One Man’s Journey: How I Stopped Watching Porn for 1 Year and Why I’m Not Going Back

DanMDan Mahle is a group facilitator, program coordinator, and occasional blogger on the topic of men and masculinity. His work reaches into many different arenas, from youth leadership and intergenerational collaboration to environmental justice advocacy and men’s work. He lives in Seattle, WA.

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Porn

Image from Fame Magazine.

I remember when I first discovered internet porn – I was 17 years old (1).  Fascinated by this world of unleashed sexual expression and fantasy, I couldn’t get enough of it. As I grew up and began exploring my own sexuality, I discovered just how different watching pixels on a screen was compared to the intimacy of making love with another human being. I thought I’d outgrow my porn habit over time. But I never did.

I didn’t know it then, but porn had become an addiction. And, like most addictions, it was a behavior that I was ashamed to talk about or even admit was a problem. “Yeah, everybody watches porn,” I remember hearing. It seemed so pervasive and culturally accepted that having an actual conversation about it was a total non-starter. So I kept it to myself.

I thought I had my habit under control. I thought I could quite porn whenever I felt like it. I even tried to quit a few times and then rationalized my eventual return to the addiction.

I didn’t realize how much watching porn manipulated my mind, warping my sexuality, numbing my feelings, and impacting my relationships with women. And I was not alone.

According to a recent study, more than 70 percent of men ages 18 to 34 visit porn sites in a typical month. And it’s not just guys watching sex online. It is estimated that 1 in 3 porn users today are women. Now, I want to be clear here that porn use extends beyond the male/female gender binary, but for the purpose of this post I am sharing my experience with porn from the perspective of a heterosexual, cisgender, White man.

Let me also state clearly that I don’t think all porn is bad. I’ve seen some great videos of couples engaging in intimate and respectful sexual encounters – of course, these are often only found on feminist porn sites or in the “female friendly” category (It’s interesting to note what the category name “female friendly” implies about all the other categories). But I’m not here to judge anyone else for what they choose to watch. I’m simply sharing the impacts that porn has had on my life and what has changed for me since I’ve stopped using it.

To me, what is worrying about porn is not how many people use it, but how many people – like me – have found themselves addicted to it.

As Dr. Jeffrey Satinover stated in his 2004 testimony to the U.S. Senate subcommittee on pornography, “Modern science allows us to understand that the underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction.”

Impacts of Porn (2)

A lot of studies have been conducted on the impacts of porn on men and women in society. Of all of those impacts, three most resonated with my experience:

1. Violence Against Women (3):  This includes an obsession with looking at women rather than interacting with them (voyeurism), an attitude in which women are viewed as objects of men’s sexual desire, and the trivialization of rape and widespread acceptance of rape culture – fueled by fake depictions of women in porn videos often pretending to desire violent and abusive sexual acts.

2. Numbness & Disembodiment: This can include erectile dysfunction, inability to orgasm when not watching porn, detachment from your physical body, emotional unavailability and numbness, lack of focus and patience, poor memory, and general lack of interest in reality. Furthermore, these outcomes in men have been linked to boredom with their sexual partners, higher levels of sexual promiscuity, adultery, divorce, sexism, rape, abuse, and suicide.

3. Fear of Intimacy: Watching porn contributes to many men’s inability to relate to women in an honest and intimate way despite a longing to feel loved and connected. This is because pornography exalts our sexual needs over our need for sensuality and intimacy; some men develop a preoccupation with sexual fantasy that can powerfully impede their capacity for emotionally intimate relationships.

Why I Quit Watching

I always felt like a hypocrite watching porn. Here I was, a man who is striving to be an ally to women, perpetuating the very culture of violence and misogyny that I was ostensibly trying to fight. The reality was that most of the videos I found online had titles that included words like “bitch” or “slut” and showcased controlling behaviors that were rooted in a culture of subjugation and objectification, where women are nothing more than sexual bodies to be exploited and dominated by men.

When I am deeply honest, I have to admit I was both intrigued and disgusted at the same time. By that time, my mind had been socially conditioned to find aggressive, misogynistic, and even non-consensual sex arousing. That is a difficult thing for me to admit. But it got to a point where I felt physically ill watching the videos, and yet I kept watching. That’s when I realized I was dealing with an addiction.

What I’ve discovered is that there is a whole spectrum of addiction, from a feeling of compulsion on one end to an intense addiction on the other. My porn addiction seems to have been pretty mild, since I did not experience any serious withdrawal effects. For some people with more serious addictions, professional support may be needed.

Last February, after a decade of use, I decided to quit watching porn for 1 year. I did this, both for the challenge of seeing if I could do it, and for the chance to see how life might be different. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but it was actually a radical commitment to uphold.

Today marks my 1-year anniversary of life without porn. It hasn’t been easy, particularly as a single guy, but what I’ve learned about myself through this experience has transformed my life forever.

Life After Porn

Life has shifted in some pretty powerful ways during my year without porn:

1. Integrity & Love: Since dropping porn, I have restored a sense of personal integrity that was missing. Regaining this integrity has allowed me to move through a lot of my shame and find myself in an incredible new space of deepening love for myself and others. I’ve also noticed that I am often able to stay more present with women now, rather than projecting fantasies onto them. This was hard to do when my mind was cluttered with images from porn videos. This newfound presence has also allowed me to begin to dismantle some of the subconscious sexism that I’ve held, helping me work toward becoming a better ally to the women in my life.

2. Embodiment & Emotional Expression: My year without porn has helped me reconnect to my body and begin to transform my emotional numbness into healthy emotional expression. I’ve begun to expand my sense of self by learning how to move out of my head and into my heart. After many long years void of emotional expression, I’ve reconnected to my tears. This release of suppressed emotional tension has unlocked a lot of joy in my life. All of this has helped me begin to shift my sexuality from mental masturbation and physical detachment to true intimacy, presence, and embodiment.

3. Creativity & Passion: Over the past year, I’ve started feeling more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve become much more willing to let go of control, to improvise, and to accept people’s differences. I trust myself more than I ever have and, as a result, my sense of self-confidence has soared. I wake up every morning grateful to be alive, clear about my life’s purpose, and passionate about the work I am doing in the world. My life today has a depth of authenticity and power that I never felt before.

Stepping Up

This week, many folks in my community and around the world are engaging in conversations about ending the sexual violence and abuse that directly affect over a billion women across the globe today. Of course, women and girls are not the only ones hurt by sexual violence. I’ve heard stories from a lot of guys who are also affected by cycles of violence and abuse that got passed on through generations. It is important, however, for me to recognize that far more women than men are victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, and that men account for a vast majority of all perpetrators.

As Richard Rohr says, “pain that is not transformed is transmitted.” So how do we, as men, break this cycle of violence? It’s clear to me that we will never transform our pain within a culture of silence. It is only by bringing our shadows to the light that we can diffuse the power that they hold over us.

Over the past several years, I have heard a lot about inequality, sexism, and violence against women. I believe it is vital for porn to be a part of that conversation, particularly amongst men.

If we are serious about ending violence against women, then we must be willing to have open and honest conversations about how porn is impacting our lives.

I am committed to a world of love, respect, and safety for all people. I’m sick of all the shame, numbness, and secrecy surrounding porn and addiction. And I’m outraged by all of the violence, degradation, and exploitation of women and children. Enough is enough!

The only way we can transform the culture of violence is to make it transparent by speaking the truth about the ways that we consciously and subconsciously contribute to it.  A culture of love and healing can only be built on a foundation of radical honesty and integrity, built from the ground up in our own lives.

Will you stand with me? It’s time we start talking about the things we’ve been afraid to talk about, knowing we’re not alone. It’s time we begin transforming our pain into love, by opening our hearts and reconnecting with our bodies. It’s time we, as men, step into a more mature masculine: one that recognizes the sacredness of life, one that creates intimacy and cultivates authentic connection and healing, one that is unafraid to love and be loved.

