Sex Therapist & Betrayal Trauma Specialist
Jo Robertson is a sex therapist and betrayal trauma specialist who researches pornography. In her sex therapy practice, she currently helps couples restore intimacy or helps individuals with problematic sexual behaviors. Along with running her own private practice, Jo is also the research and training lead for The Light Project, a charity helping to equip youth, their families, and professionals navigate the ever-evolving issue of online porn. Listen to Jo Robertson discuss how to most effectively approach discussing pornography and healthy sexuality with children, and why it’s important to have open and ongoing conversations in your home.
Watch Jo Robertson’s TEDx Talk “Why We Need to Talk About Porn” here.
FROM THIS EPISODE
- Learn more about Jo on her website.
- Study: What Behaviors Do Young Heterosexual Australians See in Pornography? A Cross-Sectional Study
- Study: NZ Youth & Porn
- Check out our conversation guide for tips in talking with your partner, child, sibling, parent, or friend.
- Article: The Gottman’s Institute, An Open Letter On Pornograpy
- Watch our documentary series, Brain, Heart, World free!
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Garrett Jonsson: My name is Garrett Jonsson, and you’re listening to Consider Before Consuming, a podcast by Fight the New Drug.
And in case you’re new here, Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.
We want these conversations to be educational, uplifting, and hopeful. As we sit down with experts, influencers, activists, and people with personal accounts, we cover a wide variety of topics that may be triggering to some- you can refer to the episode notes for a specific trigger warning. Listener discretion is advised.
Today’s episode is with Jo Robertson, a sex therapist and betrayal trauma specialist who researches pornography. During this conversation we talk about her ted talk, why it’s important to have open and ongoing conversations about pornography in your home, and so much more. and so much more.
With that being said, let’s jump into the conversation, we hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
Garrett Jonsson: We want to welcome to the podcast, Jo Robertson. Thank you so much for joining us.
Jo Robertson: Thank you, so good to be here. Well in New Zealand, but talking to you.
Garrett Jonsson: I first heard of you from Richie Hardcore. Uh, he recommended your Ted Talk. He, he said that it was his favorite Ted Talk on this topic. So I had to go watch your Ted Talk, of course. And at the time of recording this conversation, your Ted Talk has over 250,000 views, and that’s a pretty big deal.
Jo Robertson: [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: As I watched your Ted Talk I love your enthusiasm, your professionalism,
Jo Robertson: Oh, thank you.
Garrett Jonsson: Your enthusiasm is contagious.
Jo Robertson: Oh, that’s oh, that was a very intense talk. Yeah. That was a really, um, unique experience.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, absolutely. I can imagine, by the way, before we talk more about your Ted Talk, I just want to notify our audience that we’ve linked the Ted Talk in the episode notes. So hopefully our audience can drive that number from about 250,000. Let’s get it up to like half a million views.
Jo Robertson: [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: Um, I’ve probably watched your Ted talk a thousand times and despite watching it a thousand times, I can only give it a thumbs up once. So how did you end up on that red dot on the Ted Talk stage?
Jo Robertson: Yeah, I think, um, every like every TEDx event I think works slightly differently. Um, but they got in contact with me. I think for years they had actually wanted, uh, someone to talk about porn and hadn’t, it hadn’t quite worked out for a number of reasons. And so they found out about me, I don’t know, through someone they knew and then they just contacted me. They said, Hey, what do you think you would say? And then I gave them, you know, a one minute spiel on what was off the top of my head. And then they said, you know, “Would you want to work together and make that happen?” And so I, it was, it’s something that you really have to deliberate on because it’s quite a massive commitment.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. I can imagine.
Jo Robertson: It’s, it’s a lot of hours. And so fortunately it’s part of my job, uh, is to do training and therefore it could be incorporated into my wider work. But if you, yeah, it’s, it’s huge. It’s a huge project. And so you can’t, you definitely can’t take it lightly.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. How many hours did you put in, in preparation for that Ted Talk?
Jo Robertson: Oh, um, I don’t know. It’s hard to quantify, I think, uh, full time six.
Garrett Jonsson: Wow.
Jo Robertson: Like 40 hours, times six.
Garrett Jonsson: That’s some dedication.
Jo Robertson: Yeah, I think, I mean, not everybody would do that. I mean, yeah. I really invested a lot of time into every detail because there’s so much information on porn now. And so you can kind of go in lots of different directions and I wanted to try and present, um, as much information as possible, uh, in a really, really effective way. So I deliberated literally on every single word.
