The real need behind a man’s addiction to pornography

I dare you to talk about it. Shame is the stick society uses to beat up men who open up.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Please don’t do a background check, but the first time I watched porn was in high school. And it was not even good porn, just some badly directed, low-budget grainy film that looked more like a hurriedly shot gangster movie than a work of art to put a prude into temptation.

Like the scene, it was unscripted (LOL) and I walked in during the entertainment “enta” hour’s high noon, which was also the last time I was ever seen in that enta hall. I don’t live in Ruiru so I have no reason to lie to you.

It wasn’t the last time I had an encounter with pornographic content, however. That was in university—you can google which one—and I had this paramour who wanted us to spice things up in the bedroom.

Sex before marriage aside, that’s when I understood that speed actually matters, that the ‘pizza delivery guy’ is not really a pizza delivery guy, and that erotica actors have this otherworldly understanding without the awkward fumbling and “Are-you-okays?” and “Weeuhs!” that dominate ordinary Kenyans like myself.

Because my mother is reading this, I will claim that I have changed. But have I? I bring this to your attention because of the Top 10 most visited websites in Kenya, three (three!) of them are pornographic sites.

Using basic math, that means out of every 10 Kenyans, three of them have googled a porn site, will google a porn site, or immediately after reading this statement will chuckle and say, “Ha! Ebu let me finish that video on that ka-site.”

My hypothesis is simple. We Kenyans are a pretentious lot. It’s like that thing I read in a matatu: when corruption starts to favour you, you call it connections. And connected we are: by our beliefs, our mannerisms, and crucially, by the things we deny. We are masters of PR. Of perceptions. People are constantly trying to shape how you view them.

Ask the average layman if he has ever seen a racy video and that would be akin to asking them to denounce their barber. And yet the numbers persist: more and more children are getting exposed to pornographic content.

A quick glance at the National Plan of Action to Tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA), the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection confirms this: more than 12 million children in Kenya have access to pornography. What about consenting adults?

Pornography is the dark web that traps its users; an ocean that washes up our deepest desires from its great garbage patch. Sneaking a peak, then has come full circle, like a secret path to a hidden compartment of our collective soul, our dirty little secret, like the uncle with a betting problem.

It is a pure, nonverbal example of a commodified experience; a commodified formulae for a fake sense of immediacy. Our men are suffering with and from pornography. It is a shame.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no Christ in a cassock. I am not for, nor against, porn. Even the holy book says “Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial.” That is a decision only you can make. Has it not been proven that people will always find a way to get what they want?

I grew up in a mostly Christian home, went to a highly religious school and often coloured within the confines of what society expected me to do. Don’t question. Don’t complain.

The adult is always right. I kept these rules, suppressed my urges, and buried my internal conflicts: don’t smoke cigarettes, don’t drink, don’t watch porn.

But what is the purpose of these warnings if not to egg me on? People love to feel rebellious. I certainly do. And I take it more as an err on the side of a challenge than a warning.

You can’t tell me what to do. Much less what not to do. Reverse psychology? Thus, I couldn’t wait to grow up, have my own space, and be an “adult.” Being an adult seemed so fun: I could do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. The freedom I was sold was one without restrictions. Kama mbaya, mbaya.

I certainly don’t know the reasons why people watch the porn they do, but I know one thing. That it’s not going to stop just because I wrote this article. As I have grown up, I have become alive to the unstated fine print of adulting, that people are who they are. But it is my hope that more men could speak out about their addictions because porn is an addiction, the most potent one of all.

It can make whatever else life offers in the way of delights or torments seem pedestrian. It doesn’t help that we live in a society that loves to bury things behind our religious carpet—supposedly a highly moral nation, yet with compulsive impulses that betray us. In public, prudes. In private, lewd. Let me be clear, I admire Puritans (For as long as they are not lording their religious virtuosity on the rest of us condemned folk.)

I have lost a couple of male friends to suicide, depression and addiction so I do have some skin in this game. The point is, as men, and as humans, we all need a support system. We are social animals and so it behoves me to say that those people who identify as ‘lone wolves’ draw my smirk.

The first rule of being in an addiction in modern Kenya is that you are not allowed to talk about it. But, I dare you to talk about it. Shame is the stick society uses to beat up men who open up.

Masculinity today is doublethink. Claiming to be tolerant while despising those with differing opinions. That “I can stop when I want to.” In oversimplified terms, it is knowing that you're lying to yourself, while at the same time believing your lie, as well as the fact that you are not, in fact, lying to yourself.

For instance, we claim that we are a highly moral society when in fact we are just the opposite. Hence the reason why pornography will forever be our Frankenstein's monster, that constant trailing shadow, and why I don’t press play on any video that starts with a pizza delivery guy.