Among those educated on the harmful effects of pornography, we are always happy to meet celebrities who aren’t afraid to use their platform to bring this conversation into the spotlight. We’ve seen Terry Crews publicly share his past struggle with pornography to millions of people while educating on its harms. We’ve interviewed actors/filmmakers like Josh Radnor, and we’ve also seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt tackle tough issues like the amateur porn industry and how porn distorts perceptions about sex and relationships.
Now, we have another talented star who has been speaking out on the harms of pornography—one who has become a great friend of Fight the New Drug.
Meet Elaine Bradley, a talented musician who is most notably known for being the drummer of the chart-topping rock band Neon Trees. She is also the lead vocalist and songwriter for her other band called Kissed Out. Most recently, she’s performing on drums, singing, and guitar for her latest side project, Noble Bodies.
Last year, Noble Bodies debuted their first single and video that included a heavy feature of our Fighter gear! You just might recognize a few of these tees. Check it out:
Elaine first popped up on our radar in 2015 after she appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers to perform Neon Trees’ most recent hit single, while wearing a homemade (pregnancy-friendly) ‘Porn Kills Love’ tee. We were so excited to see someone repping the movement in front of millions of viewers during one of late night’s most popular talk shows.
After giving FTND an exclusive interview into why she’s fighting for love in a porn-saturated world, now, she and her husband Sebastian are giving the world a personal look into why they reject the normalization of porn in their lives without using shame. Here, Elaine and Sebastian detail the importance of having loving, shame-free conversations when talking about the complex and massive issue of pornography in relationships.
Elaine’s Story: What I Could Have Done Differently
I get the allure of porn. I do. It’s thrilling. It’s inappropriate, mostly unrealistic, and totally tantalizing.
That being said, I hate it. I hate the concept. I hate that it’s so accessible and desirable.
I hate that men and women want to consume it, even the “good ones.” As a straight woman, it would be simpler and easier for me if only “gross guys” or predators viewed or wanted to view it. I think when I was younger, I subconsciously compartmentalized men into two categories: those who view porn, and those who don’t. I always envisioned ending up with a “good guy,” which naturally implied that he would shudder at the thought of viewing porn. It wouldn’t even be attractive to him because he would see it for what it is, and be horrified. If he saw a billboard with a half-naked woman on it, he would be sad, and think about how she is somebody’s daughter; because hey, that’s what I do.
I’m married to a good guy. I’ll lead with that. But my expectations made it hard for him to be honest with me about his true reactions to and feelings about porn.
I remember having a conversation before we got married about his experiences with porn up until that point. He definitely rounded down, and I definitely was happy to hear him do it.
The first time I realized I didn’t understand him was when we took our honeymoon for 5 days in Vegas. Billboards of busty ladies everywhere. I would look more closely, analyze, and vocalize my confusion that anyone could be turned on by THAT. I would talk about how the Thunder Down Under billboards did nothing for me. Yuck. Meanwhile, Sebastian averted his eyes and kept mostly quiet.
Little did I know that I had created a very unsafe space for him to talk candidly with me about porn, and the conflict it caused him. I eventually realized this through several conversations over the course of several years.
Here’s what I could have done differently:
I should have talked to him about porn with no preconceived notions about what I wanted his answers to be.
I should have asked specific questions such as, “When was your first exposure to porn? What are your feelings about porn? Do you feel you have struggled with it? When did you realize it was a problem/struggle? How long did this last/is it still going on? What can I do to support you, and what can we do together to continue to guard against porn consumption?” and so on. Questions that seek understanding and recognize the realities of a porn struggle.
I should have expressed my opinions about porn in a less judgmental way from the get-go. Every time I spoke about it, it was with an obvious disdain and bewilderment…with that, “HOW COULD ANYONE BE OK WITH VIEWING THIS?!” kind of tone. Nobody is going to want to talk about how they feel stupid for wanting to watch porn (even though they “know better”) with someone who comes off like that…even if that someone is your best friend and companion. Even if that someone loves them.
