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What to Do When Your Kids Find Your Porn — As In, You’re in the Porn

Advice from a sexuality educator, a kid who found his parents’ home movies, porn stars and others

When you’re a dad, parenting questions often come up that you struggle to find an answer to. Since other parents are the worst and Google will send you down a rabbit hole of paralyzing, paranoid terror, we’re here to help by putting those questions to the experts. This is “Basic Dad,” an advice column for dads who feel stupid about asking for basic advice.

The Very Basic Concern

So, my wife and I made some porn. All right, not “porn” per se, but we filmed ourselves fucking a while ago and since doing it, I’ve been having this recurring nightmare that one day our son is going to find this thing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like, make a DVD of it and leave it out on the coffee table for him to find or anything. It’s safely hidden deep in the recesses of my phone, in a place I don’t think anyone could just stumble across. But given that my kid is only 8 and he’s already handier with the phone than I am, I’m worried that one day he’ll find it and be so traumatized that he’ll gouge his eyes out with a piece of our silverware.

I know I should probably just delete the thing, but I also know that I won’t do that — it’s like a historical record of how me and my wife look at only slightly past our prime, and come 20 years from now, I’m going to want this thing. So, as smart as it would be to dispose of it, I’m not going to. And of course I have a lock on my phone, but it doesn’t take a secret agent to guess my birthday. In the event that my kid does find this video, what the hell should I do about it?

Basically: What do I do when my kid finds my porn — as in, I’m the porn?

The Expert Advice

Carolyn Ross, addiction specialist: A child has a brain like a sponge — they soak up everything — and exposure to porn and sexual materials can have a dramatic effect on them in terms of their early sexual development. It can affect their own sexual activity and lead to higher rates of sexual harassment among them and their peers. It affects their sexual attitudes and behaviors and makes it more likely that they’ll have sex early, and with 13 and 14 year olds who are having sex, by definition that sex is unsafe. There’s also an impact on body image for both young girls and boys, which people don’t always realize about boys.

Pornography at such a young age can also be a risk factor for the later development of intimacy disorders, as it can skew one’s perceptions of a normal relationship, especially if it leads to an addiction to pornography. These risk factors don’t exist just for young teens, but also older teens, like those who are 16 and 17. This is why parents should be vigilant about their children’s exposure to pornography.

When it comes to the scenario where a child may find their parents’ homemade porn, I could foresee it being a problem. While it’s natural for parents to be having sex, I feel it might be not as natural to run upon a 30-minute video of your parents having sex and to watch that. I doubt there are any studies on that at all, but it could potentially combine some of the embarrassment with seeing their parents having sex with some of the problems that come with underage pornography viewing.

Elizabeth Greenblatt, sexuality educator: First of all, if you’re filming yourself in this way, be a proactive parent and put a password on your phone. It’s similar to what I tell parents in one of the workshops that I do: We have this scenario where it’s, “What to do if your kid finds your sex toy drawer,” but I often tell them that you don’t have to have these conversations with your kids if you don’t want to. Put a lock on that drawer. Password protect your phone. Be proactive.

If your child does find your sex video, I’d say that it would be fairly similar to what you’d do if they walked in on you having sex. First of all, you want to stay calm. Your emotions may be running high if this happens, but try to make sure that your child knows that they aren’t in trouble. You also want to listen to them and ask how they found it and what did they see? Then ask how they’re feeling about it and hear them out.

I wouldn’t blame the child in any way or ask them why they were on your phone — them being able to find the video is a failure on the parent, I believe. If they violated an express rule — like if they’re not supposed to be on your phone at all and they were — that can be included in the conversation, but I wouldn’t make it the focal point; I’d be much more concerned with what they saw and how they’re feeling about it.

How you reply will vary depending upon their age and the conversations you’ve already had around sex. If they’re young and this is their introduction to sex, you might explain that this is how mommies and daddies show love for each other like they do with kissing and hugging, but that this is something only adults do. You’ll also want to make clear that this is normally something private and that you’re sorry that they found it and in the future you’ll do a better job of shielding them.