Additional Resources:

1. The Great Porn Experiment: Gary Wilson at TEDxGlasgow
2. Why I Stopped Watching Porn: Ran Gavrieli at TEDxJaffa 2013
3. Violence Against Women: It’s a Men’s Issue: Jackson Katz at TEDxFiDiWomen
4. Make Love Not Porn: http://talkabout.makelovenotporn.tv
5. Sexual Recovery: Pornography Addiction
6. No Fap: http://www.nofap.org
7. The Good Men Project: http://goodmenproject.com
8. ManKind Project: http://mankindproject.org

Endnotes:

(1) 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18. Source.

(2) This section is based on information and language from a study by Gary R. Brooks, Ph.D. found on pages 23-24 of this Report.

(3) Numerous studies have documented links between porn viewership and increased instances of sexism and violence toward women. Here is one: Source.

113 thoughts on “One Man’s Journey: How I Stopped Watching Porn for 1 Year and Why I’m Not Going Back

  1. Courageous, bold, articulate, insightful, and visionary. You are champion of women and a beacon of light for men!

  2. It’s good you have done this, I don’t think many men realize how much it ruins relationships with real women. I think women sense when men are thinking of fake sex during sex and are really turned off by it. I am amazed a man has realized this. Realizing the spiritual potential of lovemaking, in ways only poets can articulate. You have given me hope for mankind.

  3. Wow, I’m so moved that a man has such sensitivity, insight, and care towards women, and the maturity to care for your own sexual health in this way. Thank you for inspiring me to believe there are men like you out there!

    • So moved that a man is capable of being sensitive and insightful, and shows care towards women? May I suggest you stop surrounding yourself with arseholes? You could end up being pleasantly surprised to discover that we’re not all bad. :)

      • Lee, As an Ayurvedic practitioner and Cranisosacral Therapist I hear women’s stories and experiences about men every day, with a compassionate and open heart. It’s not fair to assume Seraphina “surrounds” herself with immature men. Not fair to assume that she has “surrounded” herself with anything other than our brothers (who treated her poorly on their own way to maturity). Not fair to assume she is not “past” that commonplace stage of attracting insensitive partners? Why not assume she has great men in her life? After all, we are all good and bad, learned and ignorant, sensitive and self-centered. Why did you muddy this post about personal heroism with smiley-face-signed aggressive comments?

  4. I wrote a post called, “Oh Yogi, Give Up Your Porn” about my own ordeal. The post is at http://goo.gl/PbbmO1.

  5. As a woman, I appreciate your critical look at porn. But also as a woman – who enjoys porn – it’s what you watch and how you watch it. Not all porn is categorically wrong, leading to emotional supression or violence against women. This is a bit of a slippery slope argument. As a couples therapist, I support a balanced view – watching sexuality as a couple can be deeply engaging, and watching more edgy porn by yourself can satisfy the taboo parts of male and female sexuality. I applaude you if putting aside porn has led you to greater fulfillment, and I applaude you for bringing forth the question of of why one might watch porn. But lets not fully generalize and further marginalized those who enjoy a sexuality that is outside the western norm.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jayehare. I appreciate your perspective and I feel that we are pretty much on the same page. As I state in the post, “I don’t think all porn is bad.” I’m not making an argument against porn use, but rather calling for a conversation around the negative impacts of porn addiction, what that addiction (like many others) often does to rewire our brain, and what impacts that rewiring can have on our lives and relationships. I’m also sharing what I’ve noticed has shifted in my own life as a result of ending my porn addiction. Many of these shifts have been very positive for me. That may or may not not be the same for others. In the end, I’m not anti-porn. I’m all for positive, consensual, non-addictive porn use! However, research has indicated that this is predominantly not the kind of porn people are watching…

    • Yeah… not really a therapist I don’t think, because that was pretty off base in your assessment of what he wrote, and it wasn’t all that long to be so confusing. He didn’t “fully generalize and further marginalize” others, don’t know where you got that one, he was pretty clear he was stating only his own experiences and ideas. Hope you listen better in your therapy sessions. He is right on the money as far as my own personal experiences have shown me, and I applaud his putting this out there for others to think about. Well done indeed!!!

  6. How did you stop? What was it like on day 1? Day 10? Day 30?

    • Great questions Mer, I hope Dan answers them because his discussion of the addiction process in relation to porn is extremely superficial. I am very happy to see another voice raising this deeply important issue but disappointed to see it is framed – as most are – in the simplistic terms of a recovery “success story” and all the benefits it has brought. Dan shows little understanding of addiction by writing from the perspective that it was all over and done with from the moment he decided to give it up. I hope he has the time, energy and courage to improve an already interesting article with a bit more honesty about the challenges not just the rewards.

      • Thanks Mer and Tom. Thanks for your comments. To reply: It was NOT easy. But, as I mentioned in the post my addiction seems to have been mild. I was never a daily user. I was, however, using porn on a weekly basis for most of the prior 10 years. Day 1 wasn’t hard. Like I said, I’m not a daily user. Day 10 was tougher. I had to consciously “check” myself when I thought about watching porn and I decided to reach out to a buddy of mine to help me stay accountable to my goal. That proved very useful. I also joined a men’s group, and found support there. 30 days in, I was still scared I’d relapse but I was starting to feel some of the positive things I wrote about in the post…so by that time, I knew it wasn’t worth the risk of losing that for 1 stupid session. So I kept strong. I gotta say, a lot of what motivated me was my stubbornness. I was going to prove to myself that I could do it – no matter what! So I did. And that’s part of why I feel so good about it. But I didn’t have to work as hard as someone who has a more serious addiction. I’ve gotten a number of comments from men who are in this position and they say it is absolute hell. I wrote this blog post in order to start a conversation and to shed light on a topic that is rarely ever talked about. My hope is that more men (and women) will reach out for the support they need/want…when the timing is right for them. Doesn’t mean they have to quit! That’s up to each person. Just means they may chose to make a more conscious decision about the role that porn plays in their lives.

    • When stopping an addiction such as this with no physical withdrawal symptoms if say stop on day 1.

      I would also like to know about if you continued to masterbate after quitting porn, and if so, about what?

      Loved the article, touched on a few thoughts and feelings I’ve had myself over the years. Nice one Dan :)

    • I have 11 months now of being porn/masturbation free. It gets progressively easier with time though the urge (like drugs) never fully passes. Watching a TED talk on the effect of porn on the brain was REALLY helpful. Best of luck to all who struggle with this.

  7. This video came to as I do believe the Author and I have a mutual friend and I was talking to that mutual friend after watching the two first TedTalks listed in this blog. I had decided then and there to swear off Porn and commit more deeply to everything stated in this blog and I am really glad to see more men of this ilk. I will spread awareness about this issue and not be silenced! Thank you Dan Mahle

  8. Great article, I’m hopeful to hear a man speaking like this. It’s so depressing to find man after man treating me the same. I gave up and said no more, I’d rather be alone. So you may not know how much this article means to me. It means so much….

  9. Porn addiction sounds like it is something that really affected your life. I think both sides of the coin should be discussed, though. Porn is created by humans. Which means these fantasy scenes of controlling men or submissive women are created by our existing sexual desires. Kind of like which came first, the chicken or the egg. So these images you see on some porn movies are reflections of natural human desires. Porn itself is not to blame. Art is imitating life. A world without porn may or may not have more violence towards women. I’m sure for every man that is negatively affected by viewing porn there is another man that finds a safe place to express himself sexually, alone, not harming others. My hope is that as the world’s society progresses we can reduce the objectification of all people (women AND men– yes men are objectified too).. While still allowing freedom of expression and the art of sexuality. I hope porn for women (porn that taps into woman’s sexual desires specifically) will become more popular. Sex is apart of humanity and to change that would mean changing the way our brains work. The objectification of anything is not healthy– yes, that iPhone you typed your viewing this on can be an unhealthy objectificatoin and it is for many many people.

    • You should read up about ex-pornstar women who speak out about the porn industry. You might think differently about how many of those women who appear to be submissive really are. They’re mostly drugged to numb themselves from the indistries abuse. Its male dominated & anti-women.

