Here at Fight the New Drug, we are lucky to have a worldwide movement of supporters who recognize this important cause and are dedicated to helping spread the facts on the harms of pornography. These people are informed and educated on the issue and are passionate about taking a stand in our society where porn has become so mainstream.

Among those educated on the harmful effects of pornography, we are always excited to meet celebrities who aren’t afraid to use their platform to push 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 also seen actors/filmmakers like Russell Brand and 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 is speaking out on the harms of pornography. Our latest connection is Josh Radnor, writer/director of Liberal Arts and Happythankyoumoreplease. You probably recognize him for his role as Ted Mosby in the Emmy Award-winning TV show How I Met Your Mother.

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Fight the New Drug recently caught up with Josh for an exclusive interview in Richmond, Virginia, where he was filming the second season of Mercy Street, his latest television series. We asked him a series of questions about his thoughts and feelings about the effects of pornography on individuals, relationships, and society as a whole.

Check out what he said.

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Fight the New Drug: Why are you against pornography? You told us in your first email that you believe porn is “a pretty epic disaster physically, psychologically, and spiritually,” so elaborate on how you came to that realization.

Josh Radnor: I’m not a porn addict, though I believe the addiction is real. I didn’t grow up in any kind of repressive, super religious environment. I never felt I was in danger of eternal damnation or anything. I just started to notice how when I watched porn the quality of my life and mood was really affected. It depleted my energy and focus. It led me to over-sexualize women in the real world. It clouded my thinking and deadened my imagination. There are a thousand good reasons for kicking porn but those were a few of mine.

I never had a super dark struggle with porn, just a deeply uncomfortable, conflicted relationship to it. I never closed the window on a porn site and thought “Time well spent!” Something about it never felt right. There seemed to be this other, better person longing to get out and express himself and with porn in my life—even in a minor way—that guy didn’t stand a chance.

FTND: The old phrase holds true in advertising, Hollywood, and anything else—sex sells. How do you think modern mass media has been influenced by what we call “porn culture” and vice versa?

JR: Well, the line keeps getting pushed obviously. What we call “mainstream porn” today makes porn twenty years ago look kind of quaint by comparison. So much of porn brutalizes women and normalizes violence towards women. That’s inarguable. You see its influence in prime time television with the ever-increasing numbers of murdered strippers and prostitutes. Advertising today uses many porn tropes. So many women—and even many men—feel their entire worth is dependent on their sexual desirability (I’m sure that’s not entirely due to porn culture but it certainly isn’t helping the matter any.)

I think the biggest problem ultimately is that porn preys upon our vulnerabilities and appeals to the lowest parts of ourselves. It’s an extension of what I find to be so exhausting about modern life, that we’re never not being sold things. Even use of terms like “food porn,” this kind of non-stop hijacking of our senses is going on, this attempt to keep us chronically aroused and craving. That might keep the economy humming but it also creates suffering. I know you guys like to focus on the science behind all this—which I think wise—but for me I can’t ignore the fact that all great spiritual traditions warn of getting tricked by the senses, that they can narcotize us and lead us away from the truth of who we are. Porn does this in the most devious masterful way imaginable.

FTND: Many kids are getting their sex-ed from porn from an early age. What do you think porn is teaching this generation about sex? 

JR: My oldest nephew is ten and I have another who’s seven, as well as two nieces, nine and three. You hear about many kids discovering pornography as young as eight or nine, which is so upsetting. By the time they’re in their twenties they’ve downloaded countless pornographic images into their brain. They’ve learned to equate sex with porn. Plus all the reward circuitry stuff, having to watch harder and harder, more and more violent stuff to get the rush, how guys end up preferring porn to actual women… I don’t think many people understand how fragile our psyches are, how detrimental it can be to our physical and emotional well-being to pump a nervous system full of hard-core pornography. I’m a first amendment fan so I’m not going to be leading any charges to have porn banned, but I do think people need to be made aware of the dangers so they can make an informed choice for themselves. I should also say that I understand porn’s charms (wrong word, but you get my point.) I know its pleasures but they’re cheap, brutal pleasures that fade fast and leave you worse off than before. Porn ultimately hurts the heart and confuses the mind. It gives nothing back. All it does is take. I played a character with a morphine addiction and in my research I came across a description of opiates as “the Judas drug,” in that it will “kiss you then betray you.” This is also true for porn.

