Freedom for Porn-Addicted Women
Rev. David L. Hatton, RN
Pornography has never been simply a male problem. It has always
affected women by misrepresenting them as sex objects for men’s
enjoyment. It often robs them of intimacy with husbands whose porn
addiction has stifled marital affection. But female sex drives are just
as susceptible to misdirection as those of men. In our sex-obsessed
culture, women increasingly fall prey to porn’s allurement. Rather than
quote the latest statistics about female addiction to porn, let me
offer some insights on its causes and hope for its cure.
Although created for male readers, the MCAG website is woman-friendly.
It has helped both men and women gain a godly perspective on body
acceptance. Studying or reviewing its core articles might enhance
your grasp of this one. My own two contributions might especially be
helpful, because “The Pornographic View of the Body” is the
common element in “Pornography Addiction.” Porn’s focus is on
sexual self-gratification. We purchase it by objectifying
other human beings. Without that sexual objectification of persons,
pornography loses its main tool for sustaining the sexual fantasy that
supports a viewer’s self-gratifying thrill.
Depersonalized Then Commercialized
In good mental health, all aspects of a person are integrated. God’s
plan of salvation and sanctification targets our “whole spirit and soul
and body” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). When bare bodies are objectified, it
isolates them from the people who live in them. Disassociating
gender-distinctive body parts from their owner fails to treat them as
true components of personal identity. It reduces men and women to
something less than their full humanity. That reduction is the
essential groundwork for pornography’s success.
While God created us “male and female” for the purpose of reproduction
(Genesis 1:27-28a), He also designed our reproductive anatomy to offer
mutual pleasure during sexual union. God blessed humans with this
orgasmic gift to enhance relational communion between spouses. But its
physiological function works before and beyond reproductive purposes.
This opens sexual intercourse to immoral misuse outside the marital
bond and to immoral mental abuse through pornography.
Just as objectification isolates the body from the person, so
pleasurable sexual activity can become disassociated from God’s
purposes. This rift between sexual thrill-seeking and God’s intentions
for wedded love commercializes sexuality, turning it into a form of
promiscuous pleasure-shopping. Porn is profitable only because sex
sells! Objectified sexual thrill is its currency.
The Way In . . . But Why Stay In?
Because secrecy surrounds involvement in pornography, some
porn-addicted women think they’re alone or in a shameful minority: “Only
bad girls, like me, get into such a ‘filthy’ habit.” Others may
assume their stories are identical to those of all others who get
hooked on porn. But just as men get drawn into it in a variety of ways,
so do women. My research leads me to believe that most women will
resonate with at least one or more of the following scenarios.
Some girls started out merely trying to satisfy natural childhood
curiosity. When families and churches failed to provide safe, wholesome
avenues for familiarity with nonsexual human nudity, these girls
checked out the Web. There, the porn industry fed them its own twisted
agenda. With pornography’s help, a legitimate fascination with God’s
magnificent artistry in the human body gradually morphed into
fantasizing forbidden activities on the devil’s playground.
Pornography’s hook is God’s awesomely handcrafted beauty in the naked
human body. Nothing in creation surpasses the grace and glory shown in
the embodiment of His image. Porn distorts that glory-filled
reflection, perverting its sacred display and effectively blocking
godly thoughts about it. Once captured by porn’s false image of our
gender-distinctive anatomy, girls raised in prudish and legalistic
environments may see no hope of leaving it. The shame of their sinful
habits-especially when church leaders call them “only a male problem”-walls
off any hope for a solution from those whose focus merely fans the
flames of their shame.(1)
Sometimes youthful self-exploration led adventurous girls from the
pleasant sensations of self-stimulation into a prison of habitual
compulsions. Whether they occur from coitus or from masturbation,
orgasms were designed by God to offer to married couples an elevated
brain-chemical ‘high’ that begs repeating:
releases a dopamine-oxytocin high that has been compared to a heroin
hit, and many regular users of internet porn report experiencing an
almost trance-like effect that not only makes them feel oblivious to
the world, but also gives them a sense of power that they don’t have in
real life. “The PC becomes an erogenous zone. The more you keep trying
to put porn out of your mind, the more it keeps popping back in. The
brain then learns that porn is the only way to cope with anxiety. . . .”(2)
While both men and women may use pornographic depictions of sexual acts
as fantasy-support for masturbation, most men can manually induce a
climax without visual stimulus. Some women, however, desire or require
imaginative narration beyond the visual in order to supplement their
stimulation. One woman privately confided to me:
. it’s generally very important to have some kind of story or text -
just pictures don’t usually do anything for me, at least. And that
makes it nigh impossible to masturbate without fantasizing or using
porn to provide that mental component. . . . So while men may be able
to orgasm just from the physical act of masturbation, I think women in
general will find that far more difficult, and that greatly limits our
ability to relieve our sex drives.”