      I watched some women speak out about it & was horrified.

    • Hey Ben, thanks for the comment. Point 1: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with dominant or submissive sexual behavior. In fact, that polarity can be an important spark in relationships. What I see as a problem is when people don’t recognize a difference between sex and porn – when we think that what happens in porn videos is real. Or that the way women are treated in porn is how women like to be treated in reality. This is a very important distinction. Point 2: I agree with your vision of ending the objectification of both women and men. One way to do that is to abstain from spending hours objectifying them – as mere bodies for sexual pleasure – in porn videos. The scary thing that I found was that I objectified people in every-day life way more back when I watched porn regularly that I do now (having quit). In other words, the impacts of porn consumption did not stay in my home; Porn affected my life and my relationships out in the world as well. Point 3: I am sex positive, all about embodied masturbation, and opposed to any belief structure that shames people for their sexual expressions or preferences – so long as they are rooted in mutual consent. So, let’s keep being sexy. Let’s keep thinking about sex and having sex. A LOT! But let’s also differentiate between real sex and fake sex. Let’s regain the power to make clear and conscious decisions about the role porn plays in our lives – instead of letting it become an uncontrollable habit. And, finally, let’s be committed to the wellbeing, respect, and empowerment of women and men everywhere to transform the culture of violence into a culture of love.

      • joopson: From a place of truly caring about women, I am more concerned about the many women who are being exploited in the porn industry than I am about the few who may be enjoying it. Sure, both scenarios may be true. But it’s important to be curious about what behavior or belief you are able to rationalize by denying the fact that many women endure harm in the porn industry…?

  10. my encounters with porn were pretty much like my first encounters with hard alcohol. i found it pretty distasteful and so never acquired much of an interest. as opposed to sex, it appeared that the players were either angry, completely selfish, and relentlessly insatiable. it didn’t look like any fun at all. so it is difficult for me to relate to it as something that could be addicting. but then, there are people who don’t care for the disorientation and fuzziness of a good narcotic pain-killer, and for me, that attraction is something i have to actively resist at every opportunity. so i get it, even though i don’t experience it. and the drugs have the additional challenge of being expensive and difficult to get, as opposed to the ready availability of porn. if it were that easy for me to round up oxycontin, i would probably really suffer. so congratulations to you on truly overcoming an addiction to such a readily-available drug. not sure i could sit here on my high horse and say “it doesn’t do anything for me” if the tables were turned. in fact, i’d probably be off in a big fuzzy cloud somewhere. good job, and excellent writing.

  11. My decision to stop was based on the realization that if I used when my partner was out of town, it would hurt her feelings. I never really considered it an harmful addiction until I felt my own lack of control when in a relationship. As soon as I realized my lack of control would hurt her, out of a deep need for integrity, and a powerful insight into my own toxic shame around women in general, I finally found the “mantra” to stop myself. Once that took effect, I had re-educated my body/mind to a non-porn habit.

    • Kailas, you offer a great example of what is possible when we are willing to take a difficult & honest look at ourselves, assess where we’re at, and determine what we want to do differently in our lives. Toxic shame and secrecy go hand in hand – it is only when we are willing to illuminate the darkest corners of our lives that we reveal the power we have to transform our deepest shadows into new life-affirming strengths. Thank you for offering others the benefit of your insight.

  12. The real impact of porn: this is very honest and revealing look at porn, especially the changes Dan found in himself when he became porn free. This is not to say porn is wrong, just to challenge users to really learn what impact it is having on you. If you are a regular porn user what would you discover about yourself after a porn free year? I have recently been checking out porn after an absence of many years and the most astounding thing for me is that nobody appears to be really feeling anything. They are certainly not breathing very much. It is SO visually focussed, and extremely good at creating visual attraction, variety, mindless tension, and goal oriented outcomes eg. orgasm, especially cum shots. It is also interesting to notice a pattern of women appearing effortlessly orgasmic without any real interaction with their partner, then main interest is in the man’s one orgasm. That’s another thing, the males orgasms are so puny, so sad to see men limited in their capacity for pleasure. It all seems to be becoming more automated and disembodied. Not a choice I would make for my own sexuality…and not surprising to me that Dan discovered so much richness for himself outside of porn. Although I felt sad he avoided finding the positives in the sexual fantasy that really worked for him- owning our dark sides can bring much freedom and self love. This is where porn can be helpful.

    • Annette, thank you for your comment. I think you’re spot on about the lack of any real intimacy or affection in porn – and about the absence of any deeper levels of sexual expression in the scenarios that are depicted. Clearly, as you noted, nearly all porn is focused around male sexual release. I think you’re right about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater – sexual fantasy can be a really wonderful thing. It only becomes problematic when it is influenced – and even fueled – by a culture of sexual violence and objectification. I’m all for transforming that social context and keeping the sexual fantasy. But we’ve got a lot of work to do.

  13. I am sure many women are applauding Mr. Mahle’s essay, but he never addresses a larger issue, which is that there are a great many lonely and sexually frustrated men out there whom most of the opposite sex write-off as potential partners for not being handsome enough, tall enough, financially secure enough, charismatic enough, muscular enough, young enough, et al, et cetera. For these men, both porn and sex workers are a desperate last resort.

    • Hi Rick, thank you for your comment. I’ve been that guy for much of the past 4 years of my life. Alone. In my experience, watching porn creates a self fulfilling prophesy of loneliness, a feedback loop of isolation that keeps us from experiencing truly intimate connection. There are plenty of sexually frustrated women out there, too, who are self-conscious about their own perceived shortcomings. What keeps those men and women from connecting? I believe that fantasy, disembodiment, emotional unavailability, and self-loathing (all things I experienced personally) play a big role in our continued isolation from one another. Breaking the porn habit allowed me to step outside my bubble of normalcy long enough to recognize some parts of my behavior – and some negative beliefs I held about myself – that I did not want to bring with me into the future. So I made a choice. I found support. And I’m now making progress. The battle is never over; our society is desperately afraid to talk about sex, let alone positive and healthy sexuality. But though the challenge persists, I’ve come to a place of integrity and self confidence that I know will help me navigate the rugged path ahead. I wish you well, brother.

    • Hi Rick,

      I was quite impressed with the tone and content of the original post, and I was surprised that yours was the only blatantly offensive comment I had to suffer through.

      No one is entitled to exploit others’ bodies because they feel lonely. Whims do not give you or anyone license to someone else’s dignity and autonomy. Please check your premises and consider your implications.

      If you feel sexually frustrated, you have a hand and a shower. No one EVER should have to suffer for you to feel sexually liberated.

    • I cannot echo enough what Tiffany 267 said. And thank you to Dan for the incredibly empathetic response, as I was trying to figure out how I could hold that tension.

      While it seems that this post comes from a place of tremendous hurt and pain and frustration, the underlying entitlement needs to be addressed. Women-identified people are not a monolith, all seeking the qualities you assert “the opposite sex” is looking for (and can we talk about the sex and gender distinction here?). It is entirely possible that you have had women reject you or other men for those traits, but there are also women who are looking for a myriad of other qualities in a partner. In fact, the number of women I’ve met who care deeply about financial security or muscles or age or traditional views of “handsomeness” and the like are far fewer than the number of women I’ve known who are looking for a partner (male or female) who cares deeply, listens well, wants to engage in mutual accountability, and is willing do to the tough work of a relationship.

      More than anything, though, this post is deeply sexist at best and misogynistic at worst. It says that women owe men satisfaction and that women owe men pleasure. It implies that men are not responsible for our own emotional healing but that women must be the ones to heal our loneliness. And it expresses an entitlement to women’s bodies (that is reminiscent of the “friend zone” trope) that if only those picky women would look at the “nice guy” then they would realize that he is entitled to her body and her sex too. In short, this sentiment objectifies women and castes them in tremendously limiting light.

