By Emily Larson
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — A tiny sixth grade girl sitting on the front row of a crowd of middle schoolers caught Clay Olsen’s eye. As he gave his presentation on the harmful effects of pornography, he couldn’t help but look at her and think, “for sure, she’s never seen this and for sure it hasn’t impacted her life.” He was taken by surprise at the end of the presentation when the little girl ran up to him with tears streaming down her face. She told Olsen that she had been struggling with pornography for a long time and until that day, she didn’t know where to turn.
For Olsen, this served as a reminder that pornography is not an addiction with a stereotype —it crosses all boundaries.
Olsen is the CEO of Fight the New Drug, a movement that started with four college students, a desire to make the world a better place, and to have successful careers. They started the “EDGE” club — Entrepreneurs Dedicated to Great Endeavors — and during a routine meeting one of the group members suggested that he would one day like to produce a billboard about the harmful effects of pornography.
“I was well aware of what pornography could lead to in one’s life and when that came up it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks,” Olsen said. He had watched a family member suffer from the harmful effects of pornography.
As the group began to consider this idea more seriously, two questions arose. “Why isn’t anyone talking about this topic in a way that a) connects with youth, and b) in a way that pulls it into a public health discussion, rather than being thrown into a moralistic dialogue,” Olsen said.
Originally, the plan was to create a billboard. Because of Olsen’s film and marketing background, however, the group began to pursue the idea of filming a documentary.
They began meeting with experts on the effects of pornography, including neuroscientists and therapists. “We found there was a lot of data backing up and supporting the idea that pornography, was in fact harmful,” Olsen said. It was after receiving this validation that he decided to use the resources from the ad agency he had recently started to launch Fight the New Drug—a movement to raise awareness about the harmful effects of pornography and to make it “cool” for youth to openly oppose pornography.
“We were naive enough to jump on board with it and run with it and thank goodness,” Olsen said, who now works full time on the project. Fight the New Drug has an online campaign, speaks to school groups, and sells merchandise with the motto “Porn Kills Love.”
After launching the Fight the New Drug campaign online and in school tours, Olsen began receiving emails from kids as young as eight years-old pleading for real help overcoming their pornography addictions. As they pointed these kids to different avenues for help, they discovered that almost all of the addiction recovery programs required at least one of two things — adult consent and a credit card. Many of these kids didn’t have access to a credit card and were uncomfortable asking an adult for help. After about a year, 8,000 people had contacted the group seeking help.
Fight the New Drug decided to create its own program to help these people, said Olsen. However, Fight the New Drug was only ever intended to be a movement — not a support group. They raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and put together a team of experts to help create what is now called the Fortify program. Today, Fortify is a dynamic online program that is free to youth up to age 20. A year after the launch date, there hasn’t been a single penny put into marketing and there are already 16,000 young people using the program.
Soon after they created the Fortify youth program, a similar program for adults aged 21 and up was created. Lifetime access to the program costs $39.
Fortify alone, however, may not be enough to help someone overcome their addiction to pornography. Olsen said that when loved ones are facing substance addictions, the first response is generally to seek professional help. He feels the same about pornography. “This is not something that can be changed by sheer willpower. We need to start treating this like we treat other addictions.”
Olsen said there are a few things that are completely necessary to overcome an addiction to pornography. First, individuals need to realize that there is hope. Although their addiction has rewired their brains, they can heal their mind as well. Second, they need to realize that it is possible. And third, “individuals struggling with this need to get accountable. They need to open up to a religious leader or a spouse, or a parent, or a trusted close confidant and friend.”
Fight the New Drug has almost 600, 000 likes on Facebook and 21,000 followers. They have given presentations at 350 schools around the United States and Canada. Their message is not confined to a single demographic because pornography does not target just one demographic.
“The harmful effects of pornography are impacting every state, every culture. Every individual that associates with all different political backgrounds, sexual orientations, and both genders, It really crosses all social and economic demographics. It crosses all boundaries. Whether you’re in Utah or New York city, pornography is having an enormous impact on all people,” Olsen said.
“Our whole mission with Fight the new Drug is to change the conversation from ‘Dude, check this out!’ to “Dude, that’s messed up,” or ‘Dude, that’s not cool.’ We want to change the way that youth are viewing this or thinking about this.”
The movement can be found at fightthenewdrug.org and help for those struggling with a pornography addiction can be found at fortifyprogram.org.