Garrett Jonsson: You mentioned that you had to give a one minute version of what you would talk about and I have to ask, what did you say? What, what was the one minute elevator pitch?
Jo Robertson: We do kind of a snapshot of our work as we talk about what porn is at the moment, like how wait we call it the newborn landscape. And so what is the new landscape? Um, and we don’t try and freak anyone out, but we really want adults, particularly parents to know the truth about porn. So they’re not just referencing kind of their own experiences. And so we do the new porn landscape, then we do wider impacts and that’s gender risky, sex aggression, mental health, and sexual health. Um, then we talk about youth voice. So what are the young people actually saying and what have they requested help with? And then how do you engage in the comments?
Garrett Jonsson: So this company that you’re referring to, it’s a company that you work with or do you own it?
Jo Robertson: Yeah, so it’s a not-for-profit or a charity and we started it probably two and a half years ago now, uh, a number of us who worked in different fields, but all kind of engaging in the sexual health field, you know, in slightly different ways and just saw a real gap and particularly in New Zealand, but so we, you know, resources that are tailored to this context, but we saw a gap in terms of who was going to, um, yeah, who was going to engage here, who was going to spark conversation with government or with, um, community groups or with the education sector. And it was kind of a little bit ad hoc at that point. And so there were organizations doing little parts of that, but we really wanted to kind of have a more United front, um, and all of those sectors.
Garrett Jonsson: So you’re one of the founders of this organization. Um, can you talk to some of your other credentials?
Jo Robertson: Yeah, so I, yeah, so I’m a sex therapist and that some people think that sounds a bit creepy.
Garrett Jonsson: [laughter]
Jo Robertson: Like some people think of sex therapist is like people who, you know, would actually help you do things.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Jo Robertson: And that is not what we do. So I did my masters in sex therapy and, uh, basically I work with couples or with women by themselves who are struggling in these sex life. And a significant chunk of my work is around problematic, uh, pornography use. So it’s impacting their relationship, created some betrayal. Um, but it could be other kind of sexually acting out behaviors, um, or just, you know, this sounds bad, but kind of your run of the mill, like struggling with organisms and climax and struggling with communication around sex. And so, yeah, I do a bit of work in all of those spaces.
Garrett Jonsson: Thanks for sharing, uh, your credentials with us. I think it’s important to get those. Um, I want to jump back to something that you said earlier regarding getting caregivers and children on the same page. Did I hear that correctly?
Jo Robertson: Yeah. I think there’s this massive discrepancy between what young people are engaging with and the struggles that they’re having around pornography. Um, and then what adults think porn is, and therefore don’t engage. So they reflect back on Playboy or, you know, kind of what we call “narrative porn”, which is like a 30 minute scene, which, you know, has character development and a plotline. And there’s often more affectionate behaviors. Um, so they in their head, that’s what porn is. And therefore they are less likely to engage with the young people because they don’t know porn for what it is now. So young people particularly we’ve, we’ve got this massive piece of research here, which is amazing. And the young people have said, “Hey, we don’t think this is cool. And we actually struggling with it.”, but young people, but adults don’t know that they’re saying that, but also not bringing it up because they think, “Oh, you know, all kids do that.” Or “Boys will be boys.” or “Yeah, we all saw that and it was totally fine.” And so we’re trying to, trying to bring the youth voice to the adults so that they can have a really good response.
Garrett Jonsson: I like that. I like that a lot. Why do you think it is that there is such a massive gap in communication between caregivers and youths?
Jo Robertson: Yeah. I mean, probably just technology, you know, I think nobody could anticipate the rate at which technology would grow and develop. Um, and so adults, I mean, a lot of the parents I talked to just have no idea what’s even available. They don’t know exactly how YouTube functions and they don’t know how the, um, you know, if you do a Google search for something, what will come up and how the algorithms work. And so they just actually have no awareness and that’s not the fault. So I’m not into parent blaming. Uh I’m. I want to empower them with the information. They, they will not to know when they handed their kid a phone, you know, at 12 or 13, or even, you know, younger at 10, they were not to know what that meant because they didn’t grow up with it.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. Oftentimes adults and kids are using one word, pornography, to describe two entirely different things. Um, if we ask previous generations, uh, to define pornography, just like you said, oftentimes they think of Playboy, but if you ask the kids today, they are being exposed to something very different.
