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Women Addicted to Porn
Although I originally began working with men who struggle with pornography addiction, I am now also working with women who struggle with this addiction. Thus, I feel it’s important to also address women who may be addicted to porn. While pornography addiction is still mainly a men’s issue, it is growing among women. There are approximately 245,200,000 Internet users in the United States, and 20-43% of users are online for sexual purposes alone. Close to 30,000 Internet users are viewing pornography each second, and one third of them are women.
Pornography addiction is growing among women; however, the addiction is different for them. To understand this, we must first define pornography. My definition of pornography is “Any image that leads a person to use another person for his/her own sexual pleasure.” When people read or hear the word “image” they often think of a visual image, such as a photo, picture or video. However, images can be also created with words. We must also understand that men and women are wired differently. Men are wired to be visually stimulated. Viewing erotic images produces high amounts of dopamine in a man’s brain. This creates an excitement or a “high,” which is very addictive. Women, however, are not as visually stimulated. While many women do become addicted to visual pornography, most don't get the same high that men get from it. Instead, women are more relationally stimulated. This is why many women enjoy romance novels, “chick flicks,” soap operas, and reality TV. It is participation in a romantic relationship that gets the dopamine flowing in a woman’s brain. The more erotic the relationship, the more dopamine produced. This can be highly addictive for women.
Because women are more relationally stimulated, their choice of pornographic materials is more vaired. In addition to visual pornography, women are also attracted to literary pornography. This can take the form of romance novels, erotic blogs, social media, sexting, and chat rooms. It's the promise of a romantc relationship that attracts women. Eroticizing that relationship makes it more powerful and addictive for women. For example, through racy romance novels, women vicariously participate in a romantic and sexual relationship. Many young women engage in sexting because of they believe it will lead to a romantic and sexual relationship.
In a chat room, a woman can directly participate in an erotic, romantic relationship. In fact, two thirds of all visitors to chat rooms are women. Like visual pornography, chat rooms offer the promise of intimacy; however this is only an illusion. It’s a known fact that people lie in chat rooms and take on false personas. Thus, in a chat room, any woman can be a tall, blonde, voluptuous super model. In a chat room, a woman can participate in highly erotic conversations with strange men. It is as if she is writing her own romance novel where she is the heroine. Here is where she gets involved in pornographic images that are created with words.
Like men, women can justify their use of pornography by viewing it as “harmless adult entertainment.” They may believe that because it is only fantasy, there is nothing wrong with it. However, the reality is they are still extremely harmful! Because these erotic fantasy relationships can result in high amounts of dopamine being produced in a woman’s brain, they can be highly addictive. The addiction can take over a woman’s life. I have worked with women who have jeopardized their marriages, families, and careers because of this addiction.
Online relationships can very dangerous for women. Studies have shown that women are more willing than men to actually meet the people they have met in chat rooms or through social media. In a woman’s mind, she may believe she has met a great guy and wants to meet him in-person. They may set up a “date” at a restaurant or hotel. However, this is often met with disaster. Many times, the man never shows up, or if he does, he may just want to use her sexually as a one-night-stand. Even worse, he could turn out to be a serial rapist or a murderer. There is no telling what might happen on such a rendezvous.
So why do women get involved in using pornography? Like men who view pornography, it may start out as “harmless adult entertainment.” However, the need to go back to it over and over again becomes compulsive. While there are many reasons for this, I believe the main one is a lack of intimacy. Many women, both single and married, are extremely lonely and crave intimacy. Not finding it in their current relationships, they resort to fantasy to fulfill this need. This is why sex addiction is often referred to as an “intimacy disorder.” These women are desperate for love, affirmation and approval. The roots of this wound can go back to childhood. Many of these women did not have a healthy bond with their parents as young children. They may have had parents (especially fathers) who were abusive, addicted, cold, unaffectionate, or even rejecting of them. They did not meet their children’s basic emotional needs. Conrad Baars refers to this an emotional deprivation. The wound is so deep that even being married to a loving husband cannot ease the pain.
Recovery from pornography addiction for women follows the same seven-point plan that I developed for men. However, counseling focuses on healing the intimacy wound. This can include working on forgiving parents who did not meet their emotional needs for love, affection, affirmation, acceptance and approval as children. Intimacy in current relationships is also strengthened. For married women, this can include marital therapy. Most of all, a greater intimacy with God is needed. Spiritual direction can be very helpful for this. Ultimately we need to see God as our loving father who is always caring for us. However, this may be difficult for some. This is where I recommend developing a devotion to the Holy Family, with Mary as a loving, nurturing mother, St. Joseph as an affectionate, protective father, and Jesus a protective big brother.
While most people still believe that pornography addiction is a men’s issue, it is growing for women. We all need to be aware of the ways that pornographic media, whether visual or written, can affect our lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with Internet pornography, help can be found at http://www.peterkleponis.com/GettingHelp.