Okon stands out as exceptionally polite, thoughtful young man the moment you meet him. With a master’s degree under his belt, he is everything you would hope for in a son or future son-in- law. But it is a testament to the pervasiveness of pornography that, by 15, Okon was addicted to hard-core internet filth. Having grown up in the first generation of children with free access to internet porn, Okon is speaking out to say that not only must we warn our sons about the corrosive effects of porn – we must also tell our daughters, according to him:
“Porn has become more than the most powerful form of sex education in young people’s lives. It has also become a template for the way young men view and treat women. “Porn brought me to the brink, triggering anxiety, depression and invasive sexual thoughts about every woman I set my eyes on. It also had an incredible derogatory impact on the way I viewed every member of the opposite sex. Porn not only destroyed my peace of mind. It stopped me seeing women as human beings.”
Okon believes that if this can happen to him, a well brought up, highly intelligent young man, it can surely happen to anyone. Raised in a happy home, Okon was a friendly, outgoing child who loved sports and excelled academically. As he entered puberty, like most boys his age, he started becoming curious about the opposite sex. “The difference was that I hit adolescence just at the time when porn started being readily available on the internet. “My family had a computer and after school I had an hour to kill before my mum came home from her job as a lecturer.
I had been introduced to women with no clothes on through my older brother’s Girlie mags, so it was not long before I was drawing the curtains and exploring what else I could find for free on the web. By age 15, I had been given a computer for my school work, allowing me to surf the internet in the privacy of my bedroom. Initially, I viewed ‘normal’ sex scenes. But before long the internet led me down dark paths never available in the days when the only access to porn was through top shelf magazines.
My taste for porn became insatiable. What gave me a kick and satisfied my craving one day didn’t work the next. “During my teens, the internet went from dial-up to broadband and the static images of sex turned into sites featuring pages upon pages of live- action video clips. Before long, I was led into watching more explicit stuffs to get the same fix-scenes filmed to look like rape, and degrading clips of guys pasting round the same girl. As I worked hard at school and got good marks in my exams, my parents never saw any reason to check upon me, so they never fitted computer filters.
They had no idea what was freely available. I often swapped stories of the extreme acts I had seen with my friends at school the next day. I hid it from my parents, of course, but among my friends there was no guilt or embarrassment. I counted myself lucky to be growing up at a time when you could access porn for free at the touch of a button. There was no downside that I could see. “Sadly, there was already a price to be paid – and not just for me. Even before I’d dated my first girlfriend, porn was colouring my view of women.
It had an incredibly damaging impact on the way I viewed girls because the videos portrayed them as objects whose role was to be used and dominated by men. After I lost my virginity at 16, I compared every girl I slept with to those I’d seen on the screen. I’d make fun of them with my friends if their bodies did not live up to my high ideals. At the university I had even more freedom to indulge my habit, and began looking at porn up to four times a day. Yet the girls who fell for my innocent looks had no idea how much porn affected the way I treated them. Sex to me was never about intimacy or affection. I saw it as the opportunity to play out what I had seen on screen.
“I found it incredible that I never met much resistance to my request. Girls seemed to know what I expected – probably from seeing porn themselves. And, surrounded by other young men who grew up with the same influences none of my behaviour seemed unusual. All my mates acted the same. We all put down women with the same judgemental comments. It became a challenge to see how much we could get girls to do so we could brag about it. We persuaded girls to send naked pictures of themselves that we promised to keep secret, but which we kept on our phones and then showed each other.
“At 25, and already with a master’s degree, I landed a job I was extremely proud of. Yet, Instead of feeling on top of the world, I was becoming concerned about the grip porn had over me for it had started to affect my mental well being. As well as making me more demanding of women, it also made me more critical of myself. I was 15 when I realised I was never going to match up to the bulked-up men with 12 inch Manhoods I saw on my computer. As a result, I felt so ashamed I tried to avoid being seen naked in the shower after sports. Months after I started work the insecurity that I was not good enough became worse. I felt so insecure I suffered bouts of impotency when I had sex.
I would panic and later spend the evening after I got home from work searching the web for new clips to arouse me and reassure me nothing was wrong. Afterwards, I felt an incredible low – I felt degraded and alone. “Pornography had warmed its way so far into my brain that it affected my thoughts when I saw a woman. I had developed such an underwear fetish that if I so much as glimpsed a woman’s bra strap, I would start fantasising. If I met a lady who was much older or married and whom I had no sexual interest in, unwelcome images of her in a sexual situation would pop into my head. I kept it a secret, but inside I was depressed.
I had also given up hope of ever finding love. I believed relationships were meaningless. “In a bid to free myself from my porn addiction, I started going to church with a friend where I also made new friends. I was made to realise that sex was something precious between two people. I was able to talk to people who accepted what I had done and supported me nevertheless. I haven’t looked at porn in three years and it’s been a hard fight to break free. Until recently I still had flashbacks of some of the videos I saw.
That is why I’m deeply concerned about the effect freely available porn may have on the next generation, who can view 24 hours a day on smart phones. I frequently meet youngsters who think nothing of showing each other graphic images on their phones of girls who think they have to pose naked to be liked. “Like I did, these boys don’t see porn as a bad thing – not yet anyway. I want to tell this generation, and the next, that porn is not harmless fun. I am scared for the girls growing up with men who behaved the way I did. It hurts in more ways than people realise and can do untold damage.”