If you think it’s just men who are addicted to porn – think again. Izzy Barnett says her addiction to blue movies cost her her job her friends and left her with crippling debts
At first glance, pretty Izzy Barnett seems like a normal, carefree 29-year-old.
Few would guess the dark secret the softly spoken massage therapist is hiding – she is recovering from a devastating addiction to porn.
Izzy only watched her first adult film as a sexually inexperienced 22-year-old at the suggestion of an older boyfriend she was desperate to impress.
She had no idea she would soon become one of a growing number of young women hooked on graphic sex videos, bingeing on them for over nine hours a day.
Her obsession didn’t just destroy her relationship – it caused her to lose her job and friends and run up crippling debts from subscribing to hardcore sites. But Izzy is not alone.
Recent figures suggest that nearly two million women in the UK are battling similar addictions. Izzy said: “Porn is still a bit of a taboo subject although it’s a real problem for lots of girls. I was so hooked on porn that my life wasn’t worth living.
“Nothing mattered, apart from where my next fix was coming from. I’d often be so engrossed in adult films that I’d forget to eat and sleep. Now, when I think of some of the videos I watched I feel completely and utterly sick.
“But images that would’ve horrified the old, naive me became normal – some of them even seemed tame.”
Izzy, who viewed her first porn video in 2008, thinks her habit took hold because she was vulnerable.
“I was really quite lost,” she admitted. “I’d just dropped out of a photography course at university and I didn’t have any direction in life.
“I met a man who was six years older than me and I was so flattered by his attention that I agreed to watch porn with him to spice things up in the bedroom.
“He was much more experienced and I was terrified he’d lose interest if I wasn’t willing to give it a go.”
Izzy had a normal, happy childhood in the picturesque market town of Totnes, Devon. She said: “I didn’t really talk about sex with my parents. It wasn’t the done thing.”
As a teenager, she was in no rush to lose her virginity. While some of her peers watched porn videos, Izzy was never tempted to look at them. “I couldn’t understand the attraction. I had boyfriends but I never did more than kiss them. I was really quite innocent.
“I waited until I was 19 to lose my virginity. I thought sex was ok but I never suspected that it would take over my life.”
Three years later, in late 2008, Izzy met the older man in a bar, sparking the chain of events which led to her devastating addiction.
She said: “He was good looking and charming. I’d got a job in a clothes shop which I didn’t enjoy and I was living at home with my parents. He filled the void. We slept together just days after we met and our relationship soon became all about sex.”
Two months later, Izzy’s boyfriend suggested watching porn.
“He told me it would get us in the mood for sex,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but I did. It was pretty soft – just two people having sex.”
Soon, the pair had moved in together and their fascination with porn snowballed. Izzy said: “We’d put some porn on as soon as we got in from work and we’d have sex. At first, it felt nice to have such an active sex life.
“Soon, we’d be watching it all night and we’d often forget dinner because we were so engrossed in the videos.
“We started to watch more hardcore videos, with group sex and S&M scenes. I was always exhausted at work because we’d often lie awake until the early hours, glued to the laptop.”
Izzy was so obsessed with porn that she started to shun her friends.
“They’d ask me to go out but I always said I had a headache. I didn’t dare admit that I’d simply rather stay at home and get my porn fix.
“Deep down, I knew my relationship wasn’t normal. It was empty – I didn’t feel safe or loved.
“We never went out for dinner or to the cinema and we rarely saw our families because we were too busy watching porn. It was all we had in common but it didn’t seem to matter.”
But when Izzy’s boyfriend started working away for days on end, she began watching porn alone.
“I couldn’t help myself,” she said. “The evenings were long and lonely.
“At first, I felt dirty and ashamed but I soon forgot my embarrassment with thousands of explicit clips at my fingertips. Before I knew it, I’d been watching porn alone for an hour.”
While Izzy and her boyfriend had once enjoyed porn together, her obsession was soon even too much for him. In summer 2010, he moved out.
“I stopped engaging in life,” she admitted. “I was really withdrawn – all I wanted to do was watch porn.
“I suppose I should have realised I was driving my boyfriend away but I was too obsessed with porn.
“Looking back, he wasn’t as reliant on it as I was.
“He told me he was leaving and that he’d developed feelings for a colleague as we’d grown apart. I was really angry at first, howling and throwing stuff around the room.
“But, afterwards, I just felt numb. I moved back in with my parents and started to spend all of my time in my room. It was a vicious circle. I’d driven all of
my friends away, so I was really lonely. Porn was all I had to fill my time.”
Izzy was soon viewing eight hours of porn a day.
“I’d watch anything I could find. The more hardcore, the better. I watched all sorts of group sex videos.
“Even though I’m straight, I also watched gay and lesbian porn. I can’t explain why.
“I didn’t masturbate every time – the high I got from what I saw on screen was often enough to satisfy me.
“I was terrified my parents would discover what I’d been up to so I never left my laptop lying around and I always erased my history.
“But even all of the free porn on the internet wasn’t enough.
“I wanted more hardcore images, so I started paying to subscribe to some really explicit sites.
“I was on the minimum wage in my shop job so I applied for lots of different credit cards.
“But I never looked at my statements because I didn’t want to know how much I’d been spending on porn.” But Izzy was humiliated when her card was declined in clothes shop. She said: “I was horrified as it had a £2,000 limit. I couldn’t believe I had spent so much money on porn sites.
“My face went bright red and I mumbled something about there being a problem with the card and put the clothes back. I felt sick.
“I was so shocked I tried to stop watching porn but I’d only ever manage to stop for a few days before I’d give in and download more videos.
“I tried to go on dates but all I could think about was porn. I had a few one night stands but the sex was really disappointing as the men were nothing like the porn stars I’d seen online.”
By late 2012, Izzy was so obsessed with porn she struggled to carry out basic tasks at work.
“I’d be so exhausted from staying up all night that I’d ignore customers or give them the wrong change.
“I’d be desperate to get home for my fix. I felt panicky and on edge.
“Sometimes, I just couldn’t wait so I watched porn on my phone in the toilets. I think my colleagues assumed I had a medical condition because I spent so much time there.
“When I was on the till alone, I even watched it under the counter with the volume on mute while customers walked around the shop.
“My real wake-up call came when I was caught sleeping in a cubicle because I was exhausted from an all-night porn binge.
“I was sacked on the spot and I didn’t argue but I felt so ashamed.
“It was then it hit me that porn had cost me everything.” Izzy began researching ways to deal with her problem and spotted an addiction retreat in Thailand online.
She was horrified to find her credit card debt had spiralled to £4,000 – but she immediately booked flights on the only card she had not maxed out.
“I knew going cold turkey was my only option,” she said.
“I left my phone and laptop at home and it was really hard at first.
“It took me a few weeks to say out loud that I was a porn addict but no one judged me. It was such a relief. By the time I got home, I felt strong enough to tell my parents.
“They were shocked but supportive and both gave me a massive hug.
“They couldn’t believe how much I’d been through.
“They felt guilty that they hadn’t noticed but how would they have guessed I was a porn addict?
“They assumed I’d been so withdrawn because I was upset about my relationship ending.” Currently single, Izzy has not watched porn since she returned from rehab in summer 2013 but hopes that she will find love one day.
“Now, I want sex to be loving,” she said.
“If I’m in a serious relationship, I’ll be honest about my addiction with my partner so he understands why we can’t watch porn together.
“I’m in a good place just now but I’m not willing to take any chances by watching more videos. I’ve come too far.”