There are various aspects of technology use that are dangerous for children and teens while they are engaged in the problematic behaviors. And there are additional challenges that can have life-long impacts, even after the dangerous behavior has stopped. One such area is engaging in online pornography and pornography addiction.
Three Muslim organizations – Young Muslims, NASEEHA and The Family & Youth Institute – have tackled the issue head on by examining research, reviewing therapeutic protocols, conducting new online surveys, and also amassing resources to help. Here is a summary of their work and the outcomes – The FYI Porn Addition Toolkit.
There is no doubt that the explosion of pornography online has also increased porn addiction. With 24/7 access to pornographic imagery and references, children and young adults are exposed to or seeking pornography, too. According to the most recent statistics, 49% of young adults ages 18-24 say all or most of their friends use porn on a regular basis; 62% of teens and young adults report receiving a nude image from someone else via email, social media or app. And porn use is widespread regardless of faith practices, Muslim youth included.
One of the biggest barriers for Muslims getting help from porn addiction comes from the stigma that exists in our communities. It is important to separate the myths from the realities from an Islamic perspective.
1. Many Muslims wrongly discuss sexuality only in the context of shame and sin.
Islamic guidance does not deny the pleasure related to sexual intimacy. In fact, sexual pleasure is one of the blessings of married life. It is only when satisfying sexual desires comes outside of the relationship with a spouse or takes on characteristics of perverse activities that it becomes problematic.
2. Many people wrongly believe that porn addiction only impacts men.
While research shows that more males view porn than females, girls and women do view porn. This stigma can lead to increased shame for female porn addicts and make cause them to hesitate to reach out for help.
3. Many believe that attending to your daily worship will keep you from porn addiction.
Practicing Muslims also struggle with porn addiction. According to a survey by Young Muslims, 70% of those who admit to viewing porn describe themselves as “regularly or very practicing.” Regardless of religiosity, everyone suffering from porn addiction deserves help.
4. Those who are addicted to porn actively sought it out.
While some individuals do seek out pornography, others are accidentally exposed to it. A look at some comparative data provides insight. In 2010, approximately 1 in 4 youth internet users reported unwanted exposure to sexually explicit material. More recently, 46% of young people reported being exposed accidentally or unintentionally. Among Muslim young adults, 61% report their first exposure between the ages of 11-14 years old.
Collaboration, Research, and Findings
In 2018, NASEEHA, a Canadian based mental health organization that operates a crisis hotline conducted its own survey of pornography consumption for 200 Muslim participants. Recognizing that there needed to be a more comprehensive assessment strategy,
a partnership formed to bring in a community-based participatory research approach that addressed three specific areas:
- A review of current research on pornography among American-Muslim and other-religion youth
- Input on pornography use from Muslim professionals from diverse backgrounds including clinicians, imams, and social workers
- An online survey created and disseminated by Young Muslims, the largest Muslim youth organization in North America
Young Muslims launched an online survey on the struggles with pornography of 350 Muslim participants in 2020. The respondents were predominantly between the ages of 16-22 years; 69% were males, most (85%) were single. Here are some of the findings:
- Many young Muslims (59%) view pornography. Of these, 83% were males and 17% were females.
- Most of the respondents reported watching pornography monthly (23% for males, 5% for females) and or weekly (37% for males, 4% for females); 16% of males reported daily use.
- There were a few reasons listed for why youth are viewing porn. According to this survey, most primarily do so to cope with boredom and to a lesser extent to process negative emotions such as frustration and sadness.
- Many of these respondents believed they cannot turn to their families (79%) or the Muslim community (72%) for support.
- Holding a belief that the activity is immoral is not enough of a deterrant to engage in the behavior.
- First exposure to porn is likely to be between 11-14 years old.
The FYI Porn Addiction Toolkit
These findings were utilized to gather community-based resources and create The FYI Porn Addiction Toolkit. This comprehensive resource is organized to provide support for individuals struggling with porn addiction in three specific areas:
- For those who are addicted to pornography
- For spouses of a person addicted to porn
- For parents of a child addicted to porn
For those who are addicted to porn:
In this section, there are many details related to recovery. This includes acknowledging a problem exists, understanding the “why” behind porn use, and taking steps to change habits. It is also important to seek assistance because people with addictions often fail because their addiction thrives off secrecy and isolation. Porn users are forewarned that the work necessary is hard and that “quitting porn is a marathon, not a sprint.” But there are a host of support services available, including relying on one’s faith. There are also additional resources in the form of podcasts:
- Podcast: About Pornography Addiction and the Muslim Community
- Porndemic Podcast Series by Wael Ibrahim
- Podcast on Porn by Waheed Jensen, Episode 56 to 59
For spouses of a person addicted to porn:
In this section, there are resources to help further understand the problem and how that problem impacts your marital relationship. This includes describing the signs of a porn addiction, coping with the emotional pain following discovery of your spouse’s use of porn, and how to engage in tough conversations and move forward with the relationship. Particularly important is understanding that porn use actually physically changes how the brain works, particularly the reward center and a chemical that is released called Dopamine. Porn consumption has similar effects on the brain as other addictive behaviors such as smoking tobacco. Additional reading is recommended and articles are suggested.
For the parents of a person addicted to porn:
In this section, parents are provided with specific details about porn addiction when it is involves children and teens. These include red flags that can help identify a problem, effects on the developing brain, tips for opening a conversation on the topic, finding support for your child and yourself, and making a plan of action that includes protecting your home from porn. Additional resources are also provided.
The most important takeaway from this article is recognizing there is a sizeable problem with pornography addiction amongst Muslim youth and families and that there are resources available to help. In this instance, ignoring the warning signs of addiction or supporting the stigma attached to this topic, can actually make the situation much worse. If you suspect a problem, learn more about the issue yourself and find support in your local community. There are a number of ways to do so and The FYI Porn Addiction Toolkit is a great start. Check it out online here.
More about the Contributors:
Here are more details about the three Muslim organizations that contributed.
Young Muslims is described as the largest Muslim youth organization in the U.S and Canada. Since the mid 1990’s, the organization has established over 50 organized networks of local youth groups that are referred to as NeighborNets that strive to “empower Muslim youth through companionship, mentorship, education, and service. Through halaqas, sports, retreats, and conferences the group provides leadership training, professional career services and community engagement. The organization has established two wings that function independently of one another – YM Brothers and YM Sisters. For more details, visit https://ymsite.com/.
NASEEHA is a mental health hotline that operates 7 days a week and answers calls from around the world. In addition to serving Muslims and non-Muslims in this capacity, the organization provides workshops across North America, web therapy sessions with male and female clinicians, and offers texting mental health support. The organization is headquarters in Ontario, Canada and the helpline is available from Noon to Midnight, 7 days a week at 1 (866) 627-3342. (Note that web therapy sessions are only available to Canadian residences at this time.) For more details, visit https://naseeha.org/.
The Family & Youth Institute has been engaged in work to strengthen and empower individuals, families, and communities through research and education in the Muslim community for over 10 years. They currently focus on four areas of research - youth, marriage, parenting, and mental health and wellbeing - and offer a wide variety of workshops, consulting services, and online resources. Their website is filled with publications and reports that are useful to individuals and practitioners alike. For more details, visit https://www.thefyi.org/.
The FYI Porn Addiction Toolkit was also funded by Islamic Relief USA.