Pornography and the Boys We Love – 10 Tips to Help Moms

American children begin viewing pornography at an average age of 11. More than 7 out of 10 teens hide their online behavior from their parents in some way. 35% of boys say they have viewed pornographic videos “too many times to count.” The average age for a boy to be exposed to pornography is 8. I would not have believed that had my husband not told me he was introduced to it by a schoolmate at age 9.

My son is 11 right now. He loves Legos and superheroes and football. I’d like to pretend I can keep pornography out of his life. But I can’t. It sneaks into my home in commercials. It offers itself blatantly on magazines in the grocery store stands. It pops up on tablets and phones and every gadget there is, like the photo of a woman in lingerie with the words “Try me for free” that popped up during the ball game we were watching on the computer last weekend.

If I love my son, I can’t avoid this issue. I can’t ignore it and hope it will go away.

I can’t just hope he’ll have the right perspective on his own. He’s a child. A curious child. (A lot of children are encountering porn when they ask google their questions, such as “what is sex?” and google answers with images.)

Pornography wants my son and yours. Children are more targeted by the porn industry than ever before. If they capture a child, they ensure a lifelong struggle with addiction, wrong perspectives about sex, damaged real-life relationships, and even a greater risk for violence and other exploitive behaviors within the sexual relationship.*

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that 56% of divorce cases involve one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”

This is a battle for the hearts and souls of our sons. If we love our boys, if we want them to have self-respect, freedom from addiction, and good marriages in the future, we must understand what they are up against. And we must teach them how to fight before it ensnares them.

So how do we understand just how strong this pull is?

I have hypoglycemia, which is a blood sugar problem, and because of it I am not supposed to eat sweets. (This does have a connecting point, stick with me.) Most people can eat sugar and though it may cause long term symptoms or damage, it doesn’t hurt at the moment. For me, eating sugar causes negative consequences, quickly, and badly. Chocolate frosted donuts for example. I love them, love love love them. But I’m not supposed to eat any. If I do, I will end up feeling terrible later that day and the next and possibly even the third.

It’s not worth it. I know that. But still, when the Krispy Kreme “Hot Donuts” sign is on, I’m tempted to tell myself it would be worth the pleasure. I long for just one bite, just one that I know would lead to more.

I’ve learned to stay out of Krispy Kreme, but what about the donuts at Wal-Mart, or the grocery store, or sometimes even in my own house? What about birthday parties and church pot lucks?

Are you feeling sorry for me? Thank you.

Now, imagine those donuts were displayed next to every cash register in every store. Nearly every magazine had pictures of gooey, dripping with chocolate donuts. People in line in front and behind me were eating them. Some people brought them to church and ate them during the service. Everywhere I went, people offered me donuts. For free. No one would know. No one would mind. Just one bite.

This is pornography for men (not always the hard kind, but definitely the kind that draws the eye to skin and curves, drawing the thoughts to more–which is like a bite of a donut, still very tempting and sometimes harder to ignore because it feels more innocent). It is available all around them, free for the taking, promising secrecy and all the goodness of donuts’ taste while ignoring the later destructive consequences.

Some days I can be strong around donuts. Other days it really is hard not to feel sorry for myself or even a little resentful when I’m surrounded with donuts and other sweets, and I’m supposed to completely ignore them and not let their appeal tempt me. It’s hard.

Yes, I’m responsible to keep from eating them. Yes, the choice is my own. But it is so much easier when I am with people who refrain from offering me a slice of the dessert or a donut, with a, “Can’t you enjoy just one?” or “It’s a special occasion. A little bit won’t hurt, will it?”

This helps me understand what it is like for our boys and men to try to live godly in a culture saturated with sensuality, where photos of women immodestly dressed are just about everywhere they go, where girls around them dress in a way that draws attention to their bodies (yes, even at church) and they’re supposed to act like it doesn’t affect them. I know it’s worse than me with the donuts, which means it’s got to be hard. Every. Single. Day.

So what can we do to help our boys?

1. Be understanding. This is much, much harder than most of us can fathom.

2. Ask them about the struggle in general (when they are old enough). You might be surprised, if you are not judging or condemning, what you might hear.

3. Teach them the principle of not looking twice. The first time isn’t purposeful, looking a 2nd time is always a choice.

4. Put filters on your internet (including phones and tablets).

5. Do not keep a computer in the room where your son sleeps. (In my personal opinion, a TV shouldn’t be there either. Have you ever skimmed channels at 2 in the morning?)

6. Avoid watching shows where the women wear immodest clothing when your son is watching with you (like those period dramas where their chests are bulging out of their dresses).

