With the invention of the internet, pornography usage exploded. For the first time, users had unfettered access with total anonymity as they viewed pornography from the privacy of their homes.
As a result, today pornography has become a multibillion-dollar industry that produces ever-increasing explicit content. As the industry grows, so does the wreckage it leaves behind as a new generation suffers the harmful effects. One nonprofit organization is reaching out to this generation. Fight the New Drug is working to expose the harmful effects of pornography using science, facts, and personal testimony.
Fight the New Drug began in 2009 as a result of like-minded college students getting together to discuss how they could make a difference in the world.
Clay Olsen, CEO and co-founder of Fight the New Drug, recalls that most of the conversation revolved around career ambitions until one member piped up and said, “It would be cool to do an anti-porn billboard.” That got everyone’s attention, as everyone in the group had in some way been affected by pornography. Olsen says, “That was kind of a left-field thing to say at the time because we were a bunch of college student males, so kind of the wrong demographic you would expect to be talking about fighting pornography.”
With his background in marketing and film, Olsen didn’t want to do a billboard, but something on a grander scale. He wanted to produce a film or a documentary or start a campaign. He said, “I wanted to help change the conversation because among my age group, pornography was discussed primarily and almost exclusively in terms of, ‘Have you seen this video? Isn’t it cool?’ So I thought let’s change the conversation. Let’s make it cool to stand up and fight pornography and fight for love. Real connections. Real relationships. So we started. We kind of jumped in.”
The first thing they did was research. They met with neuroscientists, psychologists, therapists, and experts on the subject and discovered that there was ample evidence to support the fact that pornography was harmful. Once they had the research, the next step was securing donor funds to kick off a global campaign to share the information. With their 501(c) status approved, Olsen worked to find donors to help their cause. It wasn’t easy.
He says, “We had a fairly unproven track record. It was kind of an unknown as to whether we could accomplish what we wanted to.” Olsen points to his healthy dose of naiveté that allowed him to push forward and pursue things others would think were impossible or ludicrous. With youthful ambition, he convinced enough donors to allow him to go full time and launch Fight the New Drug.
‘Porn Kills Love’ campaign
Through their research, Fight the New Drug realized that there were plenty of religious organizations speaking out against pornography to their congregations, but no one was speaking to a larger demographic. Olsen says, “No one was really addressing young people or trying to address this subject on a level that could connect with young people. It was either really hard-to-understand research documents that no teen is going to pore over or a finger-wag, opinion-driven kind of proclamation.”
So Fight the New Drug started a campaign to reach young people. Today they have more than 1 million followers on Facebook and other social media platforms. Through social media posts and an active blog, Fight the New Drug is spreading the truth that “porn kills love.” They have traveled worldwide to deliver age-appropriate presentations about the harm of pornography.
Through their unique approach of presenting scientific research, facts, and personal accounts, they have reached more than 800,000 youth over the last seven years in private and public schools. With a message that is not religious or political, their presentations consist of the latest research about the harmful effects pornography has on the brain, relationships, and society as a whole.
Matt Fradd, founder of The Porn Effect (ThePornEffect.com), is grateful that Fight the New Drug is an ally in the fight against pornography. He says Fight the New Drug has an effective way of connecting with millennials.
“I think what they realize is that millennials more than anything else say that they just want the science when it comes to a particular proposition,” Fradd says. “They recognize that you begin there. You show them these studies in a way that is palatable and you change the conversation. And that’s what they’re doing.”
Fradd, who wrote The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography (Ignatius Press, 2017), his first non-religious response to pro-pornography arguments, witnesses how Fight the New Drug is having an effect on the culture. He says, “The conversation that used to be like, ‘Dude look at this. This is great,’ is changing to ‘Dude, that’s not cool.’ So they’re doing a great job, I think, at making porn lame. And it’s not just by putting a pretty face on an anti-porn movement or making it look trendy; they’ve got the science to back it up.”
Fight the New Drug does not consider themselves the mouthpiece for young people on the subject of pornography, but rather a production house of material that is relatable and digestible to young people, empowering them to carry on the conversation. With this information, the supporters of Fight the New Drug, called Fighters, are the real movement.
Olsen says, “They are the ones out there discussing this issue in a very thoughtful, respectful, and powerful way. We’re just trying to give them the tools and resources to do that effectively.” Olsen says the term “fighter” embodies so much of what the movement represents, not in a physical, literal way, but in an empowering way.
“Some people are going to be fighting their own battle on this, and they’re fighting to overcome. Others are going to be fighting for their relationships, their marriage,” he says. “Others are going to be fighting for civility and love and healthy society and fighting for those that are victimized.”
Fighters represent the movement by taking the Fighter pledge to take a stand against pornography. Some spread the message through Fight the New Drug merchandise, especially their popular T-shirts. The new Fighter App helps supporters get involved with campaigns and allows them to qualify for sponsored prizes. Others join the street team, handing out cards, stickers, and posters in their cities.
The Fortify program
As Fight the New Drug grew, they received thousands of personal emails from individuals detailing their own struggles with pornography. With these personal emails came requests for help. At first, Fight the New Drug referred them to a list of organizations that specialized in helping people with pornography addiction. Unfortunately, though, no one was following through to get help. Some of these other organizations required a credit card or parental consent, both of which these young people were unwilling or unable to obtain. Fight the New Drug decided to start their own program to help people break free from pornography.
Olsen worked with a team of developers and professionals to create custom software and write the curriculum. The Fortify program was launched in 2014. It’s an online program with video-based lessons, a “battle tracker,” a personal dashboard to track one’s progress, and different “battle” strategies. The program takes about three months to complete. There are 70,000 people that have signed up in more than 155 countries.
Olsen says, “It’s sad and exciting at the same time. Exciting that people are getting help where they otherwise would not have been able to, but sad in the sense that the demand is just that high.” In 2015, Fight the New Drug published the book Fortify: The Fighter’s Guide to Overcoming Pornography Addiction (Familius), a complete guide to find the tools and acquire the education to help yourself or others overcome an addiction to pornography.
Success of the movement
Fight the New Drug has been recognized for its accomplishments in changing the culture. Olsen was awarded the Visionary Leadership Award by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation at their 2016 annual summit for his work in not only exposing the harm of pornography, but also in uniting leaders in anti-exploitation efforts.
Unfortunately, not all recognition has been positive. Olsen explains, “The bigger we have gotten, the industry itself has woken up. For so long anti-porn efforts have been futile. It’s been like throwing flowers at your enemy. They’ve just been shooing us away as they continue to do exactly what they do. But I think that they have recognized as we’ve gotten bigger that we are trying to change, at least in some areas, public opinion on the topic. And we’re using research. It’s not just opinion. So they’re waking up to the potential disruption that we could do to their bottom line, and they are starting to fight back.”
Fight the New Drug has no plans to back down from the fight. They have numerous projects in the works, including a new three-part documentary series called Brain, Heart, World. Each high-quality, 30-minute episode focuses individually on three elements — the neuroscience, the relational research, and societal effects.
The first part — Brain — has just been completed, and once the other two are finished, they will release the series with accompanying discussion guides. The target will not only be individuals, but school and church groups that are looking for a powerful presentation with training for discussion leaders. In addition, they will soon launch a new version of Fortify that will include small online groups, coaching, and a community element.
While Fight the New Drug came from humble beginnings, they are now effecting change on a global scale.
Olsen says, “We wanted to make a dent in the world and the universe. We wanted to make an impact. And obviously it’s been the collaboration of so many contributing elements — passionate, talented people who have come together to accomplish what we have accomplished.”