Jo Robertson: No, they might not have ever even seen a Playboy. I mean, Playboy exists now, but they’ve totally changed the whole platform. So they’ve, did you know this, that they’ve created what they’ve created a different style of magazine and they’ve, they’ve called it, say, let’s say for work. So there’s no genitals. I’m not even sure if they show nipples, but they wanted to create something alternative to porn that was much milder or tamer.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Jo Robertson: Kind of, one of their tag lines is that “it’s safe for work.” So you could, someone could find it on your laptop and you wouldn’t get in trouble.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. They’re almost trying to rebrand it like a lifestyle magazine.
Jo Robertson: Yes. And they’ve, it’s been hugely successful. So it’s, you know, growth has been rapid. And I think that’s so interesting and potentially speaks to, um, maybe my generation, the millennial generation who, who are doing not the younger, younger millennials, but the older ones like myself, you know, in our thirties and we’re going, “Hey, this is not that cool. And I want something alternative.” Um, and I think, I think there’s some critical thinking there, which is great.
Garrett Jonsson: Since we’re on the topic of Playboy one stat that I found interesting from your Ted Talk was, uh, the stat you mentioned around when Playboy peaked.
Jo Robertson: Mm. Yeah. So in 19, I think it was 1972, but definitely the seventies. Um, and they’re, it’s, it’s kind of hard to ascertain exactly what the viewership was, cause there’s a difference between copies bought off the shelf and subscriptions annually. Um, so, but I believe it was 7 million subscribers a year. And now obviously Pornhub is the only organization at the moment that releases their own data, which is interesting and problematic, but they have 92 million views a day.
Garrett Jonsson: I think it’s important for caregivers to see or to hear in this case to hear that difference. Uh, the difference between the numbers between when Playboy peaked and the viewership on some of the top free tube sites.
Jo Robertson: Mhmm.
Garrett Jonsson: I think that understanding that massive change can really help caregivers better understand the new porn landscape as, as you refer to it.
Jo Robertson: Yes, definitely this, I mean, that’s a mind blowing stat and it’s, you know, Pornhub now is the second most popular site. So it’s actually come down from the first. And so what is that saying about X videos, which is the top one?
Garrett Jonsson: So I’m kind of pivoting here and I’m moving away from the harmful effects of pornography and more sh and shifting towards healthy sexuality.
Jo Robertson: Mhmm.
Garrett Jonsson: Because it’s not very often that we get to chat with a sex therapist.
Jo Robertson: [laughter] Yep.
Garrett Jonsson: So I was, I’m curious to get your take on what is a simple definition of healthy sexuality?
Jo Robertson: Hmm. Yeah. So we generally put that under four pillars and off the top of my head, I’ll try and remember them, but, um, safety. So you need to feel emotionally and physically safe during and after an a sexual experience. So safety pleasure. So mutual pleasure, not just one person, uh, emotional connection. Um, and so that doesn’t mean, Hey, I have to be in lots and lots of love, but emotional connection that I, you know, that’s that emotional safety component as well. Um, and now I’m forgetting the last one, which is terrible.
Garrett Jonsson: No. That’s fine. I put you on the spot there.
Jo Robertson: Um, yeah, so we have, uh, a page actually on our website, which is called great sex versus porn sex. Um, and so consent now, I’m now I’m remembering consent, emotional connection, pleasure, and safety. And so we just have a, a little, um, kind of resource, I guess, which compares those four pillars and both porn and in real sex and how it would look different.
Garrett Jonsson: I like that. So the four pillars are consent, safety, mutually pleasurable, and emotional connection. I don’t want to sound like we’re in court here, but, uh, just for the record, do you consider yourself sex positive?
Jo Robertson: Yeah, it’s so interesting. The pro-sex, um, dialogue, uh, I, I definitely, and that I want people to have really fun, amazing, pleasurable, safe experiences. Um, and I do believe that, you know, what people consent to in their bedrooms is it’s totally up to them, but I think pro-sex has been slightly misused. Um, or I think it can be kind of a tagline to excuse anything, um, or give justification to anything. So, um, that’s kind of a key difference between radical feminism and liberal feminism. Uh, this is getting into kind of the more ideology behind the pro-sex statement, but essentially, uh, pro-sex at the moment is being talked about as, “Oh, no matter what happens at all, anything can go as long as the two people are into it.” And I would critique that and that, um, you know, what we do in the bedroom, uh, as also we play into a political ideology or we also come from constructs.
