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7 Things Female Porn Users Wish Their Pastors Understood

Last Updated: April 1, 2022

Lisa Eldred
Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

Hi. My name is Lisa, and I have a porn problem.

Ironically, I’m probably the last person you’d think would have one. I’m a woman. I’m active at church. I’m single and still “saving myself for marriage.” I even work at Covenant Eyes. And, to be honest, by the grace of God I got pretty good at avoiding most triggers before I even realize they are triggers.

And yet I still face the temptation. Sometimes I still even fall.

The thing is, I’m not alone.  Countless other women are struggling silently with pornography, feeling alone and isolated because few people (including Covenant Eyes) talk about the fact that we exist.

Pastors and church leaders, we need you to change that. Here are seven things we wish you knew about us.

1. There are more of us out there than you think.

In 2016, the Barna Group led a study of porn’s impact and found that 27% of women aged 25+ admitted to seeking out pornography.1 The rate rose to 33% for women under age 25. 2

In 2020, Crystal Renaud Day partnered with Covenant Eyes to conduct a survey of female porn users. Of the 517 female porn users who responded, a full 67% were 34 and under.

This tells us a few things.

First, there are more of us out there than you think. At least one in four women watch porn. We may be in the minority, but there are still a ton of us. You can’t just brush the problem of female porn use under the rug.

Second, this is especially prevalent among younger generations—those of us who grew up with easy access to pornography online. In other words, while there are female porn users of every age, the teen girls in your youth group are particularly vulnerable. They don’t need another lecture about how “boys are wired to be visual” or “modest is hottest.” They need help addressing their own sexual temptations.

2. Our shame is really deep.

That last piece about needing help for ourselves is really important. Many of the female porn users under the age of 34 probably grew up in or around purity culture, which tended to focus on the male struggle. Girls were to dress modesty to not tempt men. Men were visually stimulated. Women were emotionally stimulated. Such teachings made pornography into a male struggle, not a human struggle.

This meant that when we women watched porn, our shame was compounded for dealing with a “man’s issue.” In the survey we conducted with Crystal Renaud Day, 98% of women reported feeling empty or shameful after viewing pornography… and 78% believed at some point that they were the only woman who struggled with it.

This extra shame is a really big deal. In general, people keep turning to porn because of something called the Shame Cycle. Viewing porn leads to feelings of shame, which then leads to feelings of deep isolation, which makes us vulnerable to triggers, which lead us back to porn. This cycle is bad enough for the average Christian, who knows that they are living according to the flesh and not the Spirit (Romans 8:5), but for women in church cultures that tend to assume that women are not visually/sexually tempted, there is extra baggage. Ironically, the shame only leads women into deeper isolation—and that means we keep silent, when speaking up about our own struggles could be the lifeline another woman needs.

3. Our porn use might not look like you expect.

Compounding all of that shame and baggage is the fact that female porn use doesn’t always look like videos on the Internet. Even when it does, it may just be one component of a larger picture of struggles with lust and sexual temptations. In our survey with Crystal Renaud Day, 78% of female porn users reported using porn websites… but 62% reported using erotica and romance novels, 58% used live-action movies or TV scenes, 35% used social media, 27% used animated scenes like hentai, and 21% sexted or used other real-time, personal acts. In other words, there are many, many women who use “traditional” porn—but there are also plenty of women who may draw the line at “actual pornography,” but use other materials for the exact same purpose.

This, for the record, describes my own porn use, which involves abusing character customization options in video games to emphasize character sexuality. Every time I sinned, I absolutely 100% knew that I was giving in to the lust in my own heart, but I didn’t connect the dots with porn until a Covenant Eyes partner gave a series of lectures to employees and he named exactly what I was doing as a type of porn.

In other words, if you want the women of your church to heal from pornography, you may need to widen your definitions to speak into our hearts.

