Relationship Rescue for Wives and Girlfriends of Internet Pornography Addicts

Some women stumble into it just like men and become hooked. Others are introduced into porn through their partners who may be regular users. One out of every three visitors to porn websites is a woman. The result is the same as for men - guilt, shame, secrecy and a downward spiral until at some point a path towards recovery is sought. Perhaps there should be a sister site - Relationship Rescue for Husbands and Boyfriends of Internet Pornography Addicts.

XXXChurch, Shellie R. Warren

Shellie R. Warren is a twice published author and expert on pornography addiction. She is 
currently counseling women addicted to pornography through XXXChurch's 
mission is to make you think, react, and to decide where you stand on the issues of porn. 
They're not here to sling mud, but to shove the envelope and try and do some good.

You are with "The #1 Christian Porn Site", XXXChurch. What are your responsibilities for the organization? What do you like best about your role?

I am...hmm, I'm not real sure what my "official title" would be.  Basically, I am the female "Q&A" face for the site.  A couple of years ago, Craig (the founder of and I discussed my being a feature blogger for the website because they wanted a female voice/presence on the site and I was looking for a way to share some of my personal revelations after being freed from sexual abuse/misuse.  It seemed like the perfect fit.  So far, on most levels, it has been.

Those 26 and under are known as the Internet generation. They grew up with it; Internet access has always been a part of their world. It is estimated that 50% of the porn addicts under the age of 26 are female. How are many female addicts introduced to porn and why do they become addicted?

You know how with most stats it says, "of reported cases"?  When it comes to women and porn, I would say this phrase definitely applies.  I am sure many more women have been affected in some way whether it's porn in the form of erotica, Cinemax, hard core, Internet downloads, or magazines. (Yes, there are women who read Playboy and Playgirl and it ain't for the articles!)

Why?  I don't think I have enough time nor do you have enough space for me to get into all of the reasons, but I think there are two big ones.  One is that although this is a highly-sexed society, amazingly, there is a still a stigma surrounding what "good girls" do and don't do.  I think for reputation reasons and even for physical health reasons, a lot of young women are turning to porn because it's a "quiet, clean" way to deal with their sexual needs/appetites/frustrations.  Because it's a fantasy form of sexuality (and no matter how real it may seem, it ain't), I think a lot of women believe that they can let someone else be "the nasty one" while they simply watch.  In other words, "Surely it's better that I watch someone else have sex than have sex 
myself."  I'm not so sure that's the case, though, because while it may prevent you from "being put on blast" as it relates to your sex life and while you may not get pregnant or an STD, it can severely affect you on a psychological level.

That brings me to reason #2:  I am actually someone who had a porn addiction for a couple of years.  It was introduced to me by a boyfriend...well, "friends with benefits" partner.  Initially, he showed it to me hoping it would "turn me on".  I must admit that because it was hard core porn, it intrigued me because I had never seen anything so raw.  I mean, even when I have sex, I don't see all that I do like when I'm watching a porn tape.  But I kept watching it because I felt that was what my partner was wanting me to do with him; like it was his "tactful" way of telling me that I wasn't giving him what he wanted.  So, I found myself using it as some warped instruction manual.  But here's the tricky thing about porn: There is never a pique that you reach.  First it's man on woman.  Then it's woman on woman.  Then it's man with two women.  Then it's orgies...I think you get where I am going with this.  From personal experience, I think one of the biggest problems with porn is that it encourages people to take the intimacy out of sex, when it's the intimacy that is actually the best part of a sexual experience.  If I am so concerned with "topping" the last thing I saw or did, after awhile, the person with me is just an object, but not necessarily the object of my affection.

Porn addiction for a man is damaging, Porn addiction for a woman can be life altering. How?

I think one of the biggest problems with porn is that it hinders you from developing healthy communication skills with your partner.  There are so many women in relationships that are resorting to some sort of porn because they are too afraid, too tired or too jaded to address the needs that they have with their mates.  A lot of women have been taught that sex is more for a man than a woman and that simply is not true.  Sex is to be a holistically (emotional, spiritual, physical) beneficial experience for both partners, but it's almost like we believe that we are supposed to be an afterthought; as long as our man is taken care of, we've done our part.  If you are in a committed relationship, or more specifically, a marital union, I would recommend you get one of my favorite books.  It's called "Sacred Sex" and it's by Tim Alan Gardner.  It addresses issues like shame, stigmas and orgasms from a spiritual perspective.  And, it reminds women in a wonderful way that sex is meant for us to enjoy, too.

