Many people contact Fight the New Drug to share their personal stories about how porn has affected their life or the life of a loved one. We consider these personal accounts very valuable because, while the science and research is powerful within its own right, personal accounts from real people seem to really hit home about the damage that pornography does to real lives.
Hello FTND team,
It might surprise you to know, I am a sex offender. My crime was downloading indecent images of children on the internet for which I was arrested, and it’s something I’m deeply ashamed of, but my story starts long before I progressed on to that kind of content.
I was 15 when I had my first taste of internet porn, this was back in the day of the dial-up modem. I’m 33 now, and my life panned out like a lot of others who became hooked on easy to access pornography. Having a PC in my bedroom from 16 years old didn’t help, and that’s when I started collecting porn. All legal “vanilla” porn back then.
From “vanilla” to child
I grew up through most of my adult life-consuming porn, yet my sex life in the physical world was woefully inadequate and I was always painfully shy around girls. I did have a relationship once for 5 years, but it’s been over 10 years since I’ve experienced real intimacy. I realize now that my habits around the consumption of porn, instead of improving my sex life, actually helped build a wall between me and intimacy.
Moving on to after I finished University, I had some trauma to deal with regarding the loss of my mother to cancer and my grandfather the year after that. It was a difficult time, and I chose the wrong way of dealing with it. I gave in to the temptation of cocaine, and still having a compulsive porn habit, I used the drugs to get an increased high whilst viewing it and my tastes changed over time to more extreme content… which led me to my inevitable arrest.
The recovery process
Today I am over 2 years sober from alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, and porn! Thanks to the 12 steps and the help of other recovering addicts, and I intend to stay that way.
I’ve spent a lot of time doing research about the effects of pornography, and I knew this was the foundation of my problem and when I started to understand the model of desensitization, the accessibility, affordability and anonymity factors and reading about other peoples experiences, I realized that I had a problem with online porn.
I felt at odds with people who called me a pedophile because, to put it bluntly, I find women attractive and that’s always been my primary focus when thinking about relationships. I started to read accounts from other people who claimed they had an attraction to underage people and I also found that I didn’t agree with their views either, to me they just sounded like excuses to continue thinking sick thoughts, like the addict who is in denial and can’t see the wood for the trees.
The thing that helped me most was learning and understanding, getting my emotions back after experiencing sobriety and realizing that I did have empathy and I am human after all. It’s that empathy now which makes me feel like people need to be educated about the dangers of porn because time and time again it has been shown to encourage criminal behavior and add to the weight of mental health problems.
I never had a “talk” about porn growing up and my parents always neatly avoided the subject with me, so my education about sex, love, and intimacy was garnered from porn and the abusive narratives that go along with it.
Thank you for the work you do and I look forward to hearing from you.
An obsession that evolves
Porn is a habit that escalates, and it can often be an obsession that evolves way beyond anything the consumer could anticipate.
Let’s look at the data. Like any potentially addictive substance, porn triggers the release of dopamine into a part of the brain called the reward center (a.k.a. reward pathway or system).  Basically, the reward center’s job is to make you feel good whenever you do something healthy, like eating a great meal, having sex, or getting a good workout.  The “high” you get makes you want to repeat the behavior again and again.  Your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chance of survival.  Simple.
Well, actually, not quite so simple. Researchers have recently discovered that the reward center is actually two different brain systems, a “Liking” system and a “Wanting” system, that work in different—sometimes opposite—ways.  Understanding how they work helps explain why porn can be habit-forming and why consuming porn is often an escalating behavior.
Porn is an escalating behavior because as some consumers develop tolerance, the porn that used to excite them starts to seem boring.  Predictably, they often try to compensate by spending more time with porn and/or seeking out more hardcore material in an effort to regain the excitement they used to feel.  Many porn consumers find themes of aggression, violence, and increasingly “edgy” acts creeping into their porn habits and fantasies.  And this is how some consumers end up in illegal territory.
Crossing the line
Dr. Julie Newberry is a psychologist who has worked with patients who have stories like the one above. In an article for PsychReg, she writes: “My therapeutic experience is that a person who views child abuse images, though committing a sexual offense, is not necessarily a pedophile. A pedophile has a primary sexual interest in children. I suggest that for some people, it is porn addiction rather than pedophilia, which is the cause. A person, usually a man, who has no sexual interest in children, can find himself ‘crossing the line’.”
She continues on to describe her experience, saying, “[My clients] didn’t go onto the internet with the intention of looking at child abuse images, but nevertheless ended up there. They couldn’t understand why they continued to do something that disgusted them and which they knew was illegal. I suggest that each of them became desensitized to mild porn and sensitized to extreme porn. Their higher thinking brain, compromised by addiction, could not win the battle, even when it came to viewing child abuse images. Porn sex was too powerful a need and withdrawal too difficult.”
While not every porn consumer will end up turning to illegal content, many do. This is why we raise awareness that porn is anything but harmless, personal entertainment. In too many cases, the porn consumer ends up becoming consumed by their porn.