Episode 72

Laura

Ex-Porn Performer

Trigger Warning: This discussion includes frank, explicit, discussions about pornographic content, suicide ideation, and abuse that may be triggering to some. Listener discretion is advised.

Laura grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania but had a challenging childhood. She experienced childhood neglect, and from a young age, porn was normalized in her life. Her warped understanding of love led her to seek out validation from men, which eventually led to her working in the porn industry. During this conversation, podcast host Garrett Jonsson talked with her about her misconceptions about the porn industry, how her time in the porn industry negatively impacted her, and what she’s up to today since leaving porn.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Laura: I dunno, I just had like an unsettling feeling about it. And I remember the one girl saying to me, I had braces at the time, and I remember her saying that she wished that she had braces and that I should, you know, play off of that, you know, get fake glasses, put pigtails in my hair and, you know, make myself look younger because I would make more money if I looked younger than what I was. And I was 25 at the time. So I was like, “What do you mean by younger?” Um, and then when I realized it was like, “Oh my gosh, they mean like underaged, underaged girls.” Um, that was very uncomfortable for me.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Laura, I just want to say thanks for joining us today.

Laura: Of course.

Garrett Jonsson: I think it’s always good to kind of know who you are today. And so I’m wondering if you can talk to like what life looks like for you these days before we jump into your personal account.

Laura: Sure, absolutely. Um, well I grew up in a small town in _____ county, Pennsylvania. Um, I work full time at a local family owned company as a front office secretary, and I really enjoy my job, my dad and my brother also work there. So it’s kind of neat that I get to see them on a daily basis.

Garrett Jonsson: That is cool.

Laura: Um, yeah, it is. And cause I didn’t, I wasn’t close really with either of them growing up. So, um, it’s neat to have that extra connection with them now. And if you would’ve told me five years ago that I would be working, um, with my dad, I never would’ve believed you

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, wow.

Laura: Um, yeah. So just the fact that we’re able to work together and stuff is, um, is really neat, but…

Garrett Jonsson: I’m sure at some point we’ll talk more about that to like contextualize what you mean by that.

Laura: Right? Yeah. It’s we joke about it all the time. It’s it’s funny.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s awesome. Well, can we get a little bit more context as to what life was like growing up for you, like jumping back to your childhood and adolescence?

Laura: Yeah. Um, so I don’t really remember a lot of my childhood. Um, I’m guessing it’s just because I didn’t really have that great of a childhood. So I blocked a lot of that out. Um, mainly my relationship with my dad was not good. I grew up watching him be very verbal and emotionally abusive towards my mom and my siblings were, so my sisters five years younger than me and then my brothers five years younger than her. So, okay. I had five years of, um, my mom and my dad to myself and I feel like those were the years that things were the worst. Um, just cuz my dad had a temper that he didn’t know how to really express in a healthy manner. So it would filter out into my mom and then as I would get, as I got older, um, it filtered out onto me then. So, um, yeah, I hate to say it, but my childhood was not that great.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, that’s, it’s sad because I’m a person, you know, I believe that every kid deserves to have a healthy childhood, and the reality is that that’s just not the case because of the, of the world we live in. Like we all, we aren’t all that fortunate.

Laura: Right? Yeah. I was never daddy’s little girl or um, you know, never felt like a princess. And I think in school, growing up, I kind of had, um, a struggle with jealousy of girls that did have that close relationship with their dad. Cuz I didn’t have that in. Yeah. I have no idea what that looked like. So that was hard.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. I’m sure that you longed for that.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Do you want to talk to like your mother being in the picture or out of the picture? Like what was your relationship like with her during those years?

Laura: Yeah, so I mean growing up, um, my relationship with my mom was good until I got into my teenage years. That’s kind of when I really started to rebel a little bit, um, cuz my sister and my brother were in the picture at the time and um, I kind of felt like they didn’t have like, they had a better childhood than I did because my dad at that point was at a little bit of a better place.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Laura: So the things that I experienced growing up, I feel like they didn’t really get to experience at the same level that I did. So there was a lot of jealousy there. Um, so I mean things, my relationship with my mom wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say that it was really good either just because I had caused, um, like I had put up a wall and pushed myself away. Uh, just because of the things, the choices that I was making with the circle of friends I was involved in and the guys that I was interested in and um, just really struggled with depression, and anxiety and things like that throughout my adolescence. And didn’t feel like my family understood that. Um, and I didn’t see like my sister and my brother struggling with any of those things. And so it just kind of made me feel like an outsider in my family growing up.

Garrett Jonsson: Shoot. That’s so tough.

