Sexuality · Tara Jane

The secret struggle: Christian women and porn

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.03.47 pmChristian women are porn consumers too.

You might not believe me when I say this. After all, isn’t porn is a man’s battle? Surely Christian women aren’t into that. They’re into crafts, baking, hospitality, floral skirts and catching up over coffee (okay, you should know I’m being completely satirical right now).

But if statistics are true, then there could be as many as 1 in 5 Christian women watching and reading pornography.* These days women are told by society to be as sexual as they like, with whoever they like. There are genres of porn specifically marketed to women because the porn industry recognises there is a profit to be made from this demographic. And there’s a reason they still sell Fifty Shades of Grey in the supermarkets as well as the bookstores.

I recently spoke with three young Christian women who identify as porn users.

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Suzi’s struggle

Suzi remembers the first time she encountered porn. Like many other porn users, she was only in her early teens. She was with her family visiting relatives when she stumbled upon a pile of magazines in their house. Images she had never seen before were now burned into her mind.

She can’t pinpoint what it was that first attracted her to pornography. “I think the attraction is probably similar for most boys and girls though,” she says. “People like to look at things they enjoy. If they see something that’s excites them, they will watch it. I don’t think there’s a huge difference between what most men and women are attracted to.”

“While I struggled with this, I didn’t tell anybody. What would I say? I felt like I was weird for struggling with this. After I stopped looking, I told a few people but that’s it. Nobody really knows I struggled.”

“I don’t think many other women struggle with this either, so even now it’s strange to talk about. It’s never been raised in Bible study, or at church in regards to women, maybe because people think it’s awkward. There is just so much we don’t know when it comes to women and porn because women don’t talk about it. It’s taboo to be a Christian girl who looks at porn, so we just don’t mention it because it makes others uncomfortable.”

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Maria’s struggle

Maria was in year two when she first came across pornography. “I’m unsure of the real beginnings, but something happened that year that started awareness for me,” she shares. “I only saw and heard/understood about the action of sex but did not know the word for it. I thought I had a really good imagination as a child!”

Maria thought about it regularly, and was drawn to anything sexual without realising what it was. She kept her fascination a secret, and therefore had no rules, guidelines or morals taught to her. The idea of sex and morals didn’t even cross Maria’s mind, but she instinctively knew she had to keep these thoughts a secret. Believing she was the only person who thought those things, she feared others would see her as weird and strange if she explained where her mind wandered.

It was in Maria’s high school art class that her exploration developed. Needing to study nude style artists, she began Internet research. “I was always told men struggle with pornography, not women, so I thought it would be harmless to research,” she says. She discovered what the internet held, and delved deeper into pornography. For several years, Maria could not give it up, seeking more hardcore content every time.

The pornography destroyed Maria’s relationship with males. “I became scared, shy, awkward and afraid. I said no to all the guys who asked me out because I could not relate properly with them. I kept a professional distance between guys. I was too afraid because reality was so different to where the porn clips and where my imagination went.”

“It also wrecked me,” she says. “The peak of my addiction to pornography was also the peak in my mental health issues.”

Maria’s addiction did not stay secret for as long as she would have liked. Without explanation, the computers in her house stopped working. She knew it was because of the websites she browsed. She confessed in tears, deeply ashamed. Her parents never imagined that their sheltered, obedient, ‘godly’ little girl could do such a thing. Being sheltered themselves, her parents didn’t know what sex was until their late teens, and couldn’t imagine how this had happened to their daughter. They recommended Maria speak to someone wiser and more experienced on the topic, and arranged for her to speak with her pastor.

Maria’s pastor had been praying fervently for a month that their church be freed from sexual sin. Maria’s confession was an answer to this prayer, and Maria became a vessel God used to free others. After speaking with her pastor, she spoke about her struggles to the young adults at her church. “It was the most frightening experience,” she says. “I would not recommend it (it took so much out of me) unless you are passionate to see others set free.”

Through her experiences, Maria is convinced that it is harder for girls to share this struggle with others because of the lack of understanding and sympathy on the topic. Maria never discussed her struggles previously with her youth group leaders because one said “women do not struggle with porn.”

Since sharing her story with her church, and various others, Maria does wonder if it has ruined her reputation. “Not that it matters, I will lose whatever I have for the sake of Christ’s Glory. He died for this sin, and his grace is endless!” she adds. “If people think I’m a slut, or a lesbian, or have an alternative or openly expressive sexuality, then I feel I am treated like second hand goods. I have not even had physical sex and have upheld my virginity, but people seem to notice the sin and not my struggle against it. I have learned not to worry about what others think and only what God thinks.”

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Vanessa’s struggle

Vanessa accidentally clicked on the wrong website when she was in her early teens. She couldn’t unread or unsee these things. Instead, she looked for opportunities to return whenever she could. When Vanessa became a Christian, she was convinced that she needed to stop but couldn’t. “I found myself constantly drawn back,” she says. “Sometimes I justified it by saying ‘Jesus has died for sin so he will forgive me’, but other times I ignored God completely.”

