Why Am I OK With My Kid Watching Violence but Not Sex?
Published about 9 hours ago.
Over the 2022 holiday break, we took our 8-year old kid to go see James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of the Water.
It's a great movie and tries to make a few good moral arguments here and there.
It's also pretty violent for a kid who's not even 10.
We saw the first Avatar movie and knew pretty well what to expect so there were no surprises going into this one.
A few days later, my wife and I were watching another series that contained lots of explicit sex scenes.
A thought then occurred to me followed by an immediate question.
I'd never let my kid watch something I knew contained explicit sex scenes but clearly didn't care about violence in Avatar. Why am I comfortable letting my kid watch violence and not sex?
A chat with my wife clarified why I hold this view. I won't say it's a right or wrong view to have, I just wanted to express the clarity of thought.
Having observed my kid for almost a decade, I have basically no fear that by watching violent movies, they'd become violent. That isn't to say it observing violence doesn't have a negative impact.
It normalizes it and in doing so, limits our capacity for empathy when we observe violence done to others.
But even at a young age my kid could understand that violence causes pain, pain's bad and so it's a thing to avoid.
Sex on the other hand is different.
It's an activity humans do for fun (excluding rape, of course). Often the depiction of sexual acts and orgasms show a type of pleasure that, to a child, must seem completely foreign.
Have you ever seen an adult act like that? They...kinda seem to enjoy it?
Even more confusing, not all sexual acts are depicted with participants seemingly having fun. In a consentual BDSM practice, both participants could be enjoying themselves, but it wouldn't look like that through the eyes of a child.
My teenage brain responded to the first sex acts I saw in media with pretty intense curiosity.
I wanted to know all about sex after that and of course was pretty curious to experience it as well.
And therein lies the catch.
If my kid observes violence, a thing they know hurts from first-hand experience, they aren't likely to become violent.
If my kid observes sex, something they have no experience with but seems fun, it's more likely to spark curiosity and potentially action.
There's nothing wrong with kids being curious about sex, it's more about an age where the curioisity is appropriate and they could understand a dialog you'd have with them about it (if they have one with you at all).
My wife and I hope we're developing the kind of relationship with our kid where they'd talk to us about sex, but the fear I think for many parents is: what if they didn't talk to me? What if curioisty led to experimentation without understanding potential consequences?
If you don't have kids, all of this might sound silly. But job #1 as a parent is to protect your kid and so anything that could expose them to pain, ends up being something you think about.
So it turns out, the reason I'm ok with my kid watching violence versus sex comes down to: what action do I think this'll make them take?