7. Pray for your boys, for strength to face temptation, for they will face it. Pray this aloud in their presence at times.

8. If they do admit their struggles, do not freak out or start harping about men and their weaknesses.

9. Discuss with your husband how to help your son/s. Recognize the fact that your husband’s perspective might be more helpful than yours regarding boundaries.

10. Have a family code word to use when you come across something they shouldn’t see. You can ask them what code word would be cool. When someone says the word, the guys know to keep their eyes on their feet for a bit. (We made one for us girls, too.)

Remember that this aspect, being visually stimulated, is at its source a good gift from God, intended to help men and their marriages. It is the world, the flesh and the devil which have distorted this into something bad.

We should raise our sons to see this characteristic as a good, God-given one, but one that is easily turned to evil and needs to be tempered. That’s for another post, but for now, let’s be understanding and loving toward them and their struggle. Remember the donuts, donuts, donuts and how hard it would be to avoid them if they were everywhere. Any man who keeps his mind and heart pure in our culture is to be commended. Let’s raise those kind of men.

Trafficking and my 6-Year-Old Rescue Hero

My son Daniel, now 6 years old, loves helping me sell books.  This summer he has come with me to book signings and presentations.  Most of the time he is off to the side coloring with my 2-year-old, Hope, so I don’t usually worry that he’s paying attention to what I’m talking about.

At my very first book signing, he told me he had an idea how I could sell more books.  His eyes were bright and excited and I was curious.  “Really?  What’s your idea?”

He leaned in and said with hushed words, “You could sell them for a quarter!”


I had to admit he was right; if I sold them for a quarter I would definitely sell more books.

Today Brian went back to work. (He’s a teacher.  The pre-semester stuff started today, and his eye had recovered enough from the Drain-O accident so he didn’t have to wear his homemade–and quite colorful since he had to use kid craft items–pirate patch.)  The kids and I went to the Post Office, which we do often to ship a book to this or that person.  Daniel told the Post Office worker, “This is my Mommy’s book.”  My heart filled with pride, but not for my book–for my son.

Then on the way home, he asked if he could look at my book (I had a copy in the front seat, don’t remember why).  I said sure and he reached from the backseat and took it.  He hasn’t been reading for that long, so I figured he would have fun finding words he could read, and of course not get anywhere near the actual subject material.

After a minute or two, I heard him flipping through the book and then he says, “This has a LOT of chapters!”  I told him that yes, it was a book for big people so it had a lot of words in it.  Then he asked if the women in the picture on the cover was the “stolen” woman.

Whoa, that caught my attention.  I said no, then I asked him warily, “Do you know what my book is about?”

“Um…hum-an tr-afficking?”

Those are the first two words on the back of the book.  I had no idea he could sound out the word trafficking.  Suddenly my idea of bringing him along to all these things started to feel like a very bad one.  “Do you know what that is?”

He didn’t, which was a relief.  But now that we were talking about it, I needed to explain it to him.  How do you explain human trafficking to a 6-year-old!?

I told him that in some bad places there were people who sold other people, and it was a very bad thing.  As I sat there thinking if I were him I’d be wondering why in the world my mom wanted to write a book about that, I added, “One of the reasons I wrote the book was to help people know how to make it stop.”  I mentioned that that was why I talked to newspapers and the radio and TV, to help people find out how to rescue them.

This took the vague, incomprehensible subject into familiar territory for him.  “Like Rescue Heroes!” he announced from the backseat.

I smiled.  “Yes, like rescue heroes.”

Suddenly this was a problem he could help with.  He mentioned that people could learn how to be rescue heroes from watching them on TV (it’s an animated series in case you don’t have a 6-year-old), and if anyone wanted, they could borrow his Rescue Heroes movies so they could learn how to be rescue heroes, too.

Wow, here is my son, with no real clue about what human trafficking is or how terrible its affects are, but he understands the idea of people in need and others coming to rescue them, and he is ready to help.

I like the idea of it being that simple for all of us–there are people in need, and if the opportunity arises, we are ready to help.

P.S.  If you want to watch the Rescue Heroes shows, Daniel says you can borrow his.  Or it might be slightly more helpful to call the Trafficking Hotline and get info from them on how to be a rescue hero instead: 1-888-3737-888.

