Ep. 24 - Podcast Thumbnail

#24 – Women Struggle Too | Mai Thurston

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Many people subscribe to the belief that pornography and masturbation are a ‘guy thing’, but an ever-growing number of women are being affected as well. In this episode, we hear from Mai Thurston, a brave and passionate young woman who has battled with porn and masturbation issues since she was young. After dealing with it alone because she assumed she was the only female that struggled, she now helps other young women to find freedom.

Episode Transcript:

Andrew Love: Hello, everybody and welcome back to Love, Life and Legacy, a podcast that helps you navigate through these hyper-sexualized times of ours. And I just want to say, you know, this caller and I, the person that I’m about to talk with here have just been through hell and back and now we’re resurrected, technically. And she’s a champion. She’s endured a lot of technical difficulties, always, there’s some dark force trying to prevent God from working. So we’ve pierced the veil and we’re on the other side of that. But today we have an interview with a really cool person that has been there really since the inception of High Noon. She was at the very first High Noon summit. I remember, she came with a shaved side of her head, she looks super hip. I remember that.

Mai Thurston: Oh my God, I don’t have that, kinda, it’s growing out right now. But anyway, sorry I interrupted your introduction.

Andrew Love: But she’s still cool. No problem. And she has helped in many capacities. She started out as a consumer of our content and a consumer of, you know, the resources that we were turning out as a participant. And then she’s evolved herself into somebody who now gives aid to others who helps other women. And in fact, she’s the rep for our women’s division for High Noon for, for the Ascend program and for basically, one woman reached out to us we send them all to Mai Thurston! I almost said your name without, I gotta say it big because that’s part of the introduct… Mai Thurston! And she is in San Diego now. She’s super smart. She’s really good singer. She’s a lifelong student. She’s probably going to be in college for the next 40 to 50 years.

Mai Thurston: I hope not.

Andrew Love: And she’s, she does acapella extraordinaire. But most importantly, she’s, she’s the type of person that can recognize the opportunity for growth and she seizes that opportunity time and again, and because of that she’s a true High Noon warrior and advocate. So please welcome Mai Thurston into the podcast. Welcome Mai.

Mai Thurston: Thanks, Andrew. Those are really nice, really nice introduction. Appreciate that.

Andrew Love: Thank you. I try not to write them down. So they’re actually sincere instead of what’s in your talking point.

Mai Thurston: Yeah, I felt it.

Andrew Love: And you’re not a doctor when, later when you’re like 45 and you have all these titles that I need to list off then, then I’ll write it down. But for now, it’s just you’re my sister. You’re my friend and I love you and I appreciate you.

Mai Thurston: Thank you.

Andrew Love: Where are you? You’re, you’re living in Southern California. Where exactly are you?

Mai Thurston: As you said earlier, I’m in San Diego right now. I will, well, right now with this global pandemic, well, the plan is to move to Los Angeles in the fall, because I’ll be starting graduate school there for my Master’s in marriage and family therapy. But who knows if schools will physically reopen by then, everything’s up in the air right now. But just generally, I’m in Southern California. So yeah, that’s where I’m at right now. And I guess like what I have in my near future.

Andrew Love: Are you, are you allowed to go to the beach in San Diego right now? Or will they arrest you and throw you in a little cardboard box?

Mai Thurston: Oh, yeah, people were allowed to go to the beach. I haven’t gone myself but I have talked to people who have and they say it’s like, well a little, ridiculous. It’s like very overcrowded and people aren’t really following social distancing, which is problematic, but, yeah, it’s, they’re open as long as you don’t linger in one area for a long time you have to be doing something active like walking, jogging. I think you’re allowed to surf and stuff but yeah, the beaches are open but under, just, yeah, restrictions for good reason I guess but, yeah.

Andrew Love: What, that’s a really cute and peculiar rule that you, you can’t be lurking, you can’t be, can’t be creeping around the beach, you gotta be moving but what happens Mai, in the instance where you just want to do something stationary like jumping jacks, where technically you’re moving, but also technically you’re staying in the same place?

Mai Thurston: HonestIy, I don’t know. I mean, I think as long as you’re not staying in one place for too long, like it’s probably fine to stop and do jumping jacks for a bit, but as long as you keep moving, I think the problem is they don’t want to encourage just like, creating the conditions for people to congregate. That’s probably the reason behind that. But yeah, you’re not allowed to bring your cooler or anything that’s gonna kind of lead to just people crowding and just staying in one place for too long.

Andrew Love: So basically, nothing that encourages enjoyment, too much enjoyment or, or fulfillment or connection.

Mai Thurston: I wouldn’t go that far. But yeah, I mean, it’s, I think it’s great that now the beaches are open for people to like, it’s just another place where people can be outdoors and get fresh air and be active.

Andrew Love: Got it.

Mai Thurston: So that’s good news, I think.

Andrew Love: And so do you just, just context, do you remember the first time you heard about High Noon or a like, well, how did you, how did you come into our world? How did, how did that happen? How did our worlds collide?

