Recently, Billie Eilish, talked on the Howard Stern show about her negative experiences with pornography. The 19-year-old singer of Bad Guy said she was first exposed to pornography at age 11, and that it “destroyed [her] brain.” She said the violent and abusive porn she watched gave her night terrors, and that when she became sexually active, she didn’t say no to things that she really didn’t want to do because “I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.”
When I read Eilish’s words, I felt sad. Sad for what she’s been through. Sad because of how violent, racist, and misogynistic mainstream pornography has become. And sad because she’s far from the only young woman (or man) who has suffered because of porn.
But I felt sad for another reason, too. Eilish seems to blame herself for what happened to her at 11. She said in the interview, “I’m so angry at myself for thinking that [pornography] was okay.”
I don’t know how she was exposed at such an early age, but one thing is for sure: It wasn’t her fault.
She was 11.
E. le. ven.
If Eilish had said that her uncle showed her porn, I hope there would have been more of an outcry. I hope people would have recognized it as a form of sexual abuse. Instead, headlines from NBC News, People, The Guardian, ET Online, and others read that she “started watching porn” at 11.
Granted, porn is easy to access, and she could have been exposed by a classmate or stumbled across it on her own. But when an 11-year-old kid gets ahold of a parent’s gun and it goes off, hurting herself or someone else, no one says, “Katie started shooting people at 11.”
Instead, we say, “Where were the parents? Why weren’t the guns locked up? Why didn’t someone teach her gun safety? That poor kid!”
I’m not pointing fingers here. There are plenty of fantastic, highly-engaged moms and dads whose kids have stumbled upon pornography and ended up using it despite parents’ best efforts. Even so, 21st century parents do need to recognize that porn is a weapon that can harm their kids, and digital devices can access it more easily than pulling a trigger on a gun. (If you’re a mom or dad, please do your kids a favor and pick up a copy of my new book. You’ll find it extremely helpful.)
But my main point is this: If you discovered, stumbled across, or found pornography when you were a kid, stop blaming yourself. When a kid gains access to pornography and then blames him or herself, it is misplaced blame and it creates additional harm.
It doesn’t matter if you were nosing around in the boxes in the basement, watching cable when you were supposed to be in bed, or typed the words into the search engine yourself. And it doesn’t matter that you kept going back to it.
It wasn’t your fault.
As long as you keep blaming yourself for the porn you were exposed to as a kid, you’ll still be carrying the shame of a faulty view of yourself. And shame drives unwanted behavior.
So take another look at the when pornography started for you. Did you really go looking for it all on your own, or…
- Did you stumble upon it innocently?
- Did someone else show it to you?
- Was it in plain sight for you to see?
- Were you left somewhere where porn could be found?
- Did someone send it to you?
- Did someone give you a device on which you could access porn?
- Did you have clues you’d find porn where you did, and if so, what were those clues and who left them?
Billie Eilish, you didn’t “start watching porn” at 11. Someone either exposed you to it or let you be exposed to it, and that kind of burden is too much for any 11-year-old. You shouldn’t have had to bear it, and I’m sad you did.
Jesus, we know we need to own our sin, but please lift from us any responsibility we’ve been carrying from childhood that isn’t ours to carry.
Leave a comment: Do you agree or disagree that early exposure to pornography is not a child’s fault? If you were exposed as a kid, how does this post change how you feel about your story?
If you would like to hear more on the topic of Pornography please check out this weeks Becoming Whole Podcast, Was Porn Your Teacher?