If you are a woman struggling with a pornography dependence, you might have a hard time finding help. It seems like most of the information about pornography recovery support that exists is geared toward men. If you do reach out, chances are that the stigma surrounding women and pornography recovery will cause some added shame. A mother, a wife, a respectable girl with a pornography problem? It made us wonder if we have a safe space for in our culture for women who need help?
The answer is YES. More and more women are seeking help and support is more prevalent online than it was a few years ago.
Dirty Girl Ministries
Crystal Renaud, the founder of Dirty Girl Ministries (DGM), a support group dedicated to women’s pornography recovery, kept her self-described addiction a secret for years. She could not find support directed at women, and so thought she was the only one. She assumed that there was something specifically wrong with her. After all, it’s men who have serious problems, right? Wrong. It wasnt until she met another woman who shared her secret that she realized many women were hooked on pornography and simply lacked a safe way to talk about it.
Crystal’s website now “exists to provide women with help, hope, and healing from pornography and sexual addiction.” The website has over 2,500 members since 2009 and recruits more daily. The ministry provides confidential support forums, conferences, therapists, and most importantly, a face for women who struggle with pornography use and/or addiction. It serves to remind us that women are just as susceptible to pornography’s addictive nature and need safe spaces to connect and heal, just as men do.
Women and Pornography Use
According to the most recent data from numerous sources (check out the source list below), this is what we know:
- 1 in 3 users of online pornography are women
- 13% of women admit to accessing pornography at work
- 17% of women struggle with pornography addiction
- 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography before the age of 18
- 18% of women use pornography at least once every week
A Human Problem
That first bullet point stood out to us too. These stats show us that pornography affects everyone and that women are at risk of pornography dependance. While they also show us that men are still the primary users of pornography, women are consuming it, and more quickly than you might think. Recently, Pew reported that the amount of women admitting to watching pornography quadrupled in just three years time and the numbers are growing.
Fight the New Drug, an anti-pornography organization, looked at the growing number of women using pornography and said, “Clearly, this isn’t just a dude problem. It’s a human problem.” We don’t need to cite sources to know that pornography creates secrecy and shame which destroys trust, intimacy, marriages, families, and lives. This “human problem” is growing and spreading, affecting our lives and our children’s lives.
One Woman: A Personal Account
An anonymous post on Verily tells the story of one female pornography user who, like her male counterparts, found it when she was very young. Her experience over time is also familiar: isolation, secrecy, feeling empty and terrible after each “hit” throughout the years, unable to quit, and finally feeling disgusted with herself: “Unhealthy things became really attractive to me.” She began viewing more and more disturbing videos as she became desensitized through heavy pornography exposure. These videos changed her.
Although she found recovery and no longer looks at pornography, she says it took something away from her that is irretrievable: “Perhaps what I find most upsetting, is the damage that porn has done to my actual sex life, I personally believe that my exposure to unnaturally hypersexual content at a formative age has changed my ability to enjoy sex in its natural simplicity.” Pornography had “immediate and lasting effects” on her life, such as manipulating her earliest sexual experiences and making her entire live feel dependent, desperate, and dark.
Does Pornography Manipulate Women Any Differently than Men?
Anonymous’s experiences parallel many, many first-hand accounts from men who heavily use pornography. Yet there is a subtle difference between these two experiences, and it mostly has to do with the aftermath, with the takeaway from what pornography “tells” men vs. what it “tells” women. How it shapes beliefs about sexuality; specifically, how it shapes a woman’s belief about her self worth.
This topic is worth a closer look. We hear so much about how men’s pornography use affects the women in their lives, such as how how their addiction degrades their wives/partners and hurts their intimacy and connection. On the topic of how women feel about sexual intimacy and self-worth when they are pornography users themselves–we hear much, much less. Stay tuned for what real people and the experts have to say about it next time.
Part 2: Coming at you next week