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Women Addicted to Porn: What You Need to Know to Break Free

Last Updated: August 17, 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.

“I see many guys here and just wanted to let the women reading this know that girls can get addicted too. I’ve been addicted to porn since before I truly knew what it was…. Here I am 10 years later and still addicted but now I’m trying to stop.” – Raechel

“I’m a girl, I struggle with this daily, I fail daily.” – Pauli

“I was hooked and feared being found out and rejected as the freak I felt I was. After all, porn is an older man’s problem and not an 11-year-old girl’s, right? Porn became my comfort, companionship, and acceptance for hours upon hours each day.” – Jennifer

The growing reality is that porn is neither a man’s problem nor a woman’s problem—it’s a human problem. Are you in some way able to access and derive pleasure from pornography? Do you have eyes and a heart prone to sin? Congratulations, you are at risk of using porn.

Unfortunately, because of the pervasive myth that women are somehow more immune to porn, people tend not to talk about women addicted to porn. Because we don’t talk about it, the women who use it feel even more isolated and become fearful about telling anyone about it. And the vicious cycle continues.

The only way to break the cycle is to shine a light on female porn addiction—how common it is, whether and how it differs from male porn use, and what to do for help.

How many women watch porn?

The first thing to understand is that while male porn use is more common than female porn use, female porn addiction is not rare.

The Porn Phenomenon, a study commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministries and published by the Barna Group in 2016 found that 46% of men seek out porn at least once a month, and 12% of women do as well. In other words, if you were to grab 10 random men and 10 random women off the street, chances are good that four of the men and one of the women would use porn at least monthly.

One possible reason for this difference is that women are more likely to be involved in sexting. The study also found that among teens and young adults, “69% of women had received a nude image via text, email, social media or app (compared to 57% of males), and 51% have sent one (compared to 33% of males).”1 In other words, of that same lineup, seven of the ten women have probably received a sext, and five have probably sent one.

These numbers are very conservative. However, other surveys have found much higher percentages of women consuming porn. One women’s magazine found that a third of its readers view porn weekly.2 Similarly, an earlier Barna survey from 2014 found that 34% of women aged 18-30 look at porn regularly.3 Whichever statistics are more accurate, it’s clear that many women are watching porn as well as men.

What do women consider “porn”?

Those stats about sexting hint at a bigger question: what even is porn? Probably most people would agree with the statement that pornography is sexually explicit material designed for the arousal of the viewer, but even there people tend to assume it means explicit videos and images available on the web.

As those sexting stats show, though, the question can be murkier than that. How many of the images sent to the 69% of women were unsolicited vs. solicited? Did women receiving unsolicited sexts consider them when they answered the question “How frequently do you come across pornography?” What about the women who asked for said sexts? Were they asking for their own gratification or to embarrass the sender? Motivations may vary among the senders as well; for example, we know of a number of wives who provide nude photos to their husbands because they believe if he’s going to look at porn anyway, they’d rather him look at photos of them. (Whether this is a healthy approach is a question for a different post.)

All of this to say, the stats about women viewing porn may, in fact, be too low when considering the other types of sexually gratifying materials women use.

Survey on Type of Porn Used by Women

In 2020, Crystal Renaud Day and I conducted a survey of female porn users, asking them about their porn use. It is important to note that this survey was of women who admitted to using porn, and most of them took the survey either via their knowledge of Covenant Eyes or had worked with Day, an expert on female porn recovery. In other words, the survey is non-academic, but the results are still worth consideration.

One of the questions we asked was what types of porn the female participants used. (We do not have this data for men.)

  • 78% used pornographic websites
  • 62% used erotica books or romance novels
  • 58% used live-action movie or TV scenes
  • 35% used social media like Instagram or TikTok
  • 27% used animation such as hentai
  • 21% used sexting or other real-time acts
  • 14% used magazines
  • 7% used video games

In other words, while the vast majority use “traditional” porn—aka websites—there are many women who use multiple forms of pornographic material, and 22% who may not even have realized for a while that they are using porn as they gratify themselves. I can imagine a decent number of women surveyed for The Porn Phenomenon breathed a huge sigh of relief that they didn’t have to talk about their obsession with 50 Shades of Grey, for example.

