Natale McAneney is executive director of US organisation Fight the New Drug. Founded nine years ago by a group of college friends, the organisation shares research and stories to help people make informed choices about using porn
“Conversations about porn are often from a black and white – ‘good or bad’ – perspective. But porn’s harmful effects can apply regardless of religious views, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. At Fight the New Drug, we acknowledge that it’s a reality of our culture. We try to remove the stigma that makes it taboo and look instead at how porn affects the brain, and how it impacts relationships and society.
“We are anti-porn and also definitely anti-shame. We live in a culture that basically pushes people – young people in particular – into a funnel of porn that they can then really struggle to get out of. It’s an absolutely huge industry within an already sexualised culture and it’s designed to hook people.
“People struggling with porn have to want to change of course, but they often do much better if surrounded by people who are rallying for their success, rather than trying to shame them out of it. We use a very bold phrase: ‘porn kills love’. We fight for love, for people to have the chance of real intimacy and of real connection.
“We describe our community as ‘fighters’, and they’re so inspiring to me. These people have dramatically different belief systems, political persuasions, backgrounds, races and ethnicities, yet they have all experienced the harmful effects of pornography and found healthier and more fulfilling ways to live. One told me: ‘I’ve struggled with porn for 30 years. If I can recover from this, anybody can.’
“It isn’t only men who struggle. Women do too, and they generally feel a lot of shame because there is more stigma around women’s use of porn.
We fight for love, for people to have the chance of real intimacy and real connection
“Many kids today have telephones in their pockets all the time. It’s very difficult for parents to comprehend the content that’s out there today. Some pornography is among the most violent, aggressive, degrading content on the internet – dramatically different to 20 years ago.
“How can we expect this generation to make informed choices without giving them the information they need? I want to normalise this conversation, to make it easier for people to talk about it, especially parents and children. Children typing in a seemingly innocent question about sex on to the internet can end up seeing something extremely aggressive that is absolutely going to change their expectations around sex and future partners.
“Some of our supporters have no personal connection to porn. Maybe they want to help fight sex trafficking, challenge the idea of women as sexualised objects, or that men should be dominant in sexual scenarios.
“I’ve always been passionate about gender equality and about sex trafficking. I’ve also known plenty of people who have struggled with pornography; I’ve dated people who have struggled, and it’s impacted expectations that partners have had of me. I’m not someone who blindly believes anything, but I started reading the research on this and there are so many reasons to be on this side of the fight.”
Photography: Kim Raff