Advice for stepping away from porn use

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vambrace
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Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by vambrace »

Hi! This is an issue I've struggled with for a long time, and I'm sorry if this isn't the right forum for it, but if it's not, any direction towards more applicable resources would also be super appreciated.

Also, hi, sorry, this is really long because I don't know how to articulate myself concisely and I'm worried about getting the same bad advice I'm trying to avoid by coming to this site without enough context. I'll add a TLDR note for my actual question!

I'm a college student now and I first started looking at porn (written erotica) in elementary school, eventually shifting to audio/video in late middle school. The first porn I found was genuinely traumatizing to me - it graphically eroticized and romanticized sexual assault and had a significant negative impact on my relationship with sex. For some reason my brain reacted to this by continually seeking out more, rather than withdrawing from it. And I think it's lead to my current problem, which is seeking out porn as a stress relief response.

I know this may not sound unhealthy, but for me, it is. I say "stress relief", but the way I use it is honestly equivalent to a form of (emotional) self harm. I'm asexual, and on a personal level I'm sex-repulsed; regarding media I can range anywhere from sex-favorable to sex-repulsed again. While interacting with porn in the moment doesn't feel bad, immediately after I feel disgusting and bogged down with guilt. It's not in a porn-is-shameful way, it's in a "I have done some which explicitly contradicts my identity in a way I don't like" way. I often have anxiety responses both emotional and physical. It makes me feel awful and I have no doubt my life would be happier and better without it, and with better coping mechanisms in its place.

I know "just stop doing it" sounds obvious, but it's not that easy for me; I know the concept of porn addictions are hotly contested but I genuinely think I have something resembling that. I even downloaded an addiction tracker to help me and it took me nearly eight months to stop looking at videos for longer than a week or two at a time. I'm now at 116 days (the longest I've been since downloading the app!) for video, but dealing with the same struggle for audio and written erotica.

My biggest problem is I can't find any resources that accept this as an issue that aren't incredibly judgemental about porn. I don't think there's anything wrong with other people reading/watching porn, but I just want to stop doing it myself. Guides that are based around the assumption that porn and masturbation are shameful and evil are fundamentally unhelpful to me, and feel needlessly cruel and judgemental to the tons of people who have healthy relationships with these things. Plus, I've learned over trying to break this habit for years that shame as a motivator does not work for me. On the flip side, when I look for more understanding and thoughtful resources, they seem to all say that I'm just repressing myself and need to learn to embrace my porn use as a healthy part of my sexuality, which in my case it is not.

TLDR: Any tips - or resources - for stepping away from genuinely damaging personal porn use, which don't rely on the idea that porn is inherently bad, just acknowledging that your relationship with it is unhealthy?
jenny01
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by jenny01 »

idk if this helps but you could try to find a tv show or movie you like instead of watching porn
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by FestiveFestoon »

Hi, I used to have a unhealthy relationship with porn too, (in my experience it was addictive and used it for 5+ years).

I found out that I was addicted to it and desperately wanted to stop, by chance I happened to find this resource:
https://easypeasymethod.org/
given what you have said, it doesn't fit all the criteria, but it does have a different attitude towards getting people to quit porn use, it doesn't scare you with the effects of porn or anything, and it really did work for me. the title and "easypeasy" concept does seem a bit clickbaity but it really did help more than any other resources I found, but make sure you follow what it says, even take notes of you have to. (if you plan on using the resource, if not, thats okay)

I do sincerely hope that this resource fits what you are looking for
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi vambrace,

So, while addiction isn't a useful framework for porn (in a big part because there is no chemical produced when watching porn that isn't produced in our bodies by a bunch of other stuff), it sounds like consuming it is causing you a lot of distress, which is in and of itself reason to stop (after all, something doesn't have to be an addiction to be an unhealthy choice for us).

Can you tell me a little more about your thought process when you decide to sit down and watch/read porn? Is it something you feel excited to do in the moment? Are you feeling a need for sexual release and your brain jumps straight to that? Is it something you don't want to do but feel compelled to? Something else entirely?

Just as an aside, if you try that resource FestiveFestoon shared above, know that the way it talks about porn and addiction isn't something that is generally supported by folks who study sexual behavior (even if the steps it goes through to help someone break a habit might be helpful for you)
vambrace
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by vambrace »

@jenny01 - I think that's a good general advice, it's just rewiring myself for that to work as a working distraction, haha.

@FestiveFestoon - thank you! I may check this out.

@Sam W - absolutely! I didn't want this to be any more long-winded than it already was, haha, so I kind of skimped out on that type of explanation. I'll try to articulate it a bit better now.

