How internet pornography took over one teenager’s life

How internet pornography took over one teenager’s life
July 18 13:40 2016 Print This Article

Andrew was only eight years old when he first saw online pornography, but even then he knew there was no going back.

“I was sort of shocked – but I was fascinated by it as well,” the 23-year-old (who did not want his surname published) recalls of the hardcore film he watched on a computer at a friend’s house.

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Always on: Therapist Hugh Martin believes the internet has made pornography much more problematic than it was in the past.

“It just seemed so real. I’d never really seen people naked before and here they were naked and doing things to each other … I knew I could never tell my parents, but once I first saw it I knew there was no going back.”

By the time Andrew was 14 watching porn had become his favourite past-time, constantly searching for something new on the internet which would give him a bigger high.

He gave up playing footy and stopped seeing his mates, preferring to stay up all night watching pornography instead. To make the porn feel more real he would seek out women on chat sites to act out scenarios with him.

“I couldn’t get up in the morning, and couldn’t concentrate in school,” Andrew explains. “All I was thinking about was getting back into a chatroom or something like that.”

Andrew’s parents grew so worried about their lethargic son that they took him to the doctor for blood tests, convinced he had glandular fever. They still have no idea what was really affecting him.

Andrew’s pornography habit became so bad in his late teens that it started to damage his ability to have relationships with girls in real life. “I used to ask girls to do things and get off on that, rather than enjoying the pleasure of sex.” Eventually he couldn’t get aroused by girls anymore.

Therapist Hugh Martin, who specialises in helping men break their pornography habit, said Andrew’s story was typical of many of his clients. A recovering pornography addict himself, Mr Martin said most users had low self-esteem, were highly critical of themselves and lacked an emotional connection to their parents.

He believes the internet has made pornography much more problematic than it was in the past, and far more addictive than drugs or alcohol. “It makes it very real, very available, and very affordable. You get very physically and mentally engaged with the content.” He said extreme practices like bestiality and gang rape had become mainstream thanks to the internet.

Experts are growing increasingly concerned that the widespread use of online pornography among adolescents is skewing expectations about sex and relationships, especially as it does not depict any concept of consent. They say users find it hard to distinguish between what they see in pornography and what happens in real life.

“When you’re dealing with children looking at it, highly vulnerable people without any understanding or guidance, it becomes very dangerous,” Mr Martin said. Boys aged 14-17 are the most frequent underage consumers of pornographic material.

In therapy sessions Mr Martin helps clients understand their pornography use is a symptom of a deeper problem. They then work to resolve the “real” problem in their lives, and identify what they seek from porn such as stress relief, a self-esteem boost or reducing their anxiety. Mr Martin helps his clients understand their porn triggers, and find healthy alternatives that give them better highs, like playing sport.

Andrew says he suffers from low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, and that watching porn gave him a sense of power. “I’ve always felt pretty powerless because of being bullied pretty badly.” Yet the guilt and shame he felt about his porn use ultimately made him feel even worse.

“In the moment I did feel nice but it was afterwards that I felt bad about myself. The feeling of feeling bad only seemed to get worse which is one of the reasons I wanted help.”

It is only through therapy that Andrew has been able to break his addiction in the last year, and focus instead on his relationship with his girlfriend. He is now studying to be a youth worker.

“Once I started to deal with things like my low self-esteem, anxiety and self-loathing I could start to work towards what I really wanted for myself,” he says. “I had nothing to lose and I feel like I gained my self back.”

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