“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 desperate for help.
Women Addicted to Porn?
Within large, evangelical churches in the United States, it’s difficult to find one that has a support group for women addicted to porn. Conversely, men’s groups everywhere 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+ admitted to seeking out porn daily, weekly, or monthly.
At the Set Free Global Summit, a gathering of church leaders to address porn in 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 mirrors real life.
What’s the Solution?
For women addicted to porn: Covenant Eyes has been addressing the issue specifically from your perspective since the inception of our blog. Here are a few articles to get you started:
- Resources for Women Who Struggle With Pornography
- How do I kick my masturbation habit?
- Where to Find the Boldness to Share Your Porn 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:
1–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.
2–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.
Related: How to Explain Lust to Your Children
3–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.
4–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 ebook, Your Brain on Porn.
Great article. Interesting, I got addicted to porn after I found my husband had been lying and hiding it. It made me angry and I lost all my self esteem. I felt cheated on. But after years of this same cycle I decided to work on me physically. But I got hooked and have thousands of pictures of men. I no longer view my husband the same at all and fantasize all the time about other men. I used to feel bad but after realizing most men never change, certainly not mine. I often wonder what my husband would think if he knew I am dealing with this. I feel bad for the women who are going to deal with their husband or boyfriends porn for ever. My attitude is, you can’t beat them, join them. Find your own beef cake, eye candy because let’s face it were all getting older.
Hi Kathy – I’ve found that living in the “light,” in complete transparency is just a better way to live. Would you consider telling him?
Kathy, thank you for your honesty. I am saddened by your comments because there is no peace of mind and no long term satisfaction in porn. I know. I got involved long before the internet. I have battled on and off for many, many years. I have recent sobriety of 9 years by the grace of God. I always needed more and different porn. It made me less relational. I had great help from a secular 12 step. I had to go cold turkey. I had to break the masturbation cycle that accompanied my porn viewing.
I used it to cope with life for so many years. In recovery we talked about why we were addicted. Sometimes we talked about resentments, hatred, self and others and many more mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of addiction. I am praying for your marriage and both of you for healing of addictions. Respectfully, Steve
It’s hard, I’m sure. Many married women have contacted me in a similar place. They were so broken by their husband’s porn use that they turned to it themselves. Basically their marriages turned into two porn addicts using each other’s bodies to fulfill their fantasies. That’s essentially what sex in a porn-filled marriage is, and it breaks my heart, because it has to be the strangest feeling to be the closest you can be physically and yet the furthest you can be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It has to be the strangest disconnect, and is certainly not the way it was intended at all. Your husband hurt you, and now you both have simply numbed yourself to each other.
If I can encourage you at all, let me offer this. First is that God can change your husband. Assuming you are a Christian, I would encourage you to pray for that. I know men who have gone from addiction to porn to being capable of investing in healthy relationships. That doesn’t mean they don’t fall, but it does mean that their overwhelming priority is for true intimacy with their wives.
Secondly, I would encourage you that “you can’t beat them, join them” isn’t healthy either. It is, essentially, a way of numbing the hurt caused by your husband’s porn use. It’s a way to even the playing field by lowering it. It would be like your husband drinking sewer water even though you have a pitcher of crystal clear water waiting for him. Obviously, that would hurt. It seems ridiculous that here you are and he’s still choosing the ‘hers’ online over you. So, instead of holding fast to that pitcher of clear water, you set it aside and head for the sewer yourself. Equality doesn’t make the relationship healthy.
This has been an issue I’ve been addressing for nearly 10 years. I’m thankful for voices like Jessica’s who are along in the fight.
The sentiment is returned, Crystal. I am so grateful for you and how God has uniquely called you to reach women.
When I read Jessica’s book, I cried more times than I can count. She is the perfect picture of miraculous grace. When I started the book, I did not expect to read about the intense struggle she had after becoming a Christian and in recovery. I had thought, well I have not read much about her struggle when she was in recovery, so she had it not too bad. Wow! I was wrong. I read it because I was looking for answers. And I don’t know what Jessica would say to this, but for me to read about her struggle in recovery, SAVED MY LIFE. I knew I was not the only woman who had a sexual addiction. But by this point, I believed 100% that I was the only Christian woman who fell and relapsed again and again and again in recovery. And because I believed that, i also thought i could never be completely free. I have been in recovery since Dec 2014. I was desperate for freedom, but i kept sinning, in fact, it got worse. I have just come out of the worst relapse I have ever had, only by the grace of God. I had written a comment on another article a couple weeks ago, but it never got posted, because I was too rude I think. Sorry to whoever moderated it. I was angry at me, at life, at people, and at God. Why was I the only one? Why did everyone else walk away with ease, and I had to be shackled to this? As my last resort, went to DirtyGirlsMinistry. I tell you, that lie I was believing for so many years, that is completely gone. Not that I’m glad in anyway that others go through what I go through too. I am simply thankful that I am not alone at all. And if others beforee could struggle so long and hard, and come out free, that gives me hope that I can be forever free to. So just a thought…we women know now that other women struggle with sex addictions too. But do we understand there will be a fight, and that we are NOT the only one tripping up so much in recovery. And that that does not mean we are forever doomed. Maybe it was just my own logic, but chances are it wasn’t.
Thanks for the article.