It's a couple of those different factors, I think. Despite being ace and sex-repulsed, I have a libido, and so watching/reading porn seems like the only effective way to deal with it when it rears up. There's also, though, a level of "I don't want to do this but I feel compelled", which is why I used the addiction comparison, even though I had a feeling it wasn't apt. I'd really rather not, honestly, but once the sex drive part of my brain rears up, I end up fixating on it. I remember all the sexual things I've ever interacted with before - including certain videos, stories, etc., I've engaged with in the past - and they crowd out all my other thoughts. Even if I manage to focus on other things, the sexual content ends up playing on loop in the back of my mind and I can't completely focus. Engaging with porn brings them to the forefront for however long, and then afterwards I'm finally able to think clearly again.

I say I think this is a stress relief response (if an unhealthy one) because there's definitely a like, cathartic element to feeling my brain crowded out like that and then washing it all away, even if I do feel like garbage afterwards. I've also noticed that there's a pretty clear correlation to this happening more frequently, or more intensely, during times of stress, or when I feel like I don't have control over my life. But even when I'm in a healthier, happier place, it still happens, just not as frequently or the thoughts are easier to replace with other ones.

The truth is I'm not even opposed to all porn use for myself - I really like written erotica and comics that are softer and build up character interactions, and don't feel bad engaging in that, I feel like I have a healthy relationship with it - but when my brain gets stuck in this sort of sex-fixation spiral, it looks for increasingly intense stuff, and I don't know how to train myself away from the very visceral like, visual/audio/um, kinkier, more graphic stuff. I left this part out of my original post because my logic was "probably better to step away from it all together and slowly reintroduce the stuff that doesn't make me feel bad?" but since you asked for elaboration, it might be useful to know this too.
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by valerie4 »

Hi Vambrace,

Thank you so much for sharing! I have a couple questions that popped up reading your reply. I know Sam might respond as well when she is on shift.

To start I just want to say, I had a really similar experience engaging with sexual content online when I was younger that traumatized me and it is TOUGH. I just want to validate your experience dealing with that because I know it creates intense nuance for looking for sexual content now as an adult.

One thing I wanted to discuss is your asexual identity! How do you define that for yourself? Because asexuality, like all sexualities, exist on a spectrum that has a lot of different experiences in it. I would encourage you to check out this piece because it really dives into a lot of that nuance Just the Basics, Ace: An Asexuality Primer .You mentioned that your guilt that comes from watching porn is related to feeling like you've done something that "directly contradicts your identity." That's a heavy statement and I can imagine that it adds a lot of stress to this situation. I want to encourage you to really try to define what your identity is TO YOU, not to anyone else, and encourage you to try to expand the boundaries of what fits under the definition of asexuality. I personally fall on the asexual spectrum and enjoy many of the things you've mentioned; that doesn't change the fact that sex is not my biggest priority in relationships. It just is something I sometimes enjoy.

It makes sense to me that written and drawn erotica is more appealing to you because more often that not that involves some sort of focus on the relationship between two characters where you learn about that dynamic and it is not just two strangers. It's a good thing that you can identify stuff you do enjoy and you feel good about engaging with. I think continuing to find stress relievers that you feel good about and enjoy is going to overall decrease the stress levels you're that fuels the behavior you're not feeling good about.

I am not a therapist or a sexologist (both professions I would recommend you seek aid from!) so I can't tell you why I think you're doing what you're doing. But behaviorly there are steps you can make to protect yourself from harm and overall aid your relationship to sexual content. I think letting yourself feel sexual desire is not a bad thing. The more we try to contain emotions and physiological reactions the harder they can be to manage. Giving yourself permission to feel what you need to feel is really important. When we label thought patterns or desires as inherently "bad" it is going to cause us to fixate on the feeling more because we think it's bad. So maybe a component of your fixation lies in your emotion around your sexual desires. Sometimes we seek out behavior/content we know will harm us. It's a really frustrating reaction for us to have but its not abnormal or something you should feel shame from. Rather, identifying the harm and actively trying to change that behavior and possibly interrogate it with a professional mental health practitioner is a good response.

I know this doesn't answer all your questions but I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the things I've mentioned. Overall, I want you to try to have a little more patience and understanding for your body and its reactions. You are not wrong. Your emotions are not "wrong". You are just a human trying to figure out this wild world of sexuality and media. That's a big task for all of us. So be kind to your body as it finds its way through this.

Best,
Val
vambrace
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by vambrace »

@valerie4 -

First of all I just wanted to thank you for sharing your own experience. It helps a LOT to hear this is not a unique situation to me - I know it's not, but it's not something I've ever been able to discuss with someone else before, so it's really reassuring. Then I wanted to thank you for this entire reply!