On a personal note, I fall into that 22% camp. It took me years to admit that my abuse of customization options of characters was pornographic, especially since I escalated “only” as far as seeking fan art of characters, looking for the most scintillating images, but never went so far as visiting a porn site. If I had been surveyed by the Barna Group in 2016, I would have said I never sought out porn; were I surveyed today, I would answer “occasionally” to acknowledge that no, really, every once in a while I do fall to a certain kind of porn.

Why do women use porn?

This leads to the next question: why do women use porn? First, let me say this: there is a superficial, in-the-moment answer, and there is a deeper answer.

The Deeper Reason Women Get Addicted to Porn

The deeper answer for almost all porn users is that it stems from childhood woundedness.

Some children were physically or sexually abused and turned to porn. Others discovered it accidentally but did not have a relationship with their parents such that they could talk about what they found and learn how to manage it.

This particular post won’t go into details there, but you can find plenty of courses that address it in the Victory app.

The More Obvious Reasons for Female Porn Use

That said, there’s generally a more immediate answer at play. In our survey with Crystal Renaud Day, we found that women overwhelmingly turned to porn for relief: 82% of women sought physical relief and pleasure (such as masturbation), and 82% selected emotional relief and pleasure (fantasy, etc.) Only 8% said it was to please someone else (e.g. they watched it with their partner, or wanted to enhance their own sexual performance).

The Porn Phenomenon provides more specific illumination into the question. For women, the top five reasons for viewing porn were:

  • Personal arousal (57%)
  • Curiosity (43%)
  • To get tips or ideas for my own sex life (36%)
  • To set the mood with a significant other (33%)
  • Boredom (24%)

Contrast this with the top five reasons men watch porn:

  • Personal arousal (66%)
  • It’s just fun (34%)
  • Boredom (29%)
  • Curiosity (28%)
  • To get tips or ideas for my own sex life (25%)

What These Reasons Might Reveal About Women Addicted to Porn

Four of the five reasons are the same between women and men’s porn use, but the differences are worth noting.

First, both men and women put personal arousal at the top of their list, though men are slightly more likely to select that as their reason.

Two of the reasons for women (“to get tips” and “to set the mood”) have to do with intimacy-building; this tells me that many women may have been introduced to porn by a romantic partner or may be watching it to try to keep their significant other’s attention. (By a similar token, “It’s just fun” is second on the male list but doesn’t appear at all on the female list, indicating that men are more likely to watch porn for personal gratification overall.)

I’m also intrigued by the fact that “Curiosity” ranks so highly on the list for women—more so than with men. Curiosity is a part of my story in many ways: curiosity about what boundaries I can push in games; curiosity about what female sexuality even means, as explored in lingerie catalogs. I also know of at least one female friend who started watching porn out of curiosity and became addicted to it for several years.

What makes female porn use different than male porn use?

Other than those differences in use rates and motivations already outlined, there are a few other differences between male and female pornography use.

More Difficult to Identify Arousal Disorders

Men and women have different plumbing. In many ways, the physical impacts of porn use are easier to track with men. You can identify arousal disorders in men—aka erectile dysfunction—because men have penises. Women of course experience physical arousal from porn, but it’s more difficult to tell when there is a disorder because of the lack of, well, visible symptoms.

May Be Impacted by Menstrual Cycle

In addition, while to my knowledge this hasn’t been studied, women’s porn use may also be tracked to their menstrual cycle. For example, in Making Advances, edited by Marnie Ferree, she and her co-authors note that female sex and love addicts are more likely to cheat during ovulation.4

Other women may be more likely to act out a few days before their periods. Women more prone to negative mood swings during PMS may turn to porn to alleviate their anger. Women with severe cramping may masturbate to find physical relief.

