Pornography and masturbation

…had been a part of my life for over two decades. We had a relationship, an understanding. It was give-and-take, but I always felt that I was in control, that I could manage it. Of course, I was just deceiving myself.

The dependency I had built up over time and the expectations I had on my Great Escape’s ability to help me cope with all of life’s twists and turns were simply unrealistic. My use of porn was never stagnant. It was dynamic and ever-changing, just like the medium itself. It ebbed and flowed. At times I could take it or leave it, and at other times I needed it and had to have it. But there were two key limiting factors that had kept my use of the material in check. Those were the lack of availability (or accessibility) and anonymity.

But the Internet had smashed through both of those barriers. I could now access any images I wanted, tapping into new genres or categories of porn that I never knew existed before. And I could do it all instantaneously and anonymously. The stealth factor was perhaps most important to me because I needed to keep things hidden. My habits needed to remain out of sight from others, especially Patty and the boys, if I was going to continue to use. The Internet allowed me to fly under the radar while actually increasing my consumption of the material. I thought I had it made, especially since I was a tech industry insider with high-speed Internet access. I was the wolf guarding the hen house, and all I needed to indulge my senses was more time.

That time was granted, but at the expense of time spent with my wife and family. It started off with using while on business trips — time that I figured was already mine away from family. I thought as long as I was traveling on business, I wasn’t really cheating them. But I was, not to mention stealing time from my employer. I would add a day or two here and there to my travel plans, stretching them out beyond the necessity for the express purpose of creating more time to act out sexually.

While traveling on business, I was on my own and accountable to no one. As long as I took care of business, the pleasures I would indulge in — on pay-per-view cable movies and undisturbed time cruising the Internet — were well deserved, or so I reasoned. But I convinced myself that I deserved it. Eventually, that practice caught up with me in the way of subpar sales performances and having a higher cost of sales than my peers, two factors that led to my inability to hold a good sales job for more than two years.

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The humiliation that I would feel losing job after job and lying to my wife and kids and friends about the reasons just acted to heap more guilt and shame on my shoulders. I was a good salesman and certainly had the list of impressive corporations on my resume. I sold my curb appeal to others like a master of his craft. But when it came time to do the work, my loyalties were always divided. Losing jobs created more stress and financial problems, which propelled me back into my Great Escape as a way to numb the pain of the consequences. But it wasn’t enough to get me to stop. I just kept going back. Lust had become a relentless taskmaster, and I was enslaved to it.

The more time I had to myself, whether employed or not, the more time I spent indulging in porn. Now fast access was becoming available at home. But there was another factor at play here that led to an escalation of my growing addiction. Having access to a broader variety of genres, or categories of images, I started exploring the steamier side of porn out of sheer curiosity. Stuff I had only heard of or never even knew existed before — group sex, S&M, girl on girl, Webcams. There were literally hundreds of niche categories to explore, and I was hungering for more.

One in particular, voyeurism, caught and held my attention. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it was those ads in the back of Boys’ Life magazine for X-ray glasses that captivated my imagination as a child growing up. The thought of being able to see through women’s clothes and see them naked, just like the ad depicted, was exciting to me back then. I guess it was still exciting to me as an adult because voyeur Web sites had a special attraction for me. I’d spend hours pouring through site after site, Web page after Web page, looking at hidden camera images of unsuspecting women who were photographed while they were undressing, or taking a shower, or standing naked in the bathroom while putting on makeup, or using a tanning bed. The fact that most of these pictures, if they weren’t staged, were a criminal violation of a person’s right to privacy never seemed to matter much to me at the time. All that mattered was that it gave me a higher high.

My “connection” with this particular genre of porn somehow created a higher level of sexual stimulation for me. Over the years I had unconsciously created a hierarchy of needs based on sexual stimulation that had a direct impact on how much pleasure I would experience when looking at porn. For instance, it was more stimulating for me to see hidden camera shots of an unsuspecting woman getting undressed than it was to look at group sex pictures, which was more arousing than heterosexual sex, which was more exciting than pictures of a naked woman posing alone. But whenever I used these edgier images, my sexual arousal and the resulting climax was more intense.

Once I figured out that I could get a higher high and zone out even more by using hard-core porn as my drug of choice, I started spending more time exploring darker genres of images. The more disturbing the image, the more I found I had to separate my relational emotions and values from what I was looking at and view the women as objects instead of people. That was the only way I could reconcile what I was doing with these images in my mind. Even though they were only images, I still found I had to separate or dissociate my emotions from how I was “using” these people for my own gratification. Otherwise, I couldn’t cope with my own repulsive thoughts about myself and what I was actually fantasizing about doing. The more I went there, the more I started hating myself for who I was as a person.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would somehow transfer over to the way I treated real people in relationships in the real world, especially women. My objectification and sexualization of women in porn became objectification and sexualization of the women I had relationships with in my life — including Patty. In time, I started caring less about others and more about what I was getting out of the transaction, a characteristic of objectification. This led to my spending less and less time with Patty and the boys and even friends and family since my interactions with them were increasingly at the cost of my time spent with porn.

Real women like Patty were no match for what I was getting from porn. Porn didn’t ask questions, never complained, and had no needs for me to meet. It was always there, waiting on me hand and foot, ready to meet my sexual needs on demand, whether that meant blonde or brunette, big or small, one-on-one or with a group. Whatever I wanted, whatever I demanded, in the back of my mind I knew I could always count on the Great Escape to deliver.

Adapted from Porn Nation.
Copyright © Michael Leahy. All rights reserved. Used with Permission. Published by Northfield Publishing.

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