Girls Like Porn Too: A Timely Message for Parents

It was just another normal day, doing homework after school. While doing research, 13-year-old Jessica Harris was intrigued by a particular video she found online. The thumbnail image was dark and blurry, but it grabbed her attention. After pressing the play button, Jessica found herself watching pornography for the first time in her life. Those 3 minutes and 23 seconds were etched on her brain, and this incident became the beginning of an eight-year-long secret fascination with porn and cybersex.

Girls Like Porn Too_ A Timely Message for Parents

Online sexual temptation is known typically as a “male issue.” But for those like Jessica—and there are more of them out there than you might think—being female did not shield her from the allure of cybersexual temptation.

How Big Is This Problem?

Nearly half of young adult women today believe viewing pornography is acceptable behavior. According to a survey of more than 11,000 college-age women, more than half said they were exposed to sexually explicit material by the age of 14.

For some girls, these exposures to pornography are not just brief brushes with sexually explicit pictures—a pop up here, a link there. On at least one occasion, about 1 in 4 girls sit down to watch Internet pornography for at least a half-hour straight—and with a broadband connection, you can see a lot of hardcore pornography in 30 minutes. About 1 in 7 girls have done this on multiple occasions.

Nearly a third of young adult women intentionally use pornography from time to time, and about 1 in 5 women (18%) do it habitually—every week.

Times They Are A-Changin’

“Women can still become addicted to pornography in the same way that men do,” says Dr. Doug Weiss, a pioneer in sex addiction therapy. He believes part of the reason why we are seeing an uptick in this problem among women today is that women have become avid users of the Internet.

Recently Covenant Eyes conducted a survey with the Dirty Girls Ministries (DGM) community, an online forum for women who struggle with sexual temptations. Among women older than 45, more than 80% said their first exposure to sexually explicit material was from soft or hardcore magazines. Compare this to those 17 and younger: only 10% first saw pornography via a magazine. The other 90% said their first exposure was online. All other age groups of women surveyed followed this same trend: the younger you are, the more likely you are to say you first saw porn online, not offline.

Pictures, Videos, and a Whole Lot More

In the early years of research on the topic of women and cybersex, psychologists found that most women who get involved in sexual temptations online are drawn more towards relationship-oriented experiences, such as erotic chat or stories. But still, these experiences often lead to viewing sexual pictures and videos.

Jessica Harris’ first exposure to pornography was on a chat site. Right away she started engaging others online in sexually oriented conversations. At first, viewing pornography was her way to learn sexual language, but then soon afterward the porn became her primary focus. Before long she was spending hours alone in her room looking at porn.

Jenny Miller, director of operations for Dirty Girls Ministries, tells a similar story. Like Jessica, Jenny grew up in a conservative Christian home. But it was when she went away to a community college that she first discovered online temptations. There in a private corner of the school library, she found sexual chat rooms, but this eventually moved to visually oriented pornography. Soon afterward, she was viewing porn every day for several years.

For Natalie Ordorf the entry point wasn’t chat, but rather erotic stories. The summer before she graduated from high school she stumbled across erotic literature online. “I told myself it was a one-time thing,” Natalie writes, “But within weeks, I went back for more.” This eventually led to watching videos. “By winter, I would spend several hours every night watching and reading. By spring, I couldn’t stop. Even if I was exhausted, I had to go one more story, one more video. I couldn’t have enough.”

Porn, Lust, and Good Christian Girls

Nearly nine years ago, the magazine Today’s Christian Woman published a story called “Dirty Little Secret” in response to what was perceived as a growing temptation among more than a third of their female readers. Since then, the growth of the adult industry and the accessibility of broadband Internet have only increased the likelihood that women—even Christian women—will get sucked into this underworld of lust.

Nearly all the women involved in the DGM online community identify themselves as Christians, and yet most of them said they have felt or feel “out of control” in areas like watching pornography, masturbation, or sexual fantasies.

More than half of the members of the DGM community are women like Jessica Harris: single, Christian, between the ages of 18 and 29. So how does the church teach these young women to handle their sexual desires? “We’re not really taught what to do with them, we’re just told not to have them,” says Harris. “We’re ‘true love waits,’ purity rings, and ‘don’t talk about sex until you’re married.'” There needs to be a new strategy, says Harris, for teaching single, Christian women how to surrender their sexual desires in an age gone mad with lust.

“We can’t forget that the male and female brains are both wired to respond to visual stimulation with sexual arousal,” says Shannon Ethridge, author of the popular Every Woman’s Battle series. “The idea that it’s just a ‘guy’s issue’ is one of the biggest myths of our day.”