    • Good point. There is not someone for everyone. Not all men will have sex partners. Sad but true. C’est la vie. For these men masturbation is necessary and for that pornography is necessary. Failure to clear the vas deferens regularly enough is a risk factor in prostate cancer. You could say that anti-pornography campaigners are a public health risk.

    • Just wondering about where you said not all porn is bad, that there is some porn that is not bad. For someone with an addiction total abstinence from the addiction is the only safe course, yeah? Like an alcoholic saying that (for instance) they cant have any alcohol but beer is okay? I’m not sure that there is any “good” porn. What happens between two people is private and not for other people to become aroused over. Any thoughts there :)

      • I’m not sure that Dan was saying that any porn is right for him. Instead, he seems to be saying that there is some pornography and expressions of sex that can be consumed that are not harmful and destructive. To use your analogy, it’s like an alcoholic recognizing that while they cannot personally imbibe alcohol, they recognize that alcohol itself isn’t the sole problem and that others can consume alcohol without finding themselves addicted and hurting others.

      • Yes, Jamie captured my intention very well.

      • I’m just wondering where the idea that pornography is bad comes from. It’s not bad. It’s an option. A choice which no one has the right to deny. It seems to me that feminism has become such a religion that feminists want to control what everyone see, thinks and does just like the church. They want to inculcate guilt complexes for normal behaviour. There is even an Adam and Eve Garden of Eden fall in patriarchy theory and the promise of a paradise on earth coming if we just atone and confess our sins (of being born rapists instead of born sinners).

        I’ve seen this BS before. No good came of it in the Catholic Church creating screwed up priests and worshipers and no good will come to society developed along lines informed by patriarchy theory. A sure recipe for disaster.

  14. P.s Just thinking the line can become VERY grey when deciding what is good and not good, who makes that call?

    • I found that pornography, and simply lust in general, created an endogenous cocktail within me, the drugs that I believe Dr. Satinover testified as being “chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction”. These chemicals did not require any particular visual stimulation, as in a type or degree of pornography. In fact, during my own wrestling with sobriety, I thought I could just go to ‘decaf’, no nudity whatsoever, just seductive, sexy stuff. But that experiment failed and actually increased my obsessive compulsion in the chase for arousal. What became clear to me is that the state of arousal was the target of addiction and not the visual content. I feel that to attain sobriety it’s necessary to avoid being online (without filters, etc) for at least a year or so. I’ve proven that I couldn’t fight the addiction with my addicted mind calling the shots because it always found or created loopholes.
      Now that the porn-monkey is no longer riding me I’ve been experiencing the vitality and connection to life that Dan writes about. My life is more connected to reality and no longer entranced with delusion.

      • Scott, what you’ve written here is right-on. I especially appreciated your statement: “I’ve proven that I couldn’t fight the addiction with my addicted mind calling the shots because it always found or created loopholes.” As you’ve spoken to, it’s not the content that is addictive but the arousal/constant novelty that keeps us returning over and over. That’s why people often follow a trajectory from soft-core porn to hard-core porn, because the more we look at the same video or image, the less aroused we feel over time. This leads us to search for something even more novel and, in many cases, even more hardcore and explicit. Before we know it, we’re hooked. I’m glad the “porn-monkey” is no longer riding you. And I’m glad to hear that, as a result, you are living a more authentic life.

      • Some witches believed they were witches. It was all nonsense just as the anti-pornography rhetoric is all nonsense. Witches were the cause of all the evils seen in society and everyone but everyone knew that witches did really exist. Today everyone is buying into an equally erroneous anti-pornography campaign convinced that the claims are all true and they are buying into the larger patriarchy theory which informs this nonsense.

  15. No porn is good period. If you are one who disagrees with this statement then it is safe to assume that you look. So before you rebutle try an experiment. Stop all porn for one month and see how much it affects you. Let me explain from personal expirience. I can’t remember when I starded probably because I was young. But I know that I was very sexual… A couple of years ago I found out that I was sexually abused as a child from the age of 4 ( I can’t remember because it have blocked it but when a cop shows up at your door wanting to know if you want to press charges on a former neighbour you can’t disregard it) I won’t go into details but when I found out so many things became clear. Like why , when my husband and I would get intimate , I would be mentally in the corner of the room instead of in the bed. I am 30 now. So I could spend hours telling you what I have gone through and learned. But you should know that when I was a child I didn’t have the ability to find hard core. We didn’t even have a computer. I remember looking in Sears mags and being aroused, looking at drawings from sex ed and being aroused. The fact is your brain releases a cemical when it is stimulated. Granted those of you on here that think some is good are probably desensitized to it. But that doesn’t mean it is fine. That’s where it started…. For your children’s sake don’t go around saying some is bad and some is good you will only enable people with excuses until they are addicted. I am five and a half years sober from porn. Of those five and a half years I am only two years mentally sober. Meaning I don’t have sex with my husband and the images of others. I simply make love to him….. If you think this isn’t hard try it once. No fantasies, images, roleplay in your head…. That will open you up to a new challenge… And self controle. But also the best experience you will ever have because it is real.

    • Great comment, Ambrosia! This was my husband’s experience–and mine–when he stopped using porn. REAL lovemaking, with a real connection between us instead of porn images between us.

    • Hi Ambrosia, thank you for sharing your story and concerns here. I completely understand why you chose to make the decision to quite porn altogether. I agree that, for many people who are coming off of a porn addiction (or pattern of porn use behavior that they want to change), it can be important to eliminate all porn for a period of time – if not forever. However, that being said, I am a firm believer in people’s inherent right to freedom of choice and self-determination. What works for some, may not for others. We are each different. So I trust that we will each make a decision that is right for us, given our own unique story. I DO, however, believe that we should speak openly about our relationships with porn and the many ways that porn may affect our lives. I also believe that we should stop watching porn videos that display acts of violence, abuse, and objectification of women. I don’t think porn is going away anytime soon. But I think we have the power to shift what we watch and what we support in a way that transforms the industry. Most importantly, let’s keep the conversation going!

  16. Hi Dan,
    You have begun a conversation (much needed in the world) with a reflection from your personal experience and have shared with us by having the strength to begin to address true honesty with self. This is deeply felt and appreciated.
    With love,
    Greg

  17. Jamie, Tiffany and Ambrosia only confirm for me that abandoning my support for feminism back in the early 90s was the right thing to do, in that feminism often inclines towards distorted logic, anti-male hostility and shame-fueled sexual puritanism.

    You write “Please check your premises and consider your implications.” Let’s start with yours: “Whims do not give you or anyone license to someone else’s dignity and autonomy.” One false premise of yours is that somehow porn models, both male and female (and I enjoy both), are NOT autonomous. What? Pornographers grab them off the street and force them to be photographed with their clothes off? Porn models have no volition? That even though they agreed to get naked and get paid (often very well), that they are “suffering” for my sake?

    And then there is the word “dignity”, with all of its shame-driven puritanical implications. Exactly who defines “dignity” in this world? Is being a porn model any less “dignified” than being a star on MTV’s “Jackass” or making oneself look totally ludicrous in a Judd Apatow comedy? And is that somehow a moral crime which should be outlawed? I am proud to say I’ve had friendly correspondence with Annie Sprinkle, and have also met, in person, Susie Bright, and can attest to a very impressive self-respect in both of these great ladies.

    And speaking of “implications”, where do we stop, then? Are we not even supposed to enjoy the nude scenes in Hollywood and foreign movies and cable TV programs? Are artistic nude photography coffee table books to be looked down upon as well? Shall we return to the hypocrisy of the pre-Hays Code censorship days, when the only naked bodies that we could see on film were in documentaries ostensibly promoting the healthy qualities of nudist camps?

    But hey, let’s ban not only strip shows (no “Magic Mike” for you girls), but nudist camps and nude beaches, lest any male or female actually check out somebody else’s body and fantasize about it later, robbing them of their “autonomy”. In fact, let’s honor the Islamist model and put everybody (men AND women) in burqas, because speaking of implications, that is the logical end consequence of Tiffany’s “premise”.

