From straight 'A' student to porn addict: Jessica Harris's harrowing journey

Jessica Marie Harris.

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

What you need to know:

  • Jessica Marie Harris whose dream was to become a doctor, fell into pornography addiction after childhood trauma.
  • Her memoir details her struggle with an addiction that severely impacted her academic performance and personal life.
  • Despite facing expulsion and shame, she eventually found support and began her journey to recovery.

In an eighth grade school trip to Washington DC, Jessica Marie Harris and her classmates inadvertently stumbled upon an adult network while surfing TV channels in their hotel room. The encounter instigated a plethora of curiosity in Jessica.

During her childhood, her single mother worked for long hours, leaving her and her three siblings unattended after school.

One evening in 1999, Jessica, a straight-A science nerd, was browsing a website dominated by scientific videos in her mom’s bedroom computer.

She unintentionally clicked a link and opened an adult video that displayed an aggressive and bizarre scene, which diverted Jessica's destiny to a corrosive designated path.

Individuals who have incurred past traumatic encounters, inherently search for validation and are vulnerable to promiscuity and addiction.

When she was six, Jessica's father, whom she shared a bond with, abandoned her family.

The agony was compounded by Jessica’s distress of being molested by a male classmate at the back of a school bus.

The crippling encounters grievously escalated Jessica's gullibility. She craved validation and acceptance and found them in the shelter of porn sites and chat rooms.

Jessica Marie Harris's memoir Beggar's Daughter: From the Rags of Pornography to the Riches of Grace.

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

To Jessica, pornography became a scintillating vantage habit for relaxation. Its reclusive nature appeared harmless and was a convenient alternative to sex.

She could explore it while keeping her virginity intact, curtailing sexually transmitted diseases and averting a potential pregnancy.

Eventually, what commenced as a hobby, grew into a tantalising digression she craved consistently. She began protecting the fad and created time for it while it gradually evolved into an addiction that fed her with an adrenaline rush.

During her junior year in high school, Jessica’s porn became disruptive and she used every opportunity she had to indulge herself. She was granted permission to stay in a teacher’s office during lunch and when the room was empty, she’d use the school computers to log into erotica websites. No one suspected her since she was a 4.0 profoundly remarkable student and observers assumed she was diligently studying.

She formulated innovative ideas to conceal her addiction. At night, she waited for her mom to retire to bed, before sneaking into the living room and turning on the TV.

She'd subsequently scroll to an adult channel and mute the volume. She noted the specific channel she had found the TV on and when she was done, she would revert to the initial network and place the remote specifically where she found it to avoid suspicion.

Powerful desire

During her senior year in high school, if anything intruded into her time with porn, she responded with infuriation, impatience, and disaffection. The implications and severity of her addiction began dawning on her.

Every move she conducted was a calculative effort centred on the objective of protecting her insatiable searing urges. She found comfort in her solitude, sabotaged friendships and repelled companionships. In her immaculate life, she imagined she was one of the female performers in porn videos and felt desired.

Paralysed by shame, she wondered where to seek professional assistance. Pornography was frowned upon and never discussed in churches. Preachers and congregants used cryptic words, including 'temptation' and 'purity' as though porn and sex were denounced words of disdain.

Jessica would attend church, take notes, arrive home, watch porn for hours and masturbate. When she searched for help online, all the resources were trivial, callous and were by men, addressing men and geared towards men.

Jessica's late nights of watching porn impaired her cognitive state and became detrimental to her grades. Her addiction eventually compromised her ambition to study medicine. In her memoir, Beggar's Daughter: From the Rags of Pornography to the Riches of Grace, she states that porn addiction is unlike any other.

An alcoholic can be separated from alcohol and a drug addict can be apprehended from accessing controlled substances, but a porn addict can't be detached from the mental vandalism of pornography.

Porn buries its voracity in the annals of the subconscious mind. Even without new porn content, graphic images still encroached on Jessica's psyche. She had spent years watching porn, and coupled with her detailed memory, she possessed hours of protracted distinct images and vivid videos stockpiled in her recollection.

They resurgently emerged at the worst moments, in the middle of class and chapel. She could sit through an entire class, and a fiery of porn image would play involuntarily, like auto adverts imposing themselves in her conscience.

The higher learning institution Jessica enrolled in on June 6, 2003, had a computer in every dorm room, she'd watch porn for nine consecutive hours until 5am.

URL tracked

She was soon summoned to the Dean of Students office. The computer monitoring system, which works like a credit card, had tracked her URL history whenever she logged in using her password. The Dean of Students informed Jessica that her porn infringements were the worst they'd ever encountered.

She then made an absurd traditionalist comment informing Jessica that women never had porn challenges and that she was certain Jessica had divulged her log-in password to male students. Jessica was handed a new password and a penultimate written warning.

It was a matter of time before the institution consequently found out the truth and expelled her. Jessica, therefore, withdrew from university on September 1, 2004, and moved to a smaller institution on October 4, 2004.

Fortuitously in her new college, she became a recipient of an esteemed all-women ensemble that the Dean of Staff launched to overtly assist students recover from porn addiction.

The writer is a novelist, Big Brother Africa 2 Kenyan representative and founder of Jeff's Fitness Centre (@jeffbigbrother).