Taking It Offline

Some in the DGM community confess to other kinds of compulsive behavior, saying they feel “out of control” when it comes to activities like sexting (12%), sexually active romantic relationships (22%), or even sex with strangers (15%).

For Crystal Renaud, founder of DGM, the years of her porn addiction took her down similar dark paths. After spying a pornographic magazine in her brother’s bathroom when she was 10, she found herself over the next several years trying to find more glimpses of sexual media. At the age of 13 she went to a school library computer and typed “naked people” into the search engine. It was then that she discovered a “smorgasbord of images.”

“I decided that day that this was ‘my new thing,'” Crystal says. “This was for me. This made me feel good. And I would keep engaging in it as long as I never got caught.”

Coming from school to an empty home, parents gone at work, her fascination escalated throughout her teen years: print and online pornography, cybersex, video chat, phone sex—these became daily activities.

Years later, she hit her “rock bottom.” She says, “I am in a hotel room waiting for a person to arrive who I had arranged an anonymous encounter with on the Internet.” There in that moment she came to terms with how far she had fallen. “I’m shaking, just thinking, ‘How did I get here? How did I get to this point that things are so detrimental, so destructive, that I’m allowing myself to be put at risk?'”

Right Under Parents’ Noses

“As a contentious mom, I thought I was doing enough to protect my children by getting a filter for our home computer,” confesses Gina Renaud, Crystal’s mother. “But what I didn’t know was how easily my curious teenage daughter could maneuver around its restrictions.”

Recently, Knowledge Networks asked 535 pairs of parents and their teens a number of questions about Internet use. Of the parents surveyed, 64% said they try to monitor where their teens go online, but 42% of the teens said they have tried to conceal where they go online by clearing their browsing history.

For the struggling women in the DGM community, 89% say they were first exposed to sexually explicit material before they turned 18. But even more alarming, 65% said they started habitually and compulsively watching pornography or engaging in cybersex during these same years. This was happening right under their parents’ noses.

Do You Prepare Your Daughters for Sexual Temptations?

Our survey asked the DGM community to rate their parents on a scale of 1 to 7: how well did your parents/guardians try to prepare you for sexual temptations? The results were predictable, but sad. More than half of the community gave their parents a score of 1. Another fifth gave their parents a 2.

For the vast majority of these struggling women, they do not remember their parents regularly teaching them about the purpose of sex or helping them deal with sexual temptations as they arose.

Taking Advice from Our Daughters

Our survey also asked participants to give some advice to parents about the most important things parents can do to protect their daughters from being attracted to pornography or cybersex. More than 90 women submitted responses.

1. Talk about sex.

The #1 thing mentioned in the survey was the need for parents to talk to their daughters about the purpose and pleasure of sex.

  • Talk early. Don’t wait until adolescence to bring these things up. Don’t let the Internet or media teach her before you do.
  • Talk often. Remind her again and again what the Bible says about the purpose of sexuality.
  • Talk openly. Encourage her to ask questions. Don’t let your silence or attitude turn sex into a taboo subject.
  • Talk personally. Get into discussions about attraction and sexual desires. Don’t underestimate the fact that your daughter is a sexual being. Be alert to her curiosity about the opposite sex and take advantage of specific situations to teach her.
  • Talk positively. Your attitude will demonstrate whether you are ashamed to talk about sexuality or whether you see it as a God-given gift that should be guarded.
  • Talk practically. Don’t pretend that purity isn’t a struggle. Talk about sexual thoughts and desires and how to deal with them.
  • Talk soberly. Tell her sex and sexual desire powerfully connects us to another person. It should be taken seriously.
  • Talk to her heart. Purity is more than abstinence. It’s about thoughts, motives, and desires.

Here’s what some of the girls said:

“Instead of fearing talking to your kids about sex, fear the consequences of not having the conversation.”

“Girls need to know enough about sex that they don’t have to go looking for information on the Internet. It’s much better to have a lot of truthful, awkward, and uncomfortable conversations about sex and pornography with your child than it is for her to go seek out the information herself.”

“Teach them the difference between love (the way God intends it) and lust, so that hopefully they can be able to discern the difference. We fall because we are looking for love and an emotional connection and often if we feel some form of disconnection. It’s then that we search for it elsewhere and sometimes unfortunately in the wrong places.”

2. Talk about porn.

It isn’t enough to talk about sex generally. In today’s pornified world, parents also need to talk to their daughters about porn specifically.