    (As technology advances, Tiffany can throw her weight behind NSA-type surveillance of people’s thoughts, lest they “objectify” somebody)

    • Rick, as much as I hate porn, I agree with your comment. Not sure why Ambrosia’s comment offended you, though. She is talking about her own experience and recommending it to others, much as you are recommending yours.

      I will fight alongside you in a political fight to prohibit porn because prohibition has never been an effective way to drive moral choices. On the other hand, I will continue to eschew porn myself and recommend to others not to take their sexual fantasies outside marriage. Most of us fail in that but the ideal is not evil.

      The idea of prohibiting porn is.

      • The way to transform shame is by shining a light on it, not by pushing it under the rug. Porn prohibition will never work because it robs people of their right to freedom of choice and expression and because it pushes our shame under the rug and never actually addresses it. I’m asking us to explore where that shame lives in us (we each have it) and take an honest look at how it may be affecting our lives. (Read my comments above for more on how I feel about porn).

  18. Other than the typo “I thought I could quite porn whenever I felt like it,” this article is the best I’ve read so far on the subject. Great work.

    • Yes, it is a regrettable typo. I almost feel ashamed….but then I remember my motto: “Fuck Shame!” And it no longer bother me :) Thanks for your positive feedback. Cheers.

  19. Wow, there’s so much confusion in this article that I hardly know where to start. For example, it (and the alleged science it cites) contains no evidence that porn has any actual bad effects, just vague assertions that using it (I assume to masturbate, a word the author avoids) somehow makes men bad – more misogynistic, less “emotionally available”, or somehow promotes bad behavior towards women.

    There’s no credible evidence of any of this (and yes, I looked at the articles in the end-notes), any more than the idea that video games cause a rise in crime. The “science” cited in the end notes makes several faulty assumptions, first the mistake of treating all porn as one monolithic item, and second conflating correlation with cause and effect. This is not actually science, it’s just writing trying to “prove” the writers preexisting bias. There’s a lot of that masquerading as science on the internet.

    The citations note a correlation between sadistic porn and sadistic viewers, but that does not prove cause and effect. If a misogynist who uses porn stops the porn, he still a misogynist. Removing the porn doesn’t automatically improve a mans whole attitude towards women, in fact it could easily make it worse. Look at how well requiring Catholic priests to abstain from sex has worked out. Abstaining from porn is the same thinking.

    Which raises the point that religions have been trying to control and demonize sex for centuries. Burqas, anyone? Their influence permeates most societies; even if you didn’t grow up going to a fundamentalist Church or Mosque those of us in the Americas or Islamic world have still been steeped in their silly ideas. We feel guilt because that deep indoctrination is telling us it’s bad; not because it really is.

    In another logical fallacy, this article treats all porn as the same. I see a huge difference between a snuff film and a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Someone enjoying a snuff film is not turned sadistic or misogynistic by the film, rather his existing state drove his choice of porn. The fact the author mentions using porn that refers to women as “bitches” and “sluts” says more about the author’s choice of material than anything else. Lots of erotic imagery cherishes and celebrates women and their bodies.

    I’d bet a lot of money that the author did not grow up in a culture which lauded sex and orgasms with lots of erotic imagery. Instead, this article is wrapping old religious memes up in the language of new age psychology to perpetuate pointless guilt. I hope no one takes it too seriously.

    • Stitch,
      A couple of things. First, I can’t say for sure, as I’m not in Dan’s head, but I don’t think that Dan is saying that porn is the problem or that there is necessarily an inherent link between watching porn and abusing women. What he is saying is that more often than not, porn is a symptom of the real problem: patriarchal oppression. Just as sexual violence is not the problem but a symptom of the wider problem of oppression, much mainstream porn simply reinforces at a young age all of the messages that we receive in society about the value and worth of women and the power and dominance of men.

      Being anti-mainstream porn doesn’t have anything to do with being anti-sex or exploration. I consider myself quite sex positive, and I recognize that many of the people involved in porn are choosing to participate and are happy to do so, but that doesn’t meant that I support it as an industry that furthers the wider oppression of women in our society.

      Part of the tricky thing in being against mainstream porn, though, is that you find yourself in a coalition that you don’t necessarily want to be a part of. I find that people from very sex-shaming, far right religious communities are sharing this piece as much as sex-positive, feminist folks who are not big fans of most pornography. That’s a weird place to be in. But it doesn’t mean that both of those groups of people are the sex shaming people you characterize Dan to be in this comment.

      • Thanks for the reply. I can’t say what’s in Dan’s head either. He claims he not against all porn, but he makes pretty harsh statements about it. His “Impacts of porn” are horrifying: “Violence Against Women”? “Numbness & Disembodiment”? Yikes! If I didn’t know dozens of men who use porn regularly and yet experience none of these I would imagine porn “addiction” was worse than meth, heroin and alcohol put together.

        I probably have more anecdotal data about this than most commenters here since I’ve spend 25+ years counseling men in recovery from alcohol addiction through AA. We share about sex a bit more honestly than the usual chatter by the office water cooler. The men using porn (unlike alcohol) seem no more inclined toward violence or numbness than those who don’t – the only issue they have is the guilt from being raised in a judgmental society.

        When I began my spiritual journey, a few years before giving up my substances, I too felt guilt about porn, masturbation, and other sex-related things. I was raised protestant. Work with spiritually mature men, 12 steps, Buddhism, and John Bradshaw, etc., freed me of the guilt. First there was an abundance of women in my life, then I found my wife; with whom I have had a great 20 years. For when my wife is busy or traveling, the porn remains.

        Your point about porn being a symptom of a bigger issue is right on the money, although I’d argue the issue is sometimes just “men are horny.” Selecting porn that calls women sluts or bitches, or depicts pain & injury (against men or women), is clearly a symptom of something uglier, but it’s only a symptom – not the root cause.

        I remain convinced that guilt is a much bigger problem than porn. In my experience the guilt is most present in men who were raised religious, and a recent study seems to bear this out:

        http://blog.case.edu/think/2014/02/12/strong_religious_beliefs_may_drive_selfperception_of_being_addicted_to_online_pornography

        (I love real science, even psychology.)
        Giving up porn to evade the guilt apparently helps some men, but it’s like saying antihistamines “cure” colds – they don’t, they just fix one symptom.

        If someone can pull together some well-designed science which shows porn causes any of Dans “impacts” I’d be fascinated to see it; but the works cited in this posting don’t cut it for reasons I’ve already addressed. To convince guilt-free men to give up their porn you’re going to have to do better than that!

      • Hey Stitch, what I’ve done is shared my personal experience – and made connections to some broader societal trends. I realize that each of us has a different relationship to porn. Some use it compulsively, others sparingly; some experience the affects of porn use that I experienced, others do not. The LAST thing I want is for anyone to feel a sense of guilt or shame about who they are or how they choose to express their sexuality. I am not religious, personally, so I think it is a bit harder for me to understand where you are coming from on this issues – since I have never experienced religiously-based sex shaming. I am sex-positive and all for embodied masturbation. And I’m against the secrecy that leads to toxic shame (my motto is “fuck shame!”). I think every person should make their own decision regarding porn use. What I am inviting us to consider is that we are not always aware of all of the impacts that a habit (like porn use) may have on our lives and/or relationships, until we stop the behavior and look at it from a new perspective. What I discovered was that I thought I had way more control over my porn use than I actually did. And when I quit, my life got way better (e.g. I experienced all of the things that I wrote about). I’m inviting other men to take a critical look at the role porn plays in their lives, so they can make a conscious decision about how they want to relate to it, moving forward. That’s totally up to them. Now, the one thing I have heard over and over from people (mostly women) is that porn often gets in the way of honest communication (due to shame and secrecy), hinders true intimacy (due to the lack of embodiment), and diminishes attraction to one’s partner (due, in part, to the brain’s increasing desire for novelty). Sure, this is anecdotal evidence and opinion-based conjecture. But it’s very real for a lot of people. This is a very complicated and controversial issue. Let’s focus on empowering people to make conscious and decisions in their lives. Whatever those may be. At the end of the day, each of us can only speak with authority from our own perspective and our own lived experience. Let’s embrace the complexity and dig deeper into the issue so we can all benefit from greater awareness.

