Women with Porn Addictions

Woman struggling with porn addiction Porn has been criticized for its focus on and objectification of female bodies. Health researchers and feminist scholars have claimed that pornography can damage the way consumers think about sex, particularly when it features aggressive views and behaviors toward women. However, the definition of aggression is different for every person, and the term has been challenged by many in the public, including researchers.1

While some people are vocal in their opposition of the porn industry, namely for how women are exploited or treated, others take anti-censorship positions and advocate for women to explore their sexual power.2

These opposing views may lead many people to assume that most women are not interested in watching porn, much less becoming addicted to it. And while women and porn addiction has not been heavily researched, certain studies point to an increasing number of women who watch pornography and, as a result, develop a dependence and addiction to it.3

Prevalence of Women Addicted to Porn

Surveys show that more males than females view porn, yet, a relatively high percentage are female. One study found that 76% of females between the ages of 18 to 30 years old watch pornographic material. The number decreases as women age, with only 16% of females watching porn by the age of 50. Additionally, 55% of married males reported viewing porn as opposed to only 25% of married females.4

A study published on women in the United States from the years 1973 to 2010, showed that younger women were more likely to watch pornography due to heightened3

  • Sexual curiosity.
  • Testosterone levels.

The study also found that young women who frequently watch porn had more3

  • Lifetime sexual partners.
  • Positive views toward group sex.
  • Casual sexual partners.

Additionally, graduate women who watched pornography had more positive attitudes toward sex outside of a relationship.3 When researchers compared studies of women to men, they found the association between watching porn and having a more permissive approach to sex to be similar.3

Porn is often used to achieve arousal or to reach orgasm. When this happens, a woman may experience a flood of positive feelings because these events are accompanied by the release of several signaling chemicals in the brain, including dopamine and oxytocin.5 The associated feelings can be powerfully addictive: Researchers have found that the high of an orgasm is comparable to taking a hit of heroin.6

Porn can have certain positive effects too, such as:4

  • Open-mindedness about sex.
  • Tolerance toward what others choose to sexually engage in.
  • Increasing communication with a partner.
  • Attentiveness to what a partner wants.

The use of pornography has also been shown to empower some sexual behaviors, which may lead to a greater likelihood of a couple experimenting and being sexually satisfied.4

How it Affects Each Gender 

Low self esteem due to porn addictionAccording to studies, men prefer watching visual erotica, like pictures and movies, while women prefer engaging in interactive erotica such as chat rooms, social media sites featuring explicit material, and webcams.2

The excessive use of pornography can affect a woman’s relationships with herself, as well as with other people. Frequently viewing a lot of pornography can influence a woman’s attitudes and beliefs toward sex, and this is associated with a number of negative effects, such as:4

  • Unrealistic expectations around sexual behaviors and performance.
  • Reduced intimacy with real-life partners.
  • Personal sense of inadequacy.
  • Lowered self-esteem.

Another negative effect of pornography viewing can be the development of a “heterosexual schema.” This is described as a belief that women are weaker, less intelligent, submissive, willing to be raped, assaulted, or dominated sexually. This coincides with the belief that men are more dominant, powerful, and have greater sexual needs than women.2 It should be clear that this way of thinking can be and is problematic and harmful to both sexes.

In addition, repeated exposure can lead a woman to develop a tolerance to and, ultimately, a dependence on porn. This may look like needing more and more exposure to pornography to help her feel the same levels of pleasure. Or when she is not viewing porn, she may feel down or depressed, causing her to keep searching for porn. This can escalate and cause her to eventually gravitate toward viewing more extreme erotic material.

Are There Available Treatment Options?

Watching pornography can help a person escape reality and de-stress since, for some people, viewing sexual images provides a temporary relief from boredom and isolation.4 However, repeated porn use can establish a compulsive behavioral habit. One researcher described the motivation to use porn in five stages: discovery, experimentation, escalation, compulsion, and hopelessness (addiction).4

While specific treatment programs for porn addiction are currently few and far between, they do exist and are worth seeking out.