Alright, let me try to articulate this. For me, my asexuality means I don't want anything personal to do with sex. I'm not comfortable joking/talking/thinking about myself in a sexual context, much less engaging accordingly. If I find anyone attractive, it's in a way that's completely separate from myself and how I'd like to interact with them (and it's worth noting, I've only ever found celebrities and fictional characters I wouldn't even want to meet "attractive"). I really appreciate your note about being able to define this for myself and not feel guilty about it, but I don't think that's my issue. It's more like for whatever reason, things like writing and comics with strongly defined characters feel distanced from myself in a way where I can engage with them comfortably. Something about anything more graphic than that feels more personal and visceral, even though I'm just as much a third party witnessing something fictional. It's not so much that I've failed myself as an asexual person or anything, but I have the same kind of feeling afterwards as I do when my friends make comments/jokes about my sex life and I laugh along and pretend I have one to avoid a more uncomfortable conversation. In the moment it feels like the path of least resistance, but afterwards I feel viscerally uncomfortable and am reminded that some fundamental part of me doesn't want to do what I just did.

I'm currently working on getting a therapist, but I haven't been able to in the last year due to COVID, so when I do, I'll make sure to bring this up with them! I'm not really sure how to reorient this in a positive way, but I will try to think of a way to do so, and address that with a therapist. The idea that we focus on things that are harmful definitely has a lot of weight to me in this situation and I think you're right that I need to find a better angle to tackle it from to really let go of it.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response!
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi vambrace,

I'm so glad Val's answer was helpful, and that you're looking into getting a therapist! That's a great step in terms of taking care of yourself.

I want to hone in on something you said about your relationship with the kind of porn that leaves you feeling uncomfortable reminding you of conversations with your friends. It sounds like you may not be out to them as asexual yet. Is that the case? Are these friends you think you could be out to (or are there friends you're already out to), or do you feel like your sexuality is something you can't be open about right now?
vambrace
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by vambrace »

@ Sam - I’m out to my friends, but those experiences were a combination of 1) things that happened before I came out and 2) them continuing to joke anyways, I guess because the idea is they weren’t being serious and so it didn’t matter. I’ve since explained to them I’m not comfortable with that sort of thing, so I just mentioned it to kind of explain what I meant by the identity conflict. My issue with this is genuinely not feeling like I shouldn’t do something because of my sexuality, it’s more equivalent to me doing something in spite of what natural and healthy expression of that sexuality would be for me. Which sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world and somehow isn't?
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by Elise »

Hi vambrace, chiming to add a voice of support. You have a great level of self awareness which is the first step at dealing with compulsive behaviours. I can certainly identify with taking the "path of least resistance" as an avoidant coping mechanism, particularly in situations of stress.

One thing that I found useful was therapy, it's great that you are looking to take this first step for yourself! You mention that you had difficulty seeing someone with COVID at the moment, one thing to consider is that psychologists might be able to offer "telehealth" appointments on a video call so you can attend remotely and start sooner.

The other thing that I found really useful was mindfulness practice, for me, it helped me notice what I was doing and where my mind was at in the moment and redirect myself, rather than having to realise it after the moment had passed. Headspace have a great series of beginner tutorials that you might like to try, and if you are a student at the moment, there is a very cheap student annual plan.
vambrace
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by vambrace »

Hi Elise!

Thank you! I considered the telehealth option but decided not to, because I wouldn’t have privacy to discuss somewhat more sensitive topics like this one, which I didn’t want my roommate or parents to overhear.

I do find the idea of mindfulness really intriguing and will try looking into that on my own in the meanwhile. In the past, I’ve found that doesn’t work for other issues I’ve dealt with, like anxiety, but now that you mention it I realize I’ve overlooked it for topics like this one where I do think I might find it helpful. Thank you for the advice! I’m currently not a student but I’m sure I can find some accessible resources elsewhere.
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by MeditationBowl »

Hi vambrace,

I relate to a lot of what you've shared here. I think some of the suggestion others have included might be helpful for me too, so thank you for asking your questions!

I want to second the suggestion to try mindfulness. It's not a cure all, and it takes time and practice, but I find it can be very helpful. If you're looking for an app, the app MyLife is another good one, and it includes free mindfulness meditation content. Here is the link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... n_US&gl=US
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi vambrace,

Thanks for that clarification about your friends! I wanted to get a sense of whether you felt isolated in or teased for your identity, but it sounds like they've dropped the jokes now, yes?

With telehealth, if it's an option you were initially interested in, a number of providers offer options where your sessions are like a text-based chat, because they understand that lots of clients may be in living situations where it's hard to talk out loud about sensitive issues with any degree if privacy.
vambrace
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by vambrace »

@ Sam W - That makes sense! They have dropped the jokes. I honestly do feel a little isolated, still, when I'm with some of my friends, who know but did seem to be really surprised and not super understanding when I told them, but I have enough other friends who get it where it's not a super pressing issue or anything to me.

Oooh, I didn't know that! I assumed it would all be video and voice. I might have to look into that because it does sound useful and I actually find this sort of thing incredibly difficult to discuss out loud, so a text-based medium would help a LOT.
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Re: Advice for stepping away from porn use

Unread post by Sam W »

I'm glad that piece of information was helpful! And yeah, the text based option ends up being preferable for lots of people, which hopefully means you can find a therapist who's a good fit for you that offers that option for sessions.
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