So we come from a, western society, particularly is still relatively sexist and women are still experienced sexual violence at higher rates, or don’t feel the same level of empowerment as a man might. And therefore consent is not necessarily always fully consent if they don’t know the paradigm or the construct that they’re playing out. So just there’s, there’s always, you know, there’s always this power dynamic at play between people and that can either be totally equal and they can be an equal distribution of power between two people. Um, or there can be kind of this, um, power that can play out where it’s like, “Hey, are you okay with me doing this?” But because of the society that they’re in, one person can still actually hold more power. And therefore the woman, for example, might not be fully empowered to do, to say whatever she wants. So the words can be, “Yeah, I consent.”, but the feelings or the experiences can be, “Do I have a choice?”
Garrett Jonsson: Okay. Yeah.
Jo Robertson: So pro sex has kind of been thrown around, but I, but I believe there is still things that we need to critique, um, under their umbrella.
Garrett Jonsson: And it seems like you are putting in the work to do that. So thank you for your work.
Jo Robertson: Thank you.
Garrett Jonsson: As you were talking about the culture and the power dynamics, there was a study that came to mind. Um, it’s a study from Australia. So your neighboring country there.
Jo Robertson: [laughter] Yes.
Garrett Jonsson: The participants in this study were ages 15 to 29, and these participants were sent a survey. They were presented with a series of questions regarding what types of pornography or what types of behavior they had seen within pornography within the last 12 months. And one thing that stands out from this study is that this study shows that men were portrayed as dominant 70% of the time. So just to kind of echo on what you’ve already said, this, the fact that kids are turning to pornography to learn about sex is problematic.
Jo Robertson: Yes. Um, yeah, I mean, I think there’s, uh, there’s actually a better piece of research, um, which is actually a New Zealand, but the reason that it’s better is because they just look at teenagers. So that’s just 14 to 17 year olds. Um, and what we know about research now is that it’s quite equivalent across countries. So because of wifi and data bundles and technology access, so you can see similar things in America or Australia or New Zealand or Sweden or China, um, in terms of research outcomes. So amongst the 14 to 17 year olds, 72% had seen nonconsensual acts. Um, and then 80% had called, had seen a woman being called names or swear, and 90% had actually seen a male controlling or dominating another person.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that study. Yeah. And that’s very concerning. I think that we’ve got caregivers on board. I think that a portion of them might be hesitant to having these conversations with the kids that they care for. Can you talk to, uh, why you think it’s important to have healthy conversations about this with kids?
Jo Robertson: Mhm. Yeah. Yes. I mean, I, I, I don’t want to underestimate how hard that it can be for parents. Um, you know, I think there’s a lot of, uh, what can be parent bashing, which is like, “Why don’t you do this?” And, “Why don’t you even think about this?” and “Why aren’t you taking control?” And, and I just feel a lot of empathy for parents. Um, I’m, I’m one myself and I know how hard these conversations can be and how awkward we can feel about them and wanting to do it right. And that can be quite paralyzing. Um, but we, we really do need to, and I think at some point we have to decide with a, we want to answer our kids’ questions or we’ll leave it up to Google. Because Google will always answer the questions and it will answer it with a video.
And so there’s kind of a two elements to the conversation. There’s the kind of wider sexuality of sex, sex conversation. And then the porn specific one. Um, I generally say to have that conversation with boys around 10 and then girls around 12. Um, and that’s just based on the data because we know that kids are seeing, um, porn much earlier than they were in the past. So there’s a few things you can do. Um, just to prepare yourself the first is to take a deep breath. [laughter] And that sounds a little bit dumb. That’s, it’s really important that we come and calm, not coming crazy, uh, because if we give them a really big reaction, if we, you know, if we really shocked and you know, we kind of come in hot, uh, telling them what’s wrong with it, then they’re just going to shut down.
