How is pornography damaging to people and society, much more so than is commonly believed?
What are some of the major myths associated with pornography, and how can we protect our children from it?
And how can we help ourselves or our loved ones who might be addicted?
In this episode, we sit down with Matt Fradd, author of “The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography,” and host of the podcast Pints With Aquinas.
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Matt Fradd, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Matt Fradd: Thanks for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: Matt, you have written the book “The Porn Myth.” I’m going to tell everybody what made me think of you. We talked a little bit about this offline. The other day, I was at an event. There was a pretty prominent speaker. They directed us all to a website where we could get more information. I had my iPad, I put in the information. I stared at the iPad, the screen flashed a number of times and suddenly, hardcore pornography appears. Of course, I clutched the iPad to my chest, hopefully no one saw anything.
It got me thinking, “Clearly, this was some small change in an address, I typed it in wrong, and clearly this was some kind of a way to get people that aren’t expecting it into looking at pornography,” and I thought, “My goodness. What if this was a 10-year-old kid or whatever, 12-year-old kid? I don’t know.” Pornography is a very, very serious issue in my mind and this captured my imagination. Tell me about the porn myth.
Mr. Fradd: For the last several years, 10 [years] even, I’ve traveled the country and internationally, speaking almost exclusively on the issue of pornography, which is a very interesting thing to do. It makes Uber rides interesting when people ask you what you do for a living. And I speak to about 70,000 people a year—high school students, college students—and after having spent so much time interacting with young men [and] young women who would say they are addicted to pornography, they’re seeing the negative effects in their own life, they want to stop, they’re not sure how, responding to objections that individual students or teachers had, I thought it would be a good idea to put it down into a book.
So, “The Porn Myth” is a non-religious response to pro-porn arguments. I think I sat down and thought about 30-something myths that people often bring up, one-liners to try to justify porn use, and then responded with logic and scientific evidence to show that if you’re pro-science, then that’s a really good reason to be anti-porn.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s really interesting. You brought to my attention that 100% of the royalties of the book go towards helping sex trafficking survivors. This actually makes me think of one of the myths, is that there’s no connection between the two. But presumably, this suggests that there is a connection.
Mr. Fradd: Right. 100% of the royalties go to help a group called Children of the Immaculate Heart out in San Diego who house and help educate those who have been caught in sex trafficking, so I don’t make a cent from the book. So, I think that pornography exploits the human person, turning it into a commodity in the basest possible sense. Obviously, it’s not identical with sex trafficking but I do think that there is overlap.
If sexual trafficking is defined as a sexual act brought on by force, fraud or coercion, that it would seem to me that there is much more sexual trafficking taking place in the “porn industry” than maybe we first thought about. Whatever we might conclude regarding the studies that talk about pornography leading to sexual violence, I think one thing is clear, that in order for a man in this instance, if we’re thinking of sex trafficking usually, for a man to violently, sexually hurt a woman, some part of him must first believe that she is not so much a person deserving of respect and love, but rather a thing for my selfish gratification. And it seems to me that pornography is a really good way to educate someone in that mindset.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re just reminding me of something I read a while back. I don’t know if you have read the same document. That was once referred to, something which was told to me was a very, very good, powerful piece of journalism because it was a woman who had gotten unprecedented access to the porn industry. She was very non-judgmental, and they gave her a type of access that she was able to see from the inside of how the industry operates somewhat.
I started reading one of these articles and frankly, I couldn’t read very far. It was just traumatizing. But one of the things that came out in this article at the beginning was this process where a woman had committed herself to being in the industry, but she had resistance to making good on her decision. There’s a guy there, perpetuating violence against her to break her, so that she could participate. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this.
Mr. Fradd: Oh, I hear it all the time. This is exactly what I meant earlier where I said that this is an example of fraud, force, coercion. So, what’s happening here is a sexual act being brought about due to these things, so that would classify as sexual trafficking. It seems to me that if we’re even bothered to listen to those who have been in the pornography industry once they’ve left.
I think what we’ll discover is the story they have to tell, their experience, is much different to what Pornhub, or Playboy, or whoever else would have us believe. I would say virtually all survivors that I’ve read who are no longer part of the industry talk about being either seriously sexually abused as a child or neglected; being unable to process the trauma due to these things. And then one of two things happen, they’re either preyed on directly by the sex industry or they feel they have no other choice.
