“Porn is a guy thing.”
Believe it or not, this is a common belief about pornography. In our society, misconceptions like this about pornography are accompanied by the word “normal.” (1) (2). Which, when something is supposedly normal, the implication is to not worry about it. More and more research is exposing the truth about how porn use can become compulsive and addictive. The negative, and sometimes profound affects of pornography use are often overlooked and mislabeled as something which simply cannot be helped- “It’s guy thing.”(3) (4) (5) (7) The unfortunate truth is that it’s not just a “guy” thing. Women consume and deal with compulsion, or addiction, to pornography as well.
In a study done in 2018, it was discovered that, using 4 identified modalities of pornography, 91.5% of men and 60.2% of women reported having consumed pornography in the past month, with women being much more likely to consume written pornography than men (6).
What follows are the words of 3 separate women who shared their experience of exposure to, consumption of, and/or addition to pornography. All names have been changed to protect the privacy of each woman.
HOPE age 53
Hope remembers finding her dad’s stash of pornography when she was 4 or 5 years old. Hope’s usage of porn was on-again-off-again, consisting mostly of adult novels and cable TV. “Cable offered more access,” she stated. Hope shared a story of the first, and only, time she purchased a Playgirl magazine from the store when she was in college. She recalled, “It was humiliating enough to never want to do that again.” Hope remembers feeling very ashamed of herself in her younger years for her behaviors and noted that during that time she developed other compulsive-type behaviors. Her biggest worry was the spiritual ramifications of her behavior. Hope can see some negative affects on her self-esteem connected to her use of pornography, and believes she stopped her addiction to porn by leaning more heavily on other compulsive behaviors. “Phones today bypass the roadblocks people like me ran into trying to gain access to materials. Roadblocks that ultimately pushed me to stop using. I was lucky to have gone through the process of stopping before phones made it so accessible.”
GRACE age 42
Grace, too, was introduced to porn at 5 years old and reported finding magazines all around her parents property in magazine and VHS form. An adult member of Graces family dealt with his own addiction to pornography, so access was all too easy. Before age 5, Grace remembers her trust being betrayed by this family member, and was encouraged to watch porn with him as she grew up. When the abuse ended, the addiction didn’t. Grace lived life, hand in hand, with regular consumption of porn until she was 21 years old, keeping it a secret from everyone. “It was in the secrecy that the addiction thrived.” She looks back on that time as a life laced with hypersexuality. Even normal things became sexualized, and her estimation of herself was based on how closely she looked like the women in those videos. “I deduced that I was nothing. I could never look like these women. I believed a woman was only valuable if she was sexually desirable. What a dark place that was.” Grace spent 25 years trying to stop the urge to view porn, only to succumb during times of high stress and perceived loneliness. “I needed professional help because the addiction was more than I could handle alone. A patient and loving partner was essential for me, as was a place to let the secret out without judgment.”
CHARITY age 39
Charity shared that she was introduced to pornography at about age 7 or 8, and compulsively used it for 5 years. Like the abuse she endured, she did not seek out pornographic material, it was shown to her. Charity was 16 years old when she discovered using porn did not align with her values, and made an effort to stop. It took a year for her to kick it, but stated that there are consequences to being hypersexualized at such a young age, even 20 years later. “It sexualized my brain. My brain is wired in a visual way. I recall the images from the pornography from so long ago better than many of the details from my childhood. I don’t know if that will ever go away.” Charity noted some of the long term consequences she experiences. “I never felt worth anything. I never believed anyone would actually want me. I still have a negative self image.” She finds herself being vigilant with her children in an effort to spare them the experiences she had.
Each of these women know what it is like to struggle with the consequences of viewing or reading pornography. When they were asked about what they might say to another woman who may be struggling to eliminate pornography from their lives, this is what they said.
Hope: You are not alone. There is no shame in looking for help. It takes effort to follow a resolve to quit, so find people you can turn to.
Grace: Learning to see that I had a choice was very hard for me. I allowed myself to believe the lie that I had no control over what I thought, thus no control over quitting. Be patient with yourself as you make the choice to stop. Find out all the reasons you started, and be compassionate to yourself about it.
Charity: It gets easier over time. Don’t allow thoughts of pornography to linger in your mind. When something in regular life becomes sexualized, I have to actively redirect my brain.
The Life Star Program has a group just for women who experience what these women shared. If you can relate to the words of these individuals, know that you are not alone, and there is help.
Here are some other articles on the subject that may be helpful:
- The Last of the Human Freedoms
- The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Unwanted Sexual Behavior and Sexual Compuslivity
- Love, T., Laier, C., Brand, M., Hatch, L., & Hajela, R. (2015). Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 5(3), 388–433. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs5030388
- Stark R., Klucken T. (2017) Neuroscientific Approaches to (Online) Pornography Addiction. In: Montag C., Reuter M. (eds) Internet Addiction. Studies in Neuroscience, Psychology and Behavioral Economics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46276-9_7
- De Sousa, A., & Lodha, P. (2017). Neurobiology of Pornography Addiction – A clinical review. Telangana Journal of Psychiatry, 3(2), 66-70. doi:10.18231/2455-8559.2017.0016 https://www.ipinnovative.com/journal-article-file/5374
- Solano I, Eaton NR, O’Leary KD. Pornography Consumption, Modality and Function in a Large Internet Sample. J Sex Res. 2020 Jan;57(1):92-103. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2018.1532488. Epub 2018 Oct 25. PMID: 30358432. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30358432/
- Aubrey, J. S. (2006). Exposure to sexually objectifying media and body self-perceptions among college women: An examination of the selective exposure hypothesis and the role of moderating variables. Sex Roles, 55, 159-172. doi:10.1007/s11199-006-9070-7 https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-07671-002
By: Amada Flood, MS, AMFT
LifeSTAR of the Central Valley helps individuals, partners, and families to heal from the effects of pornography and sexual addiction. Complete our Self-Evaluation today to discover if LifeSTAR is right for you.