The pre-teen and early teenage years of a person’s life are critical for their development. It’s in those years that a person begins the confusing and often difficult transition from childhood into adulthood.
With the explosion of hormones and rapidly shifting responsibilities and social structures, it’s no wonder that, if the course of someone’s life takes a bad turn, this is often the period when it happens. For one girl, her pre-teen years would begin a journey down the wrong path that would take decades to correct…
As a young girl, Erica had some serious health problems. She suffered from scoliosis — a sideways curvature of the spine — that was so severe, she had to wear a corrective back brace throughout the day. As you might expect, that lead to a lot of teasing coming from her peers.
More than just some light name calling, Erica was a true outcast. The best treatment she got from most of her classmates was being ignored. Those that didn’t ignore her bullied Erica in some of the cruelest ways imaginable…
In Need of an Outlet
Like anyone going through a hard time, Erica needed a way to cope with the difficulties she was facing and some way to feel good about herself. She needed a friend to confide in and some way to feel good about herself.
Nowhere to Turn
Though she grew up in a supportive, middle-class family it can be hard to talk to your parents about some things. With no close friends to talk to and no positive outlet for her frustrations, Erica turned toward something a bit more taboo…
One night, after a rough day of school, the 12-year-old Erica was feeling especially low. With a thousand ideas running through her head, she found herself unable to sleep, feeling restless and full of pent up energy.
She was experiencing feelings she’d never felt before and, after her parents fell asleep, she made the decision to do something she’d never done before. Under the cover of darkness, she was going to watch an X-rated film…
Sin and Shame
Watching such a film went against everything Erica Garza had been taught in her life. She was from a conservative, religious family and attended a Catholic school, where she was taught “that sex was for procreation and anything outside of that was sinful or dirty or bad.” Perhaps the taboo of it is part of what drew her toward the forbidden material.
At the time, Erica couldn’t have known how far reaching the negative impact of making that decision would be on her life. All she knew was how it made her feel. “The first time I masturbated I felt immense pleasure and immense shame at the same time,” she said…
Despite the shame that came along with the pleasure, Erica liked that she was feeling something besides the usual loneliness and despair. “I think I continued to seek out situations that would produce the same feelings in me because I didn’t know how to separate the two,” she said.
What started off as an occasional habit, secretly watching softcore pornographic films at night after her parents had gone to sleep, slowly developed into a serious problem. To satisfy her increasing desire to feel that shame/pleasure combination, Erica spent greater periods of time watching films that were increasingly “dirtier” as the years went by…
Full Blown Addiction
By the time she was out of high school and living on her own, Erica had gotten to the point where she was spending entire days in bed, pleasuring herself to extreme varieties of pornography, the more “revolting,” the better. The nature of her addiction required her to constantly ramp up her shame to feel pleasure.
Darker and More Intense
“My methods of getting [those emotions] only became darker and more intense, wreaking havoc on all aspects of my life,” Erica said. Not only had she become addicted to pornography, Erica had developed a sex addiction as well…
All of Erica’s romantic relationships would fall apart because she couldn’t remain faithful, always seeking out new partners. She would put her health at risk having unprotected intercourse with a string of men she’d just met.
“In some moments, with some partners, ‘sexually liberated’ was exactly what I felt,” Erica said, “but those moments were rare.” Rather than feeling empowered and in control, she felt trapped by the behavior she couldn’t seem to stop and was unable to become emotionally intimate with anyone…
“Because [sex] was getting in the way of my intimacy with other people; it was getting in the way of my productivity,” Erica said, “I just felt bad about it all the time.” She even felt that she was “really unworthy of love.”
Eat, Pray, Love
Looking for a way to change her life, Erica planned a trip to Bali just before she turned 30 “partly inspired by Eat, Pray, Love.” In Bali, she started practicing yoga and making an effort to take care of herself. While she was there, she met a man but this time, things would be different…
“He was on his own journey recovering from drug addiction,” Erica said. It was because they were both grappling with their addictions that Erica was for the first time able to be in an honest, healthy relationship. Through her relationship with the man, named Willow, she was able to begin developing a healthier relationship to sex.
“We watched porn at the beginning [of the relationship] because that was my habit,” Erica said, “but he wanted me to talk about why I used porn, and nobody had ever done that before. For the first time, I really felt that I could be safe, supported, and reveal who I was.”…
That support, caring and understanding seemed to be what Erica had been truly seeking all along. Willow, the man who was providing it, would eventually become her husband as the pair worked together to handle their addictions.
Erica would go on to write a memoir about her experiences entitled “Getting Off.” She said her motivation for writing the book was to help break down the shame that still shrouds female sexuality so that no one else has to go through what she did. “I also feel like nobody is going to be able to shame me more than I’ve already shamed myself. They can certainly try. But that’s on them. I’m past that.”