A Brief Chat with a Self Professed Porn Addict

A Brief Chat with a Self Professed Porn Addict

In the latest installment of my Future Sex column I discussed a recent study on sex addiction–one that supposedly cast doubt onto the disorder’s biological origins–and how we frame compulsivity and mental illness in our society. A man reached out to me soon after the article was published, and identified himself as a porn addict. He too had read the study, and wanted to discuss what he saw as its failings.

It struck me that in all the debate over the past week, all the sensational headlines decrying sex and porn addiction as pseudo-disorders, I hadn’t read anything by someone who, you know, actually identifies as a sex or porn addict. In that spirit, here’s one porn addict talking to me over chat about why his porn addiction is real. Published anonymously and with permission.

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Porn addict: So, we don’t really know each other, but I’m a big fan of your stuff. This piece on sex addiction is really good, and your insights would be a valuable addition to the discussion about sex addiction/compulsive behavior/whatever it is, even if the Prause study had never come out.

Author: Hey, thanks for reading. Glad you liked it.

You also easily recognized a major flaw in that study, and I wanted to expand on that if I could.

Sure, do you study addiction?

I’ve considered myself a “porn addict” for about 10 years, though I’ve also questioned that label.

Ah, I see, so you objected to the study?

On a pragmatic and philosophical point, there should never be a label applied to people that resolves them of responsibility for their behaviors. Labels should only ever serve to enhance our understanding of our behaviors, thus making us more responsible for them, not less.

I know I mentioned what I thought was wrong with the study. What did you see as the major problem?

A term that comes up frequently among people who consider themselves “porn addicts” is escalation, and this is why I don’t see much value in the Prause study. In my half-baked understanding of the mechanics of it, I first enjoyed pornography as an adolescent because it gave me a burst of dopamine. Over time, that same pornography no longer provided that rush of dopamine, or of pleasure. I sought out new sources, new types of pornography. This constant novelty seeking, I believe, led to intense, focused interest in sexual fetishes, or pornography that depicts only that sexual fetish.

This process of escalation, or maybe specialization would be a better term, is reported by many other self-described addicts. I am not addicted to porn generally. I’m not interested at all in mass market, popular pornography that you’d find on the first page if you googled “sex”. So if someone showed me an image of that, I don’t expect you’d be triggering any kind of addictive response that you could measure on EEG. So I don’t think that particular study is really valuable.

I see. You think that the response occurs sometimes only in relation to a very specific trigger, that this could be the equivalent of showing an alcoholic a cup of coffee and expecting a huge reaction in the brain.

Something like that. You said the internet was abuzz over this research?

Yes, the internet is abuzz about the sex addiction study in fantastic, non-critical style. I’ve seen hardly anyone push back against this research, or even appear that they read the study.

Yeah, everybody celebrates research that says what they want to hear, whether they know anything about the research or not. But Gary Wilson is pushing back hard and is highlighting this fact.

I AM NOT ADDICTED TO PORN GENERALLY. I’M NOT INTERESTED AT ALL IN MASS MARKET, POPULAR PORNOGRAPHY THAT YOU’D FIND ON THE FIRST PAGE IF YOU GOOGLED “SEX.”

But yeah, I don’t even think that study tells you anything about porn addiction, because like I said, many are reactive to very particular things. I mean you’ll find straight men on porn message boards that are to the point that they’ve fetishized gay sex, and I absolutely believe that that’s what has happened for them. They would now be reactive to gay sex because of the specialization process I talked about. I know that sounds like closeted guys who can’t come to terms, but I promise you, there is actually niche fetish porn for straight men designed to make them gay.

What porn addict message boards do you use?

Your Brain Rebalanced–that one is heavily influenced by Gary Wilson, and he posts there.Your Brain on PornFeed the Right Wolf. And this forum. As with any internet forum, most things are terrible.

It’s also very interesting to me that, when I first thought of myself as addicted I was either 17 or 18. And almost everything online about porn addiction–and breaking it–was Christian.

Ah, I bet.

Even the NetNanny software I used successfully for a while a few years back was owned and operated by Christians. But the fact that there’s been such a rise in secular and scientific sites and services shows that the nature of the problem goes beyond just people feeling [religiously] guilty about jerking off.

