Culture

Women Can Be Porn Addicts Too. I Know, I Was One

By Rachael Killackey··  7 min read
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I first came across pornography when I was 13.

The graphic language and narrative quickly caught my attention, but made me feel disturbed – it was a battle between feeling dirty for continuing and knowing that I should close my computer immediately. What turned into one story became dozens, dozens of stories became videos, and videos became fantasies in my head that were difficult to stop. I would face the battle between feeling dirty and knowing I should walk away many, many more times.

Porn Pushed Me into Hiding

I was raised in a religious environment that was somewhat affected by the generalizations and stereotypes of purity culture. Pornography was something only men struggled with, I heard. The lack of context for women’s pornography addiction caused me to hide, deeply, and to try to fight alone. I assumed I was an anomaly. I have discovered since that 76% of females between ages 18-30 have viewed pornographic material, whether regularly or not, and some studies indicate that 1 in 3 porn addicts is a woman. I was far from an anomaly, after all. 

Self-deception, or the habit of lying to yourself and others about the severity of your  behaviors, is a hallmark of addiction. I tried to convince myself, especially because I was a woman, that what I couldn’t stop reading and watching couldn’t possibly be porn. But, as time went on, its effects were undeniable: I began to objectify others, feel deep shame about my sexuality, and increasingly lost the ability to control my mind and my thoughts. It was because of noticing these effects worsening that I decided to try to put a stop to my behavior. Simply put, I could see porn addiction destroying my life if I didn’t do something about it.

I could see porn addiction destroying my life if I didn’t do something about it.

My senior year of high school, I woke up one day and decided to get rid of my smartphone. I’ve said since that having a smartphone in your back pocket as a porn addict is similar to having a beer in your back pocket as an alcoholic – the accessibility is almost impossible to refuse. Purchasing a “dumb phone” did help, at least for a time. But I had to get truly exhausted with myself and my addiction before any real change would happen. 

Waking Up from Porn for Good

Leaving for college brought the opportunity to use porn with more privacy, given I was living in a dorm versus living at home. I continued to struggle into my first year of college, when a really great guy began to pursue a relationship with me. I was so excited and honored, and I desired to move forward with him – but it felt like I would walk away from our interactions feeling totally unworthy of his attention and…two-faced. On the outside, I was doing my best to live a healthy and virtuous life, but I was still hiding this addiction and not doing the utmost to remove it from my life. 

Finally, I reached the point of being exhausted with myself. The feeling of being two-faced and ashamed constantly, especially in the presence of a good man, gave me the final push I needed to truly begin recovering. At this point, I had been reading or viewing porn for about five years. There were mindsets, habits, and gateways that would take time to be eliminated – wounds that needed to be healed. After an experience of surrendering myself and my addiction totally to God – a fundamental step that I would later learn is also part of the 12-step recovery model – I began to truly find the strength to change. The new relationship I was in definitely gave me motivation, but it also made me feel more ashamed when I fell. December of that first year of college was my last viewing of pornography, and my true freedom began. 

Learning To Love in Real Life

While the relationship that had motivated a good deal of my recovery ended after a few months, I tried to keep going by relying on faith and my desire to love others well. I was heavily involved in a volunteer opportunity that allowed me to serve at-risk teenagers, and it was fulfilling that desire to love in a way I had never experienced. I felt a love grounded in reality – undisturbed by the false promises of pornography – begin to transform the way I saw the world, others, and myself. 

I also began to tell friends and others about my past addiction, which helped me stay accountable and motivated. I learned that the more often I shared, the more often I would encounter similar stories from other women.

Turning My Past into Good for Others

The first time I shared about my addiction publicly was about six months after my recovery began at a camp for the teenagers I had been serving the past semester. Afterward, while feeling incredibly vulnerable, I also felt a new sense of freedom. One of the camp directors came up to me, took my hand, and said, “Thank you for sharing this. I’ve seen young men speak up, but to see a woman admit this is so powerful. You have no idea what you’ve done today.” His words stuck with me – could sharing a deeply unhealthy, broken, shameful part of my life be what someone else needs to become free?

Could sharing a deeply unhealthy, broken, shameful part of my life be what someone else needs to become free?

I began sharing whenever the opportunity arose – at women’s events on my campus, in online articles, at local churches. The reaction was always similar: other women would approach me after my talk, or respond to my writing, and say that they had struggled too – but had never heard another woman say it. Eventually, the number of women who had admitted to addiction on my campus grew so large that I requested to start a recovery group for students. I led that group all of my senior year of college, and it was one of the most joyful experiences of my life. It was incredible to not only find an outlet – though years too late – to process my own experiences, but also to watch the beauty of women finally releasing the lie that they were alone. 

Women can become addicted to pornography – my story is evidence, but the statistics also prove it. What women can also do, in a way that perhaps men can’t as easily, is find power in relationships. Facilitating group recovery has taught me that women fight pornography most successfully together – by letting their victories matter to others and letting their mistakes matter too. When a group of women commits to recovery together, I’ve seen nothing stand in their way. 

I now run an organization that offers virtual support to women seeking freedom from addiction to pornography and other unwanted sexual behaviors. Since opening our website’s “doors” in March 2021, we’ve received inquiries from over 500 women to either join or lead a small group, and the number is only increasing by the day. While the numbers are sad, they’re also encouraging – women want freedom, and they want to find it together. 

Closing Thoughts

Without the experience of my pornography addiction, I wouldn’t have the work I do now: doing my best to change stereotypes surrounding sexuality and pornography addiction, and helping women achieve lasting freedom. While I felt alone and ashamed in the beginning, through my work I’ve seen that experience truly redeemed: I now feel surrounded by the love of God, my husband, others in my family and community, and the love of hundreds of women who are ready to reject the counterfeit of pornography.

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