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Self-proclaimed porn addict hopes to make porn harder to access

Experts advise how to handle porn in relationships, with children

HOUSTON – Gabe Deem, 29, is not someone you'd think would have trouble in the romance department. He’s highly social, athletic, bright and considered handsome among his peers.

At the tender age of 8, however, Deem had begun to develop what he considered an addiction to pornography.

“I would stay up late and watch soft-core porn while my parents thought I was sleeping," he said. "But things really got worse when I turned 12. That’s when my family got high-speed internet.”

By the time he was in his 20s, Deem’s addiction had begun to take over his life.

“I was 23 and I went to have sex with a beautiful girl and I couldn’t function, no matter what we tried," he said. "No matter how attracted I was to her body, I didn’t feel anything.”

It was then that Deem decided to quit porn cold turkey and reclaim his life.

Dr. Donald Hilton, a neurosurgeon, offered one possible solution.

“It’s a public health issue, and we need to protect our kids," Hilton said. "We need to all agree that we need a pay wall for all porn, and free porn is really teaching the next generation of adolescents what sex is and we have to stop that.”

Hilton said constant exposure to pornography rewires the brains of young men such as Deem, and compares the situation to that of a cocaine addict.

“It’s like when someone is addicted to cocaine," he said. "They see a line of cocaine. The reward center in the brain lights up like a Christmas tree. And in an interesting study out of Cambridge University a couple of years ago, (it) looked almost identical to cocaine with individuals that considered themselves addicted to porn.“

Houston sex therapist Emily Deayla said it's wrong to label these men as addicts.

"People can die if they are not weaned off drugs or alcohol so, physiologically, the same thing is not happening when you stop a sex or porn problem. It's two different processes, which is why (you) can't label it as an addiction," Deayla said.

She thinks the solution is figuring out how pornography fits in a relationship.

Deem said there's no place for it at all.

"I haven't watched porn in six years and I don't ever plan to again. I view porn now as just unhealthy," Deem said

He turned back to the internet for help when he quit and now uses online forums to ask questions and to answer questions from men around the world. He launched Reboot Nation, a website dedicated to bringing awareness to porn addiction that offers resources for those who are struggling, as well as for their loved ones and partners.

"Three years ago is when I started my site, Reboot Nation, and it's grown to 10,000 members, mostly young teenagers and 20-year-olds with either erectile dysfunction or porn addiction," he said.

For significant others who are struggling with a partner who chooses pixels over people, the pain can be overwhelming.

Deayla does not prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution for all couples.

“A lot of women feel like looking at internet porn is the end of the trail, and it’s interesting, because a lot of couples operate under assumptions about what should or should not constitute a betrayal of their relationship,” Deayla said.

Deayla said most couples do not discuss porn until one of them is caught, and that is a mistake. She suggests an open conversation between couples and with children sooner rather than later.

"I think that by not talking to your children about what healthy sex means -- whether its sex on the internet or sex with a partner -- they are going to try and go figure it out on their own, and where do people go now when they want to get information is the internet," Deayla said. "Unfortunately, the internet is riddled with a lot of bad information and unhealthy sex practices. So, the onus is really on parents to start the conversations young. When that happens, you know, kids can avoid it and mature in a healthy way."

 

Deem isn’t waiting around. He recently returned from Washington, D.C., where he told his story to lawmakers, trying to get them to put pressure on major tech companies to install firewalls on porn sites so that kids cannot download images on phones, laptops and game systems.