Let me start by saying this isn’t a piece on judgement. While I’ve determined certain things about pornography in my life, I don’t assume this goes for everyone. We all have our choices to make. This is simply my story of trying something new.
I’ve never considered myself a pornography addict. There has been no reason to. It simply hasn’t impacted my life to the point where it became unmanageable.
Like many men in the online pornography age, it was simply an escape. And between the ages of, say, 16 and 33, I escaped often. Just often enough to get a dopamine high and then fade back into my normal existence.
Then in grad school I read a book called The Porn Trap where I realized porn wasn’t just a little escape now and then. Its impact on my psyche was far deeper—it was actually changing my brain (Maltz and Maltz, p. 19)…and not for the better.
In the world I grew up in sex wasn’t talked about. Our Christian school didn’t have sex-ed classes. It didn’t come up much at home. I didn’t even get a decent education on STD’s until I was 22.
In that absence, pornography filled a void. So that, it wasn’t simply changing my brain. It was changing my brain AND changing the way I interacted physically/sexually in my relationships with women.
Pornography became for me, and many people, I believe, the teacher of sex. As anyone who has watched pornography can tell you, it wasn’t teaching me healthy lessons. So many story-lines are manipulative, violent, and downright abusive.
In other words, it wasn’t teaching me how to have healthy sexual relationships. Rather, it left me with a visual representation of what NOT to do, but very little knowledge around how to be healthy in sex.
So about 15 months ago I stopped. I can’t totally explain why it happened. I’d tried to stop before to no avail.
This decision has done wonders for my sex life. It has done wonders for my understanding of consent and how power and privilege impact sexual relationships. Most of all, it has helped me stay present with partners—alive to the moment instead of escaping into an abyss of physical pleasure.
In the aftermath here’s what I realized: pornography taught me that sex was simply for my pleasure. It taught me sex was supposed to be about power, privilege, and taking what I wanted.
It taught me that my orgasm was the most important thing.
That, I think, is why I ultimately stopped looking at pornography: because I couldn’t stand another day of physical touch being all about my climax.
And yet, sex and sexuality are so complex. It feels impossible for me to judge the choices of others.
What I know, and what I believe science backs up, is that pornography isn’t simply an experience in time that leaves us once we walk away. Much like a drug, the feeling of the high stays in our body long after the high is gone.
Is that reason enough to stop? It was for me, for now. What I think will sustain my choice, however, is how good sex has become since my pornography exile.
I won't lie, good sex is worth it.