Laura:; Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Whenever I hear about a person experiencing childhood neglect, um, I always have to ask them if they’ve read the book Running On Empty.

Laura: No I haven’t.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, okay. I don’t know if you’re interested in reading, but as a person who did experience childhood neglect, you should definitely look at that book. It’s, it’s called Running On Empty. It just emphasizes like how important those years are and if the child doesn’t get the connections and comfort and love that they need, it can be very, very impactful, kinda like what you’re talking about. Like you were experiencing depression, and anxiety.

Laura: Mhm

Garrett Jonsson: and you know, there, there is a correlation there between your experience with childhood neglect and those feelings.

Laura: Yeah. Yeah. It’s tough, but it’s helped me also be more sensitive to, um, like younger people that I know that have gone through stuff like that. Um, cuz if you talk to someone that hasn’t gone through, things like that, they can’t really relate. So yeah. Um, I mean, that’s be neat to be able to speak into other people’s lives that have gone through it where I’ve, you know, been through it and have healed from it and things like that. So,

Garrett Jonsson: Well, that’s a, that’s a beautiful thing. That’s really, really cool. Well, I’m kind of curious like how that relationship, or I guess lack of a relationship with your dad affected your choices as you went into your adolescence and like started dating and that, those types of more romantic relationships, like how did that negatively impact you in that way?

Laura: Yeah. Um, well, since I didn’t really have any kind of a standard or rule model as to what, um, I should be looking for in a guy, I kind of just attached myself to anybody that gave me attention, which obviously is never a good thing. It doesn’t end up being the good guys that you end up with when you, um, go off of a system like that. Um, and I always felt like I needed to have some type of relationship with a guy in order to feel beautiful or wanted or loved. Um, I mean I knew that my dad loved me, but I didn’t feel that he did.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: Um, so yeah, I can’t remember a time growing up where I didn’t have a boyfriend and they were never, um, like it was never anything solid. It was all superficial. So…

Garrett Jonsson: Right. At what point did, this is kind of like a, an abrupt pivot, but like at what point did you get exposed to pornography?

Laura: Um, so in middle school, um, it was kind of just like a thing. One of my girlfriends, her dad had, um, a DVD of porn and we were curious and um, there was just more of like a curiosity thing. We knew people were watching it. Um, at that age that’s when we start talking about things and knew all the guys were watching it and didn’t really think it was a big deal and just kind of expose ourselves to it in that way. But it was just like, “Okay, that’s it.” But didn’t really think twice about it right at that point. So…

Garrett Jonsson: Just for context, like at what age did you for, were you first exposed, like in this scenario with the DVD and your friend?

Laura: Um, I wanna say it was probably eighth grade.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. One of the common misconceptions about pornography consumption is that it’s only a guy thing.

Laura: Mhm .

Garrett Jonsson: And so it’s, it’s always good to have people who, women who have been exposed to pornography at an early age, so that we like the listeners and we, as individuals in the world can understand like pornography does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter…

Laura: Right.

Garrett Jonsson: … what gender you are or aren’t or what religion you are aren’t or political affiliation. Like none of those things matter, we can all be affected.

Laura: Yeah, absolutely.

Garrett Jonsson: How did that first time exposure impact you?

Laura: Um, I mean, at that point it didn’t really phase me at all. I just thought it was something that everybody was exposed to at some point in their life. And if they wanted to continue watching it, I mean, I did think it was more like “a guy thing”, um, to like watch it continuously. Um, but it didn’t really, I just didn’t think it was a big deal.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: Um, it was just, like I said, it was just outta curiosity and we were like, oh, what’s, you know, all the fuss about it. And that was, it really didn’t really think anything of it past then.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Did your porn consumption escalate from there? Like at what point did you start turning to, did you ever, I should say, I don’t wanna assume. Did you ever start turning to pornography? Um, on a personal level?

Laura: No, I did not.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. And the normalization of pornography, you’ve kind of talked to that, like how it was normalized amongst your peers and it was a thing out of curiosity, I’m just wondering like how that impacted you? Um, like did it negatively impact your, you know, self image or your views of what healthy sex is?

Laura: So I didn’t really cuz my parents were really strict, so there wasn’t much that I could do that I could get away with .