Like, they’re not going to come back for a second conversation. They’re going to feel judged. They’re going to feel criticized. They’re going to feel like you’re not a safe person. So come in calm, um, be prepared. Uh, and that means doing some learning, uh, yourself. So getting to know what the new porn landscaper is, um, kind of knowing some of the stats, knowing what your key messages are like, what you really want them to get out of that conversation. Um, you know, knowing what behaviors they will see online, or potentially will see, that will help you not be shocked if they tell you, “Hey, I saw a porn that was like family, like incest sex.” Um, so if we go, “What? That’s crazy. Why would you even look at that?” Um, then yeah, they’re not coming back. That’s the end of that. So coming in really calm, knowing that they could potentially have seen things that you find quite shocking.
So that’s doing some of your own learning and then starting with asking them questions. Um, so not coming in with advice away, but asking them what’s happening in their peer group. So “Have your friends ever talked about porn?”, “Have your friends ever seen porn?” We know that talking about friends is often much easier for them than talking to them about them directly. Um, they’re much more likely to give you some information, uh, and they need to know there’s an end point to that conversation. Like you’re not just going to drag it out and go for ages.
Garrett Jonsson: [laughter]
Jo Robertson: Um, so those are some kind of, uh, know outline kind of preparing things, choose the parent also that has the best relationship with them. And that sounds also a little bit weird, but, um, you know, they are more likely to receive an adopted, uh, advice if they have a stronger emotional connection with the person. So if they receive information from a teacher that they really dislike, they are less likely to take it on board.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Jo Robertson: Does that make sense?
Garrett Jonsson: Yes, that does make sense. And for our listeners that aren’t aware, we have a tool at ftnd.org/blueprint. It’s called, Let’s Talk About Porn.
Jo Robertson: Yes. I’ve heard about that.
Garrett Jonsson: And I think one of the first steps that we mentioned is to breathe, to take time, to take a deep breath. So I think that we’re on the same page there, Jo.
Jo Robertson: [laughter] Yes. That’s great.
Garrett Jonsson: Because it is important to take on these conversations in a calm way.
Jo Robertson: Yes, definitely. Um, that helps them feel just more comfortable. And, and when we introduce, you know, when, when we start acting awkward, we actually introduce awkwardness to the conversation.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Jo Robertson: So we can bring that with us rather than it already being present. Like they might actually be fine, um, having a conversation, they might not want to talk about their own porn use or everything that they’ve seen, but they might be okay, just having a broader conversation about it, but we can be more awkward than them and that, and that can be a problem. So there are kind of like four things that we really want to get out of a conversation, um, from them four kind of key bits of information, and then what I call the four Cs. So we want to know what their consumption is like. We want to know what they’ve seen. We want to know how often they might’ve seen porn, whether it was once, whether it’s every day, whether it was, uh, you know, last night, whether it was last year, um, and that can be hard for them to disclose, but it might happen over a number of conversations.
So that will help us understand the impact. So we know that regular use, uh, as much more likely to have an negative impact on a young person, that someone who’s just seen something once, you know, if they just saw something once last month, then they are less, much less likely to be negatively impacted. And they’ll probably be able to kind of be result quite resilient to that.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Jo Robertson: Um, so consumption, then we want to know content, and this is the, this is the part that can be the most uncomfortable because we’re really asking, “Hey, what did you see?” Um, you know, “How many people were in the scene?”, uh, “What were they touching?”, “What were they doing to each other?” You know, and you’re wanting to get a sense of if saw quite aggressive content or really problematic themes. So if they saw, for example, just to be more explicit, if they saw lesbian porn, it’s probably going to be kind of tame and playful and fun.
It’s going to be explicit and then it’s nudity, but they’re probably not going to be hitting each other or calling each other, you know, just as an example. So if they saw something like that, it’s also probably going to have less of an impact on them, but if they saw violent, aggressive sex or racially charged sex, um, or group sex, for example, then that is going to have a bigger impact. So we, content is actually really important. Um, and then we want to know context. So we’re into our third C and the most crucial thing is safety. So did an adult show them porn because that is illegal, at least here. And it probably is there too. Um, and so we want to know that they’re safe. We want to know that they’re safe at school, that they’re safe at friend’s houses. And we want to know that they’re in safe relationships, um, you know, safe, romantic relationships.