When a repetitive neuro-chemical reward is coupled with a woman’s
heightened need for fantasy, she may feel helpless in trying to break
free from porn.
Another sad scenario is where a young girl’s first experience with
nudity was the sexual abuse of her own naked body. Childhood’s
defenseless submission to such a degrading assault caused her to grow
up feeling ‘dirty,’ worthless, not normal. But upon finding her past
sexual trauma glamorized in porn photos, her discovery distorted her
memory by reinterpreting reality: “See! Your experience was typical,
expected, even desirable.” Then their porn habit becomes a
temporary ‘feel-good’ salve to soothe the hurt of old wounds that keep
Or worse, that same girl might have falsely identified with her abuse: “Just
like these girls in the videos, I gravitate toward this crap! I’m one
of them!” Past sexual trauma, present sexual sin, or even
continuing to watch porn itself-while convinced of its wrongness-can
perpetuate her sense of defilement. She may hide this falsely adopted
self-identity beneath the personal facade of ‘a normal girl.’ Yet
actually, this carefully constructed social mask may really be
more her than her unhealed self is willing or able to believe.
A woman might have been misled to feel religious shame for even
having ‘a strong sex drive’-a trait mistakenly preached as only
characterizing men. Sadly, this religious error may keep her involved
with porn as a dysfunctional confirmation of her own guilt-ridden
self-concept: “It’s my curse . . . I’m so messed up, it can’t be
fixed!” Because of such thinking, viewing porn may serve as an
indirect form of self-punishment, which a girl imagines she deserves
for her ‘oversexed’ habits.
This shame factor might also be connected to a fear of
intimacy. Imaginary individuals are less threatening than real
persons; sex objects make less demands than living subjects.
Fantasy-lust and cybersex do not include the hard work and struggle of
a real relationship, like the one sealed in a ‘for-better-or-worse’
marriage vow between two strong wills. Seemingly, the porn addict is on
her own, in control. No need to fear conflict, failed performance,
lack of acceptance, venereal diseases, unintended pregnancies, and all
the other messy risks avoided by self-sex. But porn’s promise
is a lie: the sexual autonomy it offers is a ploy that eventually puts
porn in the driver’s seat.
I’ve also known women whose first exposure to porn was through
boyfriends who had them watch ‘sex-ploitation’ videos to see how a girl
could enjoy performing in the popular perversions. Duped emotionally
into thinking, “This is how to win and keep his affection,” they
began emulating the persona of submissive girls portrayed by porn
stars. The result of this repetitive role-playing was to adopt the
mindset of the script. The role itself finally took over. Her new
self-image became the star of a distorted drama played out on a stage
of sexual props with porn as the director.
Your Investment in Female Depreciation
That last point reveals another aspect of women’s addiction to porn.
It’s obvious to them and to everyone else that these pornographic
portrayals are grossly demeaning to women. So, what’s the kickback?
Where’s the remuneration? There must be a takeaway. Otherwise, why did
so many women devour the erotic ‘bondage’ novel 50 Shades of Grey,
turning it into a bestseller and making its movie-version a
Beyond investing in the porn-drama for its orgasmic excitement, a woman
can find in porn’s objectified sexual thrill a kind of mental
cash-flow. Even if she knows her body isn’t the ‘eye candy’
showcased by porn-models, her equipment still works in the
pleasure-market. The more she buys into pornography’s role-playing
game, the more she gains imaginary sexual leverage, a mental form of
sexual clout, validated by its orgasmic payoff. Because porn advertises
her value in a consumer-relationship with men, tapping into that
evaluation becomes an emotional ‘fix,’ a shot of self-confidence, a
reassurance of power in porn’s fictitious economy.
Contemplate carefully the full impact in this repeating cycle. The porn
addict transfers a young model’s deposit of lost personal dignity into
her own account as a stimulating sexual dividend. For this transaction
to work without realistically falling apart, the porn model must never
be seen as a real person with normal desires and emotions. She must
remain an object, a tool, a trade-commodity. Banish the thought that
she might be a troubled, high school drop-out or a single mom selling
her body like a prostitute to make ends meet. The mind must stay
self-absorbed, focused on the goal of self-gratification, until the
episode plays out to its climax. And the mental block must continue
even after the session ends, or guilt from her lack of compassion will
only add to the pain of emotional emptiness left by porn’s aftermath.