I think of Jenna Jameson. No one has made it as big in the porn industry as Jenna Jameson. In her bestselling book, “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star,” which I positively don’t recommend your viewers read, she recounted a conversation that she had with Howard Stern. Howard asked her if she was ever sexually abused or molested as a little girl.
In the radio interview, she quite naturally lied, as perhaps I would have if I were put on the spot and asked such a personal question. She said, “No, absolutely not.” But in her book, she says that she “lied like a rug.” And she talked about being gang-raped and left for dead in high school. And she said she didn’t share that because she didn’t want people to know that she got into the industry because she was a victim.
Pamela Anderson, the Playboy bunny of the 90s, just a couple of years ago giving an address to Peter, spoke about her love for animals, and part of her love for animals was based on the fact that she was seriously sexually abused as a child. It goes on and on. It’s bloody, drearily predictable.
Belle Knox of Duke University, … she became famous rather because she said she was doing porn to pay off her student loans. She said she found it very liberating to be spat on and hit in the face, and this sort of thing. She, bless her, quietly left the industry and then admitted, “I’m a rape victim. I’m an ex-cutter. I’m just trying to take things one day at a time.” The stories are drearily predictable, and I think it’s a good thing if we begin to listen to the women who’ve got out.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s incredible, this connection. I wasn’t aware that it was such a strong correlation. What conclusion are you drawing from this?
Mr. Fradd: That’s a great question because someone might say to me, “Are you really going to sit there and make the claim that everyone in the sex industry is some helpless victim who has daddy issues or was sexually abused as a kid?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. I have no doubt that there are men and women in the sex industry who had perfectly—I don’t know—regular childhoods, maybe had a decent relationship with their father and this is just a choice that they’ve decided to make.
But I am of the opinion, people might disagree with this, that it’s a manly thing to respect a woman even when she doesn’t seem to want that respect. So, if a woman has forgotten her dignity and chooses to have herself exploited in pornography, to choose to still treat her with dignity seems to me to be a rather manly thing.
So, what am I concluding from it? I suppose I’m concluding that the myth that the women and men in the industry are just well-rounded people who enjoy sex and are feeling empowered, I think that’s a very faulty thing. In my experience, it’s more generally the case that we’re dealing with people who are trying to process trauma, and who are very unhappy, and who are very dysfunctional.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things that comes out in the book is that there’s quite a bit of science that supports pornography not being a very good thing. I think your first myth that you go into just works around the addiction of pornography and how it functions in a very similar way to other kinds of addiction. Could you break that down for me a little bit?
Mr. Fradd: Sure. As I sit here today, there are exactly 50 neuroscience-based studies on porn uses—MRI, fMRI, EEG, etc.—all of which provide strong support for the addiction model. I think that’s important to point out because it seems to me that sometimes when you say, “Pornography can be addictive,” somebody will respond and say, “Oh, rubbish! That’s just nonsense. What are we going to do—call everything an addiction now? Maybe people are just choosing to engage in things that are harmful to them and that’s that.”
Or people might think that people are just trying to justify their use of pornography, “Look at me. I’m a helpless victim. I’m addicted.” Or they’ll say, “Pornography is not a substance that you bring into your body like nicotine, or cocaine, or methamphetamines. Therefore, to equate it with substance addiction is to really just trivialize addiction.” That’s the argument. But as I said, we have 50 neuroscience-based studies that all lend support for the fact that pornography can indeed be addictive.
Now, we are hearing more and more these days about a neurotransmitter called “dopamine” which gives us that “I have to have it now” feeling. It incentivizes us to perform actions that are conducive to our survival. What neuroscientists are discovering is when pornography users engage with pornography, there’s a downgrading that occurs and the brain no longer feels dopamine’s effects as it once did.
And because of this, the porn user feels the need to seek out more deviant forms in some instances of pornography, or just to view a whole lot more pornography to get that rush that he had become accustomed to getting.