So are they experiencing a lot of pressure to watch porn? And therefore we need to talk to them about pressure, not just porn. So context is really important and particularly around the adult, um, distribution, and then the last, and then the last thing is just, what is the outcome? The cause the consequence being, and I don’t mean like, I don’t mean, you know, what are the consequences for you and coming in hot lake around punishment, but what are actually, what are the, what are the things they’re feeling like, what are their concerns, um, what’s going on inside of them? And so were they really confused by what they saw? Were they potentially traumatized by what they saw? And we know that if a young person has had a sexual abuse history, that they are more likely to be triggered and traumatized from what they’ve seen. Um, so were they turned on, but they also found it really disturbing and therefore they feel shame, you know? So how, how is it impacting them emotionally, but then how is it impacting their relationships? Has somebody asked them to do something they don’t feel comfortable with, for example. So those are the four areas, um, consumption, uh, context, content, and, um, concerns.
Garrett Jonsson: I love that. I love all the content that you, uh, put out. The four Cs.
Jo Robertson: [laughter] Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: They’re easy to remember. They’re, uh, very insightful.
Jo Robertson: Yeah. I, my, my, my prefacing two Cs, uh, calm, not crazy.
Garrett Jonsson: [laughter] Calm, not crazy. Yeah. That’s a good approach. And that is not always easy. I am a parent. Uh, and so yeah, I can, I can, uh, testify to that then. That is not always these easiest thing to do.
Jo Robertson: Yes, definitely. Definitely. I understand.
Garrett Jonsson: Kind of shifting gears here, do you find it that it’s uncommon to have sex therapists that also talk to the harmful effects of pornography?
Jo Robertson: Yes. [laughter] So there aren’t very many sex therapists who want to come out really, um, on any issue and give some kind of what they might feel is a judgment call. Um, and that’s because as therapists, you know, we have very strongly trained into being non non-judgemental and having what we call unconditional positive regard, which is always viewing our clients in a really positive way. Um, and not necessarily condemning particular behaviors, but trying to hear their experiences and then, um, you know, navigate them towards a healthier pathway. So it’s kind of so deeply ingrained into us not to come out too strong on issues. Um, but I come from a sex education background where I was a CC education provider and I was also a youth and child, um, trauma and abuse counselor. So I feel like I kind of have these other experiences, which I cannot avoid, um, and just come from a place of deep, deep concern. Uh, and I, I can’t kind of squash my voice sometimes that would be helpful, but it’s, I just can’t help myself.
Garrett Jonsson: Life would be easier in some ways?
Jo Robertson: [laughter] Yeah. Yeah. Totally.
Garrett Jonsson: [laughter]
Jo Robertson: A lot of sex therapists also hold what they would call, um, you know, a really that, that six, um, six positive view that we were talking about before, where all behaviors can kind of be justified.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. I know you mainly speak to youth, but another question I have is regarding couple intimacy and relationship harmony. And I want to quote, uh, Julie and John Gottman, Dr. Julian, John common from the Gottman Institute. They are some of the leading experts when it comes to healthy relationships. And I want to, I want to take a quote from them. It says “We are led to unconditionally conclude that for many reasons, pornography poses, a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony.” Can you talk to this quote, um, regarding relationship harmony and couple intimacy and how pornography can disrupt those?
Jo Robertson: Yeah. I mean, it’s fair to say that the people who come into my therapeutic space are already struggling, so, so, uh, it’s going to be slightly biased in that I’m only hearing negative outcomes. Does that make sense?
Garrett Jonsson: Mhm. Yeah.
Jo Robertson: Yeah. So I’m only hearing really from people who, who, for whom this has become an issue for them. Um, and other therapists, you know, would, could probably say differently. Um, but yeah, I mean, the impacts that I see are so significant, um, particularly just around betrayal, uh, with, as being secrets held, um, promises not kept, uh, with, as being disclosures around what kind content they’ve been watching, that their partner didn’t know about. Um, yeah, the use of another stimulus for arousal, other than the partner they’ve got in real life. Um, the betrayal can be so huge and devastating to a marriage or a long-term relationship.
Um, but also nuanced impacts like, um, you know, struggling with struggling with arousal, having different expectations of sex. Um, so wanting to try out behaviors your is not comfortable with, um, yeah, so they can be some of those other, other, um, other impacts. Um, you only need to look at wider social learning theory. Um, you know, we can, we, we talk very freely and openly and, um, we admit that we, uh, um, conditioned through life on all other areas, but for some reason, people are more uncomfortable saying that about porn. Um, so we, you know, for example, we know that advertising impacts, uh, us. We know that, um, billboards impact us. We know that TV shows impact us. We know that our parents had picked us. We know that our education impacts us and we’re kind of really comfortable and okay with saying all of those things. But for some reason when it comes to porn, people kind of clam up and go, “Oh, I don’t know.”, or “I’m not convinced.” Um, and if you’re not convinced, or you don’t know in that space, then you should throw it all into question as well.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. I have a six year old boy.
