Dear Reader, You might wonder why this article is written in the form of a letter. It’s because I want to talk to you. Yes, you. Let’s get personal.
Perhaps you, like so many, are struggling with porn. It’s common for people to discuss it as if it's a normal part of life, but its accessibility is brand new to recent generations. Likely, you’ve heard of its negative effects, usually within the male context. You and I know women struggle as well. According to an American Addiction Center study, a whopping 76% of women aged 18 to 30 struggle with porn. However, unlike conversations among males, for us, there is a deeper sense of shame and secrecy. Maybe you struggle and haven’t told anyone. If someone ever asked you, you might lie that you’ve never seen it in your life. Or perhaps you boldly admit that you do and laugh to hide embarrassment. If any of this is you, you’re not alone.
The first time I ever heard the word pornography, I was about 11 years old. A boy in my class asked me if I watched it, and I remember being confused. It was around 2008 or 2009, so the Internet was widely available, but my parents were strict. Our household shared a single computer that was firmly set up on a desk between the living room and kitchen. As an adult, I know that this was probably one of the best things they could have given me. Later in the day, I went up to my teacher to ask what “corn” was and what it meant to watch it. My teacher looked at me, folded her hands beneath her chin, and sort of sighed in an awkward, I-don’t-get-paid-enough way. Then, she told me that I should ask my parents.
That world is gone. Instead of a full desktop computer, the world wide web has been molded into the size of a chocolate bar and can be tucked neatly into our back pocket. While the availability of information is great, it also has adverse effects (see "Man Shares What He Looks Like 4 Years After Giving Up Pornography" or "The Effects Of Porn On Relationships And The Brain"). According to some statistics, by age 11, children become exposed to or grow an awareness of sex films. I’m sure younger children with unfettered, unsupervised access to a tech device have the ability to stumble upon “WAP” (it’s not age-restricted) by Cardi B. Pornographic content and porn culture has permeated every facet of society: the movies we watch, the clothes we wear, and the lyrics to the music we listen to. It feels like you can’t escape it.
It's no wonder then that for the past few Novembers, posts about “No-Nut November” have circulated. The campaign encourages people (usually men) to avoid porn and “self-servicing” for 30 days. This has become controversial, with outlets like Vice and (more recently) Insider, declaring participation in it “unhealthy.” I disagree.
According to an American Addiction Center study, 76% of women aged 18 to 30 struggle with porn.
I won’t spend too much time telling you why you shouldn’t drown yourself in the blue light of a computer. Your gut tells you that already, and I will simply say that it might be best to follow your intuition. Instead, for any ladies out there struggling, I want to encourage you. You can do it! Like any addiction, it’s not easy, but it’s possible. Here are some tips you can use to help you break the habit:
If, at First, You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again!
So you fell off the wagon after two days? Don’t worry! Get up, brush yourself off, and attack this problem with self-determination. Freedom is within your grasp, my friend. If you’re standing at the start of a very long tunnel, the journey might seem long, but I would encourage people to look at this challenge in little increments. Plan your week carefully, follow through, and then look at next week. It will be most difficult on the third day, but after that, I promise it will just get easier.
Keep a Tidy Space
This one might not seem intuitive, but keeping a neat living space is a reflection of how we feel inside. When I come home from a long day of work and see a mess, I feel like my life is falling apart, and all I want to do is go to bed. Dr. Dawn Potter, a clinical psychologist, has dissected the links between mental and physical clutter.
Find a New Hobby
Hobbies are wonderful ways to enrich our lives. We can make new friends and learn fun skills. It also provides a way for us to keep ourselves occupied and away from temptation. This world has such wonderful things to add spice to what can sometimes be a dull workweek. For example, you could learn to bake sourdough, join a hiking club, create very specific fantasy maps for D&D clubs, knit a scarf the length of the Nile, take up gardening, write a novel so thick that it impresses the Russians, or sign up for acting classes at your local theater. Who knows? You could finally be able to nail a cartwheel or build a rocket from popsicle sticks. If you struggle to find something new to do, I would highly suggest going to Meetup.com and seeing what activities you can join in your area.
As I’ve noted, porn is easily accessible online. More than that, pornography is on every social media platform, whether it be explicit or implicit. Logging off social media and otherwise limiting yourself from the Internet might be a step in the right direction.
This is another way to avoid the black hole of boredom that can suck us back into unhealthy habits, plus exercise also produces dopamine. According to this study, “Researchers have found that the high of an orgasm is comparable to taking a hit of heroin.” The small kick you get from your addiction can be replaced by something healthy that gives you a longer-lived and more productive rush. After a good workout, especially in the evening, take your shower, power down, and you will more likely find yourself drifting off into a peaceful sleep instead of itching for your phone.
I cannot stress enough the importance of real-life human connection. A part of the human condition is, unfortunately, loneliness. One of the reasons porn is so appealing is because, for a few moments, it feels as if it’s filling that void inside. This feeling is false and fleeting. Once again, I encourage you to join a club or hobby that will help you socialize. Go with a friend to explore a nearby independent cafe, call your grandmother up (maybe it’s been a while), or just sit at your local library to people watch. The third one might seem odd, but I assure you it’s very continental. Volunteering at your local community center, YMCA, or church is also a wonderful way to give back to your neighborhood while being around people.
Some people do this through prayer, some through yoga. The purpose of this is to find a center, self-analyze, and build inner strength. Light a candle and listen to ASMR ambiance (my favorite is Martia’s Muses online, thank me later). For some, porn is a tool to relieve stress and anxiety. Although it might do so for a minute, afterward, it leaves you with a feeling similar to a post-McDonald's-binge shame.
These six things will be sure to help you power through “No-Nut November,” but I believe that these are all things that might assist in breaking any habit. If you’re here for the journey, great!
Finally, if I could leave you with anything, I want to tell you that you are worthy of this journey. You don’t need porn to solve your feelings of isolation and depression. Every person is a person with inherent value, and you should fight for yourself, your health, and your freedom. It’s easy to accept the popular course instead of taking up the sword for battle. You can do this. Go out and live life! Fall in love, go on an adventure, laugh, and cry. You are not your addiction. Take this challenge head-on, cast aside fear, and come out a new person.
Good luck, ladies. I’m rooting for you.