In his bestselling book “The Brain that Changes Itself,” Norman Doidge has this excellent illustration. He talks about being in a forest and imagining two paths before you. These are illustrative of neural pathways, and he says, consider this one path is the path you can tread down to look at pornography, and maybe ever since you were eight years old, every time the temptation—or if you don’t want to call it a “temptation”—every time there’s an urge came upon you, you went and looked at pornography.
So, this part is very well warned. But this path over here which goes to not looking at pornography is very much overgrown. So, he says, when the porn addict wants to begin to be free of pornography, it’s bloody difficult because it’s a heck of a lot easier to look at it than to not look at it. But over time, through accountability and education, and the required help, this path is going to become easier to walk down as I tread through it, while the other path begins to overgrow.
So I’m not saying that if people are addicted to pornography, they’re just “that’s it”—they’ve messed up their brain and that’s it—because the good news is, we are told by people much smarter than me, that the brain changes itself, that it can heal itself, that it’s plastic. Not that it’s made of [real] plastic but that it’s always changing, molding, making new connections.
Let me use one other analogy to get this point across with the dopamine. Suppose you’re on the phone with somebody and they’re upset with you, maybe it’s your boss or something, and they start to shout. Well, you might take the phone away from your ear. If they continue shouting, you’ll be able to hear them. If they start to speak quietly or normally, you have to bring the phone back up to your ear to hear them.
Likewise, if somebody is in a habit of watching pornography, when they open that laptop lid or click on the phone and start to masturbate to pornography, it’s as if their brain is being shouted at by dopamine. And when they go out into the regular world and try to engage in the things that they used to find meaningful and beautiful, it’s very much like the phone away from your ear and the person speaking softly. That is to say, the brain isn’t feeling, experiencing dopamine’s effects as it once did, and that’s really problematic.
Mr. Jekielek: I can imagine this must have pretty traumatic impacts on actual relationships, right?
Mr. Fradd: Yes. I would say that if you want to remain sexually dissatisfied and frustrated, then pornography is definitely the way to go. There are over 75 studies and I’m happy to share the links with you so that you can share them with your viewers. There are currently over 75 studies that link porn use to sexual and relationship satisfaction.
So again, these are not the findings of some uptight, repressed frigid who’s afraid of his or her sexuality. This is what modern science is showing us. It’s precisely because I’m pro-sex that I’m anti-porn. It’s precisely because I want, as a married man, a beautiful, and loving, and intimate, and fulfilling sex life, that I have to shun porn because all of the data suggests that it begins to erode our most cherished intimate relationships.
Mr. Jekielek: What actually happens? Presumably, I think you’ve said that you’ve spoken with people who are in this situation, people write to you regularly, that have this issue. First of all, how does this play out in someone’s life? Maybe if you have an example, and then what are some of the success stories of getting out of it?
Mr. Fradd: I think for many of us, it just became a way for us to cope and to self-regulate, as the body regulates through shivering or sweating. … We seek out behaviors that help us regulate emotionally. For some of us, that might be having a drink at the end of the night; it might be binging on Netflix when we just can’t handle our spouse; or we just got into a nasty chat with our parents or something.
For many of us, when we were children, especially if you’re my age, I’m 36, people around my age, we were exposed to pornography at an early age. For us, that became the drug of choice. So even though as children, people weren’t aware that they were seeking out pornography when their dad was angry at them; or when people made fun of them at school; or when nobody wanted to go with them to the class dance or something like that. …
People often find there are these emotional triggers that lead people to looking at pornography. I think the first thing is to acknowledge that and see people say, “I don’t want to live this kind of life anymore.”
I’ve met people of all walks of life—atheists, Christians, Muslims, feminists, people who would say they’re not feminists or against what feminism means today, people of all stripes—were like, “I just don’t want to live this sort of life. I don’t want to have to creep off to a dark room late at night while my spouse is asleep and masturbate to pixels on a screen. This isn’t how I imagined my life. This isn’t what I thought of when I thought of a beautiful marriage,” or “This is just not how I want to be.”
Another thing that’s very interesting is that there are multiple studies right now—35 in fact—that link porn use to sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Out of those studies, 7 of them—7 of the 35—show not just correlation but causation. And they show causation because once the one factor was removed—pornography, people regained their natural sexual function. …
To give you a story, I’ve met multiple men who are in the prime of life, they’re in their 20s, they’re fit, they’re attractive, but they can’t have sex with their girlfriends, or they’re married and they can’t have sex with their wives because their brains—to use an euphemism—have been burned out as it were, to speak colloquially. So, they can’t get turned on by a real flesh and blood woman, or man.
