I first came across pornography aged 11-12. My friend told me about this film that was only 15 rated, but had naked ladies . This made me curious. I then went home and tried to find it myself. What I stumbled across was an online world of pornography that I was in awe of, it was like some special under-world that I had come across. Some of the things that I saw made me excited, yet others shocked and disgusted me and made me feel almost sick. Yet as I explored this world more and more, I found that the things that first made me gasp in shock and disbelief slowly started to become attractive and sexually stimulating. Eventually, this same content became the only thing that would ‘do the job’ for me.

By the time I was 16 it was a part of my life almost daily. I hid this part of my life from others, and whilst I would joke with friends at school and church about the issue, I would never disclose how much porn I watched, and the way in which I felt I almost ‘needed’ it to function and to cope with my feelings and as a comfort. Eventually by around age 18 I realised it might be a problem when I realised, I had to use it to comfort myself and without it I would become angry and frustrated. This soothing use made me feel worse with the shame that it created that I couldn’t get a girlfriend and had to use this stuff just to function. This I learnt, was the fault of pornography. This led to depression as my self-esteem was brought so low that I felt that I had no worth as a human.

So I decided to actively try and stop. But I found that I could not. Having started watching pornography at such a young age, it felt as though it had become ingrained as a learnt behaviour that I couldn’t seem to shake. Pornography had become a coping mechanism that I needed to function when I felt low but would just make those feelings worse. Worst of all, I realised that my attitude of women had changed. I felt that it was my right to touch women and initiate ‘touching’ even non-consensually. This made me reach a real low where I discovered that this wasn’t what girls wanted, but it was the only way I knew how to ‘talk’ to girls.

Since my first exposure to pornography, it took me over 10 years to rid myself of porn use. It’s effect on me, my mental health and attitude to women has ruined my life as a teenager and young adult and still deeply affects these aspects of my life to this day.

TRIGGER WARNING: “Please be mindful when deciding on whether to read these stories that they are emotionally impactful and may be triggering. Within people’s accounts, there is mention of rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse, other forms of abuse and violence, self-harm and suicide. There are various helplines available for support.