Mai Thurston: Yeah. I remember, so in my third year of college, I opened up to my best friend for the first time about, like my sexual integrity journey. And my struggle really, at that point, it was more of just like a struggle that I had for many years. And she actually told me about you and like your ministry that you had going on in Maryland at the time. I think she attend, she attended one of your talks. And she said that there was something being planned. And then I connected with you. I think I reached out to you on messenger on Facebook, and then we like did a video call. And then you told me about the summit. Or maybe I’d heard about it. I don’t know, maybe I’m skipping some things because I remember you came to LA. Also you were like on tour…

Andrew Love: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mai Thurston: …talking about, yeah, like porn, sexual integrity and just like opening up the conversation. So, I did go to your talk. And then I’m not sure if we had video called at some point before or after that it’s all kind of blending together as just kind of one time period. But, yeah, I asked you during our video call, is this, I had, I had a commitment. It was like kind of a big deal it’s like a, like a charity, like, it’s a 26 hour event, for a cause that was really important to my friend and also me, but I, the weekend that the summit was supposed to happen, I already had something planned that I kind of committed to in advance. So I was wondering, like, “Is there gonna be another one? Like, can I catch the next one?”. And you said there isn’t going to be another one like this one. And I said, “Is this something I should drop everything to and go?” and he’s like, “Yeah, do it.” And I was like, “Oh, okay”. Because I really felt that I needed to be there that this, I really felt that, that was, that event was something that would, I don’t know if I thought it would change my life, but I just thought that it’s really important for me to go. I just felt that, that pull, and I talked to my friend and worked things out. I was able to, I guess, like, back out of that commitment. And so I essentially did drop everything and go, and I’m so glad that I did. And it actually did change my life. So, yeah, that’s where it all started.

Andrew Love: That’s baller. So that was, I just want to say that was really crazy because it was one of those scenarios when we, you know, our community, the people that we know, there’s like a billion workshops, always in workshops…

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love: Somewhere, somehow about some thing and yet this particular workshop seemed to be like, the Pied Piper and people were just coming from all over and doing exactly that, dropping what they were doing, and I think; so, I don’t know why people did it. I mean, why they did that and like, like you gave up, you potentially could have damaged the friendship, but you showed up and there’s just this calling. And I think that was the pre-qualification for what ensued because the information was there. But information can be communicated in many different ways and have many different effects. But it was a profound weekend. I think…

Mai Thurston: Oh, yeah

Andrew Love: …part of it was because people like you just, put a lot of your hopes and expectations into it. And you came ready to learn, you know, so that was a… so what in particular, do you feel like, changed? Was it a perspective shift? Did you do something internally that you felt, “Wait, I’m better than what my present circumstances are,” or like, was it, was it a feeling thing or a thinking thing or what, what changed in you?

Mai Thurston: Okay, so at that point in my life, I had kind of done a lot of work on myself in terms of my sexual integrity, and I had found success. It all started when I opened up with my friend or open up to my friend and then… so, that was like sometime in my third year and then in the middle of the year, like over winter break, I decided, I mean, I prayed about it. And also, I just decided that it was time to talk to my parents about it and it was something that we’re kind of like skipping around in like my story, but I had opened up to my parents my freshman year of high school about… so my main struggle has been masturbation. Not so much pornography, although it is something that I was exposed to before I discovered masturbation. And it’s something that I kind of like dabbled in different ways over the years. But my main, I guess struggle was masturbation, or I guess still is in a way. But yeah, I had kind of, I opened up to them. And then it was really difficult to stay honest with them. So, I just decided I figured out on my own. And then like, seven years later, I was still very much struggling with it. I found some level of success, but just, it wasn’t enough to completely quit. And then I realized, I just needed to open up to my parents again. So I kind of made them my accountability partners in a way and it was just like, calling once a week and just like sharing my status update. And just like talking about what was going on my life and for whatever reason that was working really well. And so then I heard about High Noon. And I thought like, this is a really relevant thing in my life. And I had heard your talks. And when I went there, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. But I was really excited about it. Just the thought of being in a space where people are openly talking about sex, and porn and everything surrounding that topic was really exciting. Because in our faith community, it’s so taboo. It’s just not talked about enough. And it’s just one of those topics that gets swept under the rug, or like, talked about really kind of quickly. And so, I was really excited about that. And then when I went, I’d already heard a lot of the things because you mentioned them in your talks, but there was more detail and other speakers from different faiths and backgrounds came and talked about their areas of expertise under this big like, umbrella topic. And then the thing that really inspired me during the summit was, for the first time ever I heard a testimony from a woman who struggles. She had come a long way, but was still, like in the middle of her struggle, like she wasn’t quite speaking from a place of like, total victory. And to me, that was really inspiring. Because I think in many cases, when people give testimonies about difficulties that they’ve faced, it’s always from a place of victory, where it’s kind of like a, not like a, “I’ve been there, done that”, but kind of like, “I’m past this, and this is behind me kind of a thing”, but for her it was something that she was still in the midst of, and working through. And she was acknowledging the progress that she’d made and all the progress that she was striving to make. And that to me, made me feel like wow, I really want to be in a position where I can be that kind of person and inspire someone the way that she inspired me. And just like being surrounded by people who are willing to talk openly about these difficult things was, there was, just something so special and exciting and refreshing about it.

Andrew Love: So I would say that, that’s happening exactly right now, on a larger scale, because you’re, you’re opening up this conversation on our podcast, which is really, really cool. I’d like to kind of dig deep into your formative years because this is, you know, I want us to understand this. First of all, I’m very much a dude. And so, you know, “We dudes know, what dudes do, because dudes talk to dudes about this stuff”, but we don’t always know what the female spectrum is contending with. But for you, you grew up and you, you had, like you said, you were dealing with problematic masturbation, right? But you’re also dealing with it in a world that doesn’t necessarily view masturbation to be a bad thing. In many cases, right? What they’re teaching in school, what you’d see mostly on the internet, on Netflix, what, I mean, I just found a bunch of stuff on Netflix that is pretty, pretty insane. So what, why did you think it was a problem? And then like, how did you work through all the various emotions of having something that is confusing and conflicting and, and, and very personal and, you know, how did you, kind of sort through this? What, at what age did you start and then how did you work through this in your formative years? How did you navigate these difficult feelings and emotions?

