'I'm A 30 Year Old Highflier... And I'm Addicted To Porn'

Team ELLE, Image Design: Zoya Kaleeva
Photo credit: Hearst Owned


The thing I like about classified ads is that they are often highly specific ('my husband and I (both in our 50s) are looking to meet a red-headed 20-something in a central London hotel for a night of play', that kind of thing). And there’s something particularly titivating about the thought that the people authoring them are real people, and that I’m getting a snapshot into their filthiest fantasies. It turns me on.

I used to cruise the ‘Casual Encounters’ section of a popular listings site but they’ve since closed it. I found a similar kind of thing in Doublelist - I scroll through the ads, read people’s wildest fantasies and use them as inspiration when I masturbate. I came to these via a fairly circuitous route.

The first porn I remember watching is the softcore 'erotic dramas' that used to air every Friday night on Channel Five. I was an awkward, unpopular girl, lonely and bookish and, looking back now, I was probably suffering with some form of anxiety. We didn’t really have words for it back then and even if I’d known the words, I wouldn’t have had anyone to tell.

My step-father was an alcoholic - and sometimes violent, and my mother and I were made homeless on more than one occasion because of his behaviour. I found it hard to sleep so most evenings I stayed awake late into the night, making plans: 'If X happens, then we will need Y and Z to get away. Where are Y and Z? How quickly could I get them and how far could we go before we run out of money.' I found having a plan comforting, a way to stop my mind from spiralling to ever darker places. In the end, having a plan was the only way I could fall asleep. Until I discovered porn.

The consensus at school was that porn was something that boys did - gross, icky, unfeminine - so I kept my Friday night viewing habits a secret. They were a source of shame but also, in a strange way, a comfort. Having a secret meant that there was a part of me which was just mine - it could not be accessed by anyone other than me, it could not be tampered with or intimidated. Aged 14, I also found these highly sexed love stories hypnotic. Sitting on the edge of my bed masturbating in front of the portable TV quieted my mind in new and profound ways. I could fall asleep without making plans. I’d just drop right off. That’s the thing about porn - it leaves no room in your head for other thoughts.

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When I left home and got boyfriends, porn featured less in my life. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s and lost my job that I found myself turning to it again. My precarious financial situation ignited a flame of anxiety that, at some points, burned so hard and so hot I thought I might literally combust from worry. This instability touched a part of me that I’d buried a long time before - the part that was still that scared, lonely girl - and I found myself again sitting up at night and making plans. This time, though, the porn available to me was much more hardcore than when I was 14.

I quickly got into the habit of watching porn for an hour or more every day - the type didn’t matter so much, as long as it was hardcore. I used it like a soporific - an anti-anxiety potion that would induce sleep, for a little while at least. The problem was, of course, that in time it started to lose its effectiveness. The content got more hardcore and I spent more time searching for it. It’s time consuming and - like most things which help one turn away from one’s anxiety - didn’t actually solve my problem.

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I knew people with proper, raging addictions to porn would stay awake for days watching increasingly hardcore videos and I did not want to end up that way. An hour each evening already seemed excessive. So, after about a year of daily use, I decided to quit video content cold turkey. It was obviously difficult - the impulse to watch it was deeply ingrained at that point. But the main issue was sleep. How to sleep without being stimulated into forgetting how anxious I was?

That’s how I came to the ads. Reading and having to engage my own imagination made everything less compulsive. I’ve never actually responded to one - and a few years down the line find myself reading them only infrequently. Perhaps it’s because my situation is more stable now - but it’s nice to know that they’re there, for the next time I have trouble sleeping.

For more information and help regarding porn addiction visit uk-rehab.com

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