Much like walking in on you during sex may accelerate the sex conversation if you haven’t already talked about it, finding a video like this also provides you with something of an opportunity to have a wider conversation about pornography, especially if your child has access to devices that go online. You can tell your child that if they ever find other images or videos like this to please let you know. This is a big part of the reason why you want to remain calm and not become punitive, because if your child finds pornography again later, you want them to be able to come to you.

Sandra Scott, aka Tiffany Million, former adult film actress and reality TV star: When my youngest daughter found out about my porn career, it was very hard on her. She had found out from some kids at school who figured out who I was, and when I told her about it, she was completely distraught — she’d get very angry about the whole thing. Honestly, it probably took an entire year for her to get used to it and for our relationship to be repaired fully.

During that time, she was pretty angry with me and upset; she’d start crying out of nowhere. And just when I thought that we’d made progress, she’d slip back. But it was okay, I was patient. I hugged her. I told her that I understood why she felt how she felt and told her we could talk about it. It took time, but I didn’t rush things. I let her go through what she needed to go through.

So for someone who had their child find their sex tape, if the child had a hard time with it, I’d just allow them their feelings and answer their questions in an age-appropriate way. It won’t be easy. I’d also think, depending on the age, that it might provide an opportunity to talk about intimacy and sexuality. The most important thing, though, is for you to support your child through it.

Howie Gordon, aka Richard Pacheco, former adult film star, 1979 Playgirl Man of the Year and author of Hindsight: True Love & Mischief in the Golden Age of Porn: In 1971 I moved to a commune and my parents got very worried because back then, when someone said “commune,” they thought about Charles Manson. So they came to the commune to check things out and were relieved that it was nothing like the Manson Family.

While they were there I got some alone time with my dad, and I was like, “You know, I don’t know anything about you in a lot of ways. I want to know more. I want us to be friends.” Eventually, he started talking about this prostitute that he and my mother’s brother were both seeing together. He was telling me more and more, and I finally just said, “Dad, okay, stop. I was wrong. I can’t handle this. Let’s go back to you being my father. I love you, but I don’t want to know anymore about this.”

The point is, eventually, we all reach a point where we find stuff out about our parents that we don’t want to know. It’s tough when your realize that your parents aren’t perfect, and it can fuck with your head a bit. As much as you’d like to forget about this stuff, you can’t, you just have to integrate it. You realize that your parents are people too, and they’re flawed just like everybody else.

Ricky, who found videos of his dad and stepmom: It was in my sophomore or junior year of college, and I was home for summer break. I was at my dad’s house and the computer is running slow, so he asked me to go in there and clean out some files, defrag it, check for spyware, malware, all that stuff. I came across this folder, I’m like, “Oh great. He’s got a porn folder.” Of course, this is probably where most of his problems with malware and spyware are. Anyway, for some reason, he’s got it set up where there are these large preview windows where you can see the video before clicking on it. I quickly realize, “Okay, that’s my stepmom.” And if that’s my stepmom, I know who is attached to that other thing I’m seeing in the preview window.

That was bad enough, but I also suspect that my dad was uploading it to a website because when I was clearing out his cookies and stuff, there was a lot of Adult Friend Finder and stuff like that.

Emotionally, it wasn’t really a big deal, maybe because when I was growing up, I remember when I’d be sitting on my parents’ floor watching TV in the bedroom and right under the TV stand my dad would have all these magazines that he wasn’t hiding by any stretch of the imagination. Also, when I first started college, I was staying in the basement of his house and he had bookshelves with just tons of porn. So it was like, “Okay, my dad likes porn.”

After finding those files on his computer, I told my dad that he should use hidden folders instead of putting that stuff in a documents folder, and he just said, “Gotcha, I’ll do that,” which he obviously didn’t because my sister also found it later. We never discussed it again after that. We basically pretended like it never happened. Though the next time he asked me to clean up his computer I told him no. He asked me why and all I said was, “You know why.”