To Guard Their Eyes

My four children and I headed to the grocery store first thing yesterday morning to let my oldest daughter pick out her dream breakfast for her special feast day. As we were walking in, I paused for a few moments to organize my bag and get out my short shopping list. I heard my children ask “Mommy, why is she doing that?”, and I looked over to see my 6 year old daughter and my 5 year old son fixating on the cover of a magazine that filled all 10 compartments of a movable magazine rack right inside the front door. It was a common Philadelphia area magazine, but today’s cover was X rated. I’m not being overly prudish. It was really shocking. I was feeling all high on the Immaculate Conception and was completely unprepared to respond to such an assault on my children’s purity.

I ushered them along and told them I was so sorry that I didn’t protect their eyes from pictures that showed such a lack of respect and modesty.

When we returned home, once I was out of earshot of my children, I called the store’s manager to point out the prominent location of such an inappropriate image, and I asked that he move it for the sake of the other families that would visit the store. He was very gentlemanly and apologized and said he’d take care of it right away.

I called my husband and asked him to offer part of his Mass for the purity of our children, especially of my 5 year old son who is very visually oriented.

I considered discussing it with the kids at lunch, but I felt like I didn’t quite know what to say — which is quite unusual for me!

I’ve heard that these images sear themselves in the minds of young boys and can cause them real problems later, not only with pornography but with disordered desires of all kinds.

I know this is the world we live in, and I so desire, as St. Josemaria said, to passionately love the world with the heart of Jesus.  But I can’t quite shake the lump in my throat. They stole a precious little bit of our purity today, and on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

By trying to address the situation with my children, will I bring their attention back to an image I was hoping they’d forget? If I let it pass, am I allowing that experience to fester because it’s unaddressed or leaving them unequipped to deal with it in the future? If I do discuss it with them, how do I keep my message positive, about virtue, but also meaningful enough to help them shrug off immodesty and impurity, and without being rude?

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  • Kathleen

    I think we must have seen the same magazine! u00a0 I was just at our book store and the most outrageous cover was right at eye level with my little people. u00a0Luckily I was by myself, but I immediately talked to the manager about how awful it was to display these so prominently in the check out line where everyone has to go! u00a0It’s also hard once you have readers! u00a0However, this is a great time to remember to have hope in Christ! u00a0We can overcome evil with an abundance of love. u00a0No doubt about it, our children will be assaulted but if we are praying for them and talking to them and immersing them in the abundance of grace given by Mother Church, we can hope that our children will fall in love with the Truth!

  • Mom

    Oooh tough one.u00a0 I would let it go….you addressed it then.u00a0 Addressing it again is going to overemphasize it.u00a0 I am currently grieving for the loss of my eldest’s innocence.u00a0 After an emergency pee break on a recent road trip he saw a “bad picture” behind the door of the restroom.u00a0 Now he’s having all sorts of trouble with “bad thoughts” about all sorts of stuff…purity and non purity relatedu00a0and freaking out about going to communion.u00a0 I can’t help but think its related.u00a0 It is so sad….he’s too young and confused.u00a0 Anyone have any ideas or experience with this???

  • Mary Alice

    This happened to us in France, back when America was a little bit safer for the eyes, we walked through Paris and one bus stop after another was posted with a huge picture of a woman in her underwear.u00a0 nnI think that you are right to pray and to try to protect them, and to explain to them how to begin to protect themselves, but I hope (I don’t know) that you don’t really have to worry about scarring from one exposure — hopefully they have a wonderful model of chaste married love from you which will be their main influence and can over ride such a thing?nnIt is interesting, I have one child who instictively turns away from these sorts of images and one child who stares, fixated, and I don’t know what that means about either of them and what, if anything, I should do about it.nnI have said before that I try hard to avoid the section of the mall with Victoria Secret so that my boys do not have to walk past that, but the part of Lord and Taylors with the underwear is right next to the children’s section and the bathroom, and we had an awkward conversation about why anyone would want to sexy santa claus underwear.u00a0 A good point was made, why would you want people thinking of a fat old man when you are naked?

  • Charles

    When I was in 5th grade at parochial school one of the other kids brought a Playboy to school. u00a0He’d gotten it from his Dad, I think. u00a0We gathered around, curious, and looked at it. u00a0Fascinated by the human body, but being 10 not old enough to really get it. u00a0At the bell, we dropped it into the window well and forgot about it. u00a0About a month later, they called a special school assembly, the school janitor had found it when cleaning out the wells. u00a0Father (the parish’s pastor, who didn’t often come by the school) came in a gave us a very ernest and beautiful (I still remember his presence and seriousness after thirty years) talk on the importance of charity and the meaning of sexuality. u00a0The actual images were even then long since forgotten, but I have never forgotten him (and what I think was his palpable holiness, he was one of those old school priests who radiated kindness and seriousness) u00a0and the tone and basic gist of what he said. u00a0nnYou are right to be concerned about what your son sees, I think. u00a0Images do have immense power to boys, one I’m not sure many women understand. u00a0But, I don’t think you should worry too much. u00a0If you tell him what you think, and are sincere, it should stay with him. u00a0nnThe sad fact is that when he hits puberty his own mind is going to probably be a pretty vivid place, no matter what he sees, and in this culture there is nothing you can do to protect him from pornography after he hits middle school. u00a0He will see it (thanks to the internet, which you cannot protect him from, even if you get rid of it in your home because his peers will expose him to it) and it will impact him. u00a0nnThe only things you need – and should – do, are teach him and pray for him. u00a0Don’t be hysterical and don’t worry too much. u00a0Our Lady – and lately, for me St. Joseph and the archangels, especially Gabriel, angel purity, strength of God – are very, very powerful. u00a0Teach him to pray to them now, and that will definitely keep him in good stead. u00a0