  • Talk about lust. Remind her about how powerful sexual and relational fantasies can be. They can make us feel very good for a while, but they are no substitute for the reality of marriage.
  • Talk about masturbation. When paired with fantasy, masturbation trains us to be “inward” with our sexuality. Help her understand her sexual desires are not just for her pleasure, but something to be shared with her future husband.
  • Talk about everyday sexual media. This is the perfect bridge to eventually talk about pornography. Your daughter isn’t blind: she’s seen magazine covers, TV, movies, music videos, and Victoria’s Secret outlets. Remind her that the reason these things exist is because of the power of sexual desire. Mass media uses sexual images to get us to look and buy. Teach her not to take in sexual media passively but instead see it with a critical eye, as a counterfeit pleasure.
  • Ask her about media she’s seen. Allow her to be specific about things she’s seen on TV, in movies, and online that have been sexual. Don’t be quick to judge. Find out what she’s seen specifically. Was the exposure intentional or unintentional?
  • Talk about addiction. Explain that sexual media “supercharges” our fantasies. It’s like a drug: the more we see, the more we want to see.
  • Talk about exploitation. Pornographers often prey on women and girls with low self-esteem. This happens both physically and digitally (in pictures). Tell her not to be a consumer of media that exploits others this way.
  • Talk personally. Be honest about your own struggles. Talk with her as a fellow struggler, not a “perfect parent.”
  • Talk about guilt and shame. Explain that when we feel convicted about filling our minds with sexual fantasies we should not keep those things a secret.

Here’s what some of the girls said:

“By the time you think your child is ready for the talk, it’s too late. By the time I was 10, boys in class were already circulating hard porn.”

“Talk to your children about pornography and about how it harms people, minds, relationships and undermines true intimacy.”

“Don’t let them think it’s only a guy’s problem. It makes it harder to get help when they think they are the only ones. Don’t assume only boys will have this problem.”

Not exactly sure how to start talking with your daughter about sex or porn? We created a resource with age-appropriate conversation guides for both of these sensitive topics. Download our free e-book Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives today.

3. Let her know her worth.

Many women who answered our survey mentioned the importance of communicating to our daughters their value as women.

  • Tell her she is made in the image of God. This is what defines her worth.
  • Tell her personal worth isn’t defined by sexual prowess or looks. If you are obsessed about her appearance or your own appearance, you will train her to attach great importance toward outward attractiveness. Many girls pursue wrong relationships or sexual fantasies because they desire to feel beautiful.
  • Tell her you love her, and tell her a lot. This especially goes for dads. A girl who knows she is valued is less likely to look to other men (real or fantasy) to fill the void in their hearts.

Here’s were some of their comments:

“Tell us that we, as females, are worth more than just sex.”

“We need to be told things like, ‘Do not let other people’s expectations of you to be “sexy” drag you into the lie of pornography. They don’t know how truly beautiful you were made, and they are dealing with their own insecurities. You don’t have to sell out to feel loved, and even if you feel unpopular with guys at this point in your life, you can trust that God will provide all you need.'”

“Above all, let them know they are loved by God (and by you). When a young girl feels and believes that she matters, she doesn’t need to seek fulfillment or satisfaction elsewhere.”

4. Protect her from pornography.

Most women who took our survey also said prevention is very important. Don’t let your daughter have easy access to porn.

  • Don’t consume sexual media yourself. Get rid of your movies with sex scenes. Get rid of pornographic magazines. Get rid of your erotic novels. Don’t view porn on the computer. All of these are access points for your daughter.
  • Buy a good Internet filter. Good parental controls can go a long way. Don’t have unrestrained access to the Internet. Keep this in mind for all computers and cell phones.
  • Place safeguards on TV. Be aware of what each channel brings into your home.
  • She is only as safe as her best friend’s house. Know what protections other parents are putting in place.

5. Use accountability software.

Crystal’s mother, Gina Renaud, said, “If we had had something like Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability Software in place, I would have seen what my daughter was searching for, and may have been able to help her from becoming addicted to porn through use of the Internet.” Several survey participants also mentioned the importance of accountability at home.

  • Monitor what she does online. Be conscious of what she is exposed to on the Internet.
  • Teach her how to make good online choices. When you see small red flags, use these as an opportunity about online responsibility and personal purity.
Get Started with Internet Accountability Services today

6. Attitude is everything.

Many survey participants said a parent’s attitude can make all the difference in the world.

  • Be open. You must be approachable. She needs to know you want to talk to her.
  • Be understanding. You were there once, too. You can be tempted just as she can. Let her know you identify. Don’t come across as naive.
  • Be forgiving. If she’s made mistakes, don’t treat them lightly, but don’t condemn her either.
  • Be loving. She needs to know you love her no matter what temptations the world throws her way.
  • Be helpful. If she’s already gotten in over her head with temptation, find her some help or counseling. Talk to someone you trust who can point you in the right direction.
  • Be the parent. You are not her friend. Take charge. Let her know you are there to protect and guide her.
  • Be prayerful. Pray with her and for her. Make a habit of it.

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