WASHINGTON COUNTY — About 3,000 secondary students in Washington County from eighth through 12th grades attended assemblies Tuesday regarding the negative effects of viewing pornography.
The subject, not previously divulged to the students, was presented at Hurricane High School, Hurricane Middle School, Lava Ridge Intermediate School and Pine View High School by members of Fight the New Drug, a nonprofit organization that works to educate and prevent the viewing of pornography.
Fight the New Drug Creative Director Kyson Dana presented at one of the assemblies before about 1,000 students at Hurricane High School Tuesday morning.
Dana, who is in his 20s, was able to relate the subject to the students and received positive cheers and feedback as he encouraged students to value their freedom to choose. He also talked about what harms the brain.
“Our brain doesn’t think things through all the time,” Dana said. “Things like drugs and alcohol can harm the brain.”
He explained the reward pathway, also known as the neuro-connectors inside the brain.
Chemicals such as dopamine, epinephrine and serotonin are released when something good and pleasurable happens, like eating, sleeping and other healthy behaviors, Dana said.
“Drugs hijack that part of the brain and force the chemicals to be released in unnatural and unhealthy levels so much that your brain can actually gain a change adapter to rewire itself,” he said. “In order to take in all these chemicals, over time things that you used to enjoy doing, like reading or ballet dancing, can no longer cut it anymore.”
People drop out of school and stop seeing their friends because they depend more on a drug to make them feel happy, he said.
Porn is addictive
Research data, available on Fight the New Drug’s website here, has proven pornography affects the brain much like a drug, Dana said.
“I know there are some skeptics out there,” he said. “I can feel it in my bones. Right? You’re thinking like, ‘What? Porn is not like a drug. I don’t smoke it, I don’t drink it, I don’t inhale it, I don’t inject it, or wherever you stick drugs. How is porn like a drug’?”
When porn is viewed, it goes into the eyes and goes to those pleasure censors of the brain at the reward pathway, he said; these chemicals are rewired in the brain, similar to the effect of drugs.
Dana shared videos and stories about drug and pornography addicts, including a man named Matt.
“I never thought it was an addiction,” Matt said in the video. “It is the most difficult, because I couldn’t just detox. Triggers were everywhere and seared in my mind. I could tell the difference in my perception and my thinking. It was absolutely identical to the problems I had with drugs, and that’s when I realized I had to treat it more aggressively and treat it like a drug.”
Dana, an Idaho native, said he travels and gives presentations across the country and has received thousands of e-mails from teenagers who struggle with pornography addiction.
Porn kills love
Porn trains the brain to look at people as objects, Dana said, mentioning a 1950s study that Nikolaas Tinbergen and D. Magnus conducted using butterflies.
During the study, male and female butterflies were placed in a cage along with a cardboard picture of a female butterfly and, as a result, the males became attracted to the pictures rather than the real female butterflies.
“With pornography, everything is fake,” Dana said. “It takes three days to shoot (a pornographic film). Plastic surgery — it is not real. They are going for the cardboard instead of the real, live thing.”
Maria, another girl whose story Dana shared, said pornography seemed harmless to her and her husband, who viewed it regularly.
“You realize you both would rather look at a computer screen and not be with each other,” Maria said. “It’s sad. It totally robbed us.”
Porn harms society
Pornography and technology have both changed through time, and about 88 percent of pornographic films are physically abusive toward women, Dana said as he shared the story of a former porn star.
“I speak from experience that there are victims and survivors who have been drugged and forced into this ugliness against their wills,” the woman, who wished not to be identified or viewed, said in a video. “I realize that the statement flies in the face of the mainstream mono-thought, stereotypical mentality that porn is something women choose, or ‘she likes it,’ ‘she asked for it,’ ‘she chose that’ — might be true to some, but most are coerced into it.”
The woman said she was drugged before each pornographic shooting with amnesic, a paralyzing drug, pain blockers, or a combination of all of them.
“We lie to give up the truth,” she said. “Our pain is too graphic. We are met with dismissals and denials. Some of us have succumbed to more drug addictions, insanity, crippling isolation and, some, to death.”
The fighter pledge
Dana shared messages from other high school students wanting to fight and stop pornography addiction. He invited Hurricane High School students to read statements from the Fight the New Drug fighter pledge and to sign the pledge before returning to class.
“I am a fighter. I am strong. I have a giant army of supporters and will rely on their strength, as well as my own, to help others understand how pornography is affecting their lives,” one of the pledge messages stated.
Dana told the students they are at the age where they can make changes in the world. Get educated, join the movement and spread the word, he said.
Dana referred to an addiction recovery website with free videos and information to help people struggling with pornography addiction.
Hurricane High School Principal Jody Rich said youth are exposed to pornography and Find the New Drug is a way to think of fighting the addiction in a positive way.
“The schools want to support families in sending a message about the negative impact of porn,” Rich said. “It impacts society and kills love. Generation after generation, we see the impact of it. If these kids realize the real dangers and how it impacts you physically as well as relationships, it will make us stronger in preventing it.”
Hurricane High School junior Laura Stirland said the subject of the assembly was not released beforehand, and when she realized it was about pornography prevention she thought it was a good thing.
“I want to get a T-shirt and tell people about it,” Stirland said.
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