Pornography was never simply a male problem. It’s always affected women by misrepresenting them as sex objects for men’s enjoyment. It often robs them of intimacy with husbands whose porn addiction has stifled marital affection. But female sex drives are just as susceptible to misdirection as those of men. In our sex-obsessed culture, women increasingly fall prey to porn’s allurement. Rather than rehearse the latest statistics about female addiction to porn,  I want to offer in Part One of this article some insights on its causes. In Part Two I will explain the hope for its cure.

While My Chains Are Gone was created for male readers, it’s very woman-friendly, helping both men and women gain a godly perspective on body acceptance. A review of its core articles might help with grasping this one, especially my own two contributions, because women&porn0The Pornographic View of the Body” is a foundational for “Pornography Addiction.” Porn’s sexual self-gratification comes at the cost of objectifying other human beings. Without this objectification of persons, pornography loses its fundamental tool for sustaining the sexual fantasy that supports a viewer’s self-gratifying thrill.

Depersonalized, Then Commercialized

In good mental health, all aspects of a person are integrated. God’s plan of salvation and sanctification targets our “whole spirit and soul and body” (1 Thes 5:23). When bare bodies are objectified, it isolates them from the people who live in them. Also, disassociating gender-distinctive body parts from their owner fails to treat them as true components of personal identity. It reduces men and women to something less than their full humanity. Such a reduction is the essential groundwork for pornography’s success.

While God created us “male and female” for the purpose of reproduction (Gen 1:27-28a), He also designed our reproductive anatomy to offer mutual pleasure during sexual intercourse. God blessed us with this orgasmic gift to enhance relational communion between spouses. But this physiological capacity works before marriage and beyond reproductive purposes. This means coitus can be immorally misused outside the marital bond and the orgasmic function immorally abused through pornographic fantasies.

Just as objectification isolates the body from the person, so pleasurable sexual activity can become disassociated from divine intentions. This rift—between sexual thrill-seeking and God’s plan for wedded love—commercializes sexuality, turning it into a form of promiscuous pleasure-shopping. Porn is profitable only because sex sells. Objectified sexual thrill is its currency.

The Way In . . . But Why Stay In?

Because secrecy surrounds involvement in pornography, some porn-addicted women believe they are alone or in a shameful minority: “Only bad girls, like me, get into such a ‘filthy’ habit.” Others may assume their stories are identical to those of all others who get hooked on pornography. But just as men get drawn into porn in a variety of ways, so do women. My research leads me to believe that most women who presently struggle with porn will resonate with at least one or more of the following scenarios.

women&porn4Some girls started out merely trying to satisfy natural, childhood curiosity. When families and churches failed to provide safe, wholesome avenues for familiarity with nonsexual human nudity, these girls checked out the Web. There, the porn industry filled this educational void from its own twisted agenda. With the ongoing help of pornography, a legitimate fascination with God’s magnificent artistry in the human body gradually morphed into fantasizing forbidden activities on the devil’s playground.

Nothing in creation surpasses the grace and glory revealed in the embodiment of God’s image. But pornography uses the awesomely handcrafted beauty in the naked human body as a hook, distorting its glory-filled reflection, perverting its sacred display, and effectively blocking godly thoughts about it. Once captured by porn’s false image of our gender-distinctive anatomy, girls raised in prudish and legalistic environments may see no hope of escape. The shame of their sinful habits—especially when erroneously labeled as “only a male problem”—walls off any hope for help from church leaders whose unreal assumptions merely fan the flames of their shame.[1]

Sometimes it was youthful self-exploration that led adventurous girls from pleasant sensations of self-stimulation into compulsive habits associated with porn. God’s marital reason for creating the pleasure of orgasms is not canceled by their misuse. Whether they come from coitus or from masturbation, their divine design includes an elevated brain-chemical “high” that begs repeating:

Orgasm releases a dopamine-oxytocin high that has been compared to a heroin hit, and many regular users of internet porn report experiencing an almost trance-like effect that not only makes them feel oblivious to the world, but also gives them a sense of power that they don’t have in real life. “The PC becomes an erogenous zone. The more you keep trying to put porn out of your mind, the more it keeps popping back in. The brain then learns that porn is the only way to cope with anxiety. . . .” [2]

While both men and women may use pornographic images as fantasy-support for masturbation, most men can manually induce a climax without visual stimulus. Some women seek an imaginative narration beyond the visual in order to supplement their stimulation. One woman privately confided to me:

“. . . it’s generally very important to have some kind of story or text – just pictures don’t usually do anything for me, at least. And that makes it nigh impossible to masturbate without fantasizing or using porn to provide that mental component. . . . So while men may be able to orgasm just from the physical act of masturbation, I think women in general will find that far more difficult, and that greatly limits our ability to relieve our sex drives.”

When a repetitive neuro-chemical reward is coupled with a woman’s heightened need for the fantasy inherent in porn, she may feel helpless in trying to break free from her addiction.