Mai Thurston: Yeah, I guess I want to start with, I guess my exposure to pornography and I guess the difference with, between my relationship with pornography and then masturbation. So, with pornography it was something that I was exposed to when I was like 10. I just, for some reason I don’t remember being in fourth grade, just, I don’t know if that’s actually accurate, but yeah, it was before I knew anything about the female reproductive system or any of that. But these friends in my, then, in my apartment complex, it was really just bad neighborhood. Anyway, they showed me porn, like this girl found, like these VHS tapes in her uncle’s suitcase, and they showed me like, porn and was like hardcore pornography. It wasn’t even like one man, one woman. It was just other stuff. And that was like, my first exposure to that and just they said, that’s what sex is. And that’s how you make babies. And I just like, it was all so much of it went over my head, and I was like shocked and disgusted. But at the same time, like really curious, intrigued and also like kind of excited by it. And, to me, that was an experience that I felt I didn’t really have, like, I didn’t have any control over that. It just happened to me. And thankfully, like, I didn’t really have access to pornography after that point until much later, but I want to say like a couple years later, maybe a year or two, I’m not sure exactly how old I was. But I believe I was like, transitioning into middle school. So I was like, 11, 12, I just discovered masturbation completely by accident. Just completely by accident, and I, it was just like in this new sensation that was weird, but also exciting. And in the beginning, it was just like me exploring my body and that curiosity playing out. Which is like normal and natural. But I didn’t really know that. And yeah, in the beginning, it was very much just like a curiosity and excitement because it was just new. And then at some point, I kind of also I was like going through puberty at that time. So at some point, I introduced like my own thoughts, like my own fantasies, and then it became associated with like, just, I made it like a romantic thing. But it was all just like, me experiencing this by myself. And it was something that I just, like came from me. At least that’s what it felt like and with porn, it was really clear that, that’s like, that’s bad. But then with masturbation, it was really unclear. I didn’t really understand why it was bad. Like it wasn’t anything that anyone ever talked about. I actually didn’t even know that it was called masturbation until high school when I looked it up because I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I just knew that, I know at some point, I felt like really guilty about it. Like, I felt like no one else was, this was something else that no one else did. And especially like growing up in this faith community where purity is of utmost importance, and we just have a really high standard for that. I felt deep down that there was something wrong with what I was doing. And especially when I realized that it wasn’t something that I would ever feel comfortable talking about with my friends or especially to my parents. When it was, when I identified it as something that I would kind of like, a secret I would carry with me to the grave. That’s when I knew that there was something wrong. And that’s when I started feeling like really deep shame. And…

Andrew Love: Wait, so can I just stop you there and ask? So…

Mai Thurston: Yeah

Andrew Love: …up until, up until that epiphany that, that you realized, if you wanted to carry this secret to your grave that it was a bad thing; up until that point, you, you, it, it wasn’t a big deal? It was just like a thing that you just kind of did?

Mai Thurston: It’s not that it wasn’t…

Andrew Love: And (crosstalk) a conscious, conscious?

Mai Thurston: Yeah, I don’t know, it just, it’s not that it wasn’t a big deal. But it was just something that I would do secretly and for whatever reason, though, I’m not sure if, like, maybe these things kind of happened in the same, around the same time. I don’t know what came first, but I would feel this, just like guilt. Like, I don’t know, it was just this unexplainable feeling that, what I was doing was wrong, even though I didn’t even know what I was doing. And I just, it just felt dirty I think, because it involved like my sexual organs. So I, I don’t know, I just, yeah, it’s hard to explain, but I did,

Andrew Love: Sure.

Mai Thurston: I did feel guilt and shame. And I think it was also because it wasn’t something that I felt I could control. It was, it became compulsive at a certain point for sure. I’d remember not being able to fall asleep for a period of time without masturbating. And, it was something that I kind of tried to stop. But then when I realized that I couldn’t stop, I think that’s when it started to feel like something’s wrong. Because it became like a compulsive thing or something that I was becoming dependent on. So yeah, I hope that answers your question.

Andrew Love: Yeah, yeah. And so then after that, you had a lot of shame, because you intuitively felt like it was, it was inherently wrong, but you’re doing it and then you couldn’t break this habit.

Mai Thurston: Yes.

Andrew Love: Yeah?

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love: And so how long did that go on for?

