While porn use has traditionally been seen as a men’s issue, Naked Truth Project says it is vital to raise awareness of the struggles women face too and remove the shame and stigma that prevents many women from seeking the help and support they need.
Decades of media depicting guys hiding porn under mattresses, the “porn talk” at church being restricted to a men’s weekend away, and limited resources addressing female porn use have all helped to create the misconception that only men watch porn. The stories of our community paint a different picture.
Bethany stumbled across porn by mistake at an early age. Naturally curious, her accidental exposure grew into a habit that was all-consuming by the time she reached university, impacting her studies, her relationships, her mental health, and her faith. Driven to secrecy by shame, she carried the weight of her addiction alone for years.
She said: “Being a woman made this stuff more difficult to talk about. Shame is the thing that makes everyone keep this a secret, but even the times that I tried to find help, the resources were all for men. I genuinely believed I was the only woman in the world who struggled with this.”
“Shame is the thing that makes everyone keep this a secret, but even the times that I tried to find help, the resources were all for men.”
It is a commonly held belief that men are more “visual” than women, and more prone to seeking out sexual content. Statistically, men are still the primary creators and consumers of online porn. But our understanding of male and female sexuality is changing, with a 2019 meta-analysis confirming that while women may express their sexuality differently from men, there is no difference in how our brains respond to sexual images. One of the researchers stated, “at the level of neural activity, the brains of men and women respond the same way to porn.” Statistics from Pornhub themselves reveal that more than one in three visitors to the world’s largest porn-site are female.
Given this new data, there are varying views on why we have differing numbers of men and women consuming porn – whether it is down to innate biology, or the different expectations society has of men and women, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality. The stigma that exists around women watching porn - or indeed, enjoying sex at all (!) - is historic and not easily shifted.
But whatever the statistics and research say, the reality is that women watch porn too, and many, like Bethany, live in fear and shame, needing help but believing that they are totally alone. Bethany says porn use left her feeling “disgusting, abnormal and unfeminine,” believing that, “God’s grace had run dry” for her. The shame she experienced, fuelled by only ever hearing porn addressed by and for men, began to define her identity.
The stigma that exists around women watching porn - or indeed, enjoying sex at all (!) - is historic and not easily shifted.
Urgent change is needed in the way we approach this issue in our churches and communities. Bethany’s turning point came when she courageously seized an opportunity to confide in a female church leader, unable to journey alone any longer. Through that brave disclosure, she discovered she was not the only woman in the world watching porn, as she had believed for so many years.
Bethany now works to help others find the freedom she is living in, but it took a decade of heartache and desperation before she found help. What would it mean for the lives of these women if we reframed the conversation around porn? For too long, porn has been treated as taboo in Christian circles, or confined to men’s retreats, leaving women believing they are abnormal and alone in their struggle.
But what is needed to move forward is as simple as conversation and community. We have the power to change the story by creating a culture of openness in our friendships, churches, and communities, allowing individuals to step out of hiding, and, with the help of those around them, move away from shame, fear, and doubt, into the glorious light of Jesus.
Find out how Naked Truth Project is working with churches to talk about and tackle porn at nakedtruth.training/church-membership. Find support at www.nakedtruthproject.com, including our 8-week “Click to Kick” course.