It’s time to talk about an uncomfortable issue; an issue that affects everyone yet is too often suppressed in shameful silence. But if we aren’t willing to start the conversation, we will never fix the problem.
Pornography is harmful.
It is harmful to individuals. Studies show connections between pornography use and loneliness, depression, anxiety, and a host of other problems
It is harmful for relationships. Evidence consistently shows regular porn use lowers relationship satisfaction and emotional closeness with a partner. Porn use has also been associated with greater rates of infidelity and divorce.
This is just scratching the surface of the long list of harmful effects caused by the pornography industry. Clearly, this is a problem.
And the problem is pervasive.
As high as 64% of young people ages 13-24 actively seek out pornography weekly or more frequently. Porn sites receive more traffic each month than Netflix, Twitter and Amazon combined. One study found that as high as 93% of male university students and 62% of females had seen internet pornography during adolescence. Another study shows a staggering 49% of college-aged males report seeing pornography before age thirteen. Among females, teenage girls are more likely to view pornography than women twenty-five or older. Contrary to outdated stereotypes, pornography use is a rampant problem among people of all ages and genders.
Yet we are afraid to talk about the issue. Over 80% of young men and women aged 13-24 say they rarely, seldom, or never talk about porn use with their friends.
I want to start this discussion.
On September 19th, I will be competing in a self-conducted Ironman Triathlon, an endurance race consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. While this may seem irrelevant to the rest of this post, there is a connection.
Admittedly, I used to struggle with the use of pornography. For me, it was not a totally debilitating, all-consuming problem, but it was enough to trap me in a cycle of lethargy and mediocrity. It was enough to drain me of valuable time, energy, and motivation, stunt my personal development, and make my goals feel impossibly unattainable. I knew I could not fully be myself while living with this issue. Furthermore, unlike other bad habits, I began to see how it harms other people, from those in the industry to the relationships in my own life.
It was only through fervent prayer, speaking with trusted friends, and educating myself on the harms of the industry that I rid myself of this evil. It wasn’t easy, and I received much helpful advice along the way. One particularly helpful tip I received was to replace the harmful habit with a healthy one, so I began exercising more regularly, namely cycling and jogging.
Although I had been a recreational cyclist and jogger, I started pushing myself beyond what I had been able to do. I started making a schedule, and diligently sticking to it. This was especially important on the days when I most dreaded the activities, but I knew that these are the most important times to stick with the plan. “Mood follows Action”, as one of my role models Rich Roll likes to say.
Soon I started running more than I ever had, cycling harder than before, and one day I even had the crazy idea to both run and bike on the same day. It felt amazing, and I was hooked. But most importantly, I applied these same principals of structure to my prayer life, drawing strength from the Lord, and felt called to continue strengthening the body and mind He gave me.
Along this journey, I developed a love for the activities and started pushing seeing myself achieve more than what I ever thought I would be able to do. I discovered newfound confidence, motivation, and strength. I always envisioned an Ironman Triathlon as a miraculous, unattainable goal, but something I may one day aspire to attempt. Just 18 months ago I had never run more than 8 miles, never done a bike race, and could do little more than flop around in a pool. Yet here I stand, toeing the line of a daunting challenge I never envisioned completing so soon.
I am sharing this to hopefully inspire others to not be afraid to talk about the issue of pornography; to not feel alone in their struggle; to raise awareness about what I believe is a truly evil industry. While there are many things that motivate me in my athletic goals, this cause is fundamental to what got me started in the sport of triathlon. And I know for many others there is something that is holding you back from achieving your goals. If you can identify this and put in the dedication each day, you will be able to accomplish more than you ever thought.
If I accomplish nothing else with this race, I will be satisfied knowing I sparked a discussion about a difficult and oftentimes shameful topic. I recognize the impact brought about by the attention of this event, and I hope to use this to challenge others to grow in some way. So if you wish to support me, the best way you can do so is by talking with your friends, family, anyone whom you trust about the issue I have brought up.
If you don’t feel ready to have this discussion, that is ok. But I ask that you spend some time perusing the resources at Fight the New Drug or watching one of the many informative talks on the issue of pornography. A few great videos are The Great Porn Experiment by Gary Wilson or this playlist of shorter videos.
My primary objective is to spark discussion, but if you feel like this is a cause worth supporting, I have included two ways in which you can support financially below. Thank you in advance for your generosity.
I will leave you with a final thought: My journey in this sport has been firmly rooted in my Christian faith. I begin and end every workout with a prayer, and keep the Lord at the center of my thoughts during the training process. This is my single greatest source of motivation and inspiration. Now that I will be doing this event on my own, I have a unique chance to give back to the Lord and thank him for the gift of my abilities. There are many ways in which I considered doing this, but ultimately I decided it was worth discussing this particular issue.
After all, the Christian Faith is built first and foremost on love: Love for God, Love for your neighbor, Love for yourself. And Porn Kills Love.
If you are in a position to financially support this cause, I invite you to do so in one of the following ways.
1) A great friend of mine, Nick Schartz, will spend the next year as a missionary with The Culture Project. The Culture Project, in their own words, “Is an initiative of young people set out to restore culture through the experience of virtue. We proclaim the dignity of the human person and the richness of living sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive.”
The cornerstone work of The Culture Project is speaking to high school and middle school students about living a life of real virtue. They are a Catholic organization but are able to speak from both a faith-based and secular perspective, with the ultimate goal of restoring many modern cultural issues. Among many other things, they speak of the dangers of pornography and strive to raise awareness around the issue. I support the organization, and I am proud of my friend Nick for giving himself to this project.
As a missionary, Nick will be learning, speaking, and educating young people about the importance of a life of virtue. But he can’t do it alone, and he is 100% reliant on donations to support him in his time as a missionary. I wholeheartedly believe in Nick and this mission work, and I am asking for others to support him as well. Although many of you may not know him or this organization, I am confident to ask you all to support him which will in turn support me.
If you are able to make a one-time donation, please go to https://cultureproject.stellarwebsystems.com/donations and select “Nick Schartz” in the donation details box. Then write “Ironman I.D.I.A” in the comments so we know how you found it.
If you wish to contact Nick directly, you can reach him at email@example.com . Nick is happy to speak more about his work and can offer to sign you up for his support team and newsletter.
Here is a great video about the Culture Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZyO3CcOBYo
If you decide this is not the best way for you to contribute, I offer the following worthy alternative:
2) Consider supporting Fight the New Drug. Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts. Their website offers loads of incredibly useful information and they are a reputable non-profit organization that is making a difference on this front.
If you are able, I encourage you to donate directly through their website, and if you wish, please let me know you did so. If you don’t want to donate, check out their online store and consider buying a T-Shirt or something else to show your support and spark a conversation.
If you would like to talk more about either of these donation platforms, or if you would like to discuss anything at all related to #pornkillslove, Ironman training, or even just my favorite breakfast, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.