Would you say your addiction is under control now? And do you think that you’ll be an addict forever, similar to how many alcoholics view themselves?

I don’t know; I’m still murky on if it is an addiction or not, and would certainly welcome evidence that my problems are not actually like those of other addicts. But I wouldn’t say it is under control, no. Or, I could say that for the last several days, but you know…

I’ve decided to stop trying to treat it as an addiction and invest a ton of energy and emotion into abstaining from it, and instead try to focus on promoting the types of positive behaviors I’ve wanted to do but have instead just looked at porn. I’ve been in numerous “recovery/reboot” cycles and then fallen back into it, which can be, like, a weird disappointing thing. I’ve also noticed that when I’ve completely abstained–I mean this is subjective–but I feel like when I abstained my sexual inclinations began to contaminate other areas of my life, or I started doing worse behaviors.

You found your pornographic inclinations just seeped into your real life inclinations?

There is a path of escalation/specialization that I could probably trace. Fetishizing this led to exposure to that, exposure to that fetishizing that, which led to exposure to a third thing, then that gets fetish, then a fourth, so on.

I see.

So through that process, I ended up with a fetish called financial domination. It’s essentially a subset of female domination, which you can think of as dominatrix shit, but more real life and less cheesy, I guess. Basically, the fetish is to spend money, sometimes self-destructive amounts of money, on (generally mean, bossy, bratty, etc.) women.

It bothered me that I had gotten into this and other stuff, so for a while I abstained from all porn and masturbation. And after a few weeks, I had this insatiable urge, and this is super embarrassing and Jesus Christ. But I had an urge to go to the mall and ask strange women if I could buy their stuff for them.

Did you do it?

I went to a mall and like, looked for someone. I asked one woman and it immediately hit me how insane and embarrassing this was. But that wasn’t the end of the fantasy, which had now taken root. I ultimately found a beautiful, older black lady off OKCupid and went and spent $100s on her at a mall.

I ENDED UP WITH A FETISH CALLED FINANCIAL DOMINATION. IT’S ESSENTIALLY A SUBSET OF FEMALE DOMINATION, WHICH YOU CAN THINK OF AS DOMINATRIX SHIT, BUT MORE REAL LIFE AND LESS CHEESY.

If you knew me, knew the relationships I actually have in real life–you know, knew my financial situation, everything–you would have never predicted I would do that. It literally felt like I was now doing something crazy in real life to get the same feelings I had had from porn.

So you might say that porn actually helps to control your impulses?

That was the last time I abstained from P&M [porn and masturbation] for a sustained amount of time.

I wonder, what was the progression of stimulation that you mentioned? How did you reach the endpoint of that fetish? Do you remember the actual genres or depictions involved? Or was it more diffuse than that?

It has definitely been interplay between real life and porn, and what comes first is kind of a chicken-and-egg question. But around 6th or 7th grade, I got really interested in looking at ridiculously low-quality images of the Spice Girls, as it was like 19 hundred and something.

Nice.

This is mostly before high-speed internet, so through most of middle school and early high school, I was interested in scantily clad or “nonude” photos of women and celebrities. In high school, I was more into seeing actual sex acts and stuff, but my access to porn was limited by the low speed connection and the fact that I didn’t have a computer in my room.

Still, late at night I would start logging hours after hours, saving hundreds, then thousands of images. And this is the chicken-and-egg thing: In high school, my girlfriend cheated on me, and it was a typical, rough first time broken heart thing. But I still wanted to be with her, and stayed with her despite some things I would now view as humiliating. This same girlfriend would request that I stop looking at porn, and my failure to do so, combined with the amounts of time I had spent on it, is what would lead me to view myself as a porn addict.

But shortly after high school I got into cuckolding. Or, that became my fetish.

You got into cuckolding porn? Or the act?

Porn and then the act. I have no idea exactly how it happened. I wish I did; it’s almost ten years now. The obvious question is did my girlfriend’s cheating somehow get me into it? But I know that I did not find it arousing in any way in my personal life until I was exposed to the porn.

I see. So you didn’t find it sexually exciting until you watched it? And an extension of that would be buying things for mean women.

Right. I found my girlfriend cheating on me heartbreaking. After I got into the porn I found it arousing, the power dynamic suggested in cuckolding: a dominant female and submissive male set into motion a succession that would lead to financial domination.