Another sad scenario is where a girl’s first experience with nudity was that of having her own body sexually assaulted. Childhood’s defenseless submission to such degrading abuse can cause her to grow up feeling “dirty,” worthless, never again “normal.” But if she finds her past sexual trauma visually glamorized in pornography, the discovery might distort her memory by reinterpreting reality: “See! My experiences were typical, expected, even desirable.” This can make their porn habit a temporary “feel-good” salve to soothe the hurt of old wounds that become repressed while growing deeper.

Or worse, that same girl might have falsely identified with her abuse: “Just like these girls in the videos, I gravitate toward this crap! I’m one of them!” Past sexual trauma, present sexual sin, or even the continuation of watching porn itself—while realizing its wrongness—can perpetuate her sense of defilement. She may hide this falsely adopted self-identity beneath the personal facade of “a normal girl.” Yet this carefully constructed social mask may actually be more her than her unhealed self is willing or able to believe.

A woman might have been misled to feel religious shame for even having a strong sex drive—a trait mistakenly preached as only characterizing men. Sadly, this religious error may push her toward involvement with porn as a dysfunctional way to confirm her guilt-ridden self-concept: “It’s my curse . . . I’m so messed up, it can’t be fixed!” Because of such self-deprecating thoughts, porn usage may serve as an indirect form of self-punishment, which a girl imagines she deserves for what she feel is her “oversexed” disposition.

This shame factor might also be connected to a fear of intimacy. Imaginary individuals are less threatening than real persons. A sex object comes without the personal expectations of a living subject. Fantasy-lust and cyber-sex require none of the demanding work of a real relationship, like the one sealed in a for-better-or-worse marriage vow between two strong personal wills. The porn addict is seemingly on her own, in control. No need to fear conflict, failed performance, lack of acceptance, venereal diseases, unintended pregnancies, and all the other messy risks that self-sex is able to avoid. But porn’s promise is a lie: the sexual autonomy it offers is a ploy that eventually puts porn in the driver’s seat.

I’ve also known women whose first exposure to porn was through boyfriends who had them watch sex-ploitation videos to see how other girls performed the popular perversions. Emotionally duped into thinking, “This is how to win and keep his affection,” they began emulating the persona of submissive girls portrayed by porn stars. The unconscious result of this repetitive role-playing was to adopt the mindset of the script. The role itself took over, giving her a new self-image. She became the star of a distorted drama played out on a stage of sexual props with porn as the director.

Your Investment in Female Depreciation

women&porn1It’s obvious to all porn-addicted women, as well as to everyone else, that these pornographic portrayals are grossly demeaning to females. The girls involved are being virtually raped, often violently. So, what’s the kickback? Where’s the remuneration? There must be a takeaway. Otherwise, why did so many women devour the erotic “bondage” novel 50 Shades of Grey, turning it into a bestseller and making its movie-version a 500-million-dollar blockbuster?

Beyond investing in the porn-drama for orgasmic excitement, a woman can find in porn’s objectified sexual thrill a kind of mental cash-flow. Even if she knows her body isn’t the “eye candy” showcased by porn-models, her equipment still works in the pleasure-market. The more she buys stock in pornography’s monopoly game, the more she gains imaginary sexual leverage, a mental form of sexual clout, validated by its orgasmic payoff. Because porn advertises her value in a consumer-relationship with men, tapping into that evaluation becomes an emotional “fix,” a shot of self-confidence, a reassurance of power in porn’s fictional economy. But her rewards are as fictitious as the treasures won in a role-playing computer game.

Contemplate carefully the full impact of this repeating cycle. The porn addict transfers a young model’s deposit of lost personal dignity into her own account as a stimulating sexual dividend. For this transaction to work without realistically falling apart, the porn model must never be seen as a real person with normal desires and emotions. She must remain an object, a tool, a trade-commodity. Banish the thought that she might be a troubled teen, a high school drop-out, or a single mom selling her body like a prostitute to make ends meet. The addict’s mind must stay self-absorbed, focused on self-gratification, until the episode plays out to its literal climax. And the mental block must continue even after the session ends, or guilt from the porn addict’s lack of compassion will only add to the pain of emotional emptiness left by pornography’s aftermath.

For women caught up in this depressing game, porn has already determined their net worth in terms of their body parts. They watch men seemingly control the commerce, but they get to treat their own bodies as the sought-after merchandise. Although they must watch nameless girls become objects for sexual consumption, they can make a short-term profit from this arrangement by temporarily joining it, imagining themselves a part of the show. But participation in that fantasy—either to release tension by an orgasmic high or to replenish an emotionally diminished sexual ego—has a long-term downside: the porn-addicted woman spends her true self-worth on imaginary relational assets which are totally worthless in real life.


Endnotes:

1. For an extensive testimonial that exemplifies how shame prevents seeking or finding help from those who legalistically teach prudery and body shame, read the book by Jessica Harris, Beggar’s Daughter (2016).

2. “Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography” in The Guardian (April 7, 2011); quote by Jason Dean, a counselor to the porn-addicted.

[Do not stop where Part One of this article ends, that is, with a descriptive explanation of the porn-addicted woman’s plight. Part Two (click here) follows with the heart of God’s answer for her liberation.]

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