Picture this: A 22-year-old (Christian) has been struggling with pornography, since the age of 13. First exposure was at a friend’s house. Since then, it has been nearly impossible to quit looking at nude pictures – always paired with masturbation. Recent exposure to internet chat rooms led to a hook-up with a 28-year-old. It all started with, “Look what I found in my dad’s closet.”

Most of us would assume this struggling person is male, but according to statistics, more and more women find themselves caught in a struggle with pornography. In fact, a survey of 700 women in 2014 showed that,

  • 68% (of the women surveyed) admit watching porn frequently and a whopping
  • 71% said that their masturbation behaviours felt “out of control.”

Pornography and masturbation are not “a man’s problem” – far from it.

In fact, Patrick Carnes, a lead researcher on sexual addictions, estimates that 45% of adults in the United States are sex addicts and somewhere between 40 and 50% of those are women. Why talk about sex addiction when this article is really about pornography? Simply stated, women are much more likely than men to take the leap from online use (such as pornography or chat rooms) to live use (meeting and having sex with someone that they meet online).

Why women get caught in the struggle:

Past Trauma

Past trauma plays a role for women. This does not mean that every woman who uses porn was once abused. However, for many women, looking for healing from past trauma and abuse leads to pornography use. Trauma includes sexual trauma and also physical abuse, verbal abuse, neglect, and inappropriate boundaries in the home.

Trying to Escape

Sometimes, as women, we simply feel a need to escape the responsibilities of the household, the children, our spouses, and the litany of errands that need to be run every week. Sometimes, pornography becomes that escape.

Inundated with Images

Some experts conclude that women are becoming more driven by sight than in the past. They attribute this to the inundation of images everywhere we turn. We are exposed to a huge number of images each day through colleagues, strangers, online pop-ups, social media, television and movies. Historically,  women were sexualized; now, increasingly we see TV shows, movies, and commercials that are sexualizing men. Women are exposed to images of men wearing very little, showcasing the man’s ability to arouse any woman standing close by. We, as women, are now exposed to the same types of images that men have had to work hard to avoid for years!  

How do we know if our porn use is addictive?

Let me start by saying that both the bible and scientific research agree that pornography is just not a good idea. The Bible indicates that for our own good, we should live chaste lives while we are single and that we give our sexual energies only to our spouse after marriage. Not only does Scripture guide us, but from a relationship standpoint, it does our marriages no good to invite another person in – which is precisely what pornography does.

There are a few things we can expect from addictive behaviours:

Compulsivity This is best described as a drive to engage in a behaviour. Our stats from earlier indicated that 71% of women felt their masturbation behaviours were “out of control.” In other words, there was a compulsive drive for these women.

Obsessiveness Obsessiveness is a preoccupation that is unduly intense or abnormal. Continuing the behaviour even when negative consequences have occurred. A woman obsessed with pornography will think about pornography, often even when involved in other activities (like spending time with family or going to work).

Continuing, despite consequences – This is easily noticed. It includes viewing pornography even when caught or loss of job due to using porn at work.

Tolerance A single picture used to excite – but no longer. Tolerance occurs when a higher dose (or riskier behavior) is needed to give the same pleasurable experiences as the initial viewing.

How women can get help:

Don’t fight pornography alone.

Many women are embarrassed (and ashamed) to admit that they look at pornography. We’ve been taught this is a man’s struggle; therefore, women typically feel as though nobody will understand, or that people will think horrible thoughts about us. We have a tendency to be incredibly hard on ourselves making it difficult to admit our burden. Humans are built for community, we must not carry this burden alone!

Join a recovery group.

There are several groups that can be helpful for women. Sexaholics Anonymous is an excellent resource and follows the tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous. Also worth considering is a weekend workshop. This assists to eliminate pornography and masturbation behaviours. An excellent resource is a Bethesda Workshop. You may also find a faith-based program such as Celebrate Recovery or L.I.F.E Recovery International quite helpful. Finally, check out Fight the New Drug or Dirty Girl Ministries for tips and help to break free from pornography.

Work on your marriage relationship.

If you are in a supportive marriage and your spouse is willing, seek marriage counseling from a professional counselor. Pornography tends to bring both tension and heartache into the marriage and most couples cannot heal their marriage without the help of an outside party. Consider also a mentoring relationship so that you can learn from a couple that have been happily married for many years. If you find that your spouse is not willing or able to support you in this process, then concentrate on yourself through individual counseling.

If single, this is an excellent time to work on your female friendships. Align yourself with women that can support you and love you. Connect with other women over coffee, a meal, or Bible study. Find ladies that are similar to you in personality and willing to hold you accountable to your goal of no longer using pornography.

It’s a sad reality that it is harder to find a women’s group than it is to find a men’s group. Even so, we must be willing to take whatever steps necessary to gain freedom from pornography use. As we work (and it’s hard work!) toward healing from the bonds of pornography, be encouraged that while it may take much time, many moments of weakness, and many moments of caving to the craving, God can restore and heal. He is also patient with us in our weaknesses and offers grace to us when we fall. Seek Him above all and find places and people that can help you on the journey of breaking free from the bonds of pornography.

Editor's Note:

We know this can be a challenging issue. We have mentoring available for you. Mentoring is a chance to ask your questions in a safe and private place. All mentoring happens by email.
Talk to a Mentor

Are you a woman who needs help in this area?

Made for More: How Pornography Destroys a Woman’s Worth

FamilyLife Canada – Pornography Help and Resources

Fight the New Drug – Get Help
Interested in more information on women and pornography?
Watch this video about our brain function on porn
Read this article: Parameters for Sex in a Christian Marriage

Written by Dr. Jessica McCleese

Dr. Jessica McCleese

Dr. Jessica McCleese is a wife, a licensed psychologist, and a sexual educator with specialized training in sex therapy who works with Christian couples looking to improve their marriages and their sex lives using biblically-based principles. Jessica serves on the advisory board for Millennials for Marriage, is a sexual educator through the Christian Association of Sexual Educators, and a psychologist at an outpatient practice in Virginia Beach. She has a unique ability to connect with others and lead them through practical steps they can take to see improvements in their marriage and currently serves people internationally through her work at befullywell.com.