Exposure to porn at an early age can lead someone to an addiction later in life.
On a daily basis, Lisa Ferguson, a licensed clinical addictions counselor in Yorktown, Indiana, helps clients recover from three of the most prominent addictions: meth, cocaine, and pornography.
She’s also a certified sexual addictions therapist, which means she’s qualified to help sex addicts and their partners. Many factors lead into how individuals might develop a sex addiction, but Ferguson says online pornography plays a large part. It only takes one Google search to come upon it.
One study Ferguson often cites focused in on middle school students. The study found that approximately two-thirds of children middle school-aged displayed sexual behaviors. This concerns Ferguson as well as many parents.
Ferguson explained that the easy access to porn the internet provides is both developing more sexual addictions and hurting children. At as young as age 10, children search “sex” on Google Images, out of curiosity or boredom. The things they see often traumatize them, because they are too young to understand what is going on or what they are supposed to think. Ferguson says they often feel disturbed by what they’ve seen, then shame, because they knew they weren’t supposed to look it up, and then pleasure, because they’re human. This mix of emotions is too much for them at such a young age.
Ferguson says that there isn’t much parents can do to avoid this eventuality. They could filter what their child sees online, but more importantly, they could have an open conversation with them about it. Ferguson says it’s important for parents to express that their children can come to them whenever they have questions or are upset by something. Chances are, kids will eventually see something online that gives them confusing feelings, but having someone to go to about it helps how they’ll feel in the long run.
Either in the case of children or adults, Ferguson believes it’s better to avoid porn altogether. One resource she offers to her clients trying to recover from addiction is NoFap, an online community of people who call themselves “fapstronauts” and abstain from watching porn and masturbating. Most members only do so for short periods of time, such as 90 days, but others swear it off for life.
One user joined NoFap and chose to stop masturbating and watching porn when he felt like he was objectifying women. He felt like he was afraid to talk to women because of what he had seen in porn. The user didn’t think he masturbated or watched porn more than the average teenage boy, but he felt like it was negatively impacting his life. He felt like he was addicted, so he made an effort to stop masturbating and watching porn altogether.
Ferguson believes that user is strong for making the decisions he has. She says it’s hard for anyone to swear off masturbation, but it’s even more difficult at such a young age.
There are physical benefits that come with abstaining from porn and masturbation, Ferguson says. Pornography damages the frontal lobe, and it takes 90 days without it for the brain to repair itself. That’s how long members of NoFap go without during a “streak.” But Ferguson says it takes nine months to fully feel back to normal, and not feel like porn is a must-have anymore.
Trying to recover from sex addictions is somewhat harder than substance addictions, Ferguson says. Alcohol addiction, for instance, is by no means easy to get over. But a person can make choices on who or what they surround themselves with. With sex addicts, it’s a lot harder to avoid their vice. For that reason, a lot of people don’t.
NoFap creates a community in which members feel like they’re not alone. When a member relapses, they can post about it, and receive a lot of support. The website even has a “panic button” full of links for if members relapse or feel depressed.
A common misconception is that men masturbate far more often than women. However, the numbers come out pretty even. According to Indiana University’s National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 25.4 percent of men aged 25 to 29 and 21.5 percent of women in the same age group reported masturbating multiple times a month. NoFap also acknowledges that its community isn’t just full of men, and has a forum just for women trying to abstain.
Ferguson accepts that online pornography isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Similarly, NoFap doesn’t want the government to outlaw porn, but it wants more people to be educated on the dangers. In the meantime, both Ferguson and NoFap will work to educate people about the dangers of porn, and the “fapstronauts” will keep refraining from masturbation.