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: So I think that actually protected me a lot from scenarios that I could have gotten myself involved in. Um, that would not have been good. Whereas all of my friends, you know, were already, um, sexually active and you know, would talk about their experiences and they would talk about, you know, “Oh yeah. You know, we watch porn porn was so and so, and we tried this and did that.” and I mean, I couldn’t relate because I hadn’t like I wasn’t involved in the same things that they were so…

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Laura: But I did feel like in my relationships they would only go so far. Um, because I wouldn’t do those things with guys. So then once they knew that they couldn’t get that from me, then they, the relationship would be over.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, okay. How did that negatively impact you? Like the fact that you would have these relationships, but then when the guy realized that it wasn’t going to progress to sex, um, like, and then they would bail, like how did that impact you?

Laura: Um, it made me feel like there was something wrong with me and it was frustrating because I felt like I was behind every one of my friends was doing it and was in these intimate relationships. And I just felt like I was missing out on something. And um, at that point I still didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. So I still didn’t have that, you know, male figure in my life. And it was just frustrating that I felt the only way that I could get that is if I did have sex, but I just, I don’t know why I didn’t, but I just, I never did until I, yeah. Until I was 21 and I regret it.

Garrett Jonsson: It’s kind of interesting because in your personal account, your personal on a personal level, your porn consumption didn’t escalate from your first time exposure, but you were negatively impacted by like porn culture. It sounds like, right. Because your peers were consuming porn and they had this expectation mm-hmm and when, and then negatively impacted your relationships, it sounds like.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: At what point did you begin to realize that porn consumption can disrupt, like we’re talking about romantic relationships, like at what point did you realize that pornography consumption can disrupt couple intimacy or relationship harmony?

Laura: So, um, my last relationship was back in 2010, 2011, um, somewhere around that area, um, that timeframe and, um, the guy that I was dating at the time was very involved in the adult entertainment industry. Um, and it was in that relationship that I was really exposed to porn on like all levels. And, um, I also got to see like the other side of the camera, not just what people view when they go on a website or watch like a video or a movie. Um,

Garrett Jonsson: So he was like in production?

Laura: No, he, so there, um, is an adult website community that you can create your own like member profile.

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm.

Laura: And you can either pay for it if you wanna be a model. Um, or you can just like create one and talk to the models that are on this website.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Laura: And he had a profile where he would like connect with these models and like have, um, like internet relationships with them, I guess you would say.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: And so he exposed or introduced me to that when we were dating. And, um, that was kind of the turning point for me when I realized, um, that porn is more than just two people having sex for entertainment.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. And one thing that’s kind of tough about the current porn landscape, like what’s currently happening today is that, is that like what you’re referring to, like user generated content facilitates exploitation at an even greater level.

Laura: Mhm Absolutely. And I don’t think people realize like, um, so he had encouraged me to create a profile. Um, and I was a little hesitant at first because it was all new to me, but then he kept talking about it and I was reverting back to, “Well, if I don’t do this, then I’m probably going to lose him and I don’t want that to happen.”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: Um, so against my better judgment, I created a, a profile, a paid one. Um, so I was not like an official model, but I was still putting content up on this website for other people to see. And, um, that was kind of like, even just like hearing myself say that , it’s still hard for me to grasp that I even was involved in anything. But, um, yeah, that was kind of like my first step into seeing what really goes on behind the camera.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Do you speculate that your boyfriend at the time kind of coerced you into it? Because if you look at the definition of coercion it’s to persuade using threat and you kind of, you kind of expressed just barely how like the relationship was progressing and you kind of were scared that it would end if you didn’t create a profile

Laura: Mhm

Garrett Jonsson: Like, do you think he intentionally like coerced you into it?

Laura: Um, I don’t think so. Um, I mean, I do think that for him, it was maybe like a pride thing. Like, “Oh, I have a girlfriend who’s, you know, a model on this website.”, you know, but I don’t think it was like a, like a power thing. Um, I think if I wouldn’t have done it, we, he would’ve been okay. But like, in my mind, because of my insecurities, I was thinking that we wouldn’t be okay if I didn’t.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It’s almost like because of your past relationships, you had been conditioned to think that if you didn’t, then it would end.

Laura: Mhm . Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: So that’s when you began to realize that it can disrupt couple intimacy and relationship harmony. Did you immediately, after creating the profile, did you immediately start to realize that it was disrupting those things?

Laura: Not at first? Um, it was a very slow realization, um, because when I first created the profile, um, I was also curious myself because I had this preconceived notion that these girls that were involved in porn and the adult entertainment industry that they were there, just because they really enjoyed having sex

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Laura: That they didn’t care that people, um, were watching them or, you know, posting, um, you know, new, you know, pictures, um, that they were just very confident and you know, very into their feminism. And I was curious about that, um, because I struggled with self-esteem and thought, “Well, maybe this will help me feel more confident.” Um, and then when I started making connections with these girls and actually became really good friends with two of them, I quickly realized then that that’s actually not the case. Um, pretty much every single girl that I connected with on that website was struggling with something.