I’ve met women who can’t orgasm with their husbands. They have to leave their husband in the bedroom, go look at pornography, and then come back. I’ve kept meeting people who are like, “What if I don’t want to keep going down this dead-end road that Pornhub has me on? What if I want to just love and cherish the person I’m with?” And so, for that reason, seeing people begin to quit pornography and hearing their stories are absolutely incredible.
It wouldn’t take much time on YouTube to find what’s called “no fap”—“fap” is a slang term for masturbate—“no fap” video diaries of people who are, “Okay, it’s day 42, I haven’t masturbated, I haven’t looked at pornography.” They’re talking about how much more beautiful their life is becoming; how much more time they have to do things that they love that they find meaningful; how their relationships have become so much more beautiful. So, there are a million and one stories that I could draw from but it’s very hopeful.
Mr. Jekielek: With the way you talk about this, it almost sounds like everybody’s doing it. How prevalent is this in society?
Mr. Fradd: It’s very prevalent. I think it’s very prevalent because most of us have been given portable X-rated movie theaters—otherwise known as phones—from a young age, especially in the millennial age group. I think a significant—well over 50 percent of people—are consuming pornography. I think that’s certainly true of men and it’s increasingly true of women as well. And young women are sick and tired of people pretending that this is just a man’s issue.
Thankfully, there’s been a lot of courageous women who have stepped up, “Yeah, this is something I struggle with.” Whenever I go and speak at high schools, I’m not there to judge them; I’m not there to tell them what to do. I’m there to give them the facts and to suggest to them that it doesn’t have to be this way.
I am usually greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of people after the talk, and I hear beautiful stories from multiple young women, “Yes, many of us struggle with this but we don’t know we struggle with it because no one’s talking about it as women, and then the men are all coming around to speaking very openly about it.” The average age differs depending on the study you look at, from about 8 to 12 years old as far as one’s first exposure.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s incredible. Right now, is it more prevalent among young people in high school, like the people you’re talking to typically, or what about the adult world?
Mr. Fradd: That’s a good question. I think porn use has skyrocketed. What we once called “hardcore,” we now call “softcore”; what we now call softcore, we call “Hulu” or something—I don’t know. Because of this accessibility to pornography, porn use has skyrocketed. Prior to the internet, it’s difficult to find porn.
We all know that if we can remember such a time. But with the advent of the internet, porn use became accessible, affordable and anonymous. I refer to these as the “three A’s” of the internet: accessibility, affordability and anonymity. Because of this, porn use has skyrocketed among young people, as well as adults and even older people as well.
Mr. Jekielek: You had yourself some moments. You said you got exposed to it pretty young. There was some point in your life when you said, “Something’s off here.” Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Mr. Fradd: … As someone who studied philosophy, let me get into that discussion by mentioning Friedrich Nietzsche. Friedrich Nietzsche talked about something called “ressentiment”, which is the French word for “resentment.” He meant it to apply to people who feel themselves incapable of attaining a certain good, and then rather than admitting their own impotence, demonize the good.
He said Christians were like this. They want to be powerful, they want to be rich, but they can’t because they’re pathetic, so what they do is they make a religion out of being meek, and kind, and submissive, and these sorts of things. I don’t agree with him on that, but I do think “ressentiment” is a very interesting way of looking at it.
And I say that for this reason: If somebody is looking at pornography and you call them out on it as I was called out on it, as a young man, you have two options. The first option is to say, “You’re right. This is a shameful way to act. This is not what a man ought to be doing. I wouldn’t want my grandma seeing this. I wouldn’t want my future spouse knowing about this. I certainly wouldn’t want my children to know about this. So yeah, you’re right and I need to change.” But that takes a lot of bloody courage.
So, it’s a lot easier to say, “You know what? You’re the problem. You’re the prude. You’re uptight. You’ve got all of this morality that you keep trying to foist on everybody.” It’s a lot easier to do that because that way the problem’s not on me, it’s on you. And so, I would say when I was eight years old, I stumbled across porn, began looking at pornography and masturbating on a regular basis.
