Myth: Women don’t watch porn
Everyone knows that porn is a problem for men. Men watch it, men get addicted to it, marriages break up because men can’t stop watching it, men have unrealistic ideas about sex and about women’s bodies because they watch porn. Men watch porn on their own, men watch porn together, boys learn about porn because their fathers keep porn in the house.
These things are all true. The statistics prove it and anecdotal evidence supports it. Porn use is a problem for men, and it’s not just young men. However, the plethora of stories about men struggling with porn suggests that porn is exclusively a male problem. On the few occasions that women get a mention, it’s stories about women reluctantly watching porn because their partner wanted it and they thought it would make him pay more attention to her. There are many stories about women having plastic surgery in order to look more like the images seen in porn, because that’s what men appear to want. Although these stories are ostensibly about women, they are really about how women are affected by male porn use. Very occasionally you will come across a story about women choosing to watch porn but these articles are usually about how this new ‘female-friendly’ porn is empowering for women. These are the predominant voices when it comes to ‘facts’ about porn use and they lead the reader to conclude that women don’t even watch porn, let alone struggle with porn addiction and other related behaviours.
Fact: women do struggle with pornography addiction
A compilation of various surveys in 2005-2007 show that 17% of women struggle with pornography addiction. That percentage translates to 1 in every 6 women – and remember, these were self-assessed surveys. It’s possible the figure is higher when you consider the number of women who watch porn but don’t consider their porn use to be problematic or compulsive. One in every six women, yet we almost never hear about women and porn.
Here are some more stats:
- 1 in every 3 visitors to porn sites are women
- 13% of women admit to accessing pornography at work
- 9.4 million women access adult websites every month
- In a survey conducted by the magazine Today’s Christian Women, 34% of female readers admitted to intentionally accessing internet porn
Given the lack of focus on female porn use, these figures are astounding. Or perhaps what’s astounding is that there is such a lack of focus on female pornography use and addiction. Clearly, this is a huge problem for women – perhaps not as huge as for men, but still enormously significant. Almost certainly you know a women who is secretly watching porn, if not struggling with an addiction to it, and chances are she doesn’t know these stats either. She probably thinks there are no other women who share her struggle. So why aren’t we hearing about this? Why are people so completely astonished when they hear these figures? Why aren’t we talking about in in schools, churches, mothers’ groups and amongst our friends? Why aren’t there hundreds of support groups for women struggling with porn addiction? Why aren’t we talking to our daughters and sisters about this?
When I was watching porn I thought I was a freak. In my 3-4 years of porn use and then the subsequent seven years before I told anyone about it, I had absolutely no idea that other women struggle with porn addiction. I had never read a single story about women and porn, and to this day I’ve only ever met one other woman with a story similar to mine. This is exactly why women don’t seek help, and why the sense of shame women feel is so overpowering. Silence about women and porn is not really silence; in fact it speaks volumes. It shouts to women that if you are struggling with porn, you are different. Staying silent about porn isolates women and removes us from our community. It teaches us we are alone, that we are not like other women, and it shames us into believing we are not a real woman.
We must bust this myth and start talking about women and porn. Porn addition for women is real and it’s a huge problem, but the women who are struggling with porn don’t know that. They think they are alone, they think they are freaks, they think there is no help for them – and none of those things is true. As long as we stay silent, women will continue to believe these lies and they will stay trapped in their addiction.