Practical Help for Women Addicted to Pornography
Susan’s face betrayed her disgust the first time her husband suggested they watch an adult movie together. “Honey, not only will it enhance our lovemaking,” Jim exclaimed, “but I won’t need to have a sex life separate from you. It will end all the sneaking around.”
She had long since given up hope of him quitting his online addiction, but this was too much. “We are Christians, Jim,” she protested, “and this is wrong!”
“Wrong?” Jim argued. “I know of Christian therapists who suggest couples use it to improve their sex lives. How can that be wrong?”
After years of dealing with Jim’s secret sex life, Susan eventually acquiesced and joined what is becoming an ever-increasing number of Christian women who regularly view pornography. This phenomenon bucks the “cw” that it is men who are visually stimulated and thereby more prone to viewing porn. Traditionally, women are far more likely to engage in wistful, romantic fantasies than crude scenes of people engaging in sexual acts. However, over the past few years a disturbing new trend has emerged: women viewing pornography in alarming numbers.
To illustrate, Nielsen NetRatings reports that nearly one-third of the visitors to adult websites are female. They estimate that 9.4 million women in the United States accessed online pornography in September 2003. (1)
A recent article in Today’s Christian Woman seems to support their assertions. “One out of every six women, including Christians, struggles with an addiction to pornography,” claims authoress Ramona Richards. “That’s 17 percent of the population, which, according to a survey by research organization Zogby International, is the number of women who truly believe they can find sexual fulfillment on the Internet.” (2)
I personally have my doubts that 17% of Christian women are viewing pornography. Nevertheless, even half that amount represents a very distressing number of women.
Porn and the Married Woman
Jim introducing Susan to the world of adult entertainment is typical of how most females become involved. The first time he brought home a movie, she was shocked at what she saw. It was so revolting to her that she tried to ignore the scenes being played out on their bedroom television set, instead focusing her attention on her husband. As for Jim, she had never seen him so passionate toward her. It was thrilling! Susan grappled with what she had done over the next few days, vacillating between guilt and excitement. In the end, she made a conscious decision that she was willing to exchange her self-respect for his affection.
Just as Jim had promised, there was a heightened level of excitement in their intimacy that hadn’t been there since their wedding night twenty-some years before. Once she got past the initial shock of the explicitness, she actually came to look forward to their “special times” on Saturday nights. The intense pleasure of these experiences gave them something they could share together.
One thing that was a bit surprising to Susan was the quality of the videos. They weren’t the cheaply produced films she had come to expect. The world of adult entertainment had its own producers, directors, camera crews, stars and starlets. Everything was top-notch. Over time, Susan began to not only enjoy the effects of the movies on their sex life but the movies themselves. While Jim was fascinated with body parts and explicit scenes, Susan was drawn to the seductive storylines and her favorite actors—and actresses. Yes, a lust for women had been kindled within her.
Their relationship seemed idyllic those first few weeks. Although Susan had to silence her guilty conscience and stifle her nagging concerns, she and Jim got along better than ever before. But, as we all know, the pleasure of sin only lasts for a season. Unbeknownst to her, a very evil, corrupting influence had been loosed deep within her being. The “sex-is-everything” mindset communicated by these motion pictures began to break down many of her inhibitions. She found herself fantasizing about other men—and women. Sometimes she even secretly watched the movies by herself while Jim was at work.
There was another troubling development occurring as well. Their relationship, which had become full of tenderness and devotion, began to deteriorate. Jim became more distant than ever, causing Susan to become suspicious and argumentative. They squabbled over petty differences. What’s more, when they were out in public, Jim openly gawked at every pretty girl he saw. How could Susan scold him, after what she had allowed into their home? Little by little things became worse, until finally, Jim left and Susan filed for divorce. Now, as a middle-aged woman with a failed marriage, the loss of her self-respect and the hollowness of soul that porn produces, she was more miserable than ever.
This case is fairly typical of what occurs when wives allow pornography to be brought into the home. As the number of Christian men addicted to porn continues to increase, it can be expected that the number of wives and girlfriends involved will also grow.
Porn and the Single Woman
Being led into the sordid realm of pornography by an addicted husband is no longer the only introduction to it. Millennials have grown up in a culture where porn is not only accepted but is pervasive. This has produced a new disturbing trend: single women seeking out internet porn for themselves.
One such person was Julie, a serious-minded, young businesswoman. Like Susan, before becoming involved in porn, Julie’s life would have been considered normal by today’s Christian standards. Although involved with the singles group of her church, she struggled with feelings of loneliness. Julie secretly envied the “bubbly” girls in the group who always seemed to attract the guys. Sometimes she despaired of ever finding “Mr. Right.” For some time she had been watching one of the leading network soap operas, allowing the immorality portrayed on the show to fuel her secret fantasy of being a beautiful seductress.
She was embarrassed one evening when the pastor’s wife came for a visit while the show she had recorded that day was playing on her TV set. The older woman’s face flushed when she saw a torrid love scene being enacted on the screen. Julie’s feigned indignation masked the fact that she had come to enjoy this kind of fare. The truth was that she continually fostered romantic and sexual fantasies about a number of male acquaintances at her job.
Another pastime unexpectedly developed in Julie’s life. One day, she confided her struggles with loneliness to a girlfriend from church. Her friend suggested she visit Christian chat rooms on the Internet where she could develop risk-free relationships with men. At first, she tried it hesitantly and carefully, but before long she was heavily involved. Eventually, she expanded her involvement to include larger, secular chat rooms. Initially, the amount of sexual talk alarmed her, but she gradually became fascinated with it. It was almost like being a starlet in her own soap opera!