4. Our porn use may be tied to abuse.

As part of our survey with Crystal Renaud Day, we asked women to report if they had been victims of abuse growing up. Only 25% reported that they had not been victims of any sort of abuse.

Interestingly, emotional abuse was most common (55%), followed by verbal (44%) with sexual abuse in a close third (43%). The stereotypes about women being stimulated by emotional connection may in fact carry a grain of truth—but when those emotional connections break down, we turn to vices for comfort, including the simulated embrace of pornography.

I know my own traumas have impacted my porn use. Although my childhood was generally happy, I had to deal with pretty significant feelings of powerlessness and fear of physical retaliation from someone in my life. Combine that with the fact that nobody has ever particularly pursued a romantic relationship with me, and it’s little wonder that if I have a female playable character I want to make them as powerful and sexual as possible. Every time I start messing with those character settings, I’m basically trying to “solve” my childhood trauma and get a neurochemical rush at the same time.

5. We may be using it to build intimacy.

A study published in 2000, “Cybersex Users, Abusers, and Compulsives,” found that women tend to be more relational in their internet use and are usually drawn to chat rooms rather than merely viewing pornography. Among their sample of 96 persons whom they termed “cybersex compulsive,” 70% of the 26 women, versus 43% of the 79 men, considered chat rooms their preferred online medium.3

In another article published around the same time, Jennifer Schneider reports that a similar proportion of men (27%) and women (30%) engaged in real-time online sex with another person, but significantly more women than men (80% versus 33.3%) stated that their online sexual activities had led to real-life sexual encounters. In fact, in her book No Stones, Marnie Ferree reported that as many as 81% of female porn users will see their behaviors shift to in-person encounters.4

While these findings are old, they still track with modern technology away from chat rooms to sexting and other tools like Snapchat. A 2016 study by the Barna Group found that among teens and young adults, more females had both received and sent nude images of themselves than males.

  • 69% of females had received a nude image, compared to 57% of males.
  • 51% of females had sent a sext, compared to 33% of males.

In both cases, most of the time the sexts were sent between boyfriends and girlfriends.  While the Barna Group was reluctant to draw conclusions, when pairing these findings with the previous study, it seems reasonable that young women would be more likely to engage in sexting precisely to draw closer to their significant other.5

This all is especially fascinating in light of the fact that 67% of respondents to our survey with Crystal Renaud Day (including myself) told us they are currently single and never married. In other words, we may not have intimate relationships! Many modern churches glorify marriage almost to the level of idolatry; there’s rarely an emphasis on good old-fashioned friendships. Personally, I have gone days or even weeks without physically touching another human being… and that’s without shutdowns or social distancing in place.

Porn may be our glimpse into that world of intimate relationships for us. It may escalate to sexting to try to attract someone’s attention. It may escalate into anonymous sex in a hotel room because we long to actually feel someone’s embrace. That’s not to say male porn users don’t experience the same level of longings—in fact, I suspect the Church as a whole would be happier and healthier if more people talked about men’s needs for intimate and non-sexual relationships. But statistically, it does seem to be a bigger struggle for women.

6. We fear opening up about it.

By this point, you may be thinking, “I don’t know any women who struggle with porn! I only hear from men!” Statistics say these women do exist in your church. The harsh reality is that you may not hear from them because you may not have made yourself a safe person for confession.

Remember, women feel particularly ashamed and isolated for struggling with a “man’s problem.” In a talk for the 2016 Set Free Global Summit, Jessica Harris pointed out that women may tentatively seek to open the door and ask for help exactly once; if they’re shut down before they can even begin to speak about their own personal issues, they may never try to open up again.6

In other words, you may have one chance to help any given woman in your church. Talk over her, or talk about how she clearly can’t be struggling with pornography use personally and it must have been her husband/boyfriend/roommate, and she will shut down. You may never get another chance to help her.

7. We need you to talk about female porn use from the pulpit.

So what’s the first step to opening the door to those conversations, and making yourself trustworthy?

