OCD Ruined My Sex Life
When sexual fantasies meet intrusive thoughts, the results can be torture.
My earliest memory of having an intrusive thought was from when I was 7. I had gone to the bathroom during recess and started washing my hands, as good boys and girls do. After drying them off, I swore I saw a baby germ lingering on my left knuckle. It felt icky, like a slimy worm. I had to get it off of me. I went back to the sink and repeated the cleansing ritual three times—my lucky number. No matter how many times I repeated the cycle, my hands didn’t feel clean enough. Every time I touched a door or a desk or a pencil (three times), I was convinced I carried E. coli all over the school and everyone would get sick and die and it would be my fault.
My intrusive thoughts also made me a pathological truth-teller, to an annoying extent. Every time I did something wrong, the guilt would weigh heavily on my mind. This might sound like a good trait, but it’s not always. When my second-grade teacher caught my friends and me talking in class, part of our punishment was to sign a discipline document. I didn’t sign it, but I couldn’t let it go and, two years later, I was back in front of that teacher, in tears, to confess.
Puberty Turned My Intrusive Thoughts Sexual
For the majority of my childhood, these were the lengths of my intrusive thoughts. Then, I discovered pornography at the ripe old age of 9. I went from looking up photos of Six Flags Magic Mountain to looking up photos of naked women. I attended a small K-8 Catholic school in Long Beach, California. When we weren’t talking about God’s love, kids in my grade were talking about penis sizes and the real meaning of the F-word. It seemed like all my classmates discovered what sex was right when I did, even if we didn’t know what to call it. My parents knew that I knew, but, in our household, we never had the birds and the bees discussion. Everything I learned about sex, I had to learn about on my own—and porn was my teacher.
I learned more about human anatomy from Pornhub than I did in class. Sex ed felt like a SparkNotes review compared to what I was seeing online. I learned how to masturbate at the age of 9, and it became my number one coping mechanism for social anxiety. Whenever I was happy, sad, angry or whatever I was feeling at the moment, masturbation seemed like the right thing to do, for lack of a better phrase.
When I got to middle school and started going through puberty, my intrusive thoughts came fully into fruition. I began developing sexual fantasies about not only my classmates but my educators, as well. I felt like a pervert. No matter how attractive my male teachers were, I should not have had these thoughts about them. Initially, I chalked it up to growing pains.
“Every kid going through puberty has these thoughts,” I told myself. “As long as I keep them suppressed, I should be good.” But they never let up.
After I reached college, my intrusive sexual thoughts only got worse. My growing pornography addiction didn’t help. I started with straight porn. It felt “manly” to watch women in porn (at least, that’s what felt “cool” to other boys my age). There was a sleepover I went to in middle school with all boys where we watched a bunch of porn when the mother hosting us went to sleep. I remember feeling drawn to it—not to the girl in the porn, but the idea that we can somehow learn from it. When I went through puberty and discovered gay porn, it became my source of pleasure. There would be days when I would spend up to 10 hours watching porn. It got so routine that it became normal. I didn’t want to be social. I would ignore texts and calls from friends. I hid away from my family. I sailed away to Lonely Island and didn't even realize it.
My Sexual Fantasies Made Me Miserable
My sexual fantasies escalated to include everyone around me: male, female, young, old, black, white, it didn’t matter. Coming to terms with my queerness was difficult. I felt like a pervert for falling for a cute, brown-haired soccer player. With my Catholic upbringing, my obsession with sex was also mixed with self-hate. Almost nothing was off-limits for me. It was like a car crash that you’re helpless to stop. I couldn’t avoid the thoughts. I would have these intrusions up to 20 times a day. Every time it happened, I felt repulsed. The fantasies weren’t even sexy; they were graphic and deviant: group sex, public play, BDSM, sexual violence. They frequently kept me up at night. A lot of them didn’t even fit my sexual interests. (I’m as vanilla as it gets.) I would describe myself as open sexually, but not explicitly so. I thought enacting these scenes might get them out of my head, so I started to venture into some in-person exploration.
Almost 30 sexual partners later, I still haven’t found the “cure” I thought was be out there.
What I have found is how to best save myself. In order to break down my porn-related OCD, I had to go after its roots. Scrolling through Instagram one day, I discovered an organization called Fight the New Drug, which specializes in educating people on the harm pornography does to the consumer—as well as the performers. I realized I had a problem, but discovering them made me feel less alone, considering both men and women suffer from it.
What makes pornography addicting, in my opinion, is the self-exploration of it. Growing up, sex was never discussed around me. To this day, my parents and I have never discussed sex, even though I’m now a 23-year-old man. I’m not trying to shame them—I think sex was too taboo, even in the early 2000s. I’m also autistic, which makes people tend to infantilize me in a way that winds up oppressive, even if they don’t mean it that way. Open discourse around sex would probably save a lot of children from being exposed to pornography. But in my case, that was only part of the problem.
I certainly have a problem. When you throw religious trauma, sexual immaturity and OCD in a batter, you wind up with the most toxic cake imaginable. I couldn’t tell what was real and what was fake. I felt like the desires that would manifest in my thoughts meant that I was those things, that this was the reality I was stuck in. I eventually learned that it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Educating Myself About Mental Health Has Brought Me Relief
Over the last two years, I’ve discovered OCD-related support groups through social media. Educating myself on the different types of OCD has allowed me to feel normal again. During the pandemic, I’ve learned that social media is a true gift for learning about other people’s experiences. I had been following mental health accounts for a while before discovering Instagram accounts dedicated specifically to OCD. These accounts would break down OCD and the thought process of it. There is one girl who I currently follow who is documenting her life treating her OCD in a hospital. It’s given me tools to let these intrusive thoughts sit, without being scared of them. Intrusive thoughts are like waves; you can let them crush you, or you can ride them.
I wish I could say that I’m 100 percent clean of porn. Over the last year and a half, I’ve made a few different attempts at quitting, but I’ve stumbled each time. The longest I went was three months. At times, I feel like a fraud. But what keeps me going is my desire to let go of control. I found that when I’m obsessing over having control in my life, the intrusive thoughts become prevalent. Since approaching my self-healing this way, my intrusive thoughts have decreased. I’m learning how to have better relationships with men (and not see them as sex objects). I don’t want this message coming off as some random guy acting like he’s holier than everyone. I hope you, the reader, can understand that we don’t have to succumb to our environment.
In order to do that, we have to trust ourselves. I didn’t believe I was worth healing, and I punished myself for years about it. Do yourself a favor: Give yourself a big hug! You’re doing just fine.