For women caught up in this depressing game, porn has already
determined their ‘net worth’ in terms of feminine body parts. They
watch men seemingly control the commerce, but they get to treat their
own bodies as the sought-after merchandise. Although watching women
become objects for sexual consumption, they can make a short-term
profit from the arrangement by temporarily joining it, imagining
themselves a part of the show. But participating in that fantasy-either
to release tension by an orgasmic ‘high’ or to replenish an emotionally
diminished sexual ego-has a long-term downside: porn-addicted
women spend their true self-worth on imaginary relational assets which
are totally worthless in real life.
Opening the Door to Your True Identity
It’s basic physiology that an orgasmic response is functional in the
male and female bodies of many animals. But our animal bodies
have an amazingly elevated status in creation. Humans surpass all other
creatures, including angels, because we embody the image of the
Creator. While a sex drive and the capacity for sexual enjoyment
are parts of our total selves, our personally integrated self-image
finds fulfillment only in reflecting the One Whose image we bear. In
that divine reflection alone can we realize our true value and true
identity, as individuals and as a race.
The modern church isn’t silent about the porn epidemic. But it has
failed both society and its many porn-addicted members by ignoring the
human body’s crucial role in imaging God. That neglect is behind the
religious attempts to fight porn with woman-unfriendly solutions
based on body shame. And yet, in Genesis 1:27, the Bible’s first and
foremost adjectives used in describing God’s image are not theological
or psychological terms but physical ones: “male and female.” Because
Christians-when it comes to women’s bodies-have generally avoided the
practical implications of this divine revelation, I believe God has had
to go outside the church to find other voices to bless. Those who
unwittingly use His principles to speak out against pornography are
most often the feminists.
Feminist lecturers are notorious for being the loudest and most
prophetic in denouncing the way our culture demeans and exploits women
by reducing them to female body parts. They urge women to rebel against
this sexualization-to toss the script that has them playing the
role of society’s sexual toys. When feminists exhort women to
see themselves wholistically-finding their self-worth in the valuable
persons they truly are, not in cultural or religious definitions that
treat them as sexual objects-they are preaching God’s truth.
Why do women who hear and heed this part of the feminist message find
freedom? Because the truth sets people free.
Humanity’s ‘final frontier’ isn’t exploring the cosmos but discovering who
we are. From childhood to old age, the search for personal
identity is life’s biggest quest. Only in “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), Who
created us in His image, is our question “Who am I?” fully
answered. New birth in Christ, Who is “the express image of
[God’s] person” (Hebrews 1:3), begins the resolution of our cosmic identity
crisis. But growing in Christ means learning to have His
“mind’ toward others, who also bear God’s image. If we put others-like
porn-models-ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4), we won’t be
profiting from their degradation but praying for their deliverance. The
attitude of practicing self-denial in Christ spells bankruptcy for
pornography, which is totally driven by self-interest.
Closing the Door on a False Identity
A false self-image translates into a false lifestyle. Eve took
forbidden fruit because it seemed edible, pretty, and prestigious
(Genesis 3:6). It promised a world of physical, visual
and personal satisfaction. But in warning us about gaining “the
whole world” and losing our souls, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save
his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find
it,” (Matthew 16:25). By living in surrender to “the mind of Christ,”
we lose only our false selves, which have been either squeezed
or stretched to fit worldly patterns. Only in Christ’s light and life
alone can we find our true selves, our full humanity.
The porn-addicted woman’s hope for freedom is to live out her true
identity in God, physically and spiritually. This is a full-circle
return to one of MCAG’s core articles: “The Imago Dei.” Our self-understanding comes from being created “in the image of God.”
Male and female porn addiction, and the porno-prudery that fuels it,
will persist until we mentally abandon the sexually objectified view of
the human body taught to us all our lives. God’s evaluation of our
naked embodiment-as His “very good” divine image and sacred
temple-must reign supreme in our minds and hearts.
This divine view of ourselves calls for a realistic perspective not
just on the sight of external anatomy and the sacredness of human
sexuality, but on the highly controversial subject of masturbation.
Because of its close association with pornography, porn-addicted men
and women must gain a renewed view of it. Just as human nudity itself
has wrongly been an object of religious and social sexualization,
so has masturbation. This has caused many believers to worry about its ‘sinfulness.’
But biblically, their real concern should be their practice of mentally
joining sinful fantasizing to this common process of self-stimulation.