Once the internet came in when I was about 15 or 16, it was just a good night—I was looking at this on a very frequent basis. I would have to say that after I looked at pornography, I always felt disappointed with myself that I really don’t want to be doing this. But at the same time, I had this tremendous desire to do it because it felt so good, but always immediately afterwards, it would feel so gross.
And I think for a while there, I chose the second option: the problem isn’t with me; the problem is with the uptight, frigid people, and that was good. But I think I got to a point where I had to admit, “You know what? I just don’t want to be like this. I want to be a better man than this.” That’s when I decided I needed to change. It was about 17 or 18 when I made that decision.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. Very briefly, since we’re talking about you, when did you make the leap into talking about your experience and the research you’ve done, frankly?
Mr. Fradd: It wasn’t on purpose. I just slid into it. My wife and I were living in Donegal, Ireland, shortly after our marriage. I woke up one night, 3 a.m. … After having experienced a significant time of having not looked at pornography and feeling like I was beginning to feel some of these wounds heal, if you want, and I thought, “You know what,” I said to my wife, “I’ve got to create a website and I’d love to record my story and maybe make a pamphlet.”
Shortly after that, I was invited on the Irish Morning Show on the BBC because at the time, it felt like nobody else wanted to talk about it. But I didn’t have a problem talking about it because I knew that many other people were also struggling. And so, I began talking about it, and then people would invite me to speak at the universities and high schools. I did a heck of a lot of research on my own, and that’s where the book “The Porn Myth” came from.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things that I find very disturbing, I don’t know if you actually handled it so well in the book. I’m going to challenge you here a little bit because I don’t know the solution. The myth that you mentioned is, we can’t protect our kids from porn in today’s world.
Given the ubiquity of it, given the ease of access, given these unexpected triggers where you didn’t even want, you weren’t even looking, but suddenly you got pulled in at a time where you might not even know how to deal with it, eight-year-old kid or whatnot, how can we possibly protect our kids from this?
Mr. Fradd: I’m going to do something that I don’t usually do and that’s changed my opinion on the spot. I think you’re exactly right and if I were to rewrite this book, I would change the myth. I think you’re exactly right. I don’t think it’s possible to protect our children from this if by “protect our children,” we mean, make it such that they aren’t exposed to it.
So, I grant your point. I think what we want to do as parents is give our children an internal filter for an unfiltered world. I don’t advise that we dig a bunker in the backyard and stuff our kids in it, though I’m increasingly open to the argument. Rather, I think we want to have responsible, moral, young adults, and we want to help them to navigate the internet, the Netflix, the Cosmopolitan magazine, the 50 shades of stupid flicks—although that’s a bit out of date—landscape.
So, we have to do that. And there are very concrete things that parents can do to see to it that they’re doing the best they can as far as preparing their children to navigate this landscape, which I’m happy to talk about if you want.
Mr. Jekielek: Please. Yeah, that’s interesting.
Mr. Fradd: So, I’d say first of all, we have to recognize that it’s a problem and maybe the first thing we have to do is study. We have to look into the research ourselves because many parents aren’t that convinced that porn’s the problem.
When my dad found my stash of porn—God bless him, I love my dad, he’s a good man—but I think he just thought, “Okay. Good. The plumbing is working. He’s attracted to girls or some such.” And so, he just thought, “Well, it’s not too bad.” I think some parents have this idea that, “As long as you don’t go overboard, it’s okay.” But you can’t look at the research long to realize that isn’t actually legitimate.
Any kind of exposure to pornography, I would say, is detrimental. The second thing we have to do is we have to talk to our children about pornography and I would say from the age of six years old. And I say six because it’s usually at the age of six that a child has some access to a screen, whether at your house, or a friend’s house, or at school. And screens, unlike when I was a child back in the 80s and 90s, access pornography.
Naturally, when I tell parents to talk to their kids about porn from the age of six, they freak out, and I understand it. We do not want to scandalize our children nor should we, but I think we can talk about pornography in an age-appropriate way.
