Speeding through red lights. Juuling with your BFFs. Binging a ton of junk food. These things are pretty normalized, but does that make them safe or healthy?
Porn, as another thing, might be normalized in our society today, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. As countless scientific findings and research studies are showing, porn can become a compulsion or even addictive. Not only are the harmful effects of pornography overlooked, but there are also many misconceptions on the issue. Most notably, many people believe that porn is just a “guy thing.”
Consider how pretty much all of mainstream porn contains men using women as objects, and objectifying and humiliating them. Likewise, you never really see movies that show girls stuffing stacks of porn magazines under their mattresses or locking their doors as they power up their laptops. So it’s got to be just the guys who watch porn. Right?
The internet has made pornography easier for anyone and everyone to access. It’s no secret that nearly every kid growing up today will likely see hardcore porn well before the legal age. A pornography epidemic is on the rise, not only because it is easier to access, but because of the lack of information people have had on the negative and harmful effects associated with the compulsion, and sometimes addiction.
One recent German sex study shows more of what we already knew: women can be just as at risk of becoming dependent upon pornography as men. The study showed that at least 17% of women consider themselves addicted to porn, and half of the women surveyed were internet porn consumers.
There are plenty more stats where those came from, including one study that found about half of young adult women agree that consuming porn is acceptable and 1/3 of young women reported using porn.
Women and porn
For an increasing number of women, pornography has become a substitute for the feeling of happiness, or even be turned to as a coping mechanism. Like other harmful behaviors, porn can be used as an escape from reality. It can be used to make the consumer (temporarily) forget about feelings of sadness, fear, anger, or boredom. This habit can quickly lead to depression, and is also something depression can lead to. It’s like a chicken and egg scenario: you’re not really sure which one comes first, but in this case you sure don’t want to find out because it can very quickly affect your mental health, regardless of gender.
In the end, no amount of pornography will take away life’s problems. In fact, it will just become one of them.
Not convinced, or want to hear more? Let’s hear some real experiences. Below, we have stories from two young women who experienced very real struggles with porn.
Stories from female consumers
Kelsie’s obsession began just like most. She was only 11 years old when it started.
“I just discovered it by chance, although, at the time I had no idea what I was doing and no idea it was wrong. It became my main coping mechanism for when I was happy, sad, bored, excited, angry, or lonely. I told myself that my thoughts/fantasies weren’t dangerous, that I wasn’t hurting myself and that since I wasn’t out there having sex, it was OK. I lived with this in secrecy for 16 years before seeking help.”
Now, doesn’t that sound exactly like the stories we hear from guys who become hooked to porn as teenagers?
This story is the same one we hear over and over again from girls who are going through the same thing.
When we asked Kelsie how she feels about porn being largely viewed as a guy problem, she replied, “I lived in shame and secrecy for so many years. I told myself that no one would understand, because this isn’t something that any other girl struggles with. And if anyone ever found out, they would think I was so gross and disgusting.” She added that if she would have known that it was a human issue and not a man issue, “I think I may have come clean…and sought help much earlier.”
“In our culture, it is acceptable for men to view pornography. It’s even expected. We see it in almost every TV show or sitcom. It is so ‘normal’ in our culture. But rarely do people mention women. I don’t understand why people would assume that women don’t have any sexual drive or desires or why they wouldn’t be sexual beings just as men are. We all have eyes. We all have brains. We are all wired to desire sex at some point. I think women can be just as visual as men.”
Nicole’s obsession and compulsion began developing at age 13. It continued off and on as she grew older, and then intensified when she went through a difficult breakup. She’s now working through a healthy recovery, but it took a long time for her to get there.
“I didn’t seek help for my addiction because I felt I was a freak of nature, because I was sure that I was the ONLY woman who struggled with a man’s disease. I remember looking up articles and blogs about recovering from pornography addiction, and everything I found was about men, for men, written by men. So, clearly, I was the only one.”
Not cool. In fact, it isn’t cool for anyone to have to feel shamed because of this issue. Whether you’re a girl or a guy, you should never be shamed simply because of your struggle.
When we asked Nicole what she would say to other girls who are going through this, specifically teen girls, she said, “Understand that you are not the only one. Not by a long shot. Your worth is neither defined nor altered by this addiction. Please, reach out. Find someone you can trust. I promise, you can be free of it.”
We’re showing you a different story
Porn has become mainstream and casually accepted as a part of normal sexual expression. But science and research are showing a much different story: it can become highly addictive and is a rampant problem among everyone, regardless of gender. It’s time we took another step to remove shame and isolation from those who struggle.
It’s time to stand up for everyone who struggles with porn, regardless of who they are.
For those reading this who feel they are struggling with an obsession or addiction to pornography, you are not alone. Check out our friends at Fortify, a recovery-focused platform that will allow you take a step toward freedom. Anyone 17 years and younger can apply for a free scholarship to the site, and it's an inexpensive fee for anyone 18 and older. There is hope—sign up today to get the help you need and join with an encouraging community.