There’s no way around this aspect of our Creator’s design: the manual
release of a pent-up sex drive brings pleasant relief. But so does
blowing your nose, instead of waiting for a gratifying sneeze. In our
God-given human physiology, masturbation is quite an ordinary ‘pop-off
valve’ for the hormonal tension sexually natural to humans, when that
tension’s build-up has not been released by conjugal intercourse.
Regardless of strong religious opinions and the religious authorities
who state them, the Bible never calls masturbation a sin, because
Scripture is silent about it.
But that isn’t the case with “vain imaginations” and lustful visual
fantasies. When sexually immoral intentions from the heart or unholy
depictions from pornography are used in conjunction with masturbation,
Christ calls it mental “adultery” (Matthew 5:28). This is why
self-stimulation, if used for sexual tension-release, must be
separated from lustful mental fantasies. Those imaginary associations
were learned, and they can be unlearned by a renewed, God-honoring view
of the human body. When that separation is successful, a brief,
controlled episode of physical relief can offer a peaceful night’s
sleep, rather than one disrupted by uncontrolled orgasmic dreams that
might include immoral fantasies.(3)
Conclusion: a New Way of Seeing
Men can quit porn’s monopoly game by ceasing to treat the female body
as a self-gratifying sexual commodity. Women caught in the same false
economy can find freedom by no longer treating their bodies as slot
machines for pleasure-coins minted by the porn industry. There’s no
jackpot of true self-esteem won using porn’s ‘play-money.’
Women must stop selling themselves short of their true value as
sexually embodied persons. And they must proactively resist the voices
that sexually objectify their femininity, even if they resound from
otherwise respected and honored pulpits.
In a complete change of mind (metanoia, the biblical
word for repentance), a porn-addicted woman must learn to see
and treat her body as a temple of the Holy Spirit (1
Corinthians 6:19), “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) in the
image of the Almighty Creator. Her sexuality and its powerful
drives are part of that holy temple and image. In that
divine identity alone lies her freedom from porn addiction.
If you haven’t sensed it already in this or my other articles, my
concluding poem will surely convey how intensely I feel about the
nature of our gender-distinctive bodies as God’s sacred territory. This
is perhaps my most impassioned rebuke to society and religion for
objectifying women, whose bodies were meant to reflect their Maker.
She is woman . . . and much abused:
Her lovely womb and breasts and buttocks were infused
With sordid meaning, twisted thought,
By vain imagination packaged, sold, and bought.
A wayward culture holds her chain,
And even sermons preach the sex-obsessed refrain
That turns her body parts and skin
Into ignition points for carnal lust and sin.
Yet in her flesh, along with man,
She bears the image of the Maker’s master plan
For a Self-portrait, so designed
That in their bodies they declare His holy mind.
God’s leadership and strength is shown
In shoulder breadth and muscle, for which men are known.
But women’s wombs, that swell for birth,
Reflect God’s own heart pregnant with creation’s worth.
And in their breasts, where babies feed,
We see the nurture from God’s bosom humans need.
These signs laid bare in wholesome light
Should launch our souls to praise God’s glory at the sight.
She is woman. . . . Lord, set her free
To be the temple You intended her to be.
And let Your church repent her rape,
By calling lewd the beauty of her shape.
Since in her flesh You wish to dwell,
Lord, damn these lies that make her form a path to hell.
- David L. Hatton, 12/31/2009
(from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection © 2013)
Just as this poem expresses my heart’s true prayer, I pray this article
reveals the truth that can set you free. Your freedom must begin with
Jesus-the Truth Who is a Person and Who makes us God’s children by new
birth. That freedom continues as Christ’s view of the body and of human
sexuality affirms the sacred, gender-distinctive embodiment of both
yourself and others.
Believing, adopting and applying His view of
reality will close your account with pornography’s fantasy world. God’s
grace through the Holy Spirit is ever-present to support your decision
to embrace His truth, and the pastoral team at MCAG are here to assist
in whatever way we can.
* * * * * *
My Chains Are Gone combats porn addiction at its philosophical
and religious roots, helping set porn addicts free through God’s truth
about the human body. Visit MCAG at http://mychainsaregone.org
* * * * * *
1. For an extensive testimonial that exemplifies how shame prevents
seeking or finding help from those who legalistically teach prudery and
body shame, read Beggar’s Daughter by Jessica Harris.
2. From the article “Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography” in The
Guardian (April 7, 2011), which included a quote from Jason Dean, a
counselor to the porn-addicted.
3. MCAG’s Blog (at
http://mychainsaregone.org/faqwhat-about-masturbation-part-1/) has a
series of FAQ articles on masturbation that similarly depart
from the traditional ‘sinful’ view of it .