Pornography is a growing epidemic with men our society, yet the women who battle pornogrophy are largely invisible. Regrettably, the silence from the church concerning this widespread problem has affected the dignity, intimacy, and community of many Christian women. With the desire to speak truth and raise awareness to this this relevant issue, here are a few things you should know:
Statistics about women and pornography
There are few comprehensive pornography studies on women, and very little research is solely on Christian women. Researchers studying pornography conclude that the numbers observed among women in statistics like those below are climbing higher.
- 13 million American women click on pornographic sites each month.
- Porn sites get more visitors per month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined
- The online porn industry makes over $3,000 per second.
- One-third of women watch porn at least once a week.
- 80 percent of women who engage in online sexual activities (cyber-sex) also had real-life sexual encounters with their online partners, compared to the much lower proportion of 33 percent for men.
- 30 percent of the internet industry is pornography.
- 56 percent of women 25 and under seek out porn, versus 27 percent among women 25 and older.
- Surveys reveal women have positive associations between pornography consumption and behavior/sexual permissiveness. As a result, women have more sexual partners and are more likely to engage in extrarelational sex.
The neurochemical effect of pornography
When a person uses pornography, two dominant chemicals are released: phenylethylamine (PEA) and adrenaline. Fused together, these two chemicals forge an intoxicating sensation which overpowers the pleasure of both oxytocin and endorphins. The neurochemical climax released during pornographic ecstasy mirrors the brain activity of a person on crack cocaine. In Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Initimacy, and the Longing of a Woman’s Heart, Juli Slattery and Dannah K. Gresh state, “The problem is that PEA and adrenaline will only reappear as sexual experiences continue to be new, exciting, and sometimes even dangerous.”
A 2007 study out of Germany found that “sexual compulsion can cause physical, anatomic change in the brain, the hallmark of brain addiction.” Over time, the “sex” filter created during pornography gradually alters the way a woman thinks and views her own sexuality. As William M. Struthers stated in Wired for Intimacy, “Pornography is the consumption of sexual poison that becomes part of the fabric of the mind.”
Some of the reasons women are addicted to pornography
The body and soul of a woman are interlaced. When the body suffers, the soul suffers. Commonly women, particularly young women within the church, are taught that their bodies are a stumbling block. Lacking a holistic understanding of their sexuality, Christian women experience shame and are confused about how to spiritually process their sexual desires. Consequently, secular culture has been eagerly educating Christian women about sexuality, because church has not taken the opportunity to help women understand God’s design for sexuality. Silence about these issues allows women to plunge deeper into addiction. Sexual repression released through pornography becomes an outlet of emotional satisfaction and sexual gratification.
Pornography is particularly enticing for Christian women because it alleviates sexual urges which are commonly suppressed and unaddressed.
A myriad of reasons can lead to women watching pornography, such as curiosity, loneliness, boredom, rejection, stress, dissatisfaction, curiosity, comfort, connection, or to escape from reality. Pornography seduces with promises that call the longings of a woman’s heart. Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery in Pulling Back the Shades identify what they believe to be a “woman’s five longings” satisfied in fantasy and pornography: “to escape reality, to be cherished, to be protected, to rescue and to be sexually alive.”
Sexual fulfillment through pornography for women can be a way to be understood, to seek pleasure, or to escape pain. Pornography is particularly enticing for Christian women because it alleviates sexual urges which are commonly suppressed and unaddressed. In her book, No Stones: Women Redeemed for Sexual Addiction, Marnie Ferree argues that “women often view porn featuring other women because they want to compare themselves to the images, not necessarily because they’re attracted to the same sex.”
Pornography seduces with promises that call the longings of a woman’s heart. “Our hearts,” as James K. A. Smith put it in You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, “are designed to find their end in Him.”
Pornography twists truth
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states that “there must be something good before it can be spoiled.” God intended sex to be pleasurable. Biblically, the purpose of sex is to serve your lover selflessly in marriage as Christ loved the church. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Sex represents the spiritual, one-flesh union and God’s appointed means for procreation (Gen. 2:24).
Pornography is a hollow imitation of the good. It strips a person of the fulfillment of true sex and a genuine relational bond. Pornography is alluring because it calls to natural passions and promises easy gratification. It’s easier to please oneself than serve another. Yet, beneath the surface of bliss are lethal lies. Just as the serpent in the Garden of Eden beckoned Eve, claiming God was withholding his best from her, Satan beckons through pornography with the lie that God wants to withhold pleasure.
Pornography is Satan’s tool purposed to poison God’s covenant of intimacy and love with his beloved. In Confessions, Augustine states “. . . the soul defiles itself with unchaste love when it turns away from you and looks elsewhere for things which it cannot find pure and unsullied expect by returning to you. All who desert you and set themselves up against you merely copy you in a perverse way; but by this very act of imitation they only show that you are the Creator of all nature . . .”
Personal and relational effects of pornography
Pornography is a closet sin of Christian women which brings a downpour of shame. Women experience confusion about their sexual urges and wrestle with their identity when they become addicted to pornography. This confusion breeds crippling isolation because no one shares their struggle. Speaking out would mean being ostracized. Guilt suffocates a woman's confidence, attitude, motivation, and ultimately drives women to doubt their salvation. Tragically according to one recent study, women actually experience shame double the rate of men. This suppression of shame is causing the number of female pornography addicts to increase. As a woman develops a pornography addiction, pornography can become preferable to the act of sex itself.
The church’s response
For decades, lust has exclusively been a “man’s battle.” This myth has resulted in a lack of community for struggling women. While men often struggle with other brothers to reign in their sex drives through accountability groups, women struggle alone and are left without accountability. There is no safe haven to discuss “R” rated temptation, especially not masturbation. Women who do speak out on pornography are anomalies and “come out” of the Christian community closet.
In his book, Desiring God, John Piper stated, “Sex is God's idea and his good gift to be properly stewarded within his design. . . . the church should be the most pro-sex group there is. We have a message of hope and redemption in the morass of sexual confusion.” By not addressing socially relevant, taboo subjects, such as lust, porn on social media, Netflix, masturbation, and lesbian attraction, the church has failed to teach truth tenaciously.
The Christian community could effectively respond to this issue by becoming more educated on the subject and speaking truth boldly concerning sexuality. There is no easy solution yet we can create a culture of light, living out joy and giving hope. The risk at stake in pornography is incalculable. Years of silence have given pornography the upper hand in the spiritual chess game for the hearts and souls of women and men. It is our obligation to shatter the silence with truth.
Join the ERLC in Dallas on October 11-13 for the Cross-Shaped Family. This conference is designed to equip families to see that all of our family stories are shaped by the ultimate story of our lives, the gospel. Speakers include Russell Moore, Jen Wilkin, Matt Chandler, Eric Mason, Ray Ortlund, Beth Moore, Jamie Ivey, and many more. Register to attend today!