It is my privilege to introduce you to Barb Winters in this guest post as she introduces her new book Sexpectations: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Healthy Relationships. Sexpectations releases August 8 and is available now for pre-order. I highly recommend this book as an invaluable resource for parents, grandparents, and youth leaders learning to navigate a cultural minefield. It’s packed with relevant truths as she identifies the pitfalls of unhealthy relationships, shares foundations for healthy ones, and provides principles to pursue recovery from wrong choices. You’ll find yourself referring to this valuable resource again and again. ~ Ava
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From Barb Winters:
Distorted views of intimate relationships abound. How do we help the next generation maintain healthy relationships in the midst of this hypersexualized culture? In my new book, Sexpectations: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Healthy Relationships, I equip parents and leaders to make a difference and be part of the solution. The following excerpt comes from the first chapter of Sexpectations.
The Online Pornographic World
Pornography has exacerbated the idea that hooking up is normal, natural, and a perfectly acceptable means to satisfaction. What many parents don’t understand is that today’s pornography is readily available, more graphic and violent than ever, and out to capture the minds of our children. It’s nothing like the Playboy of yesteryear. While my generation had to plan ahead to watch an inappropriate video, today’s children stumble onto an image or video clip while innocently scrolling. Young kids who are too young to run a vacuum or cook on the stove search for a word they don’t know and become exposed to a whole new world. Advertisements appear on their sidebar as they complete a homework assignment. Curiosity gets the better of them, and they click. One click is all it takes. Just like you and I get lost on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, clicking one video after another, they are off and running, accessing free pornography easily.
But children don’t just search for it on their own or stumble onto it accidentally. Sometimes, their friends show them. Kids are eager to share their newfound knowledge and freely stick their devices with the offensive material under the innocent eyes of their friends or even acquaintances. I’ve heard stories from mom friends stating that their six-year-old or seven-year-old was shown photos or videos during sports practices, playdates, or during school. One mom told me that a nine-year-old girl showed her ten-year-old son pornography while both parents were in the same room. Sometimes our young children report these incidents to us because they are shocked by what they see or understand the dangers. But many times, especially if no one has talked with them about pornography, they don’t say anything.
Pornography was in our home for years without my knowledge. The day I learned that my fourteen-year-old son watched porn, I was blindsided. I felt a gag reflex at the back of my throat when I heard him say, “I was watching porn.” What?! How could that be? I thought I had misheard or that I was living someone else’s life. We taught our children biblical principles and the difference between right and wrong. We homeschooled them and took them to church. My husband was a pastor. I thought all those components equated to raising children who knew when to say “no” to worldly pleasures. But I was wrong.
My son was watching pornography when a bogus warning popped up on his screen that threatened him to pay money or the person on the other end would call the police. He was petrified at the thought of being arrested and, out of fear, came to his dad and me in a panic. That day changed my life. I can still visualize my son standing in our yard and revealing this secretive information to us. My eyes were opened to an underground world I didn’t know or understand. The shock, pain, hurt, anger, shame, and feeling of loneliness changed the trajectory of my life.
But porn isn’t the only negative influence smartphones brought with them. Social media affects what we think of ourselves and how we interact with others. These virtual communities have upped the comparison game and set our emotions on edge. One moment we are riding a high created by extra likes and flattering comments, and the next we are facedown in our pillow reeling from one semi-negative comment said by someone we’ve never met. And whatever emotional roller coaster we are riding, our children are on one going four times as fast with steeper hills and more curves, twists, and turns.
Devices granting access to anyone at any time ushered in a new way of introducing yourself to a potential partner. Whether searching for a long-term relationship or a quick fix to a sexual need, sending a nude, or sexting, is now equivalent to saying hello. Per Camille Mori, Jessica E. Cook, and others in “The Prevalence of Sexting Behaviors Among Emerging Adults: A Meta-Analysis,” not only is consensual sexting an emerging behavior, but so is nonconsensual sexting.[i]
The 2020 pandemic and lockdown intensified this hookup culture and pornographic atmosphere. What already existed worsened. With children and adults alike spending an unprecedented amount of time staring at screens all day, it was the perfect storm for the pornography industry and predators to capture the attention of more consumers. Thankfully, the pandemic also brought attention to what most hadn’t known or had ignored—pornography and groomers for human trafficking are in our neighborhoods. And we began discussing it.
Barb Winters is the mom of a recovered pornography addict, certified Sexual Risk Avoidance Specialist, speaker, and founder of Hopeful Mom: supporting parents in an online world, where she offers encouragement and practical advice to parents and leaders. Barb’s book, Sexpectations: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Healthy Relationships, releases August 8, 2023. She and her husband reside in Florida, near two of their four children. Connect with Barb on Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe at HopefulMom.net for a FREE PDF download.
[i] Mori C;Cooke JE;Temple JR;Ly A;Lu Y;Anderson N;Rash C;Madigan S; “The Prevalence of Sexting Behaviors among Emerging Adults: A Meta-Analysis,” Archives of sexual behavior (U.S. National Library of Medicine, February 18, 2020), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32072397/.