When I was twelve, I first discovered soft-core online pornography. Somehow, in the days of dial-up internet I found it. A lot of it. I grew up in a Christian home where we didn’t discuss matters of sex or desire. I was very sheltered, so when I found these online images, I became entranced with curiosity and confusion. It started to fill in the blanks my parents left, and I enjoyed the new feelings it brought up in me. I became a regular visitor to these sites, and as an avid reader, began to scour novels for steamy sex scenes. I even took these on family holidays to read over and over again.
My sheltered upbringing and secretive porn habit set me up for vulnerability in High School. I just never fit in. I experienced ongoing bullying and ridicule for a number of years, as did the band of misfits I gathered around me. One day, one of these loyal but atypical friends was violently assaulted and I was a witness. This crushed me, leaving me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Undiagnosed for a number of years, I became erratic, afraid and dependant on a number of destructive habits. These included self-harm, theft and repressed rage which would erupt at any time.
A confused, vulnerable and unempowered young woman is easy prey.
At eighteen I entered into what would be the most damaging relationship I’d ever have. I was willing to do just about anything to feel loved and valued, and he was just as willing to exploit that.
Despite my growing Christian convictions, my submissive and vulnerable state meant that having sex with this non-Christian boyfriend (who I didn’t even like that much) just two months into our relationship was an easy choice.
I say ‘choice’ but is it really consent when he knows you want to wait for marriage yet gets you drunk, mocks your prudence and pressures you into saying ‘yes’ time and time again?
Sex was horrible. His personal pornography collection (which he happily showed me) taught him what a woman should look like, how she should act and what she was expected do for him. I was not that woman. He humiliated me and made sure I knew how incompetent and forgettable I was…as a human, and a means for sex. Intimacy was as far away as the concept of my own worth at this time.
Porn becomes my Sex Education
By the grace of God, we broke up. But once single again, I had space to feel my repressed emotions, and ask the unnerving questions:
Why was sex so terrible?
What was wrong with me?
What did I do wrong?!
I quickly rediscovered the pornography of my childhood in my seeking, but this time around, I had my own smart phone, laptop and high-speed internet.
It was an education. What was my body supposed to look like? What was I supposed to do and say to be desirable to men?
More than a (terrible) education, it became my escape from the shame that haunted my every moment. The rush of dopamine and adrenaline made me feel something other than sadness for a few moments. I felt a sense of ‘control’ when I felt lost and vulnerable. I sought the experience of intimacy, without the risk of rejection or being told I was forgettable. I relived and fantasised about traumatic sexual experiences…but this time, I had the power.
Porn never salved my pain like I hoped it would, and it only taught me lies about femininity and sex. I wanted to stop using porn. Nevertheless, I kept seeking these elusive answers. The shame I originally felt about myself seemed to double, quadruple and multiply beyond belief every time I used pornography. It only fuelled my pain, and I eventually began to acknowledge I had a problem. I was addicted to pornography and masturbation.
I didn’t tell a soul. I truly believed I was the only woman on Earth struggling with porn. Surely the only Christian woman! Every resource I had come across for porn addiction was drowning in masculine pronouns. I felt like the odd one out.
Here I was attending Church, serving in ministry, studying at Bible College…and helplessly addicted to porn. From the outside I looked like the perfect Christian girl. I had changed a lot since high-school, I was quiet and I served and worked with children. I had good academic results and seemed balanced enough. I even won Christian leadership awards. No one would have guessed my little secret. I felt like I had two personalities. In public, I was the Christian girl. In private I was destroyed by my inner turmoil and insatiable sexual desire.
This dichotomy tore me apart. I felt like I had more secrets and shame than humanity within me. I felt completely drained of my femininity and worth.
I desperately wanted to believe what the Bible said about me; that I was loved and had value, but my shame had a louder voice.
My pornography addiction felt as if it had completely won. It controlled me. And I hated myself for that. And I believed God probably hated me too. How could he forgive me? How could my friends and those I ministered to forgive me? I was a lost cause.
It all became too much. One evening, a few years later at Church I fell to the floor in tears.
An older woman I’d never met came to hold and pray for me. Tears and truth erupted from my face like an overflowing fountain, and she responded: ‘Me too’.
She encouraged me to share with a close friend who could be my accountability partner. I summoned all my courage and confessed over a Facebook message. Two life-changing words popped up on my screen in response: ‘Me too’.
So, the long and arduous road to recovery began. And I had a friend and mentor to walk with me.
Getting free from porn hurt like Hell. It wasn’t easy because I had God on my side, nor was it dealt with purely by spiritual means. It took me years of accountability, therapy, reflection, filtering software, navigating a male-orientated recovery world, spiritual healing and tears to find freedom. The journey was not without a few lapses, as well. But I made it, and you can too.
Porn is not a gendered issue, it’s a human one.
Let me be your proof that freedom is possible. I was once a slave to shame, I felt alone and couldn’t stop using pornography, but today, I am free. Today, I enjoy a wonderful sex life with my husband, knowing I am incredibly loved and valued not only by him, but by God. I have not compulsively masturbated or used porn in many years, and I live in the joy of that freedom.
This blog was originally created for and posted on GrowthTrac.com and is reposted with persmission.