  20. thank you for addressing such an important topic in a thoughtful, insightful and sensitive way. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. We need more men like you that will address this topic. I belong to a church who regularly addresses this topic, but I don’t hear the rest of the world talking about this pervasive danger. thank you.

  21. Hi Dan, this is a courageous post. I want to commend you for sharing your experience, and attempting to put it into a context. The topic of sexuality is a minefield. It is useful to examine the research and literature on the subject, but essential to put it through the lens of experience. For myself, coming of age when the internet was not a thing, the closest I got to porn was Playboy and the like. There is no comparison between that and the hard core porn videos now all over the internet. I first fully realized that I could be aroused by the power of images of sexual domination while watching Jodie Foster in the movie, The Accused (1988). I was disturbed by the fact that I found that depiction of a gang rape arousing–and I have heard other men report the same thing about their reaction to that movie. It brings up a lot of questions, such as, why are thoughts and images of sexual domination (including rape) arousing (at least some of the time to some or many men)? Is it wrong or harmful to seek out that type of stimulation (images or fantasies)? What does it mean that I might fantasize about things that I would never want to carry out in real life? Are men hardwired for sexual aggression? How much of the arousal response is tied to feelings of powerlessness in our daily lives, either with respect to women specifically or in jobs, politics, family, relationship, etc? How does exposure to and consumption of hard-core pornography affect our sex lives, our relationships, our well-being? Does it lead us to the kind of life we want to be living?
    I believe there is nothing to be gained through feelings of shame around our sexual responses; and that the dark side of eros has something to teach us. We all of us carry what has been termed the shadow within us, and integrating that is key to our humanity. Like genocide, rape is never ok; both require dehumanizing the other so as to remain disconnected from the emotional reality of the act. SS officers were required to adopt and befriend a cat for a period of time before gouging out their eyes. Much hard core pornography serves to desensitize us to the realities of sexual violence. To be resensitized, to our own exquisite beauty and sensitivity and the subtle dance of relationship that is the essence of life, is a journey that leads to compassion for suffering, the suffering of others and the suffering and longing of those aspects of ourselves that are trying, desperately, to be heard, to be seen, to get their needs met. I firmly believe that pornography falls in the category of things about which it is said, “you can never get enough of what you don’t need.” In other words, it is no substitute for love.

    • Eric, thank you for your vulnerable sharing and your deep insights. There is a lot to think about here…and I’m glad you’ve given these important questions a voice in this conversation.

  22. Whew! Lots of testosterone and estrogen getting thrown around here in these comments. I guess that is understandable and inevitable given the central position of our sexuality we each ascribe to our identity, whether we recognize/acknowledge this or not. This while coping in societies, where for the most part, such public expression is only very narrowly condoned (clothed kissing and hugging for example).

    So porn and porn in its addictive forms becomes the secret remedy. Sad how we have so perverted our precious sexual identities in this way. Addiction is addiction is addiction: its potential within us remains forever despite “coming clean” and needs to be checked regularly. There is no such thing as a clean bill of health on addiction. And as far as I can tell, keeping any addiction in check can never be an exclusively solo endeavor.

    Lastly, let me add that I disagree with those that equate use of pornography with masturbation as harmful, sinful, abusive, etc. Masturbation is a whole new topic. Let’s not so quickly put it in the same conversation with pornography.

    So thanks for this opening post and the debate fostered by all the commentaries. We will never all agree on everything, but we make progress by engaging the conversation.

    • Thanks, tc: as you mentioned, porn use and masturbation each deserve their own conversations. Secrecy is the main culprit here. It is rooted in toxic shame, which diminishes our sense of self-worth and leads to addictive behaviors. Let’s keep the conversation going!

  23. Thank you for this wonderful, self-revealing exploration into yourself. What I take from it is the story of a man who discovered a stuck place in himself where he kept returning in an attempt to fill an emptiness. I resonate with this story as I have many habits that formed around deep unmet needs. What makes the story transcendent to me is I get that Dan found a way to dig into the emptiness, spend time with it and feel it completely enough to find himself in there waiting for him. While the story appears to focus on porn, I think that aspect is the least important part of the tale. The flavor my empty places take has varied throughout my life and it doesn’t matter if I call it porn, alcohol, TV, psychoactive drugs or running. The key for me is to recognize the habitual return to an old way of filling a hole, so that I can begin to pay attention to the hole itself. This is story is the archetypal tale of how ending an “addiction” becomes the golden search for self.
    Thank you Dan.

    • You got it! Though it is important to note my other main message in the post, which is that mainstream porn is symptomatic of a larger system of violence and oppression toward women (and some men as well) that I believe we must transform in order to create a culture of love and acceptance for ourselves and everyone else.

    • Once again, I appreciate your perspective on this issue – given your background of religious-based sex/porn shaming. I look forward to learning more from your story.

  24. Thank you Dan, for a beautifully-written piece!

    As the founder PoSARC (Partners of Sex Addicts Resource Center) I work exclusively with partners who are struggling mightily against the effects of living with a porn/sex-addicted significant other.

    The collective grief of partners in this situation is colossal. One look at my Inbox with the heart-wrenching e-mails I receive daily from partners seeking help is proof that the numbers of partners of porn addicts are growing daily. Partners who speak out are being ignored, ridiculed, called prude, conservative or religiously uptight in the name of men’s “right” (ahem) to use pornography.

    Partners are often used sexually as a warm body on which the porn addict superimposes his fantasy, or else the partner is sexually abandoned altogether…all while being raged at for standing in the way of the addict’s “supply” when he encounters objection to his porn use. The partner’s objection is more often than not obliterated as the addict enlists the loud voice of the porn industry that maintains that they are absolutely entitled to pornography use, no questions asked! The fact that over 40% of compulsive porn users then progress to more escalated sexual behaviors is a woefully underreported fact. This includes violent fantasy porn and prostitution/massage parlors. Last year, it was reported that over SEVENTY PERCENT of marriages were ending in divorce over a spouse’s pornography “habit”. Why was that not front-page news?!

    Most days, the work here feels like trying to sweep the ocean back with a broom with the Sexual Exploitation Industry flooding our every media device with access to pornographic content, even as new, younger addicts are being cultivated every day.

    We hear a bit nowadays about how compulsive porn use very often leads to Erectile Dysfunction or Copulatory Impotence (being able to achieve erection only in front of the computer, but not with their wife or partner).

    But NO ONE is talking about how all this porn use feeds the Supply end of the Supply & Demand chain of human trafficking, much of which uses its victims for the making of pornography. Nope, don’t hear much about that at all, yet it’s a fact. Most assume that the girl smiling seductively in the porn video wants to be there, that she doesn’t have a gun to her head, real or metaphorical.
    Let’s start a conversation on the word “choice” as a next topic. As in: how socio-economic disparity for girls and women world-wide is a gun, and so on.

    If we want to belong to the human race, it’s our responsibility to consider ALL of the effects of our actions, porn use included A global humanism that abhors and will not tolerate exploitation of others is our next bold frontier….and it’s long in coming.

    Thank you for being brave enough to take a stand and get these conversations started. There are hundreds of thousands of us out here who appreciate you more than you may know…..

    Gratefully,

    Lili Bee
    Founder, posarc.com

    • Lili Bee, You’re using numbers like “SEVENTY PERCENT of marriages…” and “40% escalate…”, etc.Can you please site your sources?

      • It is interesting to note that Lili seems to be working mostly with women and you, Stitch, seem to be mostly working with men (in your AA groups). I wonder if this difference in perspective could offer any new learning in this conversation? Rather than simply dissecting statistics (although that IS valid), is there something we can all learn here based on the countless stories and experiences that you have each witnessed?