Mai Thurston: Yeah, so throughout middle school and then like, freshman year of high school was when I started hearing things about like, or I was very just like, I guess oblivious is the word like I didn’t really know. I wasn’t in the know about these things. So, I’d hear stuff like oral sex and different kinds of sex. So I wasn’t sure like, if it was all kind of the same, or different names or the same thing or what? So I’d like googled around and then I identified, “Oh, so what I’m doing is masturbation, and it’s not sex,” because part of me was like, “Oh my gosh, what if I’m having some kind of sex,” and like sex just is immediately linked to like, the fall and like, yeah, like, it is, sex is bad kind of thing. And, but I knew like, well, it’s bad if it’s like with another person, but since it’s just me, like, I’m not, it’s not hurting anyone, it’s not affecting anyone. Is it like, why is it so bad? I don’t know. But I looked it up because I wanted to know what to call it, I guess. And so I identified it, “Oh, it’s masturbation and then oral sex is not actually like, penetration”. And it’s like, you know, it’s different. But it’s all very, it’s all sexual and like, involves like, naked people. You know? So, yeah, so I looked it up, and actually, around that time, I, so I hadn’t watched porn, like, up until that point. So it was just, I was introduced to porn, and then I discovered masturbation and like, that was the thing that I did secretly, like my guilty pleasure and then I, in high school, had my own room and like had a computer in my room and I was like, finding the next episode to this anime I was watching and then I just stumbled on pornography. And I just like, I knew what it was, I think. But I was curious and curiosity got best of me. And I totally could have just stopped when I like fully realized what it was. But I didn’t, I like watch the whole thing and it was like, someone’s wedding porn. And I remember like justifying it in my mind, like, “Oh, it’s like, it’s someone’s like, it’s a husband and wife. So it’s like, it’s okay”. And I don’t know, like it was better than other stuff. And I remember justifying that and then when I was done watching, I just felt the sense of dread like, wow, I really crossed the line, because up until that point, porn was something that was introduced to me. It wasn’t something that I ever sought out, or did of my own volition. And all of a sudden it became that and I kind of made a connection. I realized that like, if I kind of continued doing that, then whatever relationship I had to masturbation, that dependency that I kind of, I knew that, that’s what porn would become for me. And that really scared me. Because in my mind, like masturbation was kind of a gray area, but porn was very clearly like, not good. So, that scared me. And I guess in, just I had a really strong, I guess, like guilty conscience and I just felt so strongly that I needed to tell my parents and I, like worked up the courage and like, made a plan. Not really like a well thought out plan, but I just said, I’m gonna pull my mom aside and tell her that I needed to talk to her. And then I did, and it all kind of, I got to that point because I felt that when I’d watch porn, I’ve really crossed the line. And so, I sought her out, sat her down, and just like told her everything.  And there are other things in my story that I, like, kind of conveniently skipped over. And I, and so I mean, I don’t want to, like be secretive or anything, but it involves like, sort of like sexual assault. It wasn’t like anything depth, like super serious or like, violent. I guess just really quickly, the same friend that had shown me porn. Every now and then we’d like, she would describe these sexual scenarios, and we’d like, enact them. Like we’d be fully clothed and everything but we’d like, kind of like dirty dancing and like, I don’t know, just like kids trying to do adult things, but not really doing adult things. And so like, we would do that and I didn’t really understand what it was or what was going on, but it was fun to me. So, I just went along with it. And then at one point, one time she like, involved her younger brother. And to me, I was like, I really did not want to do it. But she insisted, and said to just do it anyway. So I just kind of like, let him pretend to like, like, I don’t know, like, make out or, like, have sex with me or whatever, but it wasn’t actual. I don’t know. Anyway, I don’t wanna be like too graphic. But basically, he was just like, writhing on top of me, and I was just lying still and being really uncomfortable with it. And I just kind of like, it happened. And I just, like, forgot about it and didn’t forget about it, but I just pretended that it didn’t happen. And it was just something that I just never talked about. But that happened and those were things that I would do with my friends or quote-unquote friends. And so like, that’s all a part of my past, but I told my mom, all of those things. It all started because I really felt that, I was starting to, I don’t know cross a line. I didn’t want to go beyond the point of no return. Or I knew that like if I kept things a secret that it would just get worse. And that really scared me.

Andrew Love: Yeah.

Mai Thurston: So, I opened up to my mom about everything. Told her everything. Didn’t describe masturbation. I just said masturbation, and my mom’s Japanese. So, I wasn’t sure if she’d fully understa- sorry, understand everything. But to my surprise, I said masturbation, she just shook her head. And I’m like, she just understood. And that experience actually was, up until that point in my life was the most profound, like deep experience ever, just because, I mean, up until that point, my relationship with my mom was just kind of like, she would lecture me and nag at me for this and that and I just, I felt that maybe she’d be disappointed or she’d like, start telling me that like, I was, you know, bad or wrong. But she was, the way that she reacted or just didn’t react actually, was just the best-case scenario. She just sat there and listen and just took everything in and let me kind of stumble through my, I guess testimony or story and just, there was a lot of crying and just like me, taking long pauses to figure out how to say things. But she just patiently listened through and didn’t like say anything. She just listened and nodded. And just like, like, took everything in. And at the end of it, she just, actually she apologized because she felt that it was reflective of her. Like she felt like she failed me, in a way which was a little sad, but also to me, showed me like, that was my first experience of unconditional love.

Andrew Love: Yeah.

Mai Thurston: And of course, like it was just, I remember at the end of it, I felt like this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. And not just like in a metaphorical way, but like in a very physical way I felt lighter. And I guess it’s spiritual too, I just felt so much lighter and I felt like there was hope. And I felt really, truly unconditionally loved. We’d like, talk about it a lot at church and like, God’s love is unconditional. But up until that point, I had never truly experienced that, like showing someone the ugliest side of myself, the part of myself that I never wanted to share with anyone. And then, you know, with all of that, still being loved and accepted and not judged. So, that was like, for me, like the very beginning, I guess, of my sexual integrity journey. And that’s kind of where it all started for me like actively working, or at least doing my best to overcome this habit that I developed.

Andrew Love: Wow, that’s a lot. And so, what then did you do? Like, where do you go from there?