Garrett Jonsson: We want to be loyal to the absent, and we don’t want any, you know, specific details, but like, when you say that they were struggling with something, can you be a little bit more specific? Like, was there a common trend, was it kind of similar to what you experienced, where it was childhood neglect of some sort or abuse or…

Laura: Yeah. Yeah. A lot of ’em, um, didn’t have fathers growing up, um, or were abused physically or sexually, um, by a family member or a friend or somebody else. A lot of them struggled with depression, anxiety, um, suicidal thoughts. Um, the one girl that I had become really good friends with, she had been in the hospital multiple times for trying to commit suicide. Um, so yeah, these weren’t confident women. Like I originally thought

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, that’s a common misconception. We hear people say, you know, “People in the porn industry are there because they have a higher sex drive.”

Laura: Mhm

Garrett Jonsson: And it sounds like that wasn’t your experience.

Laura: Yeah. It was not.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, going back to like the time that you create the profile, you talked about how that was surprising to you. Like you almost couldn’t believe that you made the profile. What about like the first time you produced porn? How did that impact you? Like, what was that experience like?

Laura: Um, it was weird and I feel like I kind of blocked a lot of it out, so I’m gonna try and, um, I guess explain it the best way that I can. I, I mean, I just remember, um, doing a lot of blog posts at first, just to kind of get interaction from people. And then I would post, um, kind of, you know, like half nude, half, not, I don’t know if that makes sense, but, um, you know, and kind of like eased into it. And then, um, my ex and I had actually had a fight and I was just really emotional and just kind of went like full nude in one of my posts. And wasn’t really even thinking when I posted it.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Laura: Um, and then after I was already posted and people were commenting and I was getting reactions from people about the pictures, um, that I had shared, there was kind of a, like a disconnect that happened where it was like, “Okay, like I’m into porn now. So this is my life.”

Garrett Jonsson: Wow. So it sounds like it was almost like this emotional decision kind of like spur of the moment, emotional decision because of the fight.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Did that change anything in regards to your perspective of how you saw yourself?

Laura: Um, I mean, I still never really felt confident. Um, and I don’t wanna necessarily say that doing that made me feel confident, but it did for like a split second, make me feel like people were seeing me.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: Um, obviously not in a good way but I was still being seen.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Laura: And, um, that’s really all I was wanting and like joining that community, I thought that I would get more like attention and affection from him, and that wasn’t the case either. So then when I was getting it from other people that did kind of make me feel a little bit more like, “Okay, well, at least I’m getting attention from somewhere.”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. I think we can all relate to that to some degree. I mean, I I’ve never produced pornography, but I think again, any of us can relate in regards to social media. Like, I bet it’s common for the, the typical user on social media to post something with the intention of getting attention? Right?

Laura: Right.

Garrett Jonsson: Where we kind of enjoy the likes or the comments or whatever.

Laura: Yeah. And that’s kind of, kind of what it was like. It was like the adult version, I guess, of Instagram. If you, if you say, if you wanna say that.

Garrett Jonsson: As you continued to produce pornography, did you experience like an escalation in regards to the type of pornography you were producing or what you were comfortable with? I don’t know if “comfortable with” is the correct terminology because it sounds like you were using coping mechanisms to repress those feelings.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: So I don’t know if, I don’t know if comfort is the right word, but…

Laura: Yeah, no. I mean, um, not really. I just kind of, I mean, I got numb to everything really. I started drinking a lot during this time as well. I was never really like a big drinker. I mean, I would have like a beer or something here and there. Um, but like drinking was pretty prevalent in my life at that point. And I think that kind of helped me stay distracted from like what I was doing. And um, I guess I just didn’t care at that point, so,..

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Gotcha. Is that a common trend that you saw with other performers that you interacted with? Like abusing drugs or alcohol?

Laura: Mhm. Yeah, very much so. And they were very, um, willing to talk about it Um, yeah, there was definitely a lot of drug use that was going on in a lot of the girls that I connected with.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Did you feel safe during this period of time?

