The naked truth about porn addiction

Daniel Broderick recounts his personal experiences with porn addiction and outlines how to the taboo around the issue makes it difficult to combat

young man watching porn in his tablet

COMMENT

“We once viewed smoking as harmless, even healthy. Now we know better. How will future generations regard our naive consumption of porn?”

 

Porn cannot continue to live under the radar. If porn sites receive more visitors per month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined, it’s worth asking whether porn is as harmless as some would assume. 70% of men, and 30% of women are watching porn on a regular basis; children are being exposed to it at younger ages, the average being 11. With this many regular viewers, creating an exponentially increasing demand, why is there such silence surrounding the topic?

 

Porn engenders silence because porn addiction operates in the shadows, feeding on shame and isolation. We cannot allow this silence to prevail. Like never before, porn is readily available and accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Before the internet was in every aspect of our lives, porn addiction was for the creepy lifelong bachelor, but today porn has become highly normalised. There are porn grammy’s, awards for performers, and even a Porn University where one can learn the industry. Whether we say it out loud or not (usually not), porn is having a pervasive effect on society, and the way in which we connect with one another.

 

I’ve been addicted porn since I was 12, and I’ve been trying to stop since age 16. With such a lengthy exposure to porn, talking about porn is like a fish trying to talk about water; it’s difficult to understand the weight it carries in your life, and even more difficult to compartmentalise it. In other words, porn will never remain within the four walls of your bedroom. Porn will eventually warp your view of relationships and contort the way we look at men and women.

 

For me, women became sex objects; few were outside the realm of sexual fantasy. I would walk into a room and immediately my eyes would conduct a subconscious scan of body parts and physical assets. Who’s got the best ass, best legs, best breasts? Porn draws us down an avenue of objectification and secrecy. Unlike other addictive substances, it doesn’t leave the body. I’ve been clean from porn for some 150 days, but the content I’ve watched will take years to forget.

 

A fantasy world

 

“Shame feeds addiction; honesty fights it.”

 

For me, porn became a coping mechanism for stress and loneliness. Essay due in a few hours — an uncomfortable reality. Porn — a temporary alleviation of stress. This is exactly how porn operates; it lured me into a fantasy world. In this world, the currency is one of silicon breasts, inflated muscles, hairless body parts, exaggerated shrieks of “pleasure”, machine-like thrusting hips and unachievable physiques. Inevitably, it had a profound effect on my body image. Perfectly assembled, action man like pornstars lead me away from feeling comfortable in my own skin. From the age of 12, I was presented with what I perceived to be true masculinity and true sex- two sculpted and hairless bodies, no intimacy, no caressing. This is what porn does: it takes sex – a sacred, holistic act of intimacy and giving – and strips it back to penetration.

 

Today’s multi billion dollar porn industry is expanding and always looking for new clients. Dirty magazines stuffed under mattresses are a thing of the past. Instead of hiding magazines, we clear our search histories. We walk around with an XXX store in our pockets, and no social barriers to stop us indulging. Page 3 of a tabloid newspaper actually pales in comparison to the degree of videos in variety, novelty and domination which is available at our fingertips. Even the language surrounding porn has evolved; that we no longer look at porn, but watch it, showing that still-images are not enough, we need high definition streamed videos. This concept of “not enough” is crucial; when I was 13, I could get off on a softcore video of two people having sex. The same video would not have sufficed for when I was 15. By 20 I’d need a novelty and bizarre scenario to get off.

 

Nobody starts off on hard drugs; there’s a process to reaching that point. Those who view something like parasite porn —  where Facebook facial images of someone you know are superimposed onto the body of a pornstar — always start off with softcore porn. The slope is slippery. If I were to continue with porn, I know my view of sex and love might be warped beyond repair.

 

There are those who claim porn is healthy that anti-porn rhetoric is equal to anti bodily autonomy: my body my choice. But, if you’re reading this, and you’ve ever watched porn, ask yourself a few questions. Could I quit if I tried? Is the porn I’m watching now more intense, rough or bizarre than what I was first viewed? Who else knows about my habit? How do I feel in the moments after orgasm? I believe in bodily autonomy, but informed bodily autonomy. We once viewed smoking as harmless, even healthy. Now we know better. How will future generations regard our naive consumption of porn?

 

Over the years, I’ve had the underlying sense that porn was detrimental to my mental health. 20-40 minutes of Pornhub was like entering another world, and like a hiker descending a mountain, I needed to slowly acclimatize back to reality. Social anxiety followed, but I didn’t notice the correlation between viewing porn and a sense of unfamiliarity in social settings. The reality is that porn is not harmless and for many will be deleterious to our mental health. Our society is making leaps of progress in terms of mental health — we cannot remain silent about porn.

 

Porn is an addiction, and like all drugs, it has physical effects. More and more young men are plagued by erectile dysfunction as sexual partners are finding less satisfaction in each other. Unlike the performers in porn, real men and real women are not physically perfect. Porn also has palpable links with misogyny, sexism and sex trafficking. If we truly are pro-women then we cannot allow our society permission to freely objectify.

 

A few weeks ago I shared a Facebook video telling of my recovery from porn. To my surprise I immediately received messages from others who were in the same boat. I am honoured by their honesty and vulnerability. Admitting the struggle is the first step. Shame feeds addiction, honesty fights it. Recovery from porn addiction is a long road and to those who are struggling, you’re not alone, and programmes like Fortify are there to help you.

 

So why bother quitting?

 

Because real relationships consist of so much more than what we see in porn. A year ago I fell in love. At that point I decided that I had to fight; because real love is better than pixelated lust. The freedom of 150 days without porn is worth the tiresome battle. Porn hurts your partner, fosters unrealistic expectations and breeds secrecy. Real love involves courtship, emotional connection, quality time, affirmation. Porn can’t laugh with you, cry with you, comfort you, keep you company, pray with you, eat with you, start a family with you or be your best friend. Sadly, the word most searched on pornsites in 2014 was “love”. Why? Because porn users are pursuing love, and finding a poor imitation.

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