The Right Questions to ask if You See A Potential Victim

A friend on my Facebook page mentioned seeing an add in Chicago that said

 “you may be the first person they see, ask the right questions.”
It was sponsored by a group against human trafficking. Great ad, but not enough, because this friend then proceeded to ask me, “So what are the right questions?”
It was such an important question to ask that I decided to go ahead and post some options on here for others to read as well. I feel quite inadequate to be honest, admitting quite freely that I’ve never been in the situation of meeting a girl who I thought might be trafficked. However, here’s what has come to mind about what some of the right questions–and response in general–should be if you see a potential trafficking situation.
1. Assess what you see. Is it a young girl with an older man and she looked scared? Has to ask him for simple things like to go get a drink or go to the bathroom? Does she looked drugged? Visual, try to get as much information as you can.
2. If the girl goes into a situation where she is alone (the bathroom, a store), you can follow and try to strike up a conversation with her. “Hi. My name is ____________. What’s your name?” (This is casual way to get her name before she is frightened of you–may not work) If that makes her react in a frightened way (like she keeps glancing to see if someone is watching her, as if she’s not allowed to talk with people), that’s a pretty clear sign something is wrong.
3. Ask the girl, “I don’t mean to scare you, but are you in trouble? Can I help you?” If she again responds frightened, or backs away, you may want to add, “Are you here against your will?”
4. If there’s an opportunity, you could also ask, “Can I call someone for you? Do you want me to call your parents?”
5. Based on how she responds, you might get a clear idea of what to do next. Obviously, if she does ask you to call someone, then by all means, do so. The more likely response would be that she rejects your offer out of fear and either turns away from you or leaves and finds her companion to keep out of trouble.
6. If this scenario happens, try to get the girl’s name if possible. Then, as soon as she leaves, call the trafficking hotline (888-373-7888, or as I like to remember it, 888-3737-888) and tell them exactly what you saw and what happened. If you can tell them descriptive things, like what she was wearing or jewelry or defining characteristics like a birthmark or even nail polish color, everything you tell them can help them, and especially if you got her name. The human trafficking hotline has access to law enforcement across the country and would likely know about this girls’ disappearance even if she came from another state.
7. Know that your intervention, even if you feel weird or embarrassed, could save this girl’s life. It has happened where a man just saw something strange–did not even interact with the person–and called the hotline. His one phone call resulted in the shut down of a 13-state wide trafficking ring and rescued 9 minors.
Thank you, Mary, for asking this important question!

Why Her? How Traffickers Target Victims – Guest Post by Shared Hope

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation.” His theory is that humans have a hierarchy of needs ranging from the most fundamental needs at the lowest level to the need for self-actualization at the highest level. Humans can’t reach the next level of “need” until they achieve the prior level.

Here is a simple example of this concept:

But today traffickers are using this theory to identify the needs of our youth.

Traffickers may follow a recruitment process similar to this:

  1. Identify the need of the child
  2. Fulfill the need
  3. Remove any other sources of need fulfillment 
  4. Exploit the child’s dependence for need fulfillment by forcing them into prostitution

One reason traffickers pray on kids is because they are more vulnerable than adults. They are more naive, and at-risk kids who have experienced abuse or extreme conflict in their homes may not only be eager to run away, but may also be desperate for the love and attention of an adult. Many kids who run away from home do so because they experience abuse, or because a member of the family is an addict, is violent, or both. If runaways have nowhere to go – no friends or other family members they can rely on and trust – they need to find food and shelter someplace else, which makes them especially vulnerable to trafficking.

Here’s how a pimp might use Maslow’s theory:

“It could never happen to my child”

That’s what Brianna’s parents thought too. Unfortunately, the scary, inconvenient truth is that unless your child has reached self-actualization and has no further needs, they could unsuspectingly fall victim to a trafficker.

Brianna was a 17-year-old high school student, involved in cheerleading, taking college courses for an early start on her nursing degree and worked at a local restaurant with her sister. She had no idea that friendly conversations she had with a regular customer could end with a trafficking ring planning to transport her to Arizona, likely to be sold.

You are not powerless.

On the contrary, you are the best advocate we have. Know why? Because you are here, reading this article about an issue that has still barely crept on to the radar of our society.

If you know or meet a girl who exhibits some of these signs, don’t be afraid to ask questions:

  • At risk of being homeless or running away from home
  • Severe family issues like drug addiction, alcoholism or abuse
  • Signs of fear, anxiety, depression, tension or nervousness
  • Hyper-vigilant or paranoid behavior
  • Interest in relationships with older men
  • Unexplained shopping trips or purchases of new clothing and/or jewelry, especially if the clothing is revealing or suggestive
  • A “boyfriend” who seems overly-concerned with her whereabouts or is otherwise controlling

If she is in trouble, you may be the only one who tries to intervene. If you need help or guidance, or want to report a suspected case of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888.373.7888.

Thank you for this post Shared Hope!

