Jessica Harris was 13 years old when her online research for a school project returned a handful of harmless science videos and one website that changed the course of her life: a link to hardcore pornography.
Harris was shocked, but curious.
“It was like watching a train wreck,” she says. “You know it’s bad, but you can’t look away.” The next time she went online, Harris knew how to find the site again, even though what she had seen was vile. “It was a war of emotions,” she says.
Harris lost the war.
For the next few years, Harris tucked into hardcore pornography nearly every day, often for hours at a time. She says it became an escape, a way of coping with life, and that it made her feel wanted.
The high-school student with a 4.0 grade-point average kept up her bookwork—and stayed involved in her local church—despite losing sleep and becoming obsessed with her next opportunity to go online.
“I was making sure that I was the model student and the model Christian girl and the model daughter—whatever I needed to be to keep people from guessing something was wrong.”
Harris longed to stop. She says she’d wake up in the morning and think, “Not today.” But her resolve was short-lived. “My feet walked to it,” she says. “It was like the air I breathed. I had to have it.”
Harris wasn’t alone.
Not all pornography users feel conflicted about their habits, but the numbers of men and women accessing porn online are staggering: In 2016, the largest pornography website in the world reported that users streamed some 4.6 billion hours of porn from its website alone.