Basically, if you are as put off by porn as I am, don’t let that drive a wedge between you and someone you care about. Be candid about your feelings, but remember to be open and non-judgmental about theirs. Shame kills love, too.
Everybody needs their eyes wide open about the pervasiveness of porn, and the damage it can do. At the same time, we need to somehow de-stigmatize the conversation so that people feel more comfortable asking others for help. In my experience, that starts with truly honest, humble communication, especially between loved ones.
Sebastian’s Story: I Felt Like A “Bad” Person
It’s not easy or comfortable for me, or anyone, to admit their weaknesses on a public blog, or especially to someone who admires you. I wish I could say that my view of pornography were as abhorrent as my wife’s—it is abhorrent to me on deeper levels, especially considering my personal beliefs and intellectual thoughts on the issue, but when it comes to selfish physical desires…the struggle has been real in my life.
I do consider myself one of the “good guys.” I don’t think that I am a “bad” person because I have to make sure I check the parental guides for movies before I watch them, or create safety measures on other media sources. However, having conversations with that special person in your life, who admires you, and does not/can not understand the thing you may be struggling with, can certainly make you feel like a very bad person.
So how do you tell your person that you, unlike her, would be affected by seeing explicit materials? It was not easy having this conversation with Elaine, who could not be a more outspoken anti-porn Fighter. I felt stupid, but I was not willing to have this conversation remain in the dark, where it could provide a breeding ground for my selfishness to take hold.
I said it before and can’t stress it enough, porn is selfish.
I had to come to terms with the fact that I would feel stupid or feel like a bad person (and I certainly did), talking about it. But I was much more concerned about our relationship, and how this would affect our relationship if we left the porn topic in the dark. The potential for selfishness to take a hold in my relationship, and knowing the destruction it would create in our lives together, was far too scary. I couldn’t and wouldn’t avoid having this uncomfortable conversation with my wife.
It wasn’t all at once, but it started when I admitted that porn was still a temptation for me. And she didn’t leave me! But really, it actually helped because I could openly put filters on the internet, and she could check in with me regularly, which kept me accountable.
Relationships have no room for selfishness, and porn is the epitome of selfishness. If anybody reading this is fighting an addiction, or just has the desire to become a Fighter for the cause, I would encourage you to talk about it. Let go of your selfish fears, thoughts, and desires. Your loved ones can help you.
Let’s all fight to normalize the conversation about porn, so that we can work toward a porn-free society.
Fight for Love by fighting shame
As human beings, we are naturally wired to want sex. It is part of our biology to be attracted to things that arouse us. Because sexuality is ingrained in us, and it surrounds our everyday lives through the media we consume, it can be so easy for thoughtful, good-hearted people to get caught up in watching porn.
As Elaine and Sebastian’s story has shown, shame is part of the porn problem. So many who have a current or past porn struggle feel an enormous amount of shame unintentionally brought on by others or themselves, which pretty much always makes the issue worse. As Sebastian detailed, many feel like they’re a bad person, worthless, or permanently broken. Not only is this untrue, but these feelings of shame can also cripple people’s self-esteem and stunt their progress toward lasting freedom.
Of course, we realize this is a complex issue, since remorse can be a healthy part of finding freedom and healing wounds. But too often shame (which is very different from feelings of guilt or remorse) is used as a beating stick that weakens and demoralizes.
Fighting for the sake of love
By choosing love and understanding instead of shame, like Elaine did, we are helping to promote true change in this porn-saturated society. Become a Fighter like Elaine and Sebastian, and continue to spread the word that pornography is harmful to individuals, relationships, and society in a way that will inspire and motivate others to choose love, too.
With more and more people starting conversations about the real scientific harms of pornography, we are making a real impact in society. Instead of accepting porn as normal, we can fight for love by being educated and changing the conversation surrounding pornography. We want to give a big shout out to Elaine for speaking out on this issue and taking the time to chat with us. We hope to see more people get involved with the movement as the research continues to show the facts.