Here’s how I would recommend doing it. You might say to your six-year-old or seven-year-old, you might say, “You know how there are good pictures, like photos of friends and family, and this photo from the beach trip we took last summer; while there are also bad pictures and these bad pictures are called pornography, and they can hurt us.”
Your child might say, “Well, what are the pictures of?” And I would say, “Well, pornography is pictures, or videos, or cartoons even, of people who are showing parts of their body that their bathing suit should cover. And if you ever see this, somebody ever shows it to you, you should come and tell mommy or daddy, and we’d be really proud of you for doing that. You might think you’d be in trouble, but I promise you wouldn’t be.”
So, I think that’s what we should begin doing. If we catch our child looking at pornography, I will say to parents, “Don’t get angry but apologize because it’s your fault that your child was exposed to pornography.” Unless something really bizarre happened like they were kidnapped, and somebody showed them pornography. But if it’s under your roof or it’s at the school you’re sending them to; or if it’s at the friend’s place that you allow them to go to, this is your fault.
So, I think as parents, we have to take responsibility for that. Sit our children down, perhaps after the others are in bed, and say, “Look, I’m sorry that this happened to you. This shouldn’t have happened to you, and I want you to know, we’re going to make some changes in this family to see to it that you’re better protected.”
And then I think the next thing parents must do is get Covenant Eyes. There are many filters out there, but the best is Covenant Eyes—it is filtering and accountability software. So, if your child goes to a pornographic website, you get an email telling you where they went, what time they went, how long they were on it. And this will facilitate a beautiful conversation that you can have with your child about how to use the internet.
So, it’s not to spy on your kids but it’s rather to help them navigate it. Again, that’s Covenant Eyes. I have it on all my devices. I will not allow my children to play at friends’ houses if the family don’t have Covenant Eyes and use technology. …
Let me just pause there for a moment just to speak a little more strongly. I think It’s a bloody tragedy if you as a parent give your child a smartphone, or a computer, or an iPad, and I think you’re failing as a parent. And I think you’ve got to bloody do a lot better job than you’re doing. And I understand that for some of us, it’s [inaudible] ignorance.
But goodness gracious, you mentioned this earlier in the interview, pornography popped up on your iPad without you even trying to find it. Surely, we parents aren’t so bloody stupid as to realize that the same things that pop up for us are popping up for our kids. So, I think it’s a terrible thing to give your child an iPhone or an iPad and not lock it down. I do think you’re being a bad parent.
So, I think my advice would be rather than you getting offended at me for calling you a bad parent, you should just stop being one. And you should either throw away your child’s phone so that they can learn to have an imagination, and memorize poetry, and read beautiful things, and encounter nature, and to climb trees far too high; or if you insist on them having a device, that you do something like get Covenant Eyes.
Much more could be said but feel free to press back or disagree with any of that. It’s difficult for me not to speak strongly about this when I see the carnage all over this country. I’m meeting 12-year-olds and older whose lives are being destroyed, and they’re too ashamed to seek help from their parents, and we have to change. It’s not okay.
Mr. Jekielek: Before I forget, I do want to talk a little bit more about that, but you mentioned anime. Sexual anime, is that pornography as well?
Mr. Fradd: We should probably define pornography. The word “pornography” came into the English language in the 19th century; comes from two Greek words which mean “the writing of the prostitutes,” or more colloquially, “the drawing of the prostitutes.” Pornography, from the get-go, was meant to serve an erotic function. It was meant to take the place of a prostitute.
So, with that in mind, I think a working definition of pornography might be pornography as material which depicts erotic behavior and is intended to sexually arouse. Now, maybe we can quibble about that definition, maybe it’s not good all the way down, but there’s clearly a difference.
When I take my children to the High Museum of Art here in Atlanta, I want them to look at beautiful naked art. I have art in my house that shows breasts and the human body. The human body is good. That’s precisely why pornography is so trashy. If the body weren’t good, I’m not sure what the problem with pornography would be.
You can’t exploit what has no grade to begin with; you can’t degrade what has no grade to begin with. So human body is good; pornography is not because it exploits it. Now, anime, … sexualized anime is usually referred to as “hentai porn,” and so given the definition that I laid out earlier, I would say that “hentai” is absolutely pornographic as well.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s go back to being parents and trying to protect your children. So now you’ve had the conversation with them. Let’s say they’re getting it; they’re getting the idea. You’ve installed the software. Are they protected now? I don’t know. I can think of another 50 ways in which they’re going to encounter this. And the other question, I guess, is there any research on how susceptible people are, especially kids, to continuing with it once they get exposed first.
