I remember the feeling of embarrassment and awe.
I could feel the warmth of my blushing cheeks, knowing how incredibly wrong this was—but I was captivated. My heart pushed blood throughout my body in a way I had never felt before. I didn’t blink, I was almost catatonic.
As you can probably guess—this was the first time I saw a pornographic image.
I was in fourth grade, and in broad daylight, an explicit video illuminated the home computer screen. I had never seen nudity or sex in such a way. The only other time I can recall seeing such an image before this was when we lost the TV remote in our hotel room in Santa Claus, Indiana while my family visited Holiday World. The channel was stuck on HBO, and what I was seeing was a brief simulated sex scene from the “Entourage.” But never had I seen unsimulated sex before. However, on that day, fourth grade Evan uncovered a mesmerizing, yet dark realm of the infinite content the internet could give.
Pornography would soon become part of my life for a long time, but I was convinced it was just what you did if you were a guy—and for the longest time, no one would ever challenge this idea.
Masturbation/porn soon followed in middle school. I knew that it was something that other guys my age did, but I was too afraid to ever try it. I remember the locker room chats that would occur after gym class. Other boys my age bragging about masturbation, and how awesome it was. Acting as if it were a right of passage into manhood, and if you didn’t masturbate or were too afraid to, there was an unspoken mutual rejection from your classmates.
When I built up the nerve to finally try it, I felt so incredibly animalistic and gross. I built up this false-euphoria that I was convinced would somehow sustain me, but was so incredibly disappointed when it was over. It was a threshold I crossed that I couldn’t go back on. How did I respond though? I texted all my “friends.” I felt pathetic, but I had to receive some validation. Sure enough, my friends welcomed me to their sh*tty club.
What first started as a dark little secret soon manifested into something that was shared. I ended up hanging with a group of guys that were on a sports team with me. We would hang out on weekends at one of the kid’s houses. His house was the best because of several reasons:
- Sometimes his parents kept leftover beer in the fridge downstairs after parties.
- His parents turned a blind eye to us when we were over.
- They had an old computer with internet access downstairs.
- And oh yeah—his sister had friends come over frequently that were slightly older than us.
In that basement, a lot of things happened.
Through this group of guys, I was exposed to some fairly awful stuff while watching porn on the internet. We discovered “Private Browsing”—a new way to explore without any lingering shame. Hardcore pornography was a frequented genre by several members of the group, trending towards the dark and violent side of things. Unnamed women becoming the subject of humiliation and sexual pain. I grinned through it all, masking the shame I was hiding.
My friends made it a competition to see who could be the most sexually active amongst the group with the older girls in the circle. They would brag, “these girls are so easy.” From making-out, to mutual masturbation, to leaving the room to engage in oral sex or even intercourse. Then there was me. Just sitting, trying to watch “The Hangover” for the 30th time, pretending to act like I didn’t want that as well.
As time went on, my relationship with those guys faded. Some of them stayed in touch, and others fell away.
But the one thing that remained was a vicious addiction to watching porn. Nothing brought me freedom. At this point in high school, I was watching porn 2-3 times a night. Due to the lack of sleep I was getting from Vyvanse (a nasty ADHD medication) pornography became my go-to after a day of numbness and zero-passion. It was the only thing that brought me some sort of feeling.
I would go to school the next day in literal pain. My eyes would be strained from all the blue light that had sunk into my retinas the night before. I was absolutely restless and hopeless. And again—the culture around pornography was still unchanging. The users silent unless they could bring up their struggles in a humored way. A laughable punchline, and undeniable shame attached.
It began to affect the way I dated and pursued girls. I was so afraid that I just wanted to use girls for pleasure, and be unable to give them true companionship or commitment.
In the few relationships I was in, I was getting my hand slapped because it was where it wasn’t supposed to be. I was trying to convince someone to go to bed with me. I was realizing that my two-dimensional problem was slowly turning into a four-dimensional problem. When all I actually wanted was something real.
I kept quiet. I allowed shame to become my comfort. I allowed the lie of projected normality become my permission to keep failing.
What I actually needed was permission to let go. I needed to know that it could be different. In the past, anytime I had brought this up to anyone, I was met with “well, everyone struggles with it.”
What I needed was to be reminded that God designed us for real intimacy. To remember that God designed us for so much more than the sin we fall into on our own. God put that sex drive and craving for intimacy in us to drive us towards true connection—a covenant relationship with a spouse.
Most of all, I needed to know I wasn’t defined by my mistakes.
Only in the context of following Jesus did I eventually find others who were pursuing wellness and mental clarity when it came to porn. But that surprised me, because prior to that, all I experienced were either Christians who were afraid to talk about porn and quietly swept it under the rug. Or worse, if someone was brave enough to speak up about it, they were told it was evil, vile, deceitful, and would be shamed.
They were never supported. They were never reminded they were forgiven or given permission to fight differently. I was not going to sign up for that.
But eventually, I was fortunate enough to be in a group of believers that were different. We were just waiting for someone to break the awkward ice—and at first, it wasn’t me.
We each shared our stories, and one of my close friends actually opened up first. He boldly told us that he struggled with watching porn and the heartache it caused.
To my surprise, no one tore him to shreds or ridiculed him for his mistakes. He was only met with love and forgiveness. No cross-examinations or overbearing questioning, no surprises or offense.
It blew my mind and opened up the gates. It allowed so many people, including myself, to open up about their own struggles with watching porn. We found out we were not the only ones to share the bondage of that pain. That alone began to break the shame.
How to Stop Watching Porn
I began to find some success because I submitted to other men in my life to keep my ass accountable. I allowed other men to call me out at any time and ask about my porn use. It always sucks when it happens, but I choose to trust that these men have my back. They aren’t doing it to make me feel shame or guilt.
True accountability isn’t there to make you feel like crap. It should help us become better.
Today, it isn’t easy. I have found myself sometimes buying into that lie of normalization. But I fight for the belief that God truly has something better for us. I fight to remember to have grace for myself and not to traverse this alone. Who I surround myself with and what I let into my mind can change everything. In community led by Jesus, freedom is possible.
Want to make some bold moves in finding freedom? Here are some great suggestions:
- Look into joining a “Men’s Healthy Sexuality” group at Crossroads where you can find community to grow you and hold you accountable.
- Check out this other Crossroads article to get some more information on how to stop watching porn.
- Go to crossroads.net/freefromporn/, and look through a variety of Crossroad’s resources.
- Reach out to the Community Care Team at Crossroads. You can live chat at crossroads.net. Wherever you live, whatever you’re looking for, they can recommend resources to help.