As a single woman, I think porn can be damaging long-term because it creates mythical ideas in our minds that sex is just the way we see or read about it.  I have researched that a lot of women are more drawn the "cable porn" than "video store porn" and that's because it has soft lighting, so-called perfect bodies and men who make women climax (on cue) every single time.  Anyone who has had sex before knows that this is not the case.  Sex isn't about perfection; it's about connection.  There have been more than a few women who have told me that because they were so used to porn and masturbation before getting married, it was hard to be patient with their mate after marriage when it came to their man meeting their needs.  I think that's unfortunate.  I believe that a big part of getting to the climax is enjoying the journey on the way.  I made a concerted effort to detox from my own porn issues and this was one of the main reasons why.  I didn't want to expect my husband to be anything or anyone, but himself---the man that I love and accept as unconditionally as I possibly can.

You are the author of Inside of Me: Lessons of Lust, Love and Redemption. Tell us about your background and experience with porn addiction and what lead 
you to writing your book

Ah, my "first born".  Inside of Me is what my mother calls, "emotional throw-up" and on a lot of levels, she's right.  It's basically a memoir of my twenties as it relates to my sex life.  It addresses my foundation, which includes sexual abuse, but it takes readers through a path that I call "sexual misuse".  Abuse is what someone does to you.  To me, misuse is what you do to yourself.  I was always told that I had a great body and I was "sexy" and so I pretty much believed that those were my best assets.  As a result, I aborted four children, slept with numerous partners unprotected, slept with other people's boyfriends, got an STD...the list goes on and on.  But, I think one thing that makes my book different from a lot of the ones that people read is that it addresses the emotional ramifications of sexual misuse. I spent so many years letting my sexuality define me that I forgot there was more to me than that.

The porn addiction part I already addressed, but let me say this: I once heard Dr. Drew Pinsky say that addiction is not about frequency or type, but consequence.  I knew I had an addiction to sex and porn because it was eating away at my inner being and I didn't care enough to stop it for a long time.  If you're wondering if you have an addiction, that is one of the first questions that I would recommend you asking yourself: Is it causing me to be a lesser version of who I am when I engage in it?

If a woman feels she is addicted to porn and finds herself getting involved in relationships with men addicted to porn time and time again, what steps should she take to break the cycle?

1) Spend a season in abstinence.  Oh, trust me, it ain't easy but as someone walking the path, I've realized that when I was sexually active, I spent a lot of time letting other people define me.  If the man was happy, I guess I was, too.  If he was satisfied, I guess that's all that mattered.  If he wanted sex this way or that, I guess I did as well.  Abstaining from sex doesn't just cause you to abstain from the act, but the people you are participating in the act with as well and sometimes that’s a really good thing.  My favorite definition of insanity is "people who do the same thing expecting a different result".  If you find yourself in the same place and you don't like it there, don't wait on your outer circumstances to change; change starts internally.

2) Cut your access to whatever is the lifeline to your addiction.  If it's Cinemax, downgrade your cable package.  If it's books, have a bonfire.  If it's the Internet, whew...I don't know too many people who want to disconnect their connection, but you might want to look into a website that holds you accountable.  We have some software at that's good for that.  If it's a least for a season, yep, he's gotta go, too.

3) Replace it with something else.  I think one thing that causes people to slip back into their old habits is that they don't find something to fill the void.  If late night is a struggle for you, try reading a different kind of book before going to bed.  Oh, and reward yourself for every single triumph.  Tell yourself at the beginning of the week that if you go a week without downloading, you will go get a pedicure or a massage.

4) Create a pros and cons list.  A lot of people quit because they "feel" that they should, but they don't really believe it.  Roy Disney once said that it’s not hard to make a decision when you know what your values are.  If you are still holding on to pornography, be honest with yourself about what the pay off is/isn't.  Sometimes seeing it in black and white makes things seem not so gray.

5) Get on a buddy system.  Right now, in my abstinence, I have people that I can call when I am weak and it's great because a lot of times when you want some relief from a habit, all you can see is that release you'll get from the "high", but you tend to minimize what's waiting for you when you "crash".  I have girlfriends I will call and they'll say, "Have sex with him for what?  So you can call me crying two weeks from now when he doesn't return your phone call?"  I have male friends who I will call and they'll say, "Sleep with him for what?  So you can be another notch on his belt?"  It's amazing how much of a libido stabilizer those kinds of conversations are!

BONUS: Be gentle with yourself.  It didn't take you a day to get into the addiction.  It will take more than a day to get out.  You are not a bad person because you like porn.  But for that reason alone, the shame that tends to surround it, it’s a good enough reason to ponder letting the addiction go.  Anything you do should be for the purpose of making you a better person...that starts with doing things that make you feel good about who you are.  I can't remember the last time I heard a woman proudly boast of being a porn addict...there's a reason for that. :-)

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