Laura: Um, I don’t wanna say that I felt safe or didn’t feel safe. Um, I don’t know. It’s hard to explain because this community that I had become a part of had, um, like an area where you could go on the website for members only who had paid profiles and they were like, I guess you could call chat rooms that you could go in and talk about a specific subject and um, everybody who related would be in there and this community had just tons and tons of chat rooms, um, on girls that you could go and talk to, if you were struggling with depression, um, anxiety, eating disorders, just, I mean anything and everything. It was, they had a group for it. Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: And I found comfort in going to those groups and talking to these other girls about my struggles with my dad, and my family and even the struggles I was having in my current relationship, and my depression and all the other things that I was struggling with, cuz I was really the, those were really the only people the first time ever that I could talk about that stuff and not feel like I was being judged.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. There’s these famous psychologists who created something called the humanistic perspective and it’s by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow and the humanistic perspective says that a person needs three things to become the best version of themselves. It’s genuineness, which is like openness and self disclosure acceptance. So kinda like what you’re saying, being accepted amongst the group and the last one is empathy. And so I can totally understand why it was like almost like a cathartic therapeutic experience to share these things with those girls.

Laura: Mhm yeah. I didn’t feel alone, um, for the first time in my life. And it’s sad that it took me being part of a community like that to feel that, but, um, yeah, I became like one of the girls I actually became really good friends with. And even when I got out of, um, you know, the adult entertainment industry, her and I still stayed close for a few years after. And um, would send each other care packages and stuff because I had just developed such a heart for her.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: Um, and for the other girls that, you know, I had connected with maybe not on like a deep level, like I did with her, but yeah. It’s just, it’s a sense of like family. And since I didn’t feel like I had that in my actual family, like these girls in a sense were my family. So…

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well you mentioned some of the, like some of the negative impacts you talked about, um, like eating disorders or drug abuse or depression, anxiety, those things that you could go to this place on the website to seek help.

Laura: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: what ones specifically, were you experiencing? Did you experience, um, like an eating disorder or other negative things?

Laura: Mhm. yeah. I mean, I have struggled with, uh, depression and anxiety pretty much my whole life. And um, when I was in middle school and high school struggled with an eating disorder and, um, there were moments throughout my life where I struggled with, uh, suicidal thoughts. So a little bit of everything.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, I just want to say that I’m a big fan of endurance events, but I look at life as like the ultimate endurance event.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: And from what I know about you, I mean, we’ve only been talking for a short period of time, so I don’t know that much, but you seem like a person that’s really strong. Um, like you seem like the ultimate endurance athlete.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: So you should be, you should be proud of yourself for that.

Laura: Yeah. It’s, it’s rough. But um, I mean, I feel like, you know, there’s choices that you make and sometimes you make choices that you don’t realize that you’re even making that are good for you. And, um, I don’t know, like it’s hard to explain because there was a moment where I was really depressed and um, I can remember it was when my ex and I were together and I was, you know, in the middle of all, all this stuff and I was coming home one night and there’s this bridge that’s on a back road that I drive over every time I go home. And when I was approaching this bridge, like the thought of just driving my car off the side of the bridge, um, was very, very strong. I remember one night and I, I mean, I don’t know what it was that kept me from doing it, but I know that like, in my mind, like I really wanted to just end my life at that point. And I’m very glad that I didn’t because of where I’m at now. But, um, it breaks my heart that I know that there are girls that, that struggle with that stuff on a very regular basis. And you know, people still look at them like they’re just a product, so…

Garrett Jonsson: Right. Yeah. You said it best, like they’re being objectified by current consumers of pornography. And at the same time they’re feeling really, really down.

Laura: Mhm

Garrett Jonsson: And man suicide ideation, man, those types of invasive thoughts are, are serious. And, um, they’re tough to talk about. And is it, is it tough for you to talk about those things today? It kind of sounds like they are based on kind of your tonality and things.

Laura: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it is cuz you know, life, um, like where I’m at now, I just really value my life and I’m just, I’m so thankful, um, for my life and where I’m at.

Garrett Jonsson: Well, that’s so cool.

Laura: Um, right now, so yeah, I mean it is emotional to talk about and it’s emotional too. Um, like I said, because I know that there are people that are still back where I was. Yeah. And um, that just, that hurts my heart.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Going back to your relationship with, you know, your former boyfriend at this time, did you being in pornography and him, was he interacting with other individuals while you guys were together?

Laura: He was, yes- very much

Garrett Jonsson: I’m just kind of curious if you can talk to that a little bit. Like how did, how was your relationship?

Laura: Um, I felt like our intimacy was basically me performing for him, um, because I felt like whatever he was watching or I was seeing from the other girls that I needed to reenact the same or that I needed to reenact whatever I was sharing on my page, um, in our relationship when we were being intimate and yeah, that was hard because it nothing felt real and it was hard for me to kind of distinguish like, “Was he like even doing this because he wants to do this with me? Or is he just doing this just because I’m here?” And um, you know, I didn’t feel like it had any meaning whatsoever to him.

