Straight Talk Advice

May 25, 2011

Brother watches porn in front of younger sister

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m 15. I share a room with my 17-year-old brother because our mom can only afford two bedrooms. We have a computer in our room and I’ve noticed him looking at pornographic sites when he doesn’t realize I’m paying attention. He has never tried anything sexual with me and I don’t think he would, but it makes me nervous sharing a room when he’s looking at stuff like this. I’ve stopped undressing in front of him and now change in the bathroom. I don’t want to get him in trouble by telling our mom. What can I do? — Nervous Sister, Toledo, Ohio

Omari 17, Wellington, Florida Ask me a question

The easiest solution is to tell your brother you see him watching pornography. Hopefully he will be embarrassed and cease when you are around — or, better, stop altogether. Another way to get results is to threaten to tell your mom. I’m not saying blackmail him, but with a threat looming, he will definitely never let you see him watching porn again. The important thing is that you both show respect for each other. Communication is key.

Nate 17, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

I attend an all-boys high school where girls and porn are common topics. But a young man should have boundaries — especially in a situation like this. If he doesn’t control the temptation, tell your mother. Hopefully, she can convince him to stop.

Justin 22, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Why go to your mom without talking to him first? Yes, looking at porn is quite normal today, but it is not okay to make others uncomfortable, especially — yikes — a little sister.

Hannah 17, Safford, Ariz. Ask me a question

Pornography is destructive. It can become addictive with negative side effects. Tell your mother secretly. It’s in his best interest.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

Be frank with your brother. Tell him it’s not healthy and it makes you nervous. If he doesn’t listen, tell your mom.

Elise 19, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

It’s not okay to feel uncomfortable in your own home, especially your bedroom. Ask him to refrain when you’re there. If he won’t, tell your mother.

Chuck 16, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

I am anti-porn and don’t watch it. However, watching porn is definitely the norm for boys at my school so I’m not surprised by your problem. What I think is happening is that porn has become so common and is so instantly gratifying, with nobody setting limits on it, that when a lot of guys are unable to break the habit, they tend to accept it as a new norm in their life and a trend is born. It’s a very difficult habit to break.

DEAR NERVOUS SISTER: I agree with the panelists. Talk to your brother. If he keeps looking at clips when you’re there (or asks you to leave), spill the beans. In the meantime, address the core problem like this: Without implicating your brother, drop articles about pornography on the kitchen table “for a paper you might write.” This will get a conversation going — one every household should be having. The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11. By 15, multiple hardcore exposures are (as Chuck confirms) “the norm.” Watching today’s gonzo porn is not like keeping a “Penthouse” under the bed in 1970. Much of popular pornography is stunningly unnatural and/or violent. Also, video has a deeper neurological effect than print — and, like playing with matches, it especially burns into the pre-pubescent mind.

Sex is natural. Male attraction to visual cues is natural. Video pornography is not. I believe that centuries of sexual repression is helping fuel pornography’s popularity. But honest intimate relationships will liberate sexuality, not watching porn stars. Consuming pornography is like trying to nourish oneself with junk food. Parents need to explain this to their children and establish no-porn rules.

Editor’s Note: Like smoking cigarettes was considered safe and normal in its heyday, pornography is now having its heyday and many people, young and old, male and female, are hotly defending it as “normal.”

I consider consensual, age-appropriate sex to be normal and healthy and one of the great pleasures of being human. I’m all for ending sexual repression. However, I don’t believe that pornography is the solution. In fact, I believe it is taking us into its own repression, just as dark and strange as anywhere we’ve already been.

We teach our kids to say ‘no’ to cigarettes, why not pornography? Is everyone afraid of looking like a prude? Are parents too embarrassed? Not sure what the problem is, but people are increasingly pro porn. It was the same with cigarettes in their day and it took decades before the tide turned. When it did turn it was due to campaigns by smoke-free celebrities and cultural heroes. The same campaign needs to begin with porn. Where are the sexually liberated men and women with social capital who will stand up for living and loving porn-free? May you please step forward!

Like cigarettes, porn is everywhere available 24/7. Because it is impossible (not to mention unhealthy to monitor children 24/7), they need to be influenced to decide personally not to consume pornography. Parents can act right now by talking to their young children like they talk to them about cigarettes (many kids have awareness of pornography as early as age five). Every parent wants their child to grow up having successful intimate sexual relationships, nobody want to raise a pornography addict or a sex addict. It’s time for parents to get over their inhibitions (or guilt for being a “smoker”) and have these conversations, set expectations, and monitor the sites their kids are visiting on their computers and smart phones. —Lauren

