As humans, we can be quick to make judgments, and these judgments are often based on how things appear at first glance.
Often, we do not pause to hear someone’s story and find out why they may have certain struggles or act in a particular way. If we did, we might come to understand that the cliché we have all heard since childhood—You can’t judge a book by its cover—really does hold true.
When it comes to someone who has experienced the proven negative effects of porn in their life, it is so important not to write him or her off as “perverted,” “bad,” or “gross.” Everyone who experiences the negative effects of porn is a human being who has a unique story and deserves to be heard. To be clear, we’re talking about the people who are struggling with porn and can’t seem to quit it for good yet, but we’re not justifying porn consumption.
Here’s the reality of what we’re dealing with: the average age of first exposure to pornography is 11 years old. Think back to what you were like when you were 11. Maybe you loved skateboarding, or were involved in your Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop, or spent your time playing computer games. No matter what your hobbies were, none of us were the epitome of maturity at that age–we were just kids, doing the things kids like to do.
Now imagine a kid that age being exposed to pornography. Not a good, healthy thing to see especially at such a young age, is it?
Accidental or unwanted exposure to porn
The fact is, many people who struggle with porn stumbled upon it by accident as kids, maybe through a pop-up on the computer or when they typed in the wrong web address.
Do you know how often it is these days for the slightest error or most innocent Google search to lead kids to hardcore content? Kids are also sometimes exposed to porn unwillingly by their peers. Others have found a parent’s or older sibling’s stash of porn. At that age, kids generally do not have the maturity or knowledge to know what to do with that kind of content.
“I vividly remember the first time I was inadvertently exposed to the world of Internet pornography. I was a kid innocently searching the Internet when a pop-up advertisement appeared featuring hardcore rape simulation porn. It was pornography at its worst; the ad actually showed a girl being savagely raped. Being an adolescent boy with raging hormones, I became instantly curious.”
Or, a few of the many other stories we’ve received from Fighters around the world:
“I saw my first pornographic image when I was nine… I didn’t want it and I didn’t search for it. It came in the form of a spam email and I saw a picture of a woman in her underwear. That was all. No nudity, just that. But at 9-years-old, I knew I had stumbled on something exciting, but wrong. My young curiosity overcame me and I continued to try and find more of the same.” – P., now 29 years old.
“I was simply a naive kid who didn’t even understand sexual feelings yet and got hooked simply from a happenstance encounter with a book that depicted an inappropriate image.” – T., now 20 years old.
“My story seems somewhat cliche, but I was 8 when I was first exposed to porn. My parents were not very computer-savvy, so it was easy for me to cover my tracks. I came from a good home with stable, loving parents, but we never talked about the harms of porn. I was struggling with it before I even knew what it was.” – A., now in his 20’s.
“Around the time I was in fourth or fifth grade, my mother—an emotionally abusive alcoholic—revealed to me her stash of pornographic magazines. As her daughter, she encouraged me to look at and learn from them when she wasn’t home. So when I got the chance and the privacy, I crept to her room and slid open that bottom drawer and grazed over those images.” – B., now 17 years old.
Other people may turn to porn because of past abuse, as a child or teen, and are using it as an outlet to cope with what happened to them, as they feel porn may provide a temporary escape from the reality of what was done to them.
People who struggle with porn may also have a history of anxiety and/or depression. Porn truly does act as a drug, enabling people to escape from their current reality. It is only a temporary relief though and often leads to even greater anxiety and depression because it isolates the consumer and can lead to heavy feelings of shame or social anxiety.
Porn hijacks a natural desire
The truth is, porn preys on and capitalizes on natural human desires that we’re all wired with—the desire to have sex, the desire to be intimate with another person—and it twists them by making it seem like porn provides real fulfillment of those desires. In reality, porn is a lie and it can’t provide real fulfillment.
Shaming someone who is struggling with porn is the exact opposite of what that person really needs in order to overcome their struggle. Creating an “us vs. them” mentality hurts all of us. It further isolates the porn consumer, sometimes causing them to turn to porn even more, and it prevents them from feeling they can share their story and receive compassion in return.
Not seeing those who struggle with porn as real, three-dimensional people hurts society because it can actually perpetuate the problem of a porn habit by preventing people from getting the help they need, further isolating them.
Love, not shame, as the answer
We aren’t trying to wipe porn from the internet. We aren’t focused on the religious or political approaches to fighting porn, and we aren’t a censorship movement.
Rather, we acknowledge that this generation deserves a chance to understand exactly how porn kills love, how it damages the mind, and how it corrupts our world. We are all about decreasing the demand for porn through education. People have a right to know the damages that can result from consuming pornography. And, when given the facts, we believe that people will choose not to make it part of their life.
The bottom line is porn consumers are not horrible, “perverted” people. They are humans with struggles, just like the rest of us. They may hate their porn struggle but feel unable to get out, or be afraid to ask for help. After all, many were once kids who were confused by porn and did not know how to handle it. Many were taught lies about their own sexuality through abuse. Many are lonely and need a friend to hear them, be patient with them, and help them get help.
You never know what someone has been through and why they act the way they do until you have heard their story.
For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out our friends at Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your compulsive behavior, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.