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love: You gathered up all this courage, which is a heroic feat, and something we definitely recommend to everybody. Because  most people think, just the way that you thought, that you’d get a nagging, you know, unfeeling, judgmental reaction from your parent. But instead you got a warm shoulder to cry on and understanding and sympathy. So what, what happened after that? You have this profound experience and then, and then you all lived happily ever after is that how it works?

Mai Thurston: If only… Yeah, so, my mom, so what ended up happening, the decision that I guess, my parents and I made was to talk to my pastor about it, to kind of offer it up through like, as we call a central figure just like a, an authority figure in the eyes of God and so yeah, my, I didn’t actually tell my dad, my mom did that for me. She didn’t really go into detail because I remember when the three of us went to my pastor and I kind of gave a summary of what I told my mom, I said things and then my dad was like, surprised. So clearly, my mom didn’t give my dad the full story. But, yeah, I talked. We, anyway, I talked to my pastor, with my parents present. And yeah, that experience was actually really important. For two reasons. One is he told me that, first of all, like, what you’re going through is really normal. And like, it’s, you know, it’s really normal to have these urges and like, you know, it’s, it’s good that your body is functioning normally and you know, everything works and so that’s great. But at the end of the day, I guess, it’s not a great way to put it but at the core of things, masturbation and pornography are, it’s the point that he made was that it’s selfish and that it’s not good for like, your future relationship. Like when you’re married and have a family and but I guess, the main problem is that it’s a selfish and I guess our, our point of view on love is for the sake of the other person. And like love, true love is selfless and so by self-indulging in these things in this way. It’s counter to that. And that was important because, well, first of all, sorry, I’m like talking about the first one, but actually I kind of touched on both the points. One was he kind of he alleviated my sense of shame. He gave me some statistics and said that like, there is an increasing number of women who are using pornography and dealing with masturbation and all these things. And so it made me, I guess, I realized that I’m not the only girl. I’m not the only woman in the world. I wasn’t really a woman at the time. Only girl, not the only girl. Although I still kind of later on felt like I was maybe the only girl in the church, who maybe did this, but yeah, and just him saying that it doesn’t make you evil, and you’re not abnormal. That was really important. Because I, up until that point, thought that there was something wrong with me. And then the second thing that really helped was that I didn’t really know why it was bad and I guess, that’s why it was so confusing. But he gave me a really clear reason for why it’s not good. And that was enough for me to be motivated to stop. Or at least like in the beginning, it was enough for me to, I just needed a reason to quit, I guess. So, that, for those two reasons that conversation was really important. And yeah, he tried to give me some advice that I understood kind of, where he was coming from with the advice, but it just like, to me wasn’t really practical. It wasn’t something that I resonated with or felt that was like, truly applicable to me and my specific, I don’t know circumstances or whatever. He recommended like, exercising and just like being really tired at the end of the day and being cautious of boredom, which are all great tips. But for me, I was thinking like, “Well, I’m not gonna exercise,” like, I don’t want to do that. And he also said like, if you ever get the urge to watch porn then like, think of like, look up wedding images instead. And like, you know, think about your future relationship and I guess like the point of that advice was to like redirect your thoughts and just remind yourself of guess like, the bigger picture and but you know, at the end like when it, when I’m faced with that situation, or if, like, if I’m caught up in an urge, then I’m, it’s just not that simple. And I didn’t really feel that the advice was super, I guess helpful or yeah, like I said applicable to me. So, it kind of sent like this, not this message, but I just got the feeling, the sense that, there weren’t really any resources for help in this area. And also at the same time, I was just like, I didn’t want to, I think, admit that I needed help. I felt that this was something that I needed to overcome on my own. And I don’t know, I just didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want to go through the hassle. So there was definitely that feeling. Or like those thoughts that came with that. Just, I don’t know, feeling that whatever the advice was, like wasn’t really helpful or whatever. But yeah, I, I walked away from that conversation with like, determination to overcome this thing. Didn’t really know how I was going to do that, I just thought I’d will myself to stop or something or I don’t know. But yeah, that’s kind of where the struggle started. And initially, I wanted to stay transparent with my parents. And I tried, you know, I like, would go through a stretch, and then I’d relapse. And then I’d feel really guilty, and I felt like I really needed to tell them, and then when I did, I felt like I was disappointing them. I’m not saying that, like, they showed their disappointment or that they were disappointed in me, but the way that I perceived that like, was that, I was burdening them with my problem. And, like, clearly, it was clear that they didn’t know what to do to help me. And so it was kind of unproductive for me to just unload my struggle onto them, and make them feel sad that I wasn’t getting better. And so, or that I wasn’t improving. And it also just hurt so much to relapse every time because it felt like, I’m not learning from my mistakes, like, I’m just making the same mistakes over and over again. And that just destroyed me and destroyed my sense of worth. And I decided, “Okay, I’m not going to bother my parents with this, like, they don’t need this. I’m gonna figure this out on my own. And when I’m overcome this, whenever that happens, then I will tell them and be open with them. But for now, like this isn’t something that they need to know about”. So, I made this goal of being, like having a year long streak, and then, once I can go for a year