STRIVE for Freedom: Matt Fradd Launches 21-Day Porn Detox Program

By Dustin Siggins Published on February 23, 2019

Matt Fradd is one of America’s best-known crusaders against pornography. His book The Porn Myth was a #1 best-seller on Amazon in 2017.

Now Fradd has partnered with Cardinal Studios to launch STRIVE, a 21-day pornography detox program for men. (See the trailer here.)

STRIVE is set to begin through online programs on March 27. The Stream interviewed Fradd about the program, how it works and what its goals are for men who are addicted to pornography.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Pornography’s Harms

The Stream: What are the top three harms of pornography in today’s society?

Matt Fradd: The biggest harm that pornography has on us is that it perverts the very essence of what it means to be human, including a gross distortion of the beauty of the sexual act. It turns another human into an object for my use and consumption, rather than a person to be loved.

Next, pornography leads to the breakdown in human relationships and also in romantic relationships. If you view others in terms of their use to you, it leads to all sorts of problems.

We’re also seeing negative effects on the human person. Porn seriously affects our brains. Of course, if you mess with the brain, other things are going to result. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in those who struggle with depression and anxiety, physiological effects like erectile dysfunction, and so forth.

Answering Critics

TS: Critics of anti-porn efforts include feminists and libertarians as well as some public health researchers. Is there independent research which shows that pornography is a public health crisis, as a number of states have stated in resolutions? If so, what are the three most rigorous studies/research efforts?

MF: I would point you to yourbrainonporn.com. One study came out of the Max Planck Institute in Germany in 2014. The lead researcher was Simon Kühn. The paper was titled “The Brain on Porn,” and they claimed to show that there was a correlation between hours spent viewing porn and shrinkage in the brain. Kühn is one of the top neuroscientists in the world.

Over the last 40 years, there have been a lot of studies that have come out of academia from sociology, neurology and psychology. And each of these different branches of science are shedding light on the ways pornography affects us in negative ways. So, neurologically, there are more than 40 neuroscience-based studies on porn users, all of which support the addiction model sociologically.

Treating Porn as Addiction

TS: Pornography is often described as an addiction. Most addictions take months or years to overcome. How did Matt and Cardinal Studios come up with a 21-day detox program? What research was done to develop it?

MF: I have done years of research, much of which can be found in my book, The Porn Myth, from Ignatius Press, which is a non-religious response to the dangers of porn use. I’ve also spoken to hundreds of thousands of people around the world for the past decade and I have come to learn that there are very specific things that one ought to do and needs to do if they need one to be free of pornography.

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STRIVE will equip men with what they need to get on the path to recovery. We’re not claiming it will happen within 21 days. It may for some, but for many they may need to be in therapy or counseling, and certainly it will be a daily walk. STRIVE is designed to set men on the right path, with accountability, spiritual support, fraternity, the right technology, and perspective needed to finally break free. There’s no silver bullet, of course. But there are very specific things you need to have in place if you’re going to succeed, and that’s what we’re helping men understand.

STRIVE’s Plan

TS: How does the program work, physiologically and psychologically?

MF: This isn’t a solely spiritual problem and so we don’t give solely spiritual solutions. Of course, we are people made in the image of God, so we can’t deny the spiritual side to this, but there are also very real emotional and physiological dimensions to porn use and addiction.

We address these in STRIVE by helping men to step back and examine why they’re looking at porn in the first place, what triggers lead them down the path to engaging porn, and how to deal with setbacks from an emotional and spiritual level. STRIVE encourages men to get out of isolation, get accountability in place through people and technology, get into spiritual direction and examine the root causes of their porn use. It shows men how to curate things that are good, true and beautiful in their lives. If they’re not looking at porn, what are they looking at? That’s a critical piece to this as well.

TS: The STRIVE website encourages men to sign up. Is the detox program designed for women, as well? If not, why not?

STRIVE for Men and Women

MF: STRIVE speaks directly to men, but yes, we are currently developing a program for parents that will be released in the fall as well as a program for women, so stay tuned. This is obviously a problem that women struggle with also. This isn’t just a man’s issue.

TS: Matt, you and Bill Donaghy are spokespersons for STRIVE. Is the program strictly for Catholics, given your respective Catholic backgrounds? If it is designed to reach broader religious (or even non-religious) audiences, how is STRIVE tailored to reach those broader audiences?

MF: STRIVE is for any Christian man who wants to break free from porn. No doubt we are Catholic, and we ensure that Catholics are spoken to and encouraged to have recourse to the Sacraments, to confession, and so on. But we also very clearly speak to any Christian man. We’ll help him to know where to go and what to do for support. STRIVE is not a theological or catechetical program. It’s the practical “how-to” that any man needs to get on the path to freedom.

Detoxing from Porn

TS: What is the definition of “detox” or “success” under the STRIVE program? What rate of success have you seen thus far in pre-launch testing?

MF: We use the term detox in a colloquial sense, not a clinical sense. There is no silver bullet that will take away one’s porn addiction. There is no book and no course. That said, there are specific things that we have to do or else we will fail. STRIVE curates all of those things into a practical step-by-step plan.

It also puts people on the right track while doing it with a community and support of other brothers in a private and safe space where they will be encouraged every day. We also encourage them to continue in small groups at the end of the 21 days.

I think success is a firm resolve to remain free of pornography on a daily basis. Freedom is not so much a destination we reach as it is a daily choice that we make by our actions.

The course or recovery from pornography doesn’t end after 21 days. But it does put people on the right path. Again, this is why we have small groups into which we put people.

 

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