Before you begin treatment, you will meet with a clinician for an assessment in which you will identify the characteristics of your behavior. The clinician may ask you a number of questions, including but not limited to:7

  • How long has this behavior been going on?
  • Do you have a history of sexual violence or abuse?
  • Have you suffered from individual trauma?

Woman in therapy session for porn addictionTreatment often requires a multi-faceted approach, including a combination of therapy and detoxification. An effective treatment program will help identify if you have a:

  • Preference or interest in a certain type of pornography.
  • Concurrent paraphilic disorder.
  • Hypersexuality disorder.

Because pornography is highly accessible on smart phones and laptops, it may benefit you to block online access to pornographic sites, cancel online accounts, or move your computer to visible locations in your house.

Since porn can be used as a stress reliever, therapists may work with you on stress management and emotional regulation to learn other ways to effectively cope with things in your life that cause you to use porn as an escape. These are also referred to as triggers, which you can learn to identify and manage in treatment.

Depending on how your pornography use affects your life, your clinician may recommend that you enter outpatient or inpatient treatment. While specific treatment programs for porn addiction are currently few and far between, they do exist and are worth seeking out.

Outpatient treatment allows you to live at home while also taking care of responsibilities such as childcare, work, or school. Outpatient programs require you to visit the treatment facility for a set number of hours per week to work on your treatment goals. If your symptoms tend to be relatively less severe or impairing, outpatient treatment can be a great option. Group therapy forms the crux of outpatient treatment, and depending on the treatment center, you may also engage in couples or family therapy to address the underlying issues surrounding your pornography use.

Inpatient treatment is a more intensive option, offering 24-hour supervision and access to medical care, when needed. Inpatient or residential programs require that you live at the center while you are in treatment. As part of your treatment plan, you may attend therapy sessions, learn skills that will help you reduce your pornography use, and repair your relationships with others. Inpatient programs typically last between 30 and 90 days and allow you to focus solely on your treatment, without the distractions or triggers of being in your home environment.

Both inpatient and outpatient programs incorporate evidence-based forms of therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing (MI). These approaches can help you gain insight and awareness into why you use pornography, and also help reduce the likelihood of relapse.

You may also want to participate in a support group while you are in treatment—many people find groups to be extremely helpful and supportive. In a 12-step group, you receive recovery wisdom from and are held accountable by a sponsor, who is someone you can call when you feel an overwhelming urge or craving to view pornography. In a 12-step group, you can also meet people who are going similar challenges. This may help you come out of isolation and talk about your behavior.

These groups have been adapted from the Alcoholics Anonymous model to help treat sex addiction:

Some online communities also exist to empower you toward behavior change. One example is a group inspired by the book, Dirty Girls Come Clean.

It is important for you to find a community that feels right and comfortable for your situation.

Sources

  1. Albury, K. (2014). Porn and sex education, porn as sex education. Porn Studies1(1-2), 172–181.
  2. Hinman, B. K. (2013). Mixed methods analysis of counselor views, attitudes and perceived competencies regarding the treatment of internet pornography addiction.
  3. Wright, P. J., Bae, S., & Funk, M. (2013). United States women and pornography through four decades: Exposure, attitudes, behaviors, individual differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior42(7), 1131–1144.
  4. Blaszczynski, A. (2016). Excessive Pornography Use: Empirically-Enhanced Treatment Interventions. Australian Clinical Psychologist2(1).
  5. Cooper, A. (2000). Cybersex: The Dark Side of the Force: A Special Issue of the Journal Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity (Vol. 7, No. 1-2). Psychology Press.
  6. Komisaruk, B. R., Beyer, C., & Whipple, B. (2006). The Science of Orgasm (Vol. 1). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  7. Ries, R. K., Fiellin, D. A., Miller, S. C. & Saitz, R. (2014). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

About the Author

ProjectKnow.com is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc. Learn more about what this means here
Call Today
1-888-287-0471 Who Answers?