  1. By N.T., age , from Carmichael, CA, USA on 05/25/2011

    As a guy in a similar situation to your brother, I would like to say that there are 2 sides to a situation like this.  You say that you have “stopped” undressing in front of your brother.  This means that until recently you must have been undressing in front of him.  Did it ever occur to you that this could be part of the reason that he started looking at porn instead of the other way around?  I also have to share a room with my sister since our mom can only afford 2 bedrooms and won’t share with my sister like I think she should since she’s the parent.  Like several brother’s wrote when this was a topic in Straight Talk a while back, my sister thinks nothing of undressing in front of me and being nude in front of me in the bedroom since I’m just her “little brother” and seems to have no idea that she’s causing me to have sexual feelings and even getting boners over it.  However, I’m too ashamed to say anything. I don’t look at porn, but I started looking at the nude pictures in Playboy to help divert my feelings away from my sister.  It doesn’t totally solve the problem, but it does help.  I have to keep the Playboys hidden since I’d be in major trouble with my mom if she found out, but she doesn’t seem to see a problem with me seeing my sister nude in the flesh, so go figure.  Maybe your brother is doing the same thing.  I think that opposite sex siblings seeing each other nude once they reach puberty is a bad, bad, bad, idea.  Room sharing by opposite sexes should be avoided if at all possible.  However, if it can’t be avoided there still are ways to avoid undressing in front of each other.  I mean, everybody has a bathroom that can be used as a changing room like I do even if my sister doesn’t.  Or if your mom’s a single parent a girl should be able to keep her clothes in her room and use it as her changing room.  A girl who can undress in front of her brother certainly shouldn’t have a problem changing in front of her mom. 


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  2. By Misty, age , from Santa Ana, CA on 05/25/2011

    In our case it’s our stepfather who looks at porn on the computer and it makes me and my sister very nervous.  Our mom sometimes works at night and we’re home alone with him and he often spends the whole evening looking at porn while drinking beer after beer.  Our mom knows about this and says she’d rather have him at home doing this than out drinking in bars and maybe getting a DUI or being with other women as he has done in the past.  He leaves us alone, but it still makes us very nervous so we stay in our room the whole time and only come out to use the bathroom.  But our room doesn’t have a lock and even though he’s never done anything we’re still worried that sometime when he’s drunk he might try something, so we don’t agree with our mom that this is nothing to worry about.


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  3. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 05/26/2011

    Dear N.T.: You make an interesting point. I agree that girls need to wake up and refrain from walking around in the nude or changing in front of their pre-teen or teenage brothers. I hear from too many brothers about how difficult this is. In addition, I agree that bedrooms should be separated if at all possible, or room-dividers installed. Since this happens almost exclusively in households with no dads, moms, especially need to wake up and instruct their daughters. Nobody’s getting guidance.

    On the other hand, we can hardly blame a few nude sisters for pornography’s popularity overall. There’s a bigger thing afoot here. Nonetheless, the fact that it has contributed in your case is interesting and I’m glad you wrote about it.

    In those earlier columns where brothers wrote in about this, I suggested they demand a room divider or demand their sisters change elsewhere. I suggest you do this too. Nobody generally will want an explanation other than, “I’m not comfortable with it.” And if they press for one, just keep repeating it, or say “Are you KIDDING me? ” (some annoyance on your point is completely within bounds as the whole thing is preposterous, especially if you are asked for explanation.)

    Let me know how things go. And thank you again for writing about this.

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  4. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 05/26/2011

    Dear Misty,

    Yuck. If I was you, I would go to the hardware store and buy a hook and eye lock (or something similar) and install it on my door. I’m not in a position to say whether there is anything to worry about or not, there are certainly lots of porn addicts out there who never assault anyone, but because you wish you had a lock for your peace of mind, if I was you, I’d put one on. I wouldn’t even ask permission. The people at the hardware store can help you figure out the best kind. They offer as much security as a typical bedroom door button lock (which isn’t much), but at least nobody can just walk in without warning.  Let me know how it goes.

    Best to you,

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  5. By Carrie, age , from Roseville, CA on 05/28/2011

    I agree with N.T. that you may have contributed to the situation by undressing in front of your brother.  I mean it’s just common sense that a 15 year old girl should not undress in front of a 17 year old brother, and as he says there are ways around it even if you have to share a room, which is a bad idea in the first place.  I share a room with my sister, not my brother, but I can’t imagine undressing in front of my brother now that were teenagers.  My sister and I have no problem undressing in front of each other and are pretty casual about nudity in the privacy of our bedroom, but we keep the door closed and locked when we’re undressed and would never put our brother in that position. 

    However, it looks like you have figured it this out already, so the issue is his looking at porn.  I would tell him that you know and that you don’t want to get him in trouble but unless he stops, you will have to tell your mom.  I think it’s only fair to give him the chance to stop on his own, but you have every reason to be concerned that he’s doing this when you have to share a room with him, which is bad enough in the first place.


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  6. By Maude, age , on 06/03/2011

    I think the advice given to the Girl who dislikes her brother’s porn habits misses the mark. Why did no one suggest that a 15-year-old girl should not be sharing a room with a 17-year-old boy, no matter how mature each is? Better to sleep in the living room on a couch than to continue a living arrangement such as the girl describes. Maude

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  7. By Carol, age , from Hayfork, CA on 06/03/2011

    I am surprised that no one addressed the fact that it isn’t very “healthy” for a young woman of 15 and her 17 year old brother to share a bedroom.  If Mom can only afford 2 bedrooms, why hasn’t anyone suggested that at this age the girl should be sharing with her mother, not her brother?

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