“Addiction begins where dalliance becomes disease. It can happen to anyone.” –Sandy Swenson
Porn does not discriminate. Jesus-freak or atheist. Male or female. Prosperous or poor. On any given Sunday, chances are there’s a porn addict in the pew who is desperate for help.
Within large, evangelical churches in the United States, it’s difficult to find one that has a support group for women struggling with pornography. Conversely, men’s groups everywhere, including at my own church, have regular dialogue about porn issues. To be fair, every statistic shows that men maintain a sizable lead in terms of the percentage that admit to having an addiction.
But, in a recent Barna study, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age, 33% of females ages 13-24 and 12% ages 25+ admit to seeking out porn daily, weekly or monthly.
Recently, Covenant Eyes and Josh McDowell Ministry co-hosted the Set Free Global Summit, where around 850 church leaders came together with some of the globe’s top experts on sexual addiction to have a discussion about pornography and the church. Jessica Harris shared her story of hardcore pornography addiction and continual recovery, convincing a room full of male pastors that there’s an issue many of us are ignoring. Here’s a short segment:
“Women just don’t have this problem.” Oh how I wish that were true. But, remember, porn does not discriminate.
Many of the stories I’ve read about adult women (typically in the 25+ age group) who have overcome a porn addiction had their beginnings with a pop-up ad that was innocently clicked or some curiosity that was carried out through a search engine. But, the statistics from Barna point towards a startling trend. Younger and younger girls are using the convenience of the Internet to obtain sex education through online pornography. These same girls are growing up surrounded by teen boys who are often avid porn consumers, and so they watch porn in order to “measure up” with what the boys want.
In Peggy Orenstein’s book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, she offered this stark quote from a teen girl:
“I’ll be hooking up with some guy who’s really hot,” confided a high school senior in Northern California, “then things get heavier and all of a sudden my mind shifts and I’m not a real person: it’s like, This is me performing. This is me acting … And I don’t even know who it is I’m playing, who that ‘she’ actually is. It’s some fantasy girl, I guess, maybe the girl from porn.”
In the same way that young, porn-addicted boys can deceive their brains into believing that pixels are better than people, young girls are warping their brains into believing that what they see on the screen is how it is in real life.
What’s the solution?
For women who are stuck in a porn addiction, Covenant Eyes has been addressing the issue from your perspective since the inception of our blog. On June 30, 2014, Luke Gilkerson compiled a list of resources for women who struggle.
For parents with daughters, these words from 15-year-old Lucy were offered as part of a survey of 600 young Australian women commissioned by Plan Australia and Our Watch: “[I want] better education regarding sex for both boys and girls [and] information about pornography, and the way it influences harmful sexual practices.”
So, let’s take some advice from our daughters by doing the following:
Talk about sex.
Talk early, often, openly, and positively. From a Christian perspective, sex is part of God’s design for intimacy between spouses. It was His idea! His very first command to Adam and Eve was “to be fruitful and multiply.” Attaching shame to sex is a learned behavior, typically passed on by parents.
Talk about porn.
Tell her what it is and why it damages. Simply telling her to avoid it won’t work. Don’t forget to talk about masturbation. Yes, talk about it. Google is. Celebrities are. Help her understand that sexual desires are good and programmed, but they are not meant just for personal, selfish pleasure. They are to be enjoyed in “oneness” with her future husband, as a gift within their marriage.
Talk about true worth.
Remind her constantly in the truth that God made her, God loves her, and God is very pleased with her. This is a space where fathers have an immense opportunity to make an impression. Study after study shows that daughters take their cues about true worth primarily from their fathers. Dr. Meg Meeker, pediatrician, mother, and best-selling author wrote this:
And I have watched daughters talk to fathers. When you come in the room, they change. Everything about them changes: their eyes, their mouths, their gestures, their body language. Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They might take their mothers for granted, but not you. They light up—or they cry. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They hope for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration—or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.
When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence.
If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be overwhelmed. Boyfriends, brothers, even husbands can’t shape her character the way you do. You will influence her entire life because she gives you an authority she gives no other man.
Enable accountability and filtering on her devices.
Constant conversation is critical, but so are the right protections on all of her devices. The information provided by accountability software like Covenant Eyes provides cues for parents to keep the conversation going. Covenant Eyes is not meant to be a “gotcha” tool. Rather, when you notice red flags in her search history or app usage, use these opportunities to calmly talk about online responsibility and personal purity.
What used to be “the talk” is now many talks with our kids about how to navigate the digital world. In each phase of your daughter’s life, have an age-appropriate discussion about the topics above.
Bottom line, we are made in God’s image, “male and female He created them.” Our sexual desires were programmed by God to be carried out freely and faithfully in the oneness of marriage. That makes both genders a target for distortion and lies. You can learn more about how we’re wired for intimacy in our free e-book, Your Brain on Porn.