  25. Alas, Lili Bee, San Francisco’s kink.com, many of whose actresses are college-educated professionals acting out their politically incorrect fantasies (and speaking positively about it afterwards) undercuts your claim that all women in porn are being coerced by violence or poverty. And so far none of the enemies of porn in this thread are willing to articulate where do we draw the line with regards to looking at a naked body. I mean, for decades, generations of boys would leaf through “National Geographic” for an opportunity to check out naked tribal women. Are we going to return to an age of pretense and pretext (art, anthropology, et cetera) to indulge a universal human impulse?

    Even if standard hard-core pornography were to magically evaporate, would that suddenly result in happy marriages and happy sex lives for couples? As if there ever was such a golden age. Perhaps porn has brought to the surface inherent problems in relationship paradigms (total monogamy, et cetera), that have never fully worked for all people, no matter what political and religious leaders have been hypocritically proclaiming for centuries.

    • To Rick, just because a small fraction of women claim that they have had “positive” associations to whatever it is they do on that website, does not negate the actual conditions surrounding the lives of the vast majority of the women (and girls) in the global sex industry. You seem intelligent enough to see that.
      And, you seem to be summoning the argument that lustful art throughout history is proof that we have been immersed in pornography for centuries. We have indeed had lustful art, on pottery, cave walls even. But never has the image been so real that our realities have been bent to the point that the fantasy images supplant reality. There’s even legal marriages in Japan to virtual females that do not exist in reality! I doubt any ancient Greeks ever married a wine pitcher.
      This is a new paradigm, led by the corporately induced, for-profit delusion that there are a surplus of biological mating partners, beckoning our mortal impulses to procreate. We are actually more enslaved by these impulses and chained into submission by these tools of manipulation. It’s crowd control with a very high profit attached.

      • Scott, Google “Venus of Willendorf ” – at 28,000 years old one of the oldest known human artifacts ever. Porn, realistic and with exaggerated sexual attributes, is not new.

      • (Rick, Stitch, Scott, and others): I think Stitch is right that “porn-like” artifacts have been around for a long time…and I think Scott is right that today’s porn is very different from the porn of the past. As he stated, “…never has the image been so real that our realities have been bent to the point that the fantasy images supplant reality.” I don’t think sexually explicit images, videos, or artifacts are inherently wrong. I think they can be great! The problem is that the porn we see today blurs the line between fantasy and reality – distorting our perception of real people and our understanding of true intimacy. Also, porn today is rooted in a culture of sexism, misogyny, objectification and violence against women (and men), where secrecy and shame can (and often do) perpetuate cycles of harm. Let’s transform our society from a culture of shame, secrecy, and control, to a culture of respect, consent, and love. Then we can ALL feel safe in expressing our authentic sexuality.

    • Rick, like Scott says, you seem like an intelligent guy. Have a look at this TED talk (guessing you haven’t seen it) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU#t=86 I watched it almost a year ago and it helped me to understand all this stuff for myself. I don’t mean that in a condescending way, I mean just to illustrate how much watching it helped to change my life. I have been porn free since then and my relationship with my wife of over 20 years has greatly improved, especially and predictably our sex life. As much as I wanted to believe that porn was not harmful to me, I now can say without a doubt that it undermines our lives in ways we can’t even imagine.

      • It can undermine our lives, but it doesn’t have to, and it does not always. It’s ridiculous to set hard and fast rules about what one should and shouldn’t watch.

      • @joopson, my bad. I meant to say that it undermined MY life in ways I couldn’t imagine. I was a heavy viewer and it wasn’t easy to stop. I mean only to help others that currently struggle with that level of addiction and to let them know that life can be so much better on the other side.
        The TED Talk example of the rat experiment was what really hit home with me. I decided I didn’t want to be that rat.

    • Rick, your sad fantasy of happy porn actresses is as false as the “pleasure” on their faces and their “consent” in being there to begin with. But keep telling yourself such lies rather than face the truth about how women are trafficked into and, then, shackled into staying until they age out (sometimes), or die, (the average age of death is under 40), which is more usual.

      The goal of porn is not happy relationships. the goal of porn is sexualized power-over women. You using porn to disavow/discredit monogamy is a slick, lefty dude trick. I have seen it thousands of times. You see, I am a feminist activist who know one thing absolutely for sure: that the focus should NEVER be upon the women corralled and enslaved in porn: it should be upon the demand side of the economic dynamic. And what is to be seen there is truly awful: it is men, tens of millions of very ordinary men who believe that money = consent. That women can be raped and filmed being raped for enjoyment.

      It is the choices of the men that we should examine; read their OWN words and weep: (unless that is your twisted fantasies of the matriculated Kink.com porn actresses has not completely eradicated all sense of humanity from your agenda-spouting mindset):

      http://the-invisible-men.tumblr.com

    • What’s frustrating to me about this comment and the responses is that they generally seem to be assuming that if SOME people willingly participate in pornography, ALL people willingly do so OR that if SOME people are trafficked into porn, ALL people must be fundamentally exploited in the industry.

      It is neither and both at the same time. The problem that I have is that while kink.com might be incredibly sex positive and affirming for those who are involved (there are some sites out there like that, as Dan notes in his links talking about feminist and positive pornography), there are about 10 times as many sites that are exploitive and life-ruining for those participating. If all internet pornography were depicting real world sex and were built upon a platform of sex positivity and consent rather than exploitation, we would likely be having a very different conversation than the one we’re having.

  26. Thank you for sharing, and for examining the ways that porn was impacting you and your relationships with others. My partner was addicted to porn the first couple of years of our relationship–an every couple of weeks user, but one who felt ashamed and not in control of his use. It really bothered me and we had many discussions about it. He went to a support group and ended up quitting porn, and hasn’t used it now for several years. It has made an incredible difference in more ways than I could have ever imagined. (Probably our many lengthy discussions about consent, objectification, exploitation, etc contributed to these changes, as well.) All manner of things about him–the way he related to me, the way he related to women, the way he felt about himself–changed dramatically. It changed me, as well.

    We were both pretty young when we met and our relationship was the first sexual relationship for both of us. For at least a year, he couldn’t reach orgasm with me. I always wondered if I wasn’t as desirable as porn was to him and I was angry that porn had such control over him. Porn made sex look so easy, effortless, and slick, and real life was more difficult. He had all these misconceptions about sex and women’s bodies. In porn, you’d barely have to touch a woman and they’d be screaming and writhing in ecstasy. He honestly hadn’t realized how rough the sex depicted in porn was, even though he thought he’d tried to avoid anything that looked painful, outright degrading, or unpleasant for the woman.

    He used to have all these crushes on women–his sexual radar seemed to always be up and imagining all kinds of possibilities. It made me feel disrespected and unstable, as I fluctuated between feeling angry at him and unsure of whether I was overreacting. I felt betrayed and depressed as I thought I’d finally met this guy who was a feminist tender heart only to discover this dark secret. It made me feel like there weren’t any men who were truly allies, and they all really were the leering misogynist creeps they appeared to be. I had previously figured my friend’s boyfriends and close male friends were safe, but my trust was shaken.

    Now, many years later, we have a healthy sexual relationship and communication skills. He is a more attentive partner. We are both more confident. He doesn’t get stuck in shame spirals and bouts of depression nearly as severely or frequently as he did in the past. I trust him. I trust that the first thing he thinks about when he meets someone is not their body and how it would feel to have sex with them. That is a big deal. Because 5 or 6 years ago, that wasn’t the case. I felt like I had no control in our relationship back then. I feel really proud of my partner, myself, and the work we’ve done together to heal and grow both individually and as a couple. A couple who isn’t into porn.

  27. “Rick, your sad fantasy of happy porn actresses is as false as the ‘pleasure’ on their faces and their “consent” in being there to begin with.”

    No, Terre, your claims that I am indulging in a “sad fantasy” is actually YOUR fantasy. That the college-educated professionals on kink.com, who often design the S&M scenarios they act out are doing so willingly is an empirical reality. Just check out the post-production interviews. If there was a gun off camera, you’d think at least they’d notify the police and the media? Also, Susie Bright with her lesbian porn efforts (“On Our Backs”) is a reality. Annie Sprinkle, with her pro-porn activism, is a reality.