without masturbating, then to me, in my mind, then that’s like,vic-, clear victory. And it’s like a clear sign that it’s behind me. And then I can talk to my parents about it. But until then, I’m just gonna struggle by myself and figure it out. So that’s how it was for a very long time, like seven years or something like that, because this is freshman year of high school. And then it wasn’t until my third year of college that I opened up to my parents again. And yeah, stuff, not that much happened in the middle. It’s just kind of cycles of the same thing. Just like resisting and trying to resist and then at some point buckling and giving in to the urge, and although I did have like stretches of time, where I could go through longer periods, but I could never fully shake the habit, I would always come back. And even when I did, like I did GPA, which is a leadership gap year program, like a faith based program, and I thought that doing GPA would be the trick. And like, there’s no, I thought, there’s no way while on GPA that I’m gonna even have time to think or like be tempted or any of that. I’m going to be really working on myself and doing all these activities and things and challenging myself like, there’s just going to be no space for that. And that’s going to fix my problem. And eight months into the program, like towards the end, I – anyway, I wanted to do a second year of the program and there was some back and forth. And ultimately, I was under the impression that I had a good chance of like, being considered for a second year of the program. But, and if you know, for those who don’t know about this program, the second year, if you do a second year, then you’re kind of in a leadership position, leading the first years. Anyway, that was an experience that I really wanted. And I ultimately was – I, I don’t want to use the word rejected, but that’s what it felt like and that, I struggled with that and it really stressed me out because it was something that I, kind of, in my heart, I really wanted and I thought that, that’s how I envisioned my life being for the next year. And then all of a sudden, I had to come to grips with the fact that, that wasn’t going to happen. And yeah, I was just really stressed out, I didn’t feel supported at the time that I relapsed. But when I did relapse, then I, it hit me like this, that, even the environment, like that’s not going to be enough to stop. And I didn’t dwell on it too much. But that is a really important lesson that I learned that I couldn’t, I can’t rely on the environment to get me through that or I don’t know, to, like prevent me from acting out. So yeah, that happened.  And that was actually my longest stretch for a really long time. And then I went through college and then I like had a bunch of cycles of relapsing and then being strong for a while and so on. And then I finally like, but I hadn’t, I, my best friend that I mentioned earlier, at the beginning of this podcast, we did GPA together, and we stayed in touch, even though like she’s on the east coast and I’m on the west coast, we talked pretty regularly over the phone. And she was just like my rock and the one person that I finally felt like, I could be honest with about anything. And she was the person I chose to open up to about this. And up until that point, I don’t like, I only told my parents and I told a few like, older sister figures in my life, certain things, but not the whole truth. Not nearly as much as I’d actually experienced, and I just selectively tell certain things but not the full truth. And I finally opened up to her about it. And then again, it was kind of like a second version of what I had experienced in my mom and I, I felt, again, unconditionally loved by my friend. And she encouraged me and said, like, “It’s actually really amazing that you have committed and stuck with your goals and your persistence is something that you should be really proud of”. And I’d never looked at it that way. Because in my eyes, I was just focused on the failure and the fact that I couldn’t get over it. And I didn’t realize that, like, my persistence or that, the fact that I hadn’t given up was something to be proud of. But hearing that coming from her and she’s someone who I really admire, and I look up to and hearing that coming from her meant so much, and that gave me the confidence to start talking about it actually.  So I talked about it at camps. I started small with like, my leadership workshop groups. We do these like, little preparatory workshops as the leadership staff, and then we’d have the actual camp, but I started opening up in that setting. And then with my groups went like, during these deep talk activities where we’d share and be really vulnerable. And so I talked about it. And I found that the more that I shared about it, the more that I talked about it, the more empowered I felt, because I felt, I think one thing that I learned through this process was that, it had power over me because I was hiding it, because I wasn’t talking about it. But as soon as I was talking about it, and owning up to the fact that this was something that I was experiencing, it didn’t have power over me anymore, and it wasn’t something that I necessarily felt shamed for. So I was starting to kind of break away from the shame because it wasn’t something I was hiding. And people I would, you know, people would react really positively and like much to my surprise, people would tell me, like, thank you so much for talking about this. This is something that I’m experiencing too. And that was when I finally felt that I, I’m actually not the only one. Because up until that point, I really thought I was the only one, that this was a, an experience unique to me, especially as a woman. And I guess like a young, like a girl and I… but through that experience, I finally realize that I’m not alone. And this isn’t just, you know, I’m like, it’s not a unique experience to me because there’s something wrong with me. It’s just like, never talked about, and I was really happy to be that conversation starter and create that space where people could, I guess, feel understood in a way and like validated for the experiences that they’re going through. That’s definitely something that the woman who shared at the High Noon Summit did for me, she like, I felt validated through her testimony, which is really important. And yeah, then I opened up to my parents and I think I’ve told the rest of the story-ish, sort of, and then High Noon summit happened. And then, there’s more. But I don’t know, if you want to interrupt me and ask some questions, cause I just kind of go on and on. But…