Garrett Jonsson: Right. Yeah. There’s definitely a difference between, you know, just, just an orgasm and an actual intimate relationship.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. That’s, that’s tough. At what point did YouTube break up?

Laura: So he had introduced me also to being a cam girl. Um, that was another thing that he really encouraged me, not in like a forceful manner, but was just kind of like, “Hey, like, have you thought about doing this since you’re already doing this, you can do this and also make money.” Um, so I, you know, was like, “Well, why, what does it matter? Like, what’s the difference I’m already doing, you know, this on, you know, so why don’t I just try the, you know, the cam thing and just make some extra money on the side who doesn’t love that. Right?” so, um, it was very different from the other community that I was a part of and I feel like I saw more, um, I don’t really know how to explain it. Like I, like, I don’t feel like I was, um, involved in sex trafficking at all, but I definitely feel like I saw more of grooming for sex trafficking when I was involved in the webcam, um, side of everything. And that, that was weird. Um, I didn’t stay involved in that for very long, but just because it didn’t sit well with me, um, it was just a very awkward experience. I don’t really know how else to say it.

Garrett Jonsson: You don’t have to answer this question. So if you don’t feel comfortable or if you’re hesitant at all, just say “No.”, but I’m, I’m curious if you can talk to a little bit more specifically what you mean, but when you say that you like were suspicious of sex trafficking, like what created that suspicion?

Laura: Mhm so it actually wasn’t until like a couple years later, I guess when him and I weren’t together, I mean, there were like, there were girls that were on there and they, you could talk to each other and then see like on the chat side, like what other people were saying and like, if you had a profile, so I don’t know if I’m explaining that where it makes sense, but like the girls, we could talk to each other while the, um, users on the other side were just typing, but they couldn’t see that we were talking to each other.

Garrett Jonsson: There’s like two different chats? Yeah.

Laura: Yeah. If that, if that makes sense. Yeah. Um, and like I could observe like other chats where girls would like say, “Oh, this guy, you know, likes when you do this…” or whatever. And, um, it was just very weird to me because I don’t know, I just had like an unsettling feeling about it. And I remember the one girl saying to me, I had braces at the time, and I remember her saying that she wished that she had braces and that I should, you know, play off of that, you know, get fake glasses, put pigtails in my hair and, you know, make myself look younger because I would make more money if I looked younger than what I was. And I was 25 at the time. So I was like, “What do you mean by younger?” Um, and then when I realized it was like, oh my gosh, they mean like underaged, underaged girls. Um, that was very uncomfortable for me.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. At what point did you start to contemplate if you really wanted to participate in this industry?

Laura: Um, so it was when we, when my ex and I broke up, um, I completely got rid of that, the cam site. I was completely done with that, cuz he was still involved in it. And um, that was actually why we ended up breaking up because I had gotten to a place where I was like, you know, “This is actually not okay. You’re in a relationship with me. I don’t understand why you feel you need to be going on and making these other connections with these girls when I’m doing everything that you’ve like kind of encouraged me to do, thinking that this is what you wanted.”

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: “And you’re still going back to this stuff and confiding in these girls.” And he told me I was crazy and insecure and just jealous and that there was nothing wrong with what he was doing. Um, and then we broke up. So…

Garrett Jonsson: Did that act as a catalyst to you saying, “Hey, I don’t want to be a part of this industry anymore or did you continue producing after that as well?”

Laura: Well, so I, like I said, I, um, gotten out of the camgirl, um, website, completely deleted my profile, made sure all my stuff was gone. And then the other community, I was still involved in that I didn’t post stuff. Um, as much that dwindled as time went on, but it was hard for me to walk away from that community completely just because of the connections that I had made with the girls.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: There were two girls, especially, um, one was an actual model, um, in the community and then the other one was, um, on her way to being one. And um, they lived in different states, so I never actually got to hang out with them in person, but I connected with them so well and we would send each other care packages, and text, and talk. And um, I felt like, you know, I had two people that knew what I was going through and I didn’t need to feel like I needed to try and hide anything.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: And especially since they knew that part of my life, cuz I had had other, you know, close girlfriends in my life while I was doing all of this. But none of them had no idea that I was doing it.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. It’s kind of cool to look back on, you know, where you were and where you are today. And we do have to navigate some heavy conversations when we’re talking about this topic- of course we do. But there’s also that hopeful side kind of like what I just acknowledge, like the fact that like who you are today and then that’s amazing and very, they’re very hopeful.

