Thapelo Molebatsi, Bloemfontein
ADDICTION to pornography, reportedly on the rise across South Africa, is wreaking havoc in Free State homes, with addicts telling this week of how their marriages and relationships were ruined because of the habit.
Others told of how they lost thousands of rands financing addiction to erotica.
A former manager at a Bloemfontein bank **Michael Morris, 48, told the Free State Times he spent about R2 400 per month over three years – totalling R86 400 and enough to buy a good second-hand car – buying porn DVDs until he decided to seek help.
Morris’ wife left him because she simply could not accept it when she got to know about his dirty addiction.
She took with her their two young daughters and moved back to her parents’ home in Kroonstad.
**Thabiso Semelane, 44, a former mathematics teacher at a high school in Bloemfontein’s Pahameng township, said he got so hooked on pornography that he lost all desire for his wife.
Semelane could make love to his wife only after first watching some pornography.
And then only because he would be imagining, while he was making love to his wife, that he was being intimate with the stars in the porn films.
Just as did Morris’ wife, Semelane’s also divorced him upon discovering his decadent behaviour.
She also took away with her their daughter.
Olivia Davidson, a sex therapist and founder of Changes Treatment Centre (CTC) that provides help and counselling to addicts to quit porn, said her group holds counselling sessions every Thursday at the South Africa National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Centre along Cromwell Street in Bloemfontein.
She said the three-hour sessions held twice every Thursday, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, are attended on average by about 15 people, mostly adult men desperate for help to quit the shameful habit.
“The number of people currently attending our sessions is 15,” said Davidson, who could not give the number of addicts in the Free State because there are no such figures either provincially or nationally.
Consumers of pornography usually do so in secret and rarely own up to the habit, making it extremely difficult to record statistics about their activity.
But therapists are convinced that porn addiction is on a steady rise nationally with, for example, the CTC’s Johannesburg centre telling journalists earlier this week that it has recorded an annual increase of between 10 and 30 percent in people with symptoms of porn addiction.
Davidson said the rise in porn use and addiction was largely because of the advances in technology that have made it much easier for people to access and exchange porn on the internet using smart phones and computers.
Cheaper publishing costs were also contributing to making porn magazines and other publications on erotica easily and cheaply available to the public.
“There are many contributing factors to these addictions,” Davidson said.
“Some of the factors are access to the internet either on mobile phones or access to the internet at the workplace.”
Morris, the former banker, said his addiction began with what seemed a harmless love to read, from time to time, popular porn magazines such as Playboy and the Afrikaans publication loslyf.
Then the habit, and without him ever noticing it, slowly grew into an obsession whereby he would spend hours on end paging through piles and piles of porn magazines.
At some point he was able to slow down on the magazines.
But that was because he had graduated to an easier and even more titillating medium to get his daily dose of porn – the DVD.
From then on the descent was rapid.
“I would spend R2 400 per month on movies alone,” said Morris, who said he also began taking aphrodisiacs to boost his sex drive.
Morris also took to sleeping with prostitutes in a bid to try out some of the things he saw in the porn films but in the main driven by what he said was “excitement to sleep with a different partner every day”.
For some reason, Morris decided to confide to his sister about his addiction.
The sister told Morris’ wife, who found the sad news too much to handle.
She left him, quite an unfortunate turn of events but one that also helped Morris realise he needed help.
Morris is among addicts that regularly attend counselling sessions at the alcoholism and drug dependence centre along Cromwell Street.
Semelane, the teacher, said his addiction began with surreptitious visits to sex shops, strip clubs, lap dances and even soliciting casual sex partners.
“I actually visited these places wanting to experience the environment, not knowing I was going to get addicted to it,” said Semelane, who said he used to spend R3 400 or more per month buying porn material or visiting strip clubs.
“It got so bad that I was unable to have sexual intercourse with my wife without having to watch porn first and that is when I realised I needed help.”
He told his secret to the headmistress at the school where he taught, choosing to confide in her because he knew her brother had once had a similar problem.
“I was fortunate enough that she understood because his brother had also gone through the same experience in 2008,” Semelane said.
The headmistress advised Simelane to come open with his wife about his condition.
But unfortunately the wife ditched him for it, ending their 10-year marriage.
“Losing my wife because of my addiction is one of my main regrets,” said Semelane, who fortunately is also getting help from the CTC to quit pornography.
**Lesogo Molise, 35, a male nurse at Pelenomi Regional Hospital, said he was first exposed to pornography by friends.
The bad habit quickly caught on and consumption of pornography led to more debauchery – sleeping around with prostitutes.
Molise’s girlfriend bumped into his porn stash one day and immediately confronted him about it.
“Having her confront me about my addiction was embarrassing,” said Molise, who added that he did not try to deny his addiction or find excuses but came out clean, including even confessing about his countless encounters with prostitutes.
Fortunately for Molise, the girlfriend did not dump him while he is now also attending the weekly counselling sessions at the CTC.
Davidson said counselling was not intended to achieve abstinence from pornography but to inculcate in the participants a healthy attitude towards sex.
“We, hopefully, teach them through the 12-step programme of recovery, as well as bio-psychosocial methodology how to abstain from addictive behaviour,” she said.
She said counselling also included motivational sessions where addicts interact on Skype with former porn addicts who were able to beat the habit.
The porn industry is a thriving business not only in South Africa but globally, generating about R30 billion per year.
Research by internet accountability and filtering site CovenantEyes showed that globally over two billion porn searches were made on the internet this year, while one out of five mobile phone searches were for pornography.
**Not real name.