Jo Robertson: Oh, so do I.
Garrett Jonsson: Oh, do you?
Jo Robertson: Yes.
Garrett Jonsson: Nice. So you can relate to this too, since you have a six-year-old. My thought is that someone who says that video can’t influence behavior, hasn’t seen a six-year-old after watching Spiderman.
Jo Robertson: [laughter] Yes. It’s true. So true. Yes, exactly. Um, I once actually heard another six therapists talk about how, um, “Porn doesn’t, uh, impact us significantly. And we can take example from Spider-Man because…” he said, “You know, we can watch Spider-Man and we don’t all think that we can like fly across buildings and climb walls.” Um, and so he was, you know, kind of, uh, pulling down that argument,
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Jo Robertson: Uh, about porn impacting us. And it was so interesting because I thought, “Well, no. Because kids do believe that they can be Spiderman.”, you know, exactly what you’ve said, but also, but also we, it’s kind of known and amongst adults that, of course we can’t do that, but when we see porn, we know we can do those things. So if we see someone in porn, slap someone and pull their hair, we know that actually that is something we can try. Whereas with Spider-Man we know we can’t try and jump off a building, so they are just so different.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. Funny story. My cousin, he, when he was really young, you know, around age of five or so, he actually wanted to get bit by a spider so that he could become Spiderman.
Jo Robertson: Wow.
Garrett Jonsson: He thought that was a thing.
Jo Robertson: Did someone talked to him about that? [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: So anyway, funny story, and it kind of aligns with what we’re talking about here. Another thing that I wanted to mention that relates to what we’re talking about right now is from your Ted talk. You said that sometimes a proponent of pornography might say that one of the benefits of pornography is that it is educational when it comes to, you know, helping someone develop in their sexuality.
Jo Robertson: Yes.
Garrett Jonsson: So the proponent of this, and in this particular example, a proponent of pornography might say that it’s educational and your answer is “Yes, but what is it teaching?”
Jo Robertson: Yeah.
And I mean, I don’t want to totally, um, diminish some people’s positive experiences and I’ll give you an example. So we know that the rainbow community or the LGBT community don’t get really robust sex education, or they feel, um, stigmatized in wider communities. You know, so we know that, um, from, you know, extensive research and you only need to hear personal accounts to know that that’s true. So we know that for a lot of the rainbow community, they see porn and it’s been really affirming and that they look at that and they go, “Hey, this is the first time I’ve ever seen two people hold hands.” Well, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen two, two people of the same gender kiss.” And that can be this incredibly normalizing, empowering, almost, you know, also liberating experience. And so I’m not trying to take away from that, but that’s kind of at first glimpse. And then when you, when you look more at the porn and those genres and other genres, mainstream genres, um, you know, the education goes much deeper and much wider. Um, so the first experience can be quite normalizing and empowering, but you know, the fifth one will, will probably start to shape your mind and your expectations. And that will largely be around aggressive sex. The fact that people are searching for it is really problematic, but the fact that kids can see it without even wanting to, is even more problematic.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. Well, Joe, as we begin to, uh, wrap up the conversation, I just need to ask, is there anything stirring inside that you want to share that we haven’t touched on yet?
Jo Robertson: Probably the one thing that parents ask a lot about is filtering. So a lot of parents say to me, um, you know, “Will it be okay if I put a filter on the wifi, we’ll put a filter on the end device?” Um, so classic, I don’t know, what are the most popular filtering services in America?
Garrett Jonsson: One of our favorites is Bark.
Jo Robertson: Okay.
Garrett Jonsson: They offer an accountability software as well as a filtration software.
Jo Robertson: Oh yes. So interesting. I wait to see what happens there.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, they’re great. Um, yeah. And they’re only available in the U.S. and they need to be available and, um, yeah, they’re going to be, that’s going to be phenomenal, but, um, yeah, so parents, I think quite heavily can, can easily and quite heavily rely on filtering services. And I’m not saying don’t do that. I think it’s definitely good as a delay mechanism. So it’s really good for, out for our little ones and really up to about 13, 14, but we know that, um, around that age, they either start to get around it or the outside of your house so much that it is not necessarily the best tool for them.
