Porn Nation: struggling with sex addiction

Michael Leahy recalls porn's negative impact on his life

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Michael Leahy

Jon Purdy

NOW, I'M ADDICTED TO LOVE. Former sex addict Michael Leahy's road to recovery included losing his wife and chatting in hot tubs with Ron Jeremy. Leahy shared his story with Western students last Thursday.

Some people begin their journey to faith in Sunday school or after a near-death experience. For Michael Leahy, the journey began in a jacuzzi with porn star Ron Jeremy.

Leahy, a former sex addict, spoke on Thursday at the Campus for Christ-sponsored event Porn Nation.

In his multimedia-based presentation, Leahy discussed the dangers of pornography and its prevalence in our hypersexual culture. He also shared his transition from sexual addiction to faith.

As an avid porn user for three decades and a sufferer of “sex syndrome,” Leahy recalled struggling for years with an increasing addiction " one that tore apart his marriage and, at one point, left him on the brink of suicide.

Leahy began his presentation with a broader focus: the pornography that triggered his downward spiral.

Through media clips, Leahy revealed some staggering statistics about porn. For instance, audience members learned the porn industry nets over $57 billion worldwide per year and the average age of first exposure to porn is between 11 and 13 years old.

In addition Hollywood produces a few hundred films a year, versus 11,000 films a year from the porn industry.

“Would you know porn if you saw it?” Leahy asked, and almost all hands in the audience went up.

Leahy said the definition of porn is any material designed with the express purpose of arousing you sexually. Under that umbrella, he suggested porn can take the form of magazine advertisements, music videos, reality television, fashion shows " even Barbie dolls.

“Fourteen thousand sexual images are witnessed [by someone] on an annual basis,” Leahy said.

Drawing on his experience, the former sex addict challenged the idea of porn as just a cheap form of entertainment and suggested its damaging effects on society and individuals can run deep.

Despite marrying and having children, Leahy’s addiction to porn led to a compulsion for sex, which caused him to have an affair 13 years into his marriage.

“[Real sex] began to feel like bad porn to me,” Leahy said. “Not enough variety, not enough spice.”

Eventually Leahy hit rock bottom in his addiction and began going to sexual addiction counseling. But his true recovery stemmed from a conversation with Ron Jeremy.

Leahy said audience members could leave during a five-minute break in the presentation, since his next words were to be about spirituality.

After the break " during which barely any students left the packed room " Leahy told the audience about touring campuses with Jeremy for a series of porn debates, which led to an unexpected conversation one night in a hot tub about life, death, and the possibility of a supreme being.

“I asked Ron, ‘If there is a heaven and hell, where are you going?’ After a moment of hesitation, Ron said, ‘hell,’” Leahy recalled.

Leahy instead chose to embrace faith " a turning point in his life " and finished the presentation with an account of his journey into Christianity.

Students left Porn Nation with various feelings on the presentation.

“I thought [Leahy] gave a much-needed perspective on this topic,” first-year education student Daria Banak said.

Patrick Daly, a second-year management and organizational studies student, thought Leahy’s message was relevant: “It touched on things people are afraid to talk about.”

Kelsey Loudon, a first-year science student, didn’t like the spiritual aspect of the event.

“I’m just not spiritual myself,” she said.

Porn Nation event director Ted Martin felt the presentation was successful and commented on the high percentage of students who remained for Leahy’s faith-centered finale.

“Deep down, a lot of people are interested in spiritual things,” Martin said. “It’s an intrinsic part ... but society makes it so you don’t want to talk about it.”

If nothing else, Western students were left to think about whether or not we are indeed a porn nation.

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