Laura: Mhm but I’m curious if looking back, if there’s a moment that kind of stands out as like your lowest of lows?

Laura: Yeah. Um, so it’s definitely, um, the night driving up to the bridge, uh, where I wanted to drive my car off into the river. Um, I was pretty low that night and I was actually on my way home to my parents’ house that evening. And um, I guess you could say, I just kind of hit a breaking point and I remember thinking to myself that if I don’t get my life together and get to like a healthy place, I’m gonna end up taking my life. So that was scary for me.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Were your parents or siblings aware of the situations you were in?

Laura: They were not.

Garrett Jonsson: Okay.

Laura: I hit it pretty well from, I mean, my parents knew that I struggled with depression, um, and anxiety and you know, all the other stuff. Um, my mom actually still has a suicide note that I had written. Um, I don’t even know how old I was when I wrote it, but she held onto it as just kind of like a, you know, “Thank God you’re still here.” type of thing, I guess.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: Um, but yeah, they didn’t know everything that was behind a lot of why I was struggling. Yeah. Um, at that specific, like I only opened up to my mom about this part of my story maybe a year ago?

Garrett Jonsson: Okay. And is your dad aware of what you’ve been through?

Laura: Um, not in detail. Um, and it’s hard because I love my dad so much and there has been a lot of growth and healing in our relationship. Um, more so in like the last four or five years of my life. Um, my thirties have been great.

Garrett Jonsson: Nice- you deserve it.

Laura: So yeah. It’s um, yeah, it’s just crazy how life changes when you don’t expect it to, but yeah, my dad and I are in a really, we’re at a really good place right now in our life. And um, I think it’s hard for me to share certain aspects of what I’ve been through because I don’t wanna hurt him.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: So…

Garrett Jonsson: As you mentioned earlier in the conversation, you mentioned the one thing that kind of hurts your heart is knowing that there’s other people out there right now who are in the porn industry who feel stuck and don’t know how to transition away.

Laura: Mhm

Garrett Jonsson: And I’m wondering if you can kind of talk to, like, what was the most challenging thing for you as you transitioned away from pornography and started to move toward a healthier version of yourself?

Laura: Um, probably the hardest thing was coming to terms with what I was involved in. Um, for the years after I, um, got out of it, I kind of just tried to erase it. Like it didn’t exist. Um, nobody in my family knew none of my close friends knew. Um, only my ex and the girls that I had connected with through the community knew that I was involved in that. Um, so I don’t wanna say like, it was easy , but it was easy for me to kind of conceal that part of my life and sweep it under the rug. Like it never happened because I didn’t have to talk about it. Nobody ever asked me about it. Um, but then as time went on, I felt like this was something that I needed to start sharing with people. Um, cuz there were different things that were coming out about sex trafficking and um, like just in the last couple years, it’s it’s been like more talked about in social media and things like that and…

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Laura: … the connection between sex trafficking and porn. And that was kind of like opening an old wound. Like I wasn’t expecting that at all. And so I had to in like the last couple years come to terms with, you know, I was involved in something that was fueling the need for trafficking. Um, however you look at it. And so when I started like educating myself on that and like allowed myself to come to a place where I needed to start opening up about it to people…

Garrett Jonsson: Mhm

Laura: … um, that I knew cared about me. That’s when like the healing really started to happen.

Garrett Jonsson: Oh, wow.

Laura: Um, and when I started, because then I know like one of my friends I opened up to, um, she was like, “Oh my gosh, she’s like, I never, would’ve known. She’s like my husband and I we’ve actually struggled with porn.” And I mean, I never, would’ve known that had I not opened up and shared my experience. Um, so I think a lot of people struggle with it, that you don’t even realize that they do because nobody talks about it.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow. It takes me back to what I mentioned earlier about the humanistic perspective in those three things, which is genuineness, acceptance and empathy. And it it’s kind of, it sounds like your, you saw a lot of benefit and like you started healing once you were able to be genuine and open up to a trusted someone.

Laura: Mhm.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s pretty cool.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: That like human connection was healing.

Laura: Yeah. And once I, um, so my mom was not the first person that I shared it with. Um, she was the third, but when I finally opened up to her, um, and was just very transparent. I mean she knew about my friendship with the one girl, but I twisted the story to make it sound like I don’t, honestly, I don’t even remember how I told her I met her

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: But, um, so I don’t know, maybe in the back of her mind, she suspected that there was stuff going on and I just, you know, didn’t acknowledge it. But when I fully like shared that part of my life with her, um, it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt like now I can really move on. Um, whereas before I felt like I was just putting a bandaid over something and um, that wasn’t really helping me heal from anything.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow.