Imagine you’re a woman who uses pornography for a minute. You’re sitting in church, listening to the pastor’s sermon. Oh, hey, it just touched on the subject of pornography! You’re feeling guilt already for doing something sinful, but the pastor keeps talking about “Men, when you watch porn…” or “Men, I just want to talk to you for a minute.” Your isolation and shame are immediately compounded.

But this isn’t terribly uncommon! Our survey with Crystal Renaud Day found that 41% of women had heard their church address pornography use… but only 7% had heard female pornography use addressed specifically. It would make a world of difference to simply start using more inclusive language, like “When men and women watch porn….” or even “When people watch porn.” Simply acknowledging the fact that women struggle too can go a long way in helping them heal from their shame.

Helping the female porn users in your church

So beyond mentioning female porn use in sermons, how do you turn your church into a place where it’s safe for women to be vulnerable and seek healing?

Practically, many of the suggestions for men still apply to women! Women need accountability; women need software like Covenant Eyes to monitor and block porn. As a rule, we recommend that porn users get allies of the same gender as them; if you’re a male pastor, you may want to assemble a team of trusted women from your church who can take over some direct pastoral care responsibilities from you. (That said, it is very important that you do not come across as if you’re treating her as a temptress instead of a sister in Christ.)

One easy resource to hand to the women in your church is our free ebook, New Fruit. Co-written by me and Crystal Renaud-Day, this book does a deep dive into our shame, holds it up against the Gospel, and provides practical tips to break free. You may also want to download our free guidebook for ministry leaders, Female Porn Users, and review that for more details on how to minister to women who watch porn.

Finally, we also need the Gospel preached into our lives. Specifically, we need to know how Jesus heals our shame.

We need to hear how Jesus ate with prostitutes and honored them.

We need to hear that, like Hosea, God is faithful to his faithless bride and will bring her back to him (Hosea 3:1-3). We need to hear that God will turn the Valley of Achor—the site of Israel’s first sin in the Promised Land (Joshua 7:24-26) and the metaphorical site of our deepest shame—into the doorway of hope (Hosea 2:15).

We need to hear that Jesus is making all things new (Revelation 21:5)—and that means us too.


1 Josh McDowell Ministry, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2016), 43

2 Porn Phenomenon, 30

3 Al Cooper, David L. Delmonico, and Ron Burg, “Cybersex users, abusers, and compulsives: New findings and implications,” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity,7:1-2, 5-29 (2000).

4 Marnie Ferree, No Stones, 63

5 Porn Phenomenon, 28-29

6 Jessica Harris, “More than fantasy: Reaching female porn users,” The Set Free Global Summit, April 6, 2016

  • Comments on: 7 Things Female Porn Users Wish Their Pastors Understood
    1. Jocelyn

      What about the factor of women using porn, because they feel it is their right since men use it to objective women and turnabout is fair play?

    2. Christine A Miller-Serviss

      That seems like something of a copout to justify an addiction, meaning no disrespect. Women don’t use porn to objectify men–as a whole or ever in that I have heard of.

      • Brittany Swanson

        I don’t think this article is blaming the church for women’s choices or struggles. This is merely pointing out that if churches want to effectively minister to women who struggle with porn, they need to understand the reality of their perspective. Also women, including me, use porn to objectify men all the time. If they are using porn to satisfy their sexual urges to any extent, they are literally objectifying those men. It may not be their only or main reason for porn addiction, but it is always part of the reason for watching porn.

    3. Brittany Swanson

      I am feeling so seen and heard right now as I read this article. It’s not too long ago that I struggled to find any literature/articles/blogs that talked about female porn usage, and that definitely contributed to my personal struggles with shame. While I can’t blame another person or their actions/approach for my own sins, it is much easier for me to see a real way out when I know my church community cares about this issue and I have a loving place to bring my struggles into the light. Thank you for writing this article, you have no idea how long I’ve waited for this.

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