Andrew Love: No, that’s, it’s, there’s a lot of territory that you just covered. And that’s good, because I think a lot of people have very different situations. And you’ve probably just created space for many people to relate to you and your story. Because you have in that, what you just talked about, you have themes of ups and downs, what it’s like to feel redeemed, and then also you go right back into your own pit at some point. And then to go right back to the same emotions of fear that you had the first time of talking to your parents and it took another seven years to have the same conversation.

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love: And so we’ve, we’ve had that conversation ourselves with many different people. That, we start to generate this story in our head that we’re protecting our parents or our loved ones, by not giving them the truth, and which is some crazy justification that we tell ourselves…

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love: …to not go through the process of admitting that we’re not perfect because we think that people around us expect perfection. But anyway, there’s a lot in there that you just said, and I think it was all gravy. It was all amazing stuff. But I do want to get into a few more questions. Why? Why do you think people do this? Why do you I mean, you can speak from your own experience…  …but you’ve also helped a few other young ladies, but why do you think people go back to something that they themselves don’t want to do? Like, why would you, why would you do that? Yeah.

Mai Thurston: I guess the simplest answer is habit. Humans are creatures of habit and when you like, develop a habit and create connections that invoke certain or like, produce certain feelings of pleasure, excitement, as short lived as they are; I remember like before each relapse I would, or I guess like my thought process was like, I know I’m gonna feel like shit, like, I’m gonna feel so terrible after this, but the thrill and everything leading up to that in the climax, it’s worth it – kind of, not really, like after when it’s all done then it’s like, oh, yeah, it wasn’t worth it. But then I don’t know you just like, you’re like looking for that. I guess that high or that endorphin or what’s the, I don’t know what the brain chemical is?

Andrew Love: Dopamine

Mai Thurston: Dopamine, yes, that’s what it is. And that is, like, I don’t know like, that’s enough to, I guess, I don’t know, it just feels like it’s worth it for some reason. And I think for me, that’s why I kept relapsing. Even though I knew I would feel terrible on the other side of it, it was almost like, it’s fine. It’s worth it. That was kind of like the attitude for me anyway. But again, just like it’s a, it’s a habit that you develop, that you, especially you have like kind of strong physical and emotional experiences attach to. So that just kind of reinforces that, the strength of that, which makes it easier to fall into, over and over again. It’s kind of like you just keep digging a grave in a way. And after a while, it just gets hard to climb out of, as much as you want to. It’s just really just difficult. And I think another thing is maybe not being clear on why this is something you want to quit or like why? This, you, you think this is something… and you have to make it personal to, it’s not just like, you can’t just rationalize your way through it. You have to find a really personal reason to be a person that doesn’t need to watch porn or doesn’t need to masturbate to be okay. And that is a process on its own. But I think because, at least for me, when I was trying to overcome it, I knew that I was also doing it not just for myself, but for my future. Marriage and relationship with my future spouse, but because at the time it felt so far away. Kind of almost unattainable and just not relevant to my life at the time, I lost any kind of urgency to quit, or to overcome this thing. And that’s another thing that kind of allowed for me to easily fall back into it over and over again. I wasn’t really clear on my, I mean, I had a reason but I didn’t really, I don’t know. It wasn’t like a really deep personal, I don’t know how else to describe it, but I just didn’t have like, yeah, the urgency to not, or to quit. And I think also when you experience life, when, I guess I’m speaking kind of on the other side of things like not as I was kind of overcoming, but not to say that I’ve completely overcome; I’m a really, I’m at a really good place with my sexual integrity. And I’ve gotten really good at like curbing urges and like redirecting my thoughts. And that’s like a whole other conversation, I guess but I think just being, living a life that’s full, in terms of my relationships with like my family and friends and living a life with purpose. All of those things are really conducive to just being at a place where you just don’t need to masturbate or porn-like…

Andrew Love: I know, I totally hear you. I mean, I’ve seen this very clearly, in that, you don’t know how out of shape you are, and how the food that you’re eating when it’s kind of junk food, you don’t see how it’s impacting you until you need to get into really good shape for whatever reason.

Mai Thurston: Right. That’s very well put.

Andrew Love: So you have a reason, “Oh, I have this marathon coming up”, then you realize how the food that you’re eating is affecting your health and how unhealthy or out of health you are. And it’s the same with sexual integrity is unless you have a reason. That’s why, you know, we get so many people signing up for our programs when they’re engaged or thinking about getting engaged, because all of a sudden, reality becomes very real. So I totally get that.

Mai Thurston: Yeah, thank you for putting it that way. Yeah.

Andrew Love: Yeah, no problem. I think, I think it’s, we all, that’s like you said, it’s a journey to figuring out basically, what it, what kind of life do you want, because you can know intuitively that what you’re doing isn’t great for you but unless you have an incentive to move in a different direction, especially if it’s going to require effort…

Mai Thurston: Right.

Andrew Love: …then it’s not gonna really, it’s gonna, you’re going to constantly run into a lack of ambition unless you have a real reason, a clear reason to do it.

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love  55:09

So, I do have a last question here for you.

Mai Thurston: Okay.

Andrew Love: And because you know, when we, that first summit that you came to, which was a very important event for our organization, but also just for the entire providence of humanity, in our opinion, one thing that we thought would never happen was to get that live female testimony. We wanted it so badly, but we had a great deal of doubt that we’d find somebody willing to give their testimony openly, without a bag on their head, without some sort of voice blurring software or something, right? But we, we had one and the reason we wanted it so badly is because when we went to our first summit, we learned how much of a problem as a – pornography and sexual things were for women. And that was something that most people had no awareness of. It’s like, “Oh, this is a guy’s thing. It’s a guy’s thing”.

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love: Women are like, they’re the ones that are keeping this whole thing under control. They’re keeping the world moving forward, but men are the dastardly dogs. So with that said, what, and you’re, you’re now very much open about your story. What, what do you wish people could understand about women? And this could be also older woman understanding about what younger women are going through in this modern society of ours. Like, what do you wish parents could know about their kids but in general, also, what do you wish that people going to understand about women and what it’s like to go through pornography and masturbation struggles?