More Impacted by Shame

One of the biggest differences is in the impact of shame. Pretty much all Christians in particular who watch porn are kept entrapped by the Shame Cycle, a process by which people feel ashamed of their porn use and try to cover it up, thereby only compounding the shame.

For women using porn, shame plays a slightly greater role because porn is still treated like a man’s problem. In her book Beggar’s Daughter, Jessica Harris recounts having been caught with porn attached to her school ID. Just before she was about to confess, the administrator who caught her told her to protect her login information better because “women just don’t have this problem.” The conclusion that Jessica came to after that conversation was that she was the only woman to struggle like this. As she said, “All hope for freedom crumbled.”5 Eventually she did find freedom, but her shame set her back years.

The survey conducted with Crystal Renaud Day indicates that this belief is very common. A whopping 98% of women said they felt empty or shameful after viewing pornography, and 78% said they ever believed they were the only woman who struggled the way they did.

Stories From Women Addicted to Porn

Amy Rioridan was a Christian wife and mother with a secret: she struggled with porn. Learn how she overcame her shame and found freedom.

Crystal Renaud Day was just 10 years old when she was exposed to pornography for the first time. This led to a years-long addiction before she finally learned the secret to overcoming temptation. Read Crystal’s story here.

Like many women who watch porn, Kimberly Johnson thought she was the only one. She thought it was “just a guy’s problem.” See how she finally found freedom and learned she wasn’t alone.

Liz Vogt says, “Not once did I ever think that my struggles would ever be made public or that someone would want to hear them.” Find out what happened when she shared her story.

What happens to a young woman who spends years of her life addicted to hardcore porn? Is it possible for her to find freedom? Yes, it is! Read Jessica Harris’ story to find out how.

Resources for Women Who Use Porn

You know all those cheesy jokes about “the real treasure being the friends we made along the way”? That may not be far off in this case.

Your friendship may be a key resource as she breaks free. If a woman has confessed her porn struggles to you, recognize that it is an honor and privilege that she has invited you into what may be the source of her deepest shame. This is not an honor given lightly. Gently remind her that she’s not alone and God still deeply loves and cares for her.

From there, we have a number of resources available to support female porn users and their allies. You can start out with our Women’s Resources page.

  • New Fruit: Crystal Renaud Day and I co-wrote this ebook specifically to help female porn users heal. The survey mentioned above in this post supported us as we created it. You can download New Fruit for free.
  • Crystal Renaud Day: Crystal has years of experience in working with women who watch porn. She offers coaching, counseling, and virtual recovery meetings at sherecovery.com.
  • Marnie Ferree: Marnie is one of the foremost experts on female sex and love addiction (of which pornography use is one aspect). You can read her own story and get practical advice for recovery in her book No Stones.
  • For husbands of a female porn user: this blog post may help you understand the next steps for your marriage.
  • For parents: Check out this blog post for advice about talking to a teenage girl who struggles with porn.
  • For pastors: read this post on the 7 things female porn users wish their pastors understood.

Finally, all porn users—men and women—need accountability as a tool for freedom. Covenant Eyes accountability monitors your screens and shows when you may have accessed potentially explicit content on your activity feed. Covenant Eyes also comes with access to the Victory app as part of membership, which includes a growing number of courses designed to help people find lasting freedom. All of this is perfect for women and their allies as she breaks free from watching porn.


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

2 FPJ Bureau, “33% British women watch porn once a week,” The Free Press Journal, May 31, 2019. Accessed July 7, 2022 at https://www.freepressjournal.in/webspecial/33-british-women-watch-porn-once-a-week.

3 Proven Men Porn Survey (conducted by Barna Group), located at https://www.provenmen.org/2014PornSurvey/ accessed May 23, 2022.

4 Marnie C. Ferree, Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts (SASH, 2012), 54.

5 Jessica Harris, Beggar’s Daughter: From the Rags of Pornography to the Riches of Grace (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016), 82-83.