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When being hooked on porn ruins IRL sex

The Wireless logo The Wireless 3/04/2017

And what about the next generation? Tim Graham reports.

 
Person watching porn on laptop computer. © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited Person watching porn on laptop computer.

Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King/RNZ

Woody Robinson discovered porn when he was at primary school, before the internet was something you could search on a smartphone.

“I bought my first porno when I was eight years old off my friend’s brother for $4 out in the Hutt Valley,” says the now 29-year-old.

Then when he was intermediate-age, his porn viewing went online.

“My first interaction with porn and the internet was actually at my dad’s work. Sitting at my dad’s computer, curiosity got the best of me. So I googled the word ‘sex’ and it just kind of spawned and spawned from there.”

Woody says his dad never mentioned the incident and he considers he got away with it.

“Once that curiosity starts happening, you start diving in a little deeper, accessing porn a bit more.”

“It was more when my parents weren’t around – the computer was in the family room, so when mum was out or whatever I’d look. The curiosity was kind of turning into a sexual thing by then.”

Into his 20s, Woody says he noticed porn starting to “take away sexual chemistry” in his relationships. “It creates an idea in people’s heads of how sex should be … ideas that aren’t always normal.”

Woody Robinson says he noticed porn starting to “take away sexual chemistry” in his relationships. © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited Woody Robinson says he noticed porn starting to “take away sexual chemistry” in his relationships. Woody Robinson says he noticed porn starting to “take away sexual chemistry” in his relationships.

Photo: Tim Graham/RNZ

As well as creating unrealistic ideas of sex, there’s also the science to the loss of desire. Habitual porn use burns out the parts the brain that react to dopamine - the feel-good neurochemical that creates feelings of arousal - making them numb to the experiences that turned them on before.

Asked if he considered himself addicted to or reliant on pornography, Woody says it was “not so much a dependency, just a feeling of … you don’t know what you're doing.”

Woody says “yes” when asked if he considers his sex education was derived from porn.

“I think it’s time we started talking about it. Sex and pornography are starting to go hand-in-hand, so we need to talk about it and educate our kids and teenagers.”

Woody is not alone.

New Zealand's Education Review Office has recognised the importance of having appropriate sexuality education in schools, and is auditing how it is being taught for the first time in a decade.

And, seeing a need for extra help, schools here are calling on experts such as Maree Crabbe, a sex and anti-violence educator based in Australia.

In a recent presentation she gave in Dunedin, parents and teachers were told that a study of 13- to 16-year-old Australian teenagers found 93 percent of boys and 61 percent of girls had been exposed to pornography online.

LISTEN > Tim Graham's doco for RNZ - Online porn: The new sex ed teacher? 

Trouble is, the study was carried out before smartphones were everywhere.

Annie, a Wellington mum, is thinking of confronting porn in an unconventional way in the hope her children can avoid having an experience like Woody.

She likes the idea of a so-called sex mentor who her children could confide in, and has an orange notebook in which she scribbles down quotes, facts and statistics of interest.

Annie describes mainstream porn as “the most violent and awful and non-realistic … free and completely accessible.”

Porn isn't going away, says Wellington mum Annie. © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited Porn isn't going away, says Wellington mum Annie. Porn isn't going away, says Wellington mum Annie.

Photo: Tim Graham/RNZ

And she feels so strongly that porn isn’t going away that she’s spoken with her husband about showing their kids, when they become teenagers or older teenagers, ethical porn.

“I can’t stop my children from being curious and looking, so why not show them the difference?”

Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker says parents need to accept that children can access pornography.  "You should accept that they can and they might and build a strategy around that.  Unfortunately,  that strategy is, at this stage, having a conversation which is difficult - and the answer we have to give parents is sub-optimal, but that's the reality of what we're facing."

A year ago, Woody had what he calls a “bit of an epiphany”. “I took it into my own hands. I wanted my sexual relationships to get better, sex kind of became a little bit numb to me … so yeah, I cut pornography out of my life.”

“I kind of compare it to smoking – you don’t need it but you start to enjoy it and you kind of brainwash yourself into thinking, ‘well this is OK’. So I cut it out of my life. Wouldn’t say I was addicted, but the need to have it in my life is no longer missed.”

Woody says the move was more about changing himself than anything more socially conscious. “Degrading women is one thing, it was more for reasons that I wanted to self-improve. I wanted to start feeling a connection that maybe pornography was taking away.”

“It’s all about directing focus to other things – your sexual relationships, so put your energy into that (or) go to the gym, get that testosterone and take it to the gym or whatever.”

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