Former porn addict discusses recovery

Former porn addict discusses recovery

By Maggie Cassidy

There are 11,000 pornography video releases a year, there are two porn stores for every one McDonald’s restaurant and the pornography business is a $57 billion industry worldwide.

These were some key facts and statistics recovering porn addict Michael Leahy discussed during a presentation Thursday night in the West Addition of the Curry Student Center. Leahy shared personal experiences with sex, porn and spirituality to a group of about 200 students.

Northeastern’s Agape Christian Fellowship sponsored the presentation, called “Porn Nation,” in hopes it would spark interest and conversation on the prevalence of porn.

“It’s an issue that is at the forefront of the media in our culture,” said Agape President Nathan Chase, a senior civil and environmental engineering major. “This is a good way to open up the dialogue about it and help people see what sort of impact these sorts of things have had on people’s lives and analyze their own lives.”

Since he began his recovery, Leahy has been interviewed by multiple news outlets including 20/20, debated and subsequently befriended famous porn star Ron Jeremy and toured the country speaking to college students about his experiences. He was not the person that debated Jeremy on campus last year. (Northeastern was the last stop on his latest 25-school tour, and his book, “Porn Nation: The Naked Truth,” is due out in the fall of 2007.)

Leahy said he speaks at college campuses because of the newfound sense of freedom and independence that students experience when they first arrive to college.

“Because of where college students are at – they’re away from their parents, they’re away from that parental authority at a time that they’re also exploring their own sexuality, their sexual identity,” Leahy said after the presentation. “And they’re also in the cross-hairs of the hypersexual culture that’s our media and our marketing machinery in this nation. I just want them to have a balanced perspective and consider another side of this when they’re formulating their belief systems that are going to influence the rest of their lives.”

During the presentation, Leahy said his addiction to sex and pornography spanned 30 years, ruined his marriage and provoked thoughts of suicide. He said those thoughts only began to subside when he opened up a relationship with God.

He made a strong distinction between God and religion.

“If anything, religion got me deeper into trouble because I grew up in a family that was very religious, that never talked about sex, and the churches I was in never approached the subject,” he said. “It was really through this personal relationship that I have with God through Jesus Christ that I feel gave me the ability to see myself both in terms of the depravity of my heart – if I feed this thing and let it grow [then I will] let it take over my life – but also to see the truth and see how God created me and how he loves me. That was very freeing in the idea that God doesn’t want you to sin, he doesn’t want you to experience these things, but he also gives you that free choice to do that.”

Leahy’s presentation combined his own personal commentary with short video segments from pop culture. Opening with quick clips of various sexual images from Kobe Bryant’s rape trial to Madonna and Britney’s lip-lock at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards to several scantily-clad women, the videos launched into interviews with doctors, therapists and former sex and porn addicts.

After about an hour of videos and discussion, Leahy provided a four-minute intermission during which students could leave if they did not want to hear about the spiritual side of his recovery.

Many in attendance said they felt uncomfortable during the presentation, but appreciated that open dialogue about sex and pornography was initiated.

“People really need to start a candid discussion about pornography because we’re subjected to it so much and it comes through so many different avenues,” said Paul Chong, a freshman political science major. “And our culture is saturated with it. A lot of people just blow it off because we’re so used to it,”

Junior business major Jen Weller, who helped coordinate the event, agreed that opening the dialogue was important because the addiction affects so many aspects of people’s lives.

“It hurts families, it hurts relationships, it hurts your ability to have jobs,” she said. “I think it makes such a difference in your life and dealing with it makes such a difference in your life, why shouldn’t we talk about it? Just because we’re scared about it?”

Chong echoed Weller’s sentiments on society’s fear of open discussion on sensitive subjects like fornication and porn.

“It was kind of awkward for me to talk about pornography and coming out in the open about it,” he added. “It’s something that you get through every channel except for people that are older than you, and talking about it in proper, academic or formal settings is something that just doesn’t happen, so it’s different. It’s awkward.”

Leahy said he hoped his lecture would expose students to the dangers of porn addictions as well as encourage them to break away from traditional views of sex and spirituality.

“Essentially, I would love for students to have heard this and have students start to explore their spirituality in addition to their sexuality,” he said. “Most people are going to explore their sexuality, their sexual identity when they’re away from their parents and they’re in this kind of an environment, but I think a lot of them still hold back on the spiritual side because they feel like it’s going to take all the fun out of college. That’s the way I thought of it, quite frankly, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

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