So filtering, good. Delay mechanism, good. But the conversation is going to be the thing that really helps them long-term. So don’t just, you know, kind of throw a filter on your device and then just hands-off, uh, because it’s one, you know, all of them are fallible, but also they leave your house. Like they walk out the front door and they go to someone else’s house and they go to school and they’re going to sit in a classroom and someone might show them porn in the classroom, at McDonald’s, at Starbucks, you know? They’re not in your home anymore. Um, and therefore it’s your conversations with you as the parent that are really going to arm them with the tools so that it doesn’t have as much of an impact.
Garrett Jonsson: I love that that falls in line with our mission statement when it comes to education. Yeah. Filtration can be a great mechanism, like you said. Um, but education is critical. For some of our listeners that are a little bit more hesitant to have those, uh, meaningful and healthy conversations with the kids that they care for. What is your advice for them in regards to when to have the conversation and how frequently should they have this conversation?
Jo Robertson: Yeah. So, I mean, often parents are the experts on their own children, so it can be hard for professionals to weigh in too much. Um, you know, if you know that your, um, young person is having relationships, uh, or that their friends are having romantic or sexual relationships, um, then you want to have conversations more regularly, but I mean, I would probably bring something up once a month. Um, I would probably ask a broad question and then give a specific kind of response. So I’d say something like, um, “Has, you know, have any of your teachers started talking about peer pressure?” or “Have any of your, um, friends started, um, talking about contraception?” or with something very broad? Um, that’s opening up a conversation and they could be like “Gross. No.” Or they could say “Shut up. I don’t want to talk to you.” Or they could just try and shut that down really fast.
And that is totally fine. Um, you know, we don’t need to come in, come in hot to that and tell them off, straight away, because what they’re really doing is just saying “I’m uncomfortable.” But at that point you don’t just back off. Um, but you say something, you input a little piece of advice, just a couple of sentences, like, “Oh, I heard this thing that said, um, you know, lots of young people are using porn as a sex educator. And I think there’s lots of porn might be quite aggressive. And so that could be a problem.”, uh, and see what they say. If they say nothing, that’s cool, then just, just pull back and go in again. And amongst time, you know, so we go big broad question, and then we throw in a little sentence, um, and they might give you nothing in return.
They might not even look at you, give you eye contact. They might tell you to shut up again. Uh, and that’s just, don’t worry about that. They might want to talk to you, but they just might not know how, you know, I remember being desperate to have conversations with my parents, but I was just too uncomfortable and I just didn’t know how to bring it up. And it just felt too weird. But what they did, which I appreciated is that they just kept throwing little tidbits out. It’s like throwing a breadcrumb out and you, they do eat it. You know, they will pick it up and they will nibble on that. Um, but just throw them out every once in a while. And that will land.
Garrett Jonsson: I love that. Well, Joe, I’m sitting here with a smile on my face because this has been a fun conversation and you’re a good person.
Jo Robertson: Oh…
Garrett Jonsson: We appreciate you being with us today.
Jo Robertson: Thank you. It’s a privilege.
Fight the New Drug Ad: Talking about porn can be tricky. That’s why we created an interactive conversation guide called Let’s Talk About Porn. Simply select who you’d like to talk to, your partner, child, friends, parents, or even a stranger, and select the type of conversation you’d like to have. We’ll walk you through a healthy way to approach this taboo topic in a productive conversation. Let’s Talk About Porn is available for free, both in English, and Spanish so you can be prepared to talk when someone asks why you’re listening to a podcast about the harms of porn. Access the guide, and start talking at FTND.org/blueprint. That’s FTND.org/blueprint.
Garrett Jonsson: Thanks for joining on this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug.
Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.
If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest and the conversation we had, you can check out the links included with this episode.
Again, big thanks to you for listening to this conversation. As you go about your day, we invite you to increase your self-awareness, look both ways, check your blind spots, and consider before consuming.
MORE RESOURCES FROM FTND
A three-part documentary about porn’s impacts on consumers, relationships, and society.
Fifteen research-based articles detailing porns negatively impacts.
Tees to support the movement and change the conversation wherever you go.
Successfully navigate conversations about porn with your partner, child, or friend.
A database of the ever-growing body of research on the harmful effects of porn.
An interactive site with short videos highlighting porn’s proven negative effects.