“At 30, at 24, even at 12, it was impossible for me to think about sexual pleasure without immediately feeling shame,” writes journalist and author Erica Garza at the start of her book ‘Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex And Porn Addiction'.
“I felt bad about the type of porn I watched. I felt bad sleeping with people I didn’t like. I felt bad because of the thoughts I feasted on when I was having sex with people I genuinely loved.
“For as far back as I remember, this is just the way it was. My sexual habits were sick and shameful. My thoughts were sick and shameful. I was sick and shameful…
But nothing would stop me from getting off.”
Erica started masturbating at 12-years-old, lying in the bathtub at her family home in Los Angeles.
She’d always been a shy child at school, but after being diagnosed with sclerosis and forced to wear a back brace, which protruded notably from underneath her clothes, she grew increasingly withdrawn, terrified that classmates would make fun of her.
As she retreated into herself in public, privately, she continued to masturbate. More. And more. And more.
It fast became her coping mechanism for dealing with anything, and everything, that was going on in her life.
But growing up in a staunchly Catholic home, Erica had always believed sex was ‘bad and dirty and sinful’ she tells me over Zoom, as we record the fourth episode of Talking Taboos with Daye, exploring sex and porn addiction.
“I remember feeling as though I’d found my calling [masturbating], like this was my ‘thing’, and nobody could take it away from me.
“Then, right after orgasm, I’d immediately feel this overwhelming sense of shame and self-disgust and repulsion - like I was doing something wrong, that I'd entered some room that I was not allowed to be in.
“And the only way to escape that shame, and those feelings, was to masturbate again, because that overpowered the bad feelings with the pleasure.”
It became a vicious cycle over which she felt increasingly out-of-control. And as the months and then years went on, things only got worse, exacerbated by the introduction of the internet to her family home. Where once she’d relied on her imagination to get off, suddenly she had pictures, videos, chatrooms.
At seventeen she lost her virginity to a man more than 10-years-her-senior, and her addiction to porn became interfused with an addiction to sex.
“Nobody would have guessed what I was doing behind closed doors,” she tells me on the podcast. “That I was watching as much porn as I was, and building my life around ‘who am I going to have sex with next? And after them, who am I going to go after next? And do they like me or not…’. It takes so much time and mental energy.”
But Erica didn’t admit to anyone what she was going through and it wasn’t until she was well into her twenties that she finally sought professional help for her sex and porn addiction.
And perhaps that’s unsurprising, according to Dr Daria Kuss, Associate Professor of psychology at Nottingham University and an expert in addictions, people with sex and porn addictions are less likely to come forward about the problems they’re experiencing because of the shame and stigma that surrounds it. It’s why we have comparatively little research on the topic, she adds.
But sex and porn addicts, she concludes, need support and treatment like any other addict.
In this episode of Talking Taboos with Daye, Erica Garza joins me to discuss her journey overcoming a sex and porn addiction, one which she’s documented in full in her the aforementioned book ‘Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex And Porn Addiction', while Dr Daria Kuss lends her expert insight on the root causes and consequences of this lesser-understood addiction.
I hope you enjoy the episode.