  • Charles R Curtis

    Poor proof reading, there: u00a0read instead “importance of chastity” (my spell checker changed that one on me while typing – annoying, and interesting) and “angel of purity,” etc..

  • Anonymous

    I think you handled it really well and I would not bring it up again unless your children ask more questions.u00a0 P is still pretty young (only 5) and I think that works in your favor.u00a0 If he were older, it might be good to address it more fully.u00a0 I would pray hard that his young mind forgets about the image (that happens often with younger children).u00a0 nnI hate that these things are forced on us against our will.u00a0 One of the reasons we have a DVR is that we like football games but the commercials are SOOOOOOO inappropriate.u00a0 It makes me so sad when we are out somewhere and my children are exposed to these sorts of things.

  • Jurismater

    Kathleen, you’re right. I’ve been able to control their exposure in this area until now, but this is just another instance of hoping in Christ and committing them to his protection, and to their guardian angels and patrons, as in everything else.

  • Jurismater

    Mom, that is so hard. I’m so sorry to hear of your suffering and his, and I’ll pray for you both today. How beautiful that he comes to you with it all.

  • Jurismater

    HILARIOUS response to sexy Santa. Cleverness, lightheartedness, and common sense go a long way in sorting through the everyday immorality around us!nnI hope you’re right that we don’t have to be worried about them being scarred by one exposure.

  • Jurismater

    Charles, thank you so much for this comment, what a blessing. This reminds me how much our boys need excellent male role models who aren’t family members. And that it’s most important now to continue laying the foundation for his interior life so he can fight this (inevitable) battle supported by the most powerful heavenly helpers.

  • Jurismater

    Red, thanks, that’s what I’ve been doing today, just praying that it leaves his memory! My oldest daughter (verbal processor) seems to want to chat about how weird that lady was, so I’ve asked her to stop and we can talk more about it privately if she wants.

  • Mary Alice

    Charles, perhaps there are blessings in the auto-correct, because when I read “charity” I thought that perhaps the pastor spoke about charity and love/respect for one another in regard to pornography.u00a0 Something perhaps for an older child, but still an important truth is that the person in that picture is someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, a real person, who has chosen to do this either because she is desperate for money or does not know how much better and worthy of respect and love she is.u00a0 Pornography can be dangerous because it dehumanizes both the exposed person and the sexual act, so in fact I think that charity has a very important place in this conversation.

  • Mary Alice

    Well, and for girls I think that there is an entirely different question, as they begin to see how much power sexuality can give them in society, and how many women choose to trade on that.u00a0 I tend to think that “sexy” stars like Katy Perry are even more dangerous to our girls than to our boys because they teach our girls to rely heavily on sex for popularity and success.

  • Charles

    Thanks. u00a0I think you are exactly right. u00a0It seems to me that while for a ‘normal’ man the attraction to pornography is usually almost always an issue, due to the fact that male sexual attraction is so visually driven, that for men in a healthy and satisfying relationship (one based in friendship, in love, or a celibate with a proper prayer life) that the temptation is usually not that much of an issue. u00a0It’s when men are lonely and emotionally compromised that it can become more problematic. u00a0In fact, I’ve discussed this with friends and the general opinion seems to be that pornography is in fact pretty boring in that it is essentially mastabatory and utterly superficial. u00a0It’s a flash in the pan compared to the full symphony of a sacramentally based intimate relationship (marriage) with an actual woman, your wife. u00a0A few minutes of vapid fantasy against a lifetime of love consummated in a shared life of friendship and family. u00a0It’s no contest, really.u00a0nnThe ubiquity of porn in this society is the only reason that it’s at all an issue for well balanced guys with a spiritual life and desire to live a life based in charity. u00a0To me chastity is the crown of the virtues in a man, even more so (I say, against the grain) than in a women in the sense that it is somewhat more difficult for men to be chaste, I think. u00a0It necessarily follows from cultivating all the other graces and virtues, especially humility and charity. u00a0nnWhich is why I don’t think exposure to porn is not really a primary issue, even in this environment. u00a0If your sons (and indeed daughters) are loved, and are raised in an environment where they see how true charity and friendship between men and women works, they probably won’t grow up to have major problems with porn, immodesty or sexuality. u00a0The ethics need to be explicitly stated and more importantly demonstrated by families. u00a0nnSo it really is all about charity, isn’t it?

  • JMB

    I agree.u00a0 I won’t let my girls listen to her in the car (the only place I can control the music when I’m not home) because she glorifies premarital sex, teenage lust and drinking.u00a0 A really bad recipe for immature girls.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Charles, for sharing your comments.u00a0n