Trafficking and Teens-the Day I Got Propositioned Online

I’m not a teenager. I’m not gorgeous and don’t post photos of myself on Facebook wearing low tops or bikinis (we can all say thanks for that!). Nevertheless, I’ve been propositioned online. The first time, I wasn’t sure that’s what it was, wrote the guy back, etc. I think of that now and wonder how many women or girls, younger than me, who aren’t aware of the tactics, have encountered that situation and walked right into something dangerous.

If you have teens, or even for yourself, those natural internal red flags could save your life. For young people, though, their familiarity with social media might bypass some of those things we’d recognize as predatory, leaving them more vulnerable.

So what happened with me? I sold my hair online. If you’ve ever read The Gift of the Magi, you may sigh at my idea of selling my waist-long hair to buy Christmas gifts for my husband one year (yes, that really is why, and yes, I do love that story so it felt pretty cool doing it in real life). I had found a website where you could sell your hair, like selling an outfit on e-bay to people who use it to make wigs or dolls or whatever. I thought that was pretty exciting, so took pictures of my long, thick hair and posted them. No pictures of my face. No personal info.

The 14 inches of hair I sold.

I heard back from one guy who offered a certain amount and I was to send the hair to him after I got it cut according to his very specific directions.

I heard from another guy who offered more than double that other offer, and he liked to cut the hair himself, so could I meet him at his office after hours or at a hotel?

Red flag. I thought that was strange, but being new to this, I wondered if I was overreacting. When my husband came home, I had him read the message, and it wasn’t unclear to him at all. Then I mentioned the price he offered to the other guy who wanted to buy my hair and he wrote back saying, “You don’t know much about men, do you?”

Guess not. Not those kind of men anyway!

On to the next situation. This one wasn’t so creepy, just some guy who wanted to friend me on Facebook. I get a lot of friend requests from people I’ve met at speaking events or who have read my books, so I accepted this guy’s not thinking much it. Here’s part of the message I got next…

…When i saw your profile,i was thrilled,every thing about you interests me,you look honest,caring,and above all you are beautiful.I want to have a communication with you and see where it leads us,do not mind the age difference as its onlya number while distance can be countered with a good communication…

Even if the grammar and punctuation hadn’t been atrocious, the man’s suggestions let me know I didn’t want to be his friend after all. But then I think of young girls who might get a message like that, one that is well-written, accompanied by a picture of, say, a seventeen-year-old guy, who tells them they are beautiful, they could be a model, who feeds into their desire for worth and acceptance. In time, this new “friend,” suggests they meet somewhere, emphasizing the appealing secrecy of their relationship, telling them not to tell anyone and to come alone.

Most of us would have red flags waving all over the place, but what if you’re a girl in a lousy home situation, you desperately want to escape, and he’s offering a way out? What if you’re insecure and he makes you feel like you matter? What if whoever he is begins posing as a girl the same age and you’ve decided she’s your best friend and the only person you can trust?

The internet has become a large playground for predators, and this is one of the ways trafficking happens.

This post isn’t to scare you into never letting your kids touch a computer. However, it is to warn you what is out there, and hopefully give you some ways to avoid the dangers, such as:

1. From the beginning, make it clear with your children that you have access to every social media account your kids have. They’ll think it’s mean. Do it anyway.

2. Every once in awhile, check into their accounts, see what kinds of friends they have, what kinds of posts they make. For one, it will help you know them better, for another, it will give you a springboard of topics to talk about, and for another, you may feel those red flags in places they might not. I’d actually recommend doing this with them present, try to make it an opportunity to get to meet their friends and see what’s important to them.

3. Care more about them than what they think of you. If it comes down to it, don’t let them continue a dangerous behavior or friendship just because you don’t want them mad at you. I think of that girl who got raped in Steubenville. Why were no parents mentioned in regard to that entire night? Did none of those parents care that their teens were in compromising positions? I don’t know, but I wonder if there were worried parents all over town that night, who had allowed their kids to go to that party because they didn’t want to say no and have their kids be unpopular or upset, hoping it would work out. It didn’t work out.

4. Know what to do. The guy who wanted me to meet him in a hotel–I wanted to report him but had no idea how to, so I didn’t. He probably moved on to someone more vulnerable, or who really needed the money, and fed his line to her. Please memorize the trafficking phone number (which didn’t exist back then) and use it if you suspect any predatory activity. 1-888-373-7888

5. Point out situations and teach your kids to be aware, and what to do if they see something. A friend just yesterday told me she’d seen something at night in her small, nice little town. She described what she saw and right away I gave her the trafficking hotline. The thing that bothered her most was all the people who saw and moved on, not doing anything about it. People who don’t know what to do often do nothing. Don’t be that person when it comes to your teens.