Pornography as Panacea

Johane Alexis-Phanor
5 min readMay 24, 2023

Nothing deepened the grief, sadness, and pain of my depression like pornography. A diet high in fried and sugary foods made me feel awful. Self-isolation worsened my self-esteem and kept my negative thoughts bouncing back and forth unchecked in its echo chamber. But pornography made me inconsolable.

When depression had stripped me of all my joy, I searched to feel something. I looked to pornography to fill voids: the pain of being alone, the lack of intimacy in my life, and the absence of pleasure.

But pornography became a remedy and a sickness. And the more it alleviated my sadness, the more it exacerbated my illness. It was a temporary fix with long-term detrimental effects.

Sex as a Form of Liberation

Photo by Kristina V on Unsplash

We live in a society that champions sexual freedom and sexual exploration. Sexual promiscuity is seen as a form of liberation and power. Sex work is being mainstreamed and there is a movement for it to be legalized. Polyamory is on the rise and almost 30 years after the “Ethical Slut” was published, ethical non-monogamy is more accepted. Many of the boundaries around sex and sexuality have been removed except for consent. Abstinence is viewed as oppressive to women, disconnecting them from the pleasures of their body. And any critique of sexual freedom is seen as negative, repressive and moralizing.

A lot of what we understand and now accept as sex positivity has been shaped by many of the ideas of Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst and student of Freud. His writings, medical practice, and experiments focused on sex, sexuality, and politics. He believed that when we repressed natural sexual desires, it led to “neuroses, perversions, patholiogical [sic] changes of character, anti-social manifestations of genital life and, not least, work disturbances” (The Invasion of Compulsory Sex-Morality, 1931). For Reich, sex was medicine. And this idea has permeated our culture through multiple iterations of sexual revolutions. In this context, it is easy to see why the use of pornography as a form of treatment is so prevalent.

Sex as a Commodity- Pornography and the Pandemic

During the pandemic, there was an unprecedented increase in the use of online pornography. It was used to treat unemployment, isolation, boredom, anxiety and other mental health conditions as well as being a form of distraction. Pornhub immediately saw a 25% spike in daily worldwide traffic in late March 2020. Onlyfans net revenue grew from $360 million in 2020 to almost $1 billion in 2021- a 160% increase. Pornography as an outlet and panacea was encouraged by pop culture: songs like Beyonce’s remix to “Savage” further legitimized Onlyfans; celebrities flocked to create their own Onlyfans accounts; and livestreams coined “Demon Time” encouraged women to strip naked for money.

The confluence of increased internet consumption, spike in traffic to adult platforms, increase in adult generated content, and forced sex work due to financial insecurity led to a pornographic boom during the pandemic. But at what cost? What will become of the people who may not be able to go back to a regular job because they now have explicit content online? What will be the long-term mental health impacts on those trying to reintegrate into society with new addictions and maladaptive behaviors? The average Onlyfans creator makes about $150/month. Is this type of sex true liberation?

Sex as a form of Oppression

Pornography only did 3 things for me: 1) it worsened my depression, 2) it deadened my moral compass, and 3) it led me to seek more debased content to achieve the same amount of pleasure. There is nothing good about pornography. It leads to addiction; objectification of human beings; aids and abets traffickers; exploits women and children; leads to people attempting to duplicate the objectionable things they see; destroys relationships; destroys the brain and much, much more. It is not remedy. It is not liberating. Sex without boundaries is slavery.

Sex and Depression- Addressing What’s Really Ailing You

Confess. If you’re using porn as a coping mechanism, don’t allow shame and stigma to keep you in the darkness. Shed light on your porn use. Find someone who truly loves you and won’t judge you and confess. This confession can be in the form of a 12 step program, psychotherapy, or accountability groups. Most importantly, confess your porn use and addiction to God.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”James 5:15 (NKJV)

Acknowledge your pain. Write down your thoughts and emotions everytime you want to watch erotic or explicit content. Your lust is often a secondary emotion to a deeper need and desire. Whatever those desires are- write it down. You’ll often find feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and pain from life’s disappointments. Don’t try to mask the pain but feel it and know that it will not destroy you. If the deeper need is something you can address, like boredom, then choose the practical healthier route and don’t self-medicate with porn.

Ask God for help. One of the reasons why you’re using pornography to cope is because you believe that you have control and that you can fix whatever is ailing you with a dopamine hit. But it’s out of your control because your brain has been rewired, your reward centers have been damaged, and your executive functions have been negatively impacted by pornography. God is asking you to humble yourself and to surrender to him. Pray this simple prayer, “Lord, I have no control over my lust but I know that in your mighty power, I am delivered from the strongholds of addiction to pornography.”

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV)

For more resources around porn addiction, seek help here or here.

Joy for the Depressed Black Girl is all the wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained from living with severe depression for 15 years. It is information I wish someone had shared with me at 22 years old at the onset of my mental health struggles. This blog covers everything from faith, therapy, career, and relationships; gives useful resources; and provides a holistic approach to healing.

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Johane Alexis-Phanor

I write about racial & gender equity, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, faith, and mental health to empower Black communities | Fundraising Consultant