Mr. Fradd: Right. First of all, it’s a reasonable question when I tell people to get Covenant Eyes or something similar. Naturally, objections, and skepticisms, and rebuttals raise up in their minds and they might say, “Well, come on, is it foolproof? Can’t they still get to it?”
I think that we should think about what we’re doing there because none of us buy a bike helmet, but before buying it, call the helmet manufacturer and have them sign an agreement that our child will never get into any accident that will cause him head damage. When we buy an alarm system for our house, same thing, we just know that we’re better off with it than without it.
Likewise, with things like Covenant Eyes, you are so much better with it than without it. So, it’s worth doing because you love your children. Does that mean your children won’t be exposed to porn? Of course not. But I think in addition to excellent software like Covenant Eyes, you want it, as I said, give your children internal filters.
You want to tell your children, “Here’s what pornography is. Here’s what to do when you see it. If you see it, close the laptop, come and tell mommy and daddy. If you stay at a friend’s house, let us know, we love you. Here’s why you shouldn’t look at it. Here’s how it hurts the brain, just like we have a bike helmet for the outside of your head. We don’t really look at porn because that can damage the inside of your head.”
Again, the goal is not to shelter our children, and definitely the goal is to have intelligent, morally responsible young adults. That’s our goal as parents, to mature them.
Mr. Jekielek: Absolutely. Something that strikes me about the software, frankly, is that if you were an adult that felt like you needed help, it could be something you could use for yourself, potentially. Let’s say you are someone that’s watching this show right now and you’re thinking to yourself, “Hmm, maybe this is more serious than I thought. I want to make a change. What do I do now?”
Mr. Fradd: I think the first thing that you have to do is admit just that. Stop blaming your relationship with your dad, or the porn industry, or Hollywood, or technology, and own up to the fact that your problem is your problem.
No doubt it’s been caused by multiple things but you’re going to take responsibility for your problem so that you can now be a better person, a better man or a better woman because you have people in your life who are counting on you to do that. So, it’s the responsible thing to do. After that, I think doing things like educating yourself would be a good thing. My book “The Porn Myth” could be an option, so you can educate yourself about pornography to solidify that agreement, that decision rather, to be porn free.
Next, I think about finding an accountability partner. So, if you’re a woman struggling with porn, finding another woman and saying, “Look, I don’t want to be in this stuff anymore, so can I call you when I feel tempted? Can I call you when I’m doing well? Can I call you when I’m messing up?” If you’re a man, likewise.
You need somebody who can see what’s going on in your life. We don’t want to be hiding. We want to bring the light into this. Some things can only be healed by the antiseptic light of truth and this is one of those things. I think pornography can lead to a lot of shame where we believe ourselves to be unlovable, “If people knew that I was into this, they’d leave me.” So, having people in our life, “I’m not going to leave you. I love you and I want to help you live a more beautiful life.” That’s very important.
Getting things like Covenant Eyes. It’s about $11 a month if you use the promo code: mattfradd. That’s my name; one word. You can try it out for a month for free. If you don’t like it, quit it. You won’t get charged. Getting that would be very important. After that, you might consider finding a certified sex addiction therapist, a CSAT, to chat with. You might find a Sexaholics Anonymous group.
Obviously, sex addiction is different to pornography addiction, but they do overlap. So, I would say, go to sa.org. Find a meeting in your area. You do it by phone, you can do it by internet, but ideally, you could do it in person. I’ve also created a “21-Day Detox from Porn” course for people if they’re interested. It’s 100% free. It’s called strive21.com.
There’s over 16,000 men going through the course right now. You can be as anonymous as you want. It’s 100% free. Every day you get a short video from me and I guide you over these 21 days. Every day, there’s a challenge you have to perform and then talk about it with the other men in the chat forum. We’re currently developing one for women as well, so strive21.com could be an option.
