“I am alone”
“I am the only woman who struggles with porn”
There are many lies a woman will believe in her lifetime: that she is too fat or too bossy, that shoulder pads were a good idea, that her worth comes from her outward appearance, that she can’t lift heavy weights, that she needs to be married to be complete…the list goes on.
But by far the most destructive lie a female porn addict can believe is that she struggles with a “guy’s issue.”
She hears it from the pulpit at church, online, from her friends, in jokes, in books, and, most vehemently, from her own mind. Of course many of these voices are well-meaning in addressing men who struggle. It is good to get this conversation happening. However, when the conversation is skewed toward men, listeners forget that women are watching porn, too.
These words seep into a female porn addict’ mind, trapping her in the stigma of facing a ‘male issue’, and birthing a multitude of questions: “Am I a man? Am I not feminine enough? How much testosterone do I have? Am I a lesbian? Should I just work in the sex industry? What’s wrong with me?”
These questions lead to confusion. Only one thing is clear to the female porn addict—she is worthless, disgusting and alone.
This is a lie.
And this lie has a name. It’s shame.
Shame takes the feeling of guilt for doing something morally questionable and attaches it to the self. It is no longer the activity that is “bad” but the individual herself. Shame is guilt gone rogue. It is a poison that burns you up from the inside.
And it becomes all you know.
Shame has a powerful grip on the mind of a woman addicted to porn. If she is the only woman struggling with this, she is out of the ordinary. Out of 7.4 billion humans, she happens to be the freak. The odd one out. She doesn’t fit the feminine mold, so there must be something irredeemably wrong with her. Shame becomes her blanket. It is the only way of making sense of her experience.
So what’s the cure? What is a female porn addict to do to break free from the lie?
She needs to know she is part of a global community of women who struggle with porn use. That community is a part of an even bigger circle of others who fight. Porn addiction is not a gendered issue. It’s a human issue.
The stats speak for themselves. They clearly show more women are watching porn than ever before. One in three visitors to adult websites are women, and up to 17% of them consider themselves addicted. Within the Church, countless women are fighting the shame that comes with struggling with a porn addiction. And let’s not even get started on the sheer number of females hooked on habitual masturbation to the point of compulsion!
If these statistics feel too distant and unreal, let me assure you they are true. I am one of these women. I write this blog knowing full well the world of porn addiction. You, your wife, your congregation member, your loved one are not alone in this.
There’s your cognitive information, but what about the heart? It can feel so infected, so dark and unlovable. Here’s where a woman’s sisters come in. She needs to tell someone. She needs accountability. She needs to connect with others who have struggled. (Yes, they’re out there!)
Getting very real with a small handful of my closest girlfriends and setting up an accountability network was the push I needed to get through the hardest months of recovery. Knowing the hard questions would be asked but judgment wouldn’t be leveled kept me from curling up into secrecy, shame, and old habits.
Groundbreaking vulnerability and shame researcher Brene’ Brown claims empathy is the antidote to shame. She says, “If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount in a petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.”
For the female porn addict, finding the right person to confess to can seem impossible. But it’s worth it. On top of an ‘on-the-ground’ accountability partner, X3groups are an incredible blessing. This is a safe place where your petri dish of shame can be flooded with empathy and hope. Groups are run for women, by women. Together, women can outnumber and drown out the lie that says, “I am alone. I am the only woman struggling with porn.”