(Video courtesy of: INKtalks)

FTND: Fight the New Drug chooses to leave morality, religion, and personal opinions at the door in favor of science, research, and fact. What do you think of all the science and research that has come out on the harmful effects of pornography?

JR: People make the argument that pornography has always been around—like it’s some kind of sturdy, time-honored tradition—but it’s a baseless argument. It has never been around the way it is today, with the instant availability and variety and barbarity of it all.  Internet pornography is this crazy experiment unleashed on the human psyche. Bodies and brains are being sent on a wildly untested chemical roller coaster. Like with any drug I think there are people whose circuitry is not vulnerable to the addiction and many others who aren’t so fortunate. Because it’s all so new and has exploded so fast, research is only now beginning to come out. Reports of chronic porn watchers detoxing off porn mirrors classic drug withdrawal—shakes, sweating, insomnia, depression, inability to focus, suicidal ideation, etc. There are those who say there’s no such thing as pornography addiction and that watching porn is harmless. History will not be kind to those people. They’ll be the doctors from the fifties in the cigarette ads.

FTND: We also choose to focus on a pro-love and pro-healthy sexuality stance in addition to our anti-porn mission. How do you think porn affects love and sex in relationships? What does being pro-love and anti-porn mean to you?

JR: We’re all confused around love and relationships to varying degrees. But I recognized that being a habitual porn watcher was only going to worsen things for me in this regard. I feel like it took me a long time—too long—to learn that sexual gratification is not the highest human aspiration or achievement and that the relentless, single-minded pursuit of it is hollow and depression-inducing. Porn peddles selfishness, domination, and oppression—all terrible qualities to bring to a relationship. It strips women of personality, agency, and dimensionality reducing them to objects who exist simply for men’s sexual pleasure. And can be discarded when they’re through—after all, there are always more women a click away. I think anyone who cares about their emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being and wants to be in a healthy, sustainable relationship with another person should absolutely make an effort to eradicate porn from their life.

FTND: More and more celebrities over the past several years have chosen to speak out publicly against the harms of pornography in our society (Terry Crews, Rashida Jones, Russell Brand, Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Why do you think that is? Do you consider this a difficult topic to address?

JR: If you follow my fairly mellow Twitter feed, I don’t do any kind of grievance-airing or political ranting. I mostly try to let people know about stuff in the world that’s inspiring to me. That to me feels like a worthy use of celebrity, shining a light on wonderful things people might not know about otherwise. Addressing this particular issue is difficult because a) addiction is tough, uncomfortable, and widely misunderstood and b) you’re kind of sticking your neck out there. There are all sorts of forces – many more than we even realize – that have a lot (literally) invested in keeping the porn game going. And those who speak out against it are reliably tagged as religious nuts or prudes or puritans or anti-sex. (Gail Dines has a great comeback for that, that it’s like being anti-McDonald’s and being accused of being anti-food.)

I had just gotten really tired of the refrain “Everybody watches porn.” It’s crazy how often that’s said, as if all the data has been collected and the discussion is finished. It’s a tactic to get porn more and more normalized, certainly, the old “everybody’s doing it” canard. For better or for worse people take a lot of cues from celebrities so I think it’s important for visible people who don’t like what’s happening to stand up and say “Hey, this isn’t a part of my life. And it doesn’t have to be a part of yours either.”

I’d also like to say that I really respect and admire what you guys are up to. There’s a part of me that wants to avoid the language of war and feels like we should define ourselves by what we’re for rather than what we’re against. That said, I do believe porn is a huge problem that has to be confronted. The battle, though, is ultimately an internal one. Each person has to decide for themselves whether to have this thing in their lives or not. I value love and connection and friendship and community. I want to encourage more creativity, joy, and peace in my life. Porn is opposed to all of that. I stand strong with anyone choosing to get porn out of their lives.

FullSizeRender (10)Josh Radnor has written, directed and starred in two feature films, LIBERAL ARTS and HAPPTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE, both of which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, the latter winning the 2010 Audience Award for Favorite U.S. Drama.
He starred for nine seasons on CBS’s Emmy-nominated comedy HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER and recently finished filming the second season of the PBS Civil War hospital drama MERCY STREET. He was last seen on Broadway in DISGRACED, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Ayad Akhtar. This fall he will be starring in the world premiere of Richard Greenberg’s THE BABYLON LINE at Lincoln Center.
He’s written a play, he’s writing a book, and he currently resides in Los Angeles.


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 Josh Radnor 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.

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