Mai Thurston: Yeah, that is still a tough question. Remember we talked about this earlier, like we messaged about this. But yeah, I just want to speak from my experience, as a young woman growing up in a faith community where sexual purity or purity is really, was just so important. I don’t know how else to stress that. But yeah, there’s this definitely a stigma that I felt. I think as I said before, that I felt like I was the only girl, the only girl, especially like in this faith communities like, I don’t know about, I knew I wasn’t the only girl in the world but I didn’t think like, as a person of faith that this was a normal thing to go through. And it’s because it was just never talked about, especially to women and especially to young girls like, we go to camps. And there was like, the brothers, the guys would have their guy talk; girls would have their girl talk, and it never came up. I found out when I was still in high school that the guys would get the porn talk like every single year, but not once was it ever mentioned at the sisters night, and that, just to me reinforced the idea that, “Oh, this isn’t something a girl or a woman should be going through. Like, this is just not normal”. But I guess what I want people to realize is that this is very relevant to women as much as like, people say that it’s a guy thing and that sure women go through it, but it’s just not very many like, it’s kind of uncommon, but it is really common.  And I think like, so, as I’m a women’s program coordinator. So I, like as Andrew was saying, in the wonderful introduction he gave, I receive, I mean, I know who signs up for the program. And so like, I help them navigate that and get them. I guess they welcome them to the High Noon community and everything. But, I also know like, people who I’ve talked to personally, who this is something or not who, but this is something that they struggle with. And so I know that there are people who struggle with this, but like, you know, we know it’s fine, not fine, but like, it’s great. Like some people, they just need their parents support and like, that’s enough for them to cultivate their sexual integrity and overcome their challenges in this area. But like, I think just that stigma – if we can talk about it, and that will be great to kind of show people and show women especially that it’s okay to reach out for help on this and to talk about this and I think it’s really, like having open conversations is so important and open and constructive conversations in a really safe and non judgmental space. And it’s just interesting to, just for me to note that, like, I’m sure that there are so many young women experiencing this, but because of that stigma, that ever present stigma, that idea that it’s, it’s is a guy thing and like, you know, by accepting help, it’s like, I don’t know. I experienced this too, because I didn’t sign up for High Noon initially because I was experiencing success with my parents. But I also was of the mindset that like, “Oh, it’s fine, I’ll just keep it within the family and that’s okay. Like, I don’t need extra help”. But I do, I did and I got, when I did reach out for help and I just accepted like, I just need some extra help and that’s perfectly fine and okay, and like, I’m just so grateful for, for, at the time that there were resources, because growing up there weren’t. And it just made a world of a difference to have a structure because I was kind of feeling my way through it. Up until that point. It was all very just trial and error, but having kind of like, sort of a formula. And having that structure really helped me and so I guess, I just want communities and I guess society, and especially women to understand that, if this is something you’re going through, then like it’s normal, and you’re not alone. And I think many women are still afraid, with for good reason, to talk about it and to be open about it. Because I guess it calls into question like your, I mean, I don’t even know what it calls into question, but it’s just like, I don’t know it. Yeah, I mean, it is, it’s really scary and I don’t know, I guess we want to have a certain image as women. And I guess, because of just the general conversation is so dismissive of this as an issue for women, then we feel automatically that like, because this is something that we struggle with, then it’s out of, we’re just like, there’s something wrong. But there isn’t anything wrong and there’s nothing wrong with you. This is just a person thing. People experience this.

Andrew Love: I mean also, need permission to take their own struggles seriously, and not to dismiss them and not to judge them but just to be allowed to seek healing themselves. Because like you said, if there’s a void in a conversation, then it must not be a problem, right?

Mai Thurston: Right.

Andrew Love: If you’re not hearing about other people struggling, then I must be the only one and so yeah, that’s a great call to action for any ladies listening, to know that Mai is here and we also have a team of women, various ages and backgrounds who are here to offer support. And also for parents, to understand that everybody is sexual, every human being is meant to be sexual in the right place at the right time. And before that right place and right time your body also wants, has questions

Mai Thurston: Yeah.

Andrew Love: And your mind has questions and your heart has questions. So, conversations really, really do help. So…

Mai Thurston: Yes they do.

Andrew Love: Mai had a great experience with her parents, multiple, and that’s a great model to, to follow after – is the benefit of hearing your child and really listening to them and helping them as much as you can. So wonderful. I love the advice and we are gonna, do you have any, any last words or anything that you wish to impress upon the humans of the world, or do you just want to say goodbye?

Mai Thurston: Yeah, I don’t have any like last, I think I said a lot already. But, just thank you for having me and for High Noon being a thing and I’m just humbled and grateful to be able to see my piece on this platform and represent the ladies, and yeah, I really hope we have more women on the podcast moving forward. And I’m just, yeah, really grateful for –  if you listened to this whole thing, and you got something out of me rambling and just talking about my life experience, especially if something really resonated with you and you felt validated or understood or hope, then all of this was just 100 million times worth it for me. So thank you.

Andrew Love: Thank you Mai and if you would like to reach out to her, you can find her email address on highnoon.org, @edu.highnoon.org. And I believe it’s Mai, M-A-I @edu.highnoon.org is her…

Mai Thurston: Yes.

Andrew Love: …email address. And, yeah, just to let you all know, we have a lot of really cool stuff coming down the pipeline, some really, we’re going to create online communities off of Facebook, off of these social media platforms and create our own world, so that you can be empowered by people like Mai, and we’re going to create our own heavenly culture, it’s going to be amazing. We’ll let you know more about it later. But Mai is a huge pioneer in this world. And we just want to, on behalf of the trillions of people that are listening to this or will listen to this. Henceforth, we all just want to say thank you for your effort Mai and thanks for coming on the podcast.

Mai Thurston: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

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