Is there financial domination porn?

Yes.

And is this typical escalation?  Typical of the addicts you’ve spoken with on message boards?

Yes, but obviously there are other directions things go in. I mean, there were other places my fetishes went. I had what amounted to an American Apparel fetish particular to the wardrobes of girlfriends who had cheated on me and stuff like that. But yeah, I’m almost thankful for the direction my escalation went in because there are guys who are into a lot of worse shit that they thought they never would have been into.

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with my fantasies. They just don’t work in my life now and I can’t spend, like, six hours a day indulging in them. Other people aren’t so lucky. I do believe that there are a lot of guys who get busted for kiddy porn who aren’t pedophiles.

They’re just escalating in a terrible way?

If my escalation can lead to the point where I’m sexually obsessed with one-pieces or buying clothes for bossy strangers, they could. It’s hard to say because this stuff has existed forever.

I can’t say porn created these desires, but at the same time I don’t think I ever would have had them if not through exposure. There are things that I have been initially exposed to and found not arousing, or even gross, and then gotten into.

I DON’T THINK THERE IS ANYTHING INHERENTLY WRONG WITH MY FANTASIES. THEY JUST DON’T WORK IN MY LIFE NOW

Why do you think some people watch porn “normally” and not escalate to unsettling fetishes and illegal behavior while still others are compulsive?

I mean, I don’t know where the research is on thinking about a general reward deficiency, [about] people who are extra sensitive to anything that strongly activates their reward pathways. And it’s just kind of a crapshoot if that ends up being porn, gambling, food, whatever. But no, I don’t know.

Do you have problems with other compulsive behaviors or just porn?

I don’t think so. I mean, I eat a lot of junk food. I smoke cigarettes. It kind of comes down to how you were saying it’s all very subjective on what we do and don’t view as problematic. So it’s difficult for me to say. But OK, yeah, I think I’m horrible with procrastination. I take Adderall to try to be productive, etc.

But the amount of time I’ve spent on porn has made it hard to untangle my lack of productivity, which could be an indication of compulsivity from my porn use. Like, if I cut out porn, would I then be about normally productive? Or would I still lack self-regulation, still be compulsive, and just watch Netflix for six hours instead of porn?

Do you watch porn for six hours a day?

Sometimes more. When I watch porn or look for porn I achieve a state of focus I’ve only ever achieved, like, maybe the first few times I took Adderall. I become almost completely enveloped in it, and hours pass like minutes. Eight hours is not a surprising duration.

But you can’t be masturbating for six hours straight. You’re just looking for porn you like for hours at a time?

Yeah. Often in what addicts call the prone position, lying belly down on the floor. So like, yes, I might not be totally masturbating for six hours, but I have an erection that is stimulated by contact with the floor or something.

Do you have a partner?

Yeah.

And she knows?

So, a big thing with porn addicts, especially yourbrainrebalanced, is ED. I had never had problems with it, but during the past year I was kind of losing interest or having issues with ED, and I was tired of porn so I told her about it and said that I would quit. It was obviously affecting her because she felt like I didn’t find her attractive and shit. I’ve never told her about any fetishes or even explained about escalation.

I haven’t actually quit, but those problems ended promptly when I stopped being so stressed. She knows I haven’t quit; I’m not lying to her about that, either. I’ve told her it’s an ongoing thing that I’m dealing with privately, and as long as we are good physically and it’s not a problem for us, she’s cool with that.

So what do you see as the end result here? Do you think about the future? You probably don’t want to watch a half-dozen or more hours of porn for the rest of your life. Or do you?

That’s the most disturbing thing. There have been times, in those states of pure focus, where I’ve thought, “Why? Why do I have to have a life? Why can’t it just be this?”

But right now I’m trying to just focus on positive behaviors that are important to me. I’ve been tracking my meditation, trying to make that into a habit, which has been really useful. I’m trying to exercise. Stress and anxiety are huge triggers, so I’m doing things that minimize those and make me happy.

In the past few days I’ve been deleting all the porn off my computer, but this is something I’ve done dozens of times before. I don’t have any plans of making this, or trying to make this, THE time that I quit. I don’t even plan on making it through the day without it.

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/a-brief-chat-with-a-self-professed-porn-addict

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