Oct 1, 2013 at 6:01

This is my first post on this site. I don't have children, but I think I can speak from the perspective of having grown up with the internet in my house.

You ask, "How to effectively explain pornography to a child". You mention that you are specifically concerned about your children being exposed to it on the internet.

I think that before you can even consider whether or not any explanation is effective, the first step will be to make sure that your children know that they can discuss this with you. Personally, when I was a child, I would have been afraid to tell Mom and Dad that I saw something strange on the internet. I would have been afraid they would say that I did something wrong or take away the computer.

I would start by clearly telling them (at 11 and 13 sounds like a good time) that there are things on the internet that are not appropriate for children (heck, I've seen things on the internet that troubled me as an adult!). Then, explain that if they do see such a thing and are bothered by it, they can always discuss it with you.


Apparently I have a slightly different take to many of the other posters, possibly because of an different age/culture background.

The analogy I'd use is "Stunt Person". It's a job where you can get really badly hurt (i.e. diseases/pregnant), where it's not as much fun as it looks, where you often deal with slightly nasty people, and you should really only do it with somebody you trust. Of course, one difference is how much a stunt man is respected as opposed to a pornstar, but every analogy breaks down somewhere.

The key from my perspective is You Need To Get Them To Understand Consequences. Try and get through to them that, no matter how careful you are, you should never have sex with someone you wouldn't be willing to raise a child with if there was an accident. And that they have to understand the risks.

Another issue is, realistically, how much you or I know about that industry. Explaining why people watch porn is easy. But explaining why people would choose to be a part of it at the actor level? That's another issue entirely, and one that I doubt anyone on this site knows much about at all.

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    you don't think anyone on this parenting site could be in the adult entertainment industry? you know where children come from, right? :)
    – rymo
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 4:23
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    "adult entertainment industry" kinda hides the fact that some couples do share their own videos for their own joy. while explaining that to <13yo is really hard, at least it's a better watch: real people (chubby, old), private sex acts (they film themselves), some self censorship (hiding faces or details of their own rooms)... Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 9:16
  • I don't think things are quite at the stage that the OP needs to warn his child about the perils of the adult entertainment industry, so the analogy seems unhelpful.
    – Iucounu
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 14:21

I understand you're concern, but if you are monitoring their online activity, it shouldn't be easy for them to be exposed to full on porn. Especially the type you describe in your comments to Torben. Get a parental controls program and have the computer in a room where the whole family is together and you can see what they are watching and searching for. This is less about "spying" and more about guiding. You can help guide them in choosing search terms that are less likely to cause something graphic to arise, and if a slip does occur you are there to answer questions right away if needed as well as stop further viewing of anything you see to be out of line. In all my years, I've never just stumbled upon something as graphic as what you have described.

Along the way, go ahead and teach them about sex in general so they know "the good stuff." When my mom was training as a teller at a bank, in order to teach her to distinguish counterfeit money, they had all the trainees handle thousands of bills that were the real thing. This makes it more likely that if a counterfeit comes up, the tellers will "feel" the difference and alert them to the need to check for other devices that can signal a real bill vs. a counterfeit. I guess I would treat this the same way - at least for awhile. Then, when your kids are ready for a discussion about porno, or they stumble across something, you can use an analogy like Torben's.


I would tackle it this way:

  1. Make sure that my children understand enough about sex to know that coitus serves a human reproductive function.

  2. Explain that sex is engaged in for non-reproductive reasons as well-- that it can be highly pleasurable and also can be an expression of deep sharing and intimacy between people, but that these are not necessarily coextensive, i.e. that people sometimes engage in sex just for pleasure and sometimes much more for intimacy.

  3. Explain that just like with other forms of activity, sometimes sexual activity is recorded. Reasons for the recordings can be for scientific study, to show people caring about each other (often simulated, as in the movies), or to give the viewer pleasure. The last is porn.

  4. Explain that there are some sorts of sexual activity that are bad for the people involved and bad for society, that are a sort of sickness (obviously without going into details, and obviously with disqualifiers based on one's beliefs that homosexuality is not in that category). Explain that porn can be made based on those bad sexual acts too, and when that happens there is no good that comes of it. Explain also that even relatively innocent porn (straightforward depictions of consenting adults giving each other pleasure in non-hurtful, non-degrading ways) can lead to very bad effects on people, and can cause a sort of sickness like a drug addiction, and has ruined many marriages and lives.

  5. Explain that one of the dangers on the internet is exposure to porn, of all kinds. Also explain that other children may get access to porn, and be excited to show all of those children's friends-- to appear sophisticated, or merely out of excitement at something new, without knowing how bad it can be. Explain that if anything like that ever happens, your child is to immediately tell you or another nearby adult who is trusted and in charge of the child, and not to look at the porn.

I went through that series of explanations with my seven-year-old son, and he received the information without trauma. We've always been pretty matter-of-fact about sex in our household, which makes a lot of this tremendously easier than if everything were taboo and hush-hush.


The real question that should be answered is why you want your children to not be exposed to porn. Once you can effectively answer that question, phrasing that answer in a way that your kids will understand is far less difficult.

For those of us who believe in modesty and "traditional" sexual morality, it is pretty easy to tell kids that porn violates our moral code and should be avoided for that reason. It encourages immoral behavior, and models a manner of treating each other which is against our beliefs.

For those who are OK with loose sexual mores, one has to wonder why porn is not acceptable. I presume that you are in this camp, since you are struggling with the answer. Think long and hard about why porn makes you uncomfortable, and then explain it to your kids.

BTW .. even if you don't have a logical answer, you should do your best to keep them away from it.
** Do something to protect your computers.
** Block it on your cable TV through the provider.
** Figure out how to block it on their phones.

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    I don't want to avoid my kids to watch porn movies. It's has I mentioned totally impossible to do. You can effectively control "your" world, but not theirs. For instance, They went to a school trip and one of the kids had a porn on his PSP. They have 13y. What I really want to do is to teach them what is it. That's why I try to find a good analogy to make them understand the difference.
    – Rabskatran
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 11:18
  • The idea is that you can't prevent them from exposure, but you can help them realize how terrible and destructive it is, so that they will have second thoughts.
    – tomjedrz
    Commented Feb 22, 2012 at 5:20
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    Downvoted for several reasons, including but not limited to your characterization of sexual mores not in line with your particular idea of "traditional" sexual morality as "loose"-- a somewhat pejorative term in this context-- and suggesting that anyone who is more sexually "loose" than you suffers from cognitive dissonance when considering whether to expose children to pornography.
    – Iucounu
    Commented Jan 9, 2013 at 14:19
  • locounu .. why is "loose" pejorative? It is a reasonable word choice as the antonym of "restrictive" or "tight". I suggest you are being overly sensitive. What term would you suggest?
    – tomjedrz
    Commented Jan 10, 2013 at 16:30

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