    And speaking of kink.com, it is curious that nobody mentions S&M porn in which a guy is being “tortured” and humiliated by a dominatrix and/or by multiple women. This fetish is HUGE with many men. Or does that get a pass?

    • Thank you for making my case that it IS the demand side of the economic equation that drives content. It is exactly because men conflate violence and power with desire that the demand for BDSM exists (it does not matter who is topping whom, it matters that men WANT to see such).

      Read the words of the DEMAND side of the pornstitution industry: http://the-invisible-men.tumblr.com and then we can talk, mkay?

      • Wow, Terre. If you were aiming for snotty, you went a bit over the top. You throw around generalizations about how “men conflate violence and power with desire” in the comments about an article written by a MAN who saw a positive change in his life because he quit using porn? That’s just weird. Not all men are the jerks you want them to be. Seems you have your own vivid fantasy life.

  28. “As Dr. Jeffrey Satinover stated …”

    Sooooooo your first supporting “evidence” is a doctor who is also (dis)credited with suggesting prozac as a cure for homosexuality and who is widely cited by Christian extremists in various anti-homosexual ballot initiatives.

    Wow. Impressive.

    And with that I mean “please, readers, view the rest of his ‘evidence’ with the critical eye it really deserves and dismiss accordingly.”

    • Tammi, thanks for your comment. You’re right to question the credibility of this source. The truth is that I was not aware of Dr. Satinover’s history of “curing homosexuality” at the time that I published this post. That is disgusting and truly disturbing to hear. Here is another source that looks at the affects of porn addiction (and internet addiction more broadly) on the brain: http://yourbrainonporn.com/recent-internet-addiction-brain-studies-include-porn. It is my hope that everyone will read my article with the critical eye that you have. This is about starting a conversation – taking a topic that lives mostly in the shadows and bringing it into the light. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  29. The aspect of gender, persuasion or whatever it is that trips your arousal templates is truly meaningless when it comes to pornography. The reality for many is that when you turn the electronics off you will find the cold realization that you’re alone in the darkness without anyone to hold you, to accept and to love you. Pornography portrays a false sense of intimate connection with another, but it is just an illusion. In reality you are alone.
    That pain of being alone is why people turn back to pornography. Pornography buries the truth and acts as a masquerade of belonging.
    For many others who use pornography, when in that same darkness, may have a spouse or partner who is ready and willing to connect with them, but they are feeling closed down in their hearts and minds. Their world is not safe. For some it can be dangerous, even terrifying to be vulnerable to anyone real. Pornography then becomes their safe sense of intimacy where they have power over their “reality”, which sadly is a delusion.

  30. If I could quit for a month that’d be enough. Great article.

  31. This would have been a great article if it wasn’t filled with feminist indoctrination. A nice attempt at a subject that needs to be talked about.

    • Hi Porn Addict, nice name! I really appreciate people who tell it like it is. Whatever your perspective, I’m glad you’re up for the conversation. Though “indoctrination” is a pretty strong word.. Care to explain?

  32. I feel like the list of benefits come with unplugging in general – less TV, internet, commercial media, porn included, can reap these effects.

  33. Wow, um, it sounds like you really did have a problem.

    Which is not to say I agree with the implication that I (who admittedly watch porn regularly) or even most guys who watch porn do. Research suggests that most people who watch porn rate most highly the material they think portrays the most authentic displays of (generally female) pleasure, so saying that you were enjoying watching non-consensual sex puts you in a very small minority. (See, for example, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, which analyzed data from the most trafficked porn sites and found that relatively very little of it was truly violent.) My own thought is that, as we as a society become more open to sexuality — male and female, gay and straight — we’ll respect each other more and see less sex-based violence. (And for that, see the rapidly declining rates of rape over the past couple decades as the prevalence of internet porn exploded.)

    Basically: I’m glad you’re taking the steps you described, but as a feminist and a porn user, I’d just ask you be careful about extrapolating too broadly from your own experience.

    • Oops, sorry; I didn’t realize that Amazon link was going to suck in a large ad. Porn may not be evil, but Amazon sometimes is.

    • I never “enjoyed” watching non-consensual sex. What I said was that “my mind had been socially conditioned to find aggressive, misogynistic, and even non-consensual sex arousing.” I found that reality incredibly disturbing. That’s why I quite. And that’s why I’m not going back, after reaching my 1 year goal. I’m all for a more sexually open society. But porn sex is not real sex. I think we should all express our sexuality WAY MORE but do so from a place of true embodiment and intimacy with one another. If you can do that while continuing to use porn, more power to you. Go for it! But, as a fellow-feminist and aspiring ally to the many women in my life who I love, I think it is also important to note the realities of human trafficking, sex slavery, objectification, and violence that far too often fuel the mainstream porn industry. My hope is that people make whatever decision they feel is most in alignment with their values and with the person they want to be. That looks different for each of us. I’m glad we’re having the conversation.

    • Davey,

      There is so much do address in your comment. Just because those watching porn said they enjoyed porn that most showed female pleasure does not mean that it was not violent, degrading, or problematic or that it is reflective of female pleasure in the real world. For instance, some women enjoy facials. Many (most?) find facials degrading or uncomfortable. But just about every woman in pornography that gets a facial is seen wanting it, taking pleasure in it, even moaning while receiving one. Just because the woman seems to be pleased doesn’t make the act less degrading or problematic.

      There’s also the measure of what “truly violent” means. If I went by the measure of what I see in pornography of what good sex should look like, I might have injured my past partner who, because of her biology, couldn’t take rough penetration. And considering how little messaging we receive about healthy communication in sex, it is entirely possible that men who simply watch porn and believe that’s how sex should look would be having sex that is quite violent with that particular woman. Similarly, degradation (like facials or dominant positions) is not inherently violent (depending on the level of consent), but considering how little porn shows empowered women in control and how next to NO porn shows healthy models of consent, I would say that most people could walk away with violent ideas that the book you cite might not consider violence.

      If we’re going to throw books around, I, like Bob, recommend “Pornland” by Gail Dines.

      But your comment still misses the point about Dan’s article. It misses the point that gratification through pornography was leaving him feel disconnected from human connection. If you and others can use porn daily or regularly without that and are able to maintain healthy, consensual relationships, great. But that is going to take a tremendous amount of self awareness. Do we really think everyone, particularly young men and boys whose brains are being rewired by pornography, are able to maintain that type of self awareness at all times?

  34. There are always people who want to control what other people see, do and think. Just like the religious right. In fact porn is healthy and the advent of internet porn has seen a decrease in sex crimes. Feminists have become the new Victorians.

    • Ha! This comment is absurd! First, I’m not sure which “feminists” you know. They are not a monolith, and not all feminists are opposed to porn at all or mainstream porn. Neither the author nor any of the feminists that I know are trying to control what you see, do, or think. We’re trying to get people to think critically about the messaging in mainstream pornography, messaging that can often be violent and misogynistic.

      As far as the decrease in sex crimes, the one study I know of that indicates this is dubious at best. First of all, it accounts for reports in sex crimes which ebb and flow but remain a tiny percentage of overall sex crimes. Second, it assumes a causation when there is only a correlation between the rise of the internet and decreased reports. By that same measure, in the time described, services through sexual assault organizations and shelters have become more robust, which might offer survivors alternatives to reporting and going through the terrifying legal system. Again, correlation, not causation.

  35. Gail Dines has a great book called “Pornland” on the progression of pornified culture, racism in porn, violence in mainstream porn and the rise of child or ‘childified’ porn. One of the most comprehensive books on porn I’ve ever read and highly reccomend it.

  36. […] Please read the following article with an open mind and decide for yourself. Click here! […]

  37. […] published One Man’s Journey: How I Quit Porn and Why I’m Not Going Back on my friend Jamie Utt’s blog two days before Valentine’s Day. I had struggled for weeks to […]

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