Thankfully, there’s multiple resources online right now that are fantastic, not just for people who are looking at porn themselves but for people who are in relationships with somebody who’s struggling with pornography. One excellent website would be “bloom,” like a flower blooming—bloomforwomen.com. If you are a woman who is in a relationship with a man who looks at pornography, you might be experiencing betrayal trauma and you need support, be sure to check out bloomforwomen.com.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s very interesting. What strikes me here is that in your community, you might not be ready to find an “accountability partner.” It’s obviously very embarrassing and so forth. Are there places like this group of 16,000 that you’re describing where you could find people that you could work with?
Mr. Fradd: Indeed! Technology is obviously not all bad and thanks to technology, we can do great courses like this online and we can encounter other people in the course. In fact, one of the days the challenge is to find an “accountability partner.” It’s not uncommon during that day for all of the men to start finding each other and say, “Would you be my accountability partner?”
And then they can dialogue over different apps. They can FaceTime, they can use Marco Polo, they can text each other daily. Even though I think ideally you want to have somebody you can meet with in-person, it’s not necessary. So, there are a lot of ways to connect to somebody to be your “accountability partner.”
Mr. Jekielek: I guess this is another question that I have. You mentioned the women that are in relationships with people who are addicted to pornography. I guess your relationship recovered, or I don’t know if you were already in your relationship when you decided to wean yourself off. But relationships, as you described, suffer a lot. Can a relationship recover from this?
Mr. Fradd: I was a couple of years into my marriage when I finally was courageous enough to stop hiding this from my wife and to be honest with her, and that was very helpful. So absolutely they can. In my experience, obviously we all know women can struggle with pornography, but just speaking as a man, in my experience, women are more hurt by the fact that something is being hidden from them, almost like they’re too fragile to take it or something, than they are when their significant other is looking at pornography.
So I would say if you are looking at pornography and you’re in a relationship, provided this relationship means something to you, I suppose [inaudible] you wouldn’t be in it, you should be honest with this person. And I don’t want to make it seem like freedom from pornography is like a finish line, and you have to do X, Y and Z, and then you’re never tempted again. I’m tempted at times, absolutely.
Freedom from pornography is not so much—what do you say—you wake up and something magical happens; rather it’s a daily choice that we make by our actions. And so, in a particular relationship, a man might find sobriety for several months, he might look at pornography, and then he could say to his wife, “This is something I fell into. I’m really sorry that I did that and here’s the steps that I’m taking in order to be healthier.”
And the woman, if she struggles with pornography, could say the same to the spouse. I think so long as the couple are determined to be free of pornography, to do whatever they can to be free of pornography, and then being loving in their transparency about it, then absolutely the relationship is on good ground.
And in some cases, this stuff may have been going on for so long that it might be a good idea not just to go immediately to your spouse and dump all this stuff on them. It might be a good idea to find a therapist who could mediate this discussion, this disclosure, between you and your spouse. That could be a very helpful idea.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s very interesting. It reminds me of the analogy you provided earlier in the program where basically you’re pruning and opening up that path that hadn’t been opened up, and then you still have to make your decisions but it’s a cleaner road, so to speak, that you can walk down. Any final thoughts before we finish up?
Mr. Fradd: No, I would just say … First of all, thank you very much. I’m honored to have the opportunity. I suppose the final thing I would say is if you’re a man or a woman, and you’re stuck in this and you feel deeply ashamed, beating yourself up is the worst thing you can possibly do.
I think the primary reason we keep going back to pornography is because we are seeking to quell or sooth our emotional turbulence. So, if you fall into pornography, don’t trash talk yourself in your head, “I’m such an idiot. Why would I do this? Disgusting. What’s wrong with me?” Because all that will do is create emotional turbulence and you know where that leads.
So, I think rather, just to say, “Okay, here I am again. I’ve fallen back into that thing I said I wouldn’t, but never mind. I’m going to take it hard and I’m going to keep pressing forward.” I think it’s very important to realize that 10 steps forward and 1 step back, do not equal 11 steps back.
So, if you’re trying to be free of this, even if you slip up occasionally, just get up, keep pressing forward. It’s a much more courageous, and helpful, and healthy thing to do than to say, “Well, I fell down. I might as well just wait in the mark here and not try.”
Mr. Jekielek: Matt Fradd, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Fradd: Thank you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.