Pornography is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as, “The depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” According to Michael Leahy, however, pornography can do far more than incite arousal, it can “shatter [your] dreams.”

Leahy was first exposed to porn when he was eleven. It was just a topless woman on a deck of cards, but to Leahy it became so much more; a 30 year relationship with pornographic material flourished that “eventually cost him a 15 year marriage and family of two boys, a promising business partnership, countless relationships, his reputation and near financial ruin,” according to his web site, www.Bravehearts.net.

Brought to Western’s campus by the Campus Crusade for Christ, Leahy gave his lecture, “Porn Nation: the Naked Truth,” on Friday, February 10 in the PAC. To help students understand about the infiltration of sex into our society, Leahy said that the ratio of sex stores to MacDonald’s is two to one in the United States. As far as the college-aged demographic, Leahy stated that we are exposed to more sexual images than any age group in history: 14,000 images a year. Part of the reason for this is the four to five hours a day the average person watches television, according to Leahy. This is approximately one quarter of our waking life.

As it said in the film that Leahy showed intermittently during his presentation, is integration of sex into our popular culture “just a natural part of development of our society?” Are we just sexually repressed creatures that are finally being allowed to open up?

According to a press release by Leahy, the answer to the these questions is a very emphatic no: “From the rapid rise of cyber-porn addiction among male and female college students, to its role in influencing the high incidence of rapes and prevalence of eating disorders among college co-eds, the growing influence of porn in the midst of an already sexually charged campus culture is taking a very real toll on students’ lives.”

Aside from rampant sexual deviancy, Leahy described one of the overriding effects of too much sexual stimulus as “A pre-addictive state…it’s a pathological condition that includes decreasing sexual pleasure and intimacy as a result of increasing exposure to sexual stimuli.”

The path to this “pre-addictive state” is not a long one, warned Leahy; and you may have no control of how quickly you arrive at the destination. “You need to understand the brain,” said Leahy. “It’s the largest sex organ really.” Leahy went on to describe how the brain produces the chemical dopamine in response to the intense stimulation of porn or of sexual exploration with someone new and exciting.

Then, to keep from too much dopamine being shot around the brain, it “does something everyone has heard of; it builds up a tolerance,” said Leahy. “The brain won’t allow [the same old thing] to get me fired up now, so I have to get something more interesting to get up to that level.” According to Leahy, the need for more and more novelty and excitement can lead to multiple relationships and the need to find increasingly more graphic porn to get that dopamine rush.

Interestingly enough, studies show that dopamine is the same chemical that’s released in the brain when a person drinks alcohol or smokes a cigarette, and that it plays a large role in the development of addiction.

Alcoholics and smokers are recognized addicts, however, Leahy stated that some people don’t believe in sexual addiction. Leahy was once a self-proclaimed sex addict. After describing meeting a beautiful woman, Patty, Leahy went on to discuss the warning signs that pointed to the failure of his marriage with this woman whom he loved dearly.

Porn was really the beginning of the end for Leahy; “Most of it was very demeaning to women, showing them as sex objects,” Leahy said. “I had the impression that wow, everyone goes around and has sex all of the time; maybe women like sex so much that that’s what they’re there for, to give us sex.”

College was a whirlwind of sexual experiences for Leahy; “The quality of a date was measured on how far you got with her, did I score or not,” Leahy said honestly. “If it wasn’t somehow sexual by the end, it really wasn’t that good of a date.”

Leahy’s first lengthy relationship was with his wife-to-be. Though he was mesmerized by her beauty and absolutely loved her, he remembered sitting in the hotel lobby right before his wedding, and seeing a gorgeous women walk past; “I couldn’t keep my eyes off [them], I mean, I was really drinking in the images and imagining them undressed; I mean, for Pete’s sake, right here on my wedding night!”

It was as early as his honeymoon when Leahy began to wonder if one woman, no matter how beautiful, would ever be enough for him. The answer to this question came to Leahy sooner than he could have realized: “Look, it took about a year until Patty wasn’t enough for me,” Leahy admitted. Since porn and sexual novelty had been such a large part of his life, Leahy had begun to think of having sex “with a real woman as kind of like bad porn.”

Leahy’s need escalated farther and farther until he finally had an affair. This was the breaking point: Patty left him, his family estranged him, his family business failed and his reputation was ruined.

It took more than ten years for Leahy to really remove himself from his insipid need for pornography.

Before discussing his full recovery, which included forging a relationship with God, Leahy allowed students to leave if they weren’t interested in or comfortable with him discussing his personal beliefs.

Leahy personally believes that there has to be a balance between a spirituality component and focusing on addressing the specific behavior involved in addiction. He described some people that became obsessed with their recovery and the behavior modification and just hung out with people from the recovery group. Leahy also described people that are hypersexual, believing that they could pray their way out of addiction. “If you’re not doing it in a balanced way, it is kind of like a half baked cake,” Leahy explained.

Both Christian and non-secular resources for sexual addiction are listed on Leahy’s web site, www.Bravehearts.net.

Campus Crusade for Christ is an organization whose goals are to “to challenge students to grow in their knowledge of Jesus Christ through one-on-one mentoring, fellowship and missions,” according to the Associated Students web site. To contact this organization, you can call Cody Johansen at 933-1458 or e-mail wwucru@yahoo.com.