“Um, just so you know. I’m the one with the problem. I’m not calling because my husband or boyfriend has a problem. I’m the addict. Is the counselor comfortable talking to women?”
“Yes, he talks to female clients all of the time,” the voice on the other end of the phone responded.
“Okay,” the caller said as she thought, “Yeah, I’m sure he talks to wives all of the time about their husband’s problem, but I probably will be the only woman he ever talked with that wrestles with pornography, masturbation, and other sexually addictive behaviors.”
“Actually, Russell had a last minute cancellation and has an opening today at 11 a.m. Will that work for you?” the office manager said.
The caller replied, “Yes, thank you. I will call back then.”
That telephone call took place on September 15, 2005. I was the caller and was telephoning New Creation Ministries in Fresno, CA. At the time of this phone call, I had wrestled on and off with pornography and masturbation for 23 years (since the age of approximately 11).
I was pretty much convinced this was a “guy’s problem.” I thought because I was a female wrestling with this, something was desperately wrong with me. “I must be a very confused, perverted soul to end up with this problem as a woman. No man in his right mind (even a counselor) would be comfortable speaking to such a sex-crazed pig,” my self-loathing inner voice screamed. The horrendous shame I felt at my secret struggles is beyond adequate description.
I will spare all of the details for this writing, but I will just say that growing up my environment felt much less than safe and healthy. My father was the one exception to that environment. He made me feel safe, loved, and valued. At the age of 11, my father suddenly passed away from heart disease. In an instant, any semblance of normalcy was stripped from my life. I was left feeling acutely alone, abandoned, and desperately afraid.
A couple of months later, I somehow discovered masturbation. Shortly after that, pornography walks in through a secret stash that cried out my name from underneath my uncle’s mattress. For anyone who has struggled in this area, I’m sure you can pretty much finish the story for me. I ended up very quickly in bondage to these things. As an ignorant youth, all I knew was I found something that felt good. I had found my new “safe place” to fill the void that my father’s death had left.
Fast forward 23 years, I found myself beginning phone counseling for what I now realize was sexually addictive behavior. As I type, I literally have tears in my eyes as I am reliving the horrible pain, torment, shame, humiliation, and confusion of that season. Yet I am also experiencing tears of joy knowing this same journey has led me to over ten years of freedom. As the Lord led me to people like my counselor, Russell Willingham, and Marnie Feree of Bethesda Workshops, I learned I was far from alone as a female who struggled in this area. There were countless women just like me who also had been hiding in secret shame for years, believing the lie that they too were alone. My journey also led me to discovering Covenant Eyes, where I found the following statistics:
- According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, about half (49%) of young adult women agree that viewing pornography is an acceptable way of expressing one’s sexuality.
- According to a survey of more than 11,000 college-age women, more than half (52%) of young women today are exposed to sexually explicit material by the age of 14.
- According to a study published in the Cyber Psychology and Behavior, 62% of women have seen pornography by the age of 18.
- Exposures to porn during childhood are not just brief glimpses. Some teen girls are viewing online pornography for a half-hour or more at a time, and 1 in 7 have done this on multiple occasions.
- About 1 in 5 women (18%) use the Internet for sexual purposes habitually—every week.
It is no coincidence the enemy feeds female strugglers in particular the lie that they are alone in their battle. We are by design very relational. Of course, so are men, but women even more so. Pornography and other sexually addictive behaviors feed off isolation and feelings of abandonment. Do you see what the enemy has done to us? He has taken our need for acceptance, relationship, and intimacy and lured us with it into pornography. Then, he takes those same needs and keeps us trapped in pornography by telling us we are completely alone. We no longer have to be ignorant of his devices!
Let’s take the masks off. Let’s beat the enemy at his own game. He is a liar. As female strugglers, we are not alone. This struggle can be traced back to the Bible in John 4 where Jesus talks to the female sex addict at the well!
Our God is not ashamed of us. Let’s follow His lead, and not be ashamed of ourselves. It’s time as women that we fight for true intimacy. It is found in taking the risk of being relational, not in a computer screen.