Laura: Yeah. And I think a lot of people are afraid to share because they, I mean, I know for me, I was afraid that my mom was gonna look at me differently, um, or that she wouldn’t understand, um, or that I would be tainted in some way. And I, I mean, I can’t speak for everyone, but I mean, for me, that was not the response that I got. Uh, she was very loving and compassionate and um, reminded me that, you know, your past does not define who you are today and it doesn’t have to be your future. So…

Garrett Jonsson: That’s so cool. Thank you for sharing.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Fast forward to today. And I’m wondering if you can talk to some of the benefits. I mean, you’ve already mentioned some of them like a better connection with your dad and like the gratitude levels being high and just enjoying life. Um, are there any other benefits that you’d like to share now that you’re living a life free from porn’s influence?

Laura: Yeah. Um, I, for the first time in a really long time just feel genuinely happy. Um, like it’s not something that I have to force myself to feel. Um, and I’m just grateful every single day that I have the people that I have in my life and that I have the life that I have. And like you had said earlier, um, you know, not encouraging people to go out and experience, you know, things that are gonna, um, cause them pain. But I really don’t think that I would have the gratitude from my life that I have now had I not gone through the things that I went through then.

Garrett Jonsson: Wow. That’s kind of cool to see like that positive correlation between gratitude and happiness, like increased gratitude equals increased happiness.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: That’s amazing as we come to the end of this conversation, like our, our level of gratitude is high because again, like you are a big part of this movement to change the conversation about pornography

Laura: Mhm

Garrett Jonsson: Like you are a big part of it and you’re making a difference in your, your openness and the work that you’ve put in are not only, you know, in positively impacting yourself, but also positively impacting our listeners. So we just wanna say, thank you. And as we come to the end of the conversation, I do want to leave you with the opportunity to have the last word during this conversation. So if there’s anything else on your heart or mind that you, that you haven’t shared or that you would like to highlight again, we’d love to learn from you in this way.

Laura: Yeah. I mean, really, I just want people to know that, um, whether they are consuming porn because it’s an addiction or they’re doing it casually, um, the people that they are watching are more than just entertainment, they people. And, um, I know that I only, you know, experienced a small fraction of that community, but a lot of them, I can almost guarantee you are not the confident people that you think that they are.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: And that a lot of these people are actually hurting. They deserve to be treated with respect. And like for the girls that are still involved in the pornography, um, industry, whatever aspect it is, I just, my heart is for them and whether they are there because they feel that that’s all that they are good for or they’re being forced into it. Um, I just, I don’t know, like I just want them to know like that doesn’t have to be their story. And even if things seem completely hopeless, they’re not, and you just kind of have to trust yourself. Um, cuz healing is possible and it’s, it’s definitely worth it. So…

Garrett Jonsson: That’s a beautiful thing. Thank you for sharing.

Laura: Yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: As you were talking about, you know, seeing the person on the other side of the screen as a person, um, a quote came to my mind and I don’t remember this guy’s name. I think I’m just gonna guess, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I think his name’s Sam Carr and he’s a professor, this guy, he says that sexual objectification and empathy cannot coexist. Like they are incompatible and it just kind of reinforces what you said. Like we should be considering the fact that these people are people and that even though it’s pixelated, there is a person on the other side of the screen. So,…

Laura: You know, for me, like I was there because I was seeking acceptance and um, wanted to feel something that I wasn’t getting from, you know, other relationships in my life. And I mean, I’m pretty confident in saying, I feel that’s the majority of the reason why a lot of those girls end up, um, in the same situation. So, I mean, I definitely agree. There’s no way that you can have empathy for somebody, but then also support them being involved in something like that.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, is there any way that we can support you? Anything we can do to support you or listeners or us as an organization?

Laura: Um, I just keep doing what you’re doing. I think that your organization is amazing and I recommend it and share and, um, talk about it to anyone and everybody that I can. Um, just because I think, especially with sex trafficking and how tied in that is to pornography, I just think it’s really important for people to feel a level of. Um, I guess I don’t know if comfort’s the right word, but it shouldn’t be hard for people to talk about porn. Um, because I think when people are afraid to talk about it, that’s when things get misconstrued.

Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.

Laura: And the truth doesn’t get out about when it’s really about. So, yeah.

Garrett Jonsson: Right.

Well I know I’ve said this already, but I wanna state it again and it’s from a, sincere place. Like we would be like, our organization would not exist without people like you. So our level of gratitude is high.

Laura: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.

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