Occasionally, Julie would come across messages that posted adult websites. In the beginning, she resisted her curiosity about them, but she finally got to the place where she had no resistance left. One night she impulsively clicked on a link to an adult website. She panicked when an image of a copulating couple popped up on the screen, quickly closing the site with trembling hands. That scene haunted her memory until, a few nights later, she revisited the site. She was so enthralled by what she saw that she was completely drawn in. After the exhilaration of that night her soap opera seemed tame and boring. She found herself returning to the adult websites time and again. She knew what she was doing was wrong, but, despite repeated promises to quit her behavior, she kept going back to it.
Were Susan and Julie (3) normal, “godly” women who were caught off guard in a moment of weakness and succumbed to a powerful temptation? No, I cannot believe that. For good reason the apostle Paul said, “If you walk in the Spirit you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) The crucial element to a victorious life is not the object of temptation but the spiritual condition of the person being tempted. Perhaps a few pointed questions will help us better focus on the real issues at stake here.
f Susan’s life was right with God, would she have ever agreed to look at a dirty movie in the first place? Wouldn’t she have had the wisdom to know that the outcome of such a decision could only be disaster? She faithfully attended church, but her decisions clearly indicate a very weak (or nonexistent) relationship to God. Paul could have been describing Susan when he said, “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (I Timothy 5:6)
If Julie was truly walking with the Lord, would she have been watching soap operas? Would she have been so obsessed with romance that she would visit online chat rooms? Would she ever have clicked on that first erotic website? The truth about this young lady is that she had long since given over to the “Cosmo girl-me first” mentality so prevalent among today’s young women. Yes, she too attended church faithfully, but the reality was that God was not the center of her existence but rather an add-on to her worldly, selfish life. It was therefore relatively easy for her to cross one moral boundary after another until she stepped across the line into pornography.
These two stories, and the thousands of real ones they represent, reflect how important it is for a shepherd to closely monitor his sheep. As Paul approached the end of his life, it seems that his overriding concern was to do his utmost to see that the Church would stay on course. He shared many powerful truths with his closest confidants, a few of which we can employ to better protect our young women from becoming casualties of the sex-saturated culture in which we live.
Paul understood that, left to themselves, women can easily be led astray. (II Timothy 3:6) To help protect them, he enlisted the aid of a vital resource within the ranks of the churches: godly, mature women. He wrote, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior… teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:3-5)
Listening to good sermons and reading interesting books can be helpful, but the immature Christian—whatever her age—needs discipleship: she needs a mature saint to take her under her wing, so to speak, and bring godly instruction into her life. A woman may hear sermons, but unless she is held accountable to respond to those words, she will derive only limited benefit. Lost in a crowd of listeners, she can easily ignore and disregard what she is hearing. Paul provided for this problem when he gave the four-fold method of true discipleship: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:16)
Most girls and women sitting in our churches are being indoctrinated in the world’s values. They need godly women to instruct them about the Christian life. How should young girls dress? How do they handle dating? Is there anything wrong with watching television sitcoms or soap operas? What does it really mean in our day and age to live a holy life? How can they know their lives are pleasing to God? What can they do to escape the selfishness of our culture? How does a wife handle it when she discovers her husband is addicted to pornography? These are the kinds of practical and meaningful issues about which women simply need to be taught. Perhaps special, temporary classes can be arranged to impart the answers to these important subjects.
Teaching is important, but women also need personal involvement in their lives. Reproof is an important tool to help individuals stay the course. Left to themselves, women can easily stray off the narrow path and, like we saw in the cases above, become totally backslidden. If a godly mentor had been involved in either of those lady’s lives, there is a good chance they would not have gotten so far off track. Reproof comes into play when the mentor sees her “student” going astray. She steps between her and the source of her temptation and in godly love says, “No! You can’t do that!” As Paul said, “...if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path...” (Galatians 6:1)
The corrupting effects of the spirit of this world upon the human mind should never be underestimated. It has the power to alter a person’s perspectives, values and attitudes. One of the reasons it is imperative that a believer maintains a vibrant devotional life is because she so desperately needs the constant influence of God’s perspectives upon her thinking. When a mature woman becomes involved in another woman’s life, she will soon discern any areas of her life that do not line up with Scripture. Correction is there for the purpose of helping to guide her back into biblical thinking and living.
Women must also be trained to live righteously. The term used by Paul here (Gk. paideia) is usually translated with the English word discipline. Translators were correct to apply the term “training” here, but it must be understood that it contains within it a stronger sense than one would typically think. There is an element of authority that is connected to this word which is clear in the passages in which it is used: father-son, God-believer and even Pilate-criminal (Jesus). While teaching tends to be impersonal and vague, training is very personal and specific.
Lastly, I want to mention one final principle Paul left with Timothy: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2) This principle also applies to “faithful” women—especially your wife. As you delegate authority to these important soldiers, I believe God will use them to rescue women who might otherwise be headed for disaster.
(1) Jason Collum, “A Woman’s Struggle,” AFA Journal, March 2004.
(2) Ramona Richards, “Dirty Little Secret,” Today's Christian Woman magazine. September/October 2003.
(3) These are fictitious persons who are composites of women to whom we have ministered.
Kathy Gallagher is the Co-Founder and Senior Administrator of Pure Life Ministries. She has been ministering to Christian women for over 20 years and has a deep desire to see them living a fulfilled life in Christ.
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