The attraction sprung out of curiosity and the feeling was addictive. “I don’t think that’s different from boys,” she says. “People see something they like, they want more of it, they get hooked. Maybe the content might vary slightly, but the addiction is still the same.”

Vanessa told a few of her non-Christian friends first. “I had a few non-Christian female friends who looked, and I wanted to let them know that I was cool too.” Currently only a few of her Christian friends know. “Admitting this to them was one of the most difficult things I have done,” she says. “I was ashamed, and I was fearful of their reaction. It’s normal for boys to speak about struggles with porn, but it’s assumed that girls don’t struggle like that. I felt I had a sin I could never confess.”

Vanessa sat through sermons, Bible studies and read Christian books on sexuality and never heard the issue of porn addressed for women. As a teen, she searched the books on dating and sex, but porn was only raised as an issue for guys (“girls often got spoken to about romance novels and chick-flicks”). Despite this, she believes there must be other Christian women who struggle with this too. “It can’t just be me,” she says. “But nobody talks, so nobody knows. We all feel alone.”

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Overcoming their struggles

All three girls have battled to overcome their sin. The reason they have done this is because they believe that God has created sex for a particular context and purpose – in a marriage between a man and a woman. They hold the truths of the Bible dear to them, that Jesus has died to take away their sin and rose again to bring them a new life with God. Without understanding the gospel, it is impossible to understand why they would even consider consuming porn a problem and want to stop.

Suzi’s desire to follow Jesus helped her to turn away from the magazines. “I know God loves me. I wanted to obey Jesus fully so I stopped looking at the pictures,” Suzi says.

Both Maria and Vanessa identified their triggers and worked from there. “When I’m home alone, if I’m lonely and stressed, I become vulnerable but not necessarily a victim,” Maria says. “I fill out my life with work, people and meet ups. I dance, sing, browse Facebook, get off the computer completely, go out for a jog, it all helps.”

“When I thought about how God felt it was harder to push him out of the picture,” adds Vanessa, now thirteen months porn free. “Of course I’m still tempted. Sin is always tempting. But I think about how far I’ve come, and I don’t want to start it all again.”

Stories retold by Tara Sing. All above names are false. These women wished to come forward anonymously to share their stories, hoping to encourage others who are also struggling.

If you would like to get in touch with us privately regarding this article, you can email us at hereinthewaitingroom@gmail.com or Tara directly at thisistarajane [at] hotmail [dot] com

Another post on this topic will be posted next week, focusing on how churches and Christians can help and support Christian women who struggle with pornography.

*Statistics on porn use for Christian women are hard to come by. Different websites say different things, often ranging between 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 (20% – 30% usually). This statistic has taken from The Good Book Co, who printed it on the back of their latest book Purity is Possible:

“One in five Christian women use pornography. One in three visitors to a porn site is a woman. Many, many more women read explicit books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Even more than that write their own pornography – not on paper for publication, but in their heads for their own use.”

I haven’t read Purity is Possible yet but am interested in doing so.

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9 thoughts on “The secret struggle: Christian women and porn

  1. I wouldn’t read FIftyShades of Grey because not only is it a waste of my time, but I don’t believe it would be helpful in keeping my mind pure. I don’t think you have to read it to know that it contains sexual deviations or for the benefit of helping someone who is in the grip of porn. Be on guard as to what you allow into your mind as it may haunt you and cause you grief.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Maria. Yes it’s incredibly important to work hard to keep our minds pure, hence why we should avoid these sorts of books and help others when they are struggling to avoid them as well.

      – Tara

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      1. Were you referring to ’50 shades of grey’ or ‘purity is possible’ when you said “I haven’t read this book yet but am interested in doing so.” That might be why Marie wrote what she did?

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  2. Such an important issue to be talking about in our churches! Thanks so much for this post and especially to the 3 women who have been courageous enough to talk about their battle for the sake of helping others.
    We had Patricia Weerakoon (Sexologist and a Christian) speak about women and porn early last year. It was an insightful and helpful talk. You can watch the video of it here….

    http://mbm.org.au/bible-talks/women-porn/

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    1. Hi Alli,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so glad you also think it’s an important issue to discuss.

      I was disappointed I couldn’t go along to the Women & Porn brunch at MBM. I’m very thankful to the MBM team that they thought to organise a brunch on this very topic, because it doesn’t get discussed as much as it should. I have watched the video and Dr Pat does an excellent job discussing the topic! I love her no-nonsense straight-shooting style. I’m really excited to hear her speaking at Equip Women’s Conference this year too.

      Tara

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  3. This is a great piece, Tara. Thanks for bringing to light this often hidden struggle. There is an assumption that porn is only a man’s problem, but this is not the case. Hopefully stories like these will encourage other women to speak out and be encouraged.

    By the